Tip-type articles are very popular. Concise and to the point, they save you from having to wade through pages of text just to learn one nugget of information.
For this article, we’ve gathered 26 tips – one for each letter of the alphabet – all of which will help you on your bodybuilding journey.
A to Z Training Tips for Bodybuilders
Don’t try to use all these tips at once. That would be pointless, if not impossible! Instead, choose 2-3, implement them for a few weeks, and then try another 2-3.
A – Assess and fix your weaknesses
A lot of bodybuilders follow cookie-cutter programs, which are workouts designed for entire groups rather than individuals. While cookie-cutter programs can work, they assume that every lifter has the same needs and abilities.
You’ll get better results if you assess your current physical condition and adjust your workout so it better reflects your goals.
For example, if you are unhappy with your leg development, one lower body workout a week probably won’t be enough to add mass to your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Similarly, if you are overweight, a bulking program is the last thing you need to follow.
Honestly assess your current level of development and then design a bodybuilding programthat reflects your needs.
B – Bulk up to build muscle faster
Are you frustrated with your lack of progress? Has it been months (or even years) since you gained an appreciable about of muscle? It’s time to bulk, bro!
Bulking is a time-honored method for adding mass fast. During a bulk, you eat big to get big while training hard and heavy to stimulate maximum muscle growth.
Trying to build muscle while staying lean CAN work, but it’s a very slow process and sometimes doesn’t work at all. So, try bulking to take the brakes off and build muscle faster than ever before!
C – Cut after bulking
According to the laws of nature, what goes up must come down. Unfortunately, this rule doesn’t always apply to your body fat percentage!
Building muscle, especially during a bulk, is often accompanied by fat gain. While carrying fat will contribute to your overall size and weight, when your shirt comes off, it will obscure your hard-won muscle mass.
Lean bodybuilders usually look better than fat bodybuilders, even when the lean guys are smaller. Good definition has a massive impact on how you look.
Cutting involves eating a little less, increasing training volume, and shedding fat to reveal the underlying muscles. So, whether you’ve been bulking on purpose or just had a few (or a lot) of cheat meals lately, it’s time to shed that fat and try a cutting cycle.
D – Deadlift more for maximum muscle mass
If there is one exercise that’s guaranteed to add slabs of muscle to your body, it’s the deadlift. And yet, a lot of bodybuilders avoid this exercise, assuming that it’s better for strength than hypertrophy.
Deadlifting once a week will increase back, glute, and hamstring size, build your forearms, bulk up your traps and upper back, and turn you into a bonafide badass. Every bodybuilder should do deadlifts!
Yes, they ARE hard, and you DO need to deadlift with perfect form to avoid injuries, but the deadlift is arguably the best bodybuilding exercise around, and it deserves pride of place in your leg or back workouts.
E – Eccentric training for better workouts
Every exercise involves a concentric or lifting phase and an eccentric or lowering phase. While both phases are necessary for triggering hypertrophy, the eccentric phase stimulates the most muscle growth.
Eccentric contractions cause muscle microtrauma. In simple terms, that means they break your muscles down. With time to rest and recover, your body repairs this damage, and your muscles grow back bigger and stronger.
Additionally, you are stronger eccentrically than concentrically, which means you can lower more weight than you can lift.
Get more from your workout by emphasizing the eccentric portion of each rep. Simply lower the weight more slowly than you lift it. For example, when doing bench presses, lower the bar to your chest in four seconds and then push it back up in two.
This will make every rep you perform more productive.
F – Forced reps to build muscle faster
Most training experts agree that training to failure is necessary for triggering hypertrophy. However, training BEYOND failure may produce even more significant muscle growth. One way to do this is by performing forced reps at the end of your usual set.
When you reach muscular failure, you have NOT entirely exhausted all your muscle fibers. However, you have exhausted enough of them that you can no longer do any more reps with the weight you are using.
For example, imagine you are bench pressing 140 lbs. You manage eight reps but are unable to do a ninth.
Because you can no longer generate 140 lbs. of force. However, you could still generate 120lbs. Your training partner lends you a little help (about 20 lbs. worth), so you can crank out a couple more reps.
With forced reps, you extend your set beyond normal failure to hit those unfatigued muscle fibers. You do this by using a free limb or, more usually, a training partner to help you continue your set.
This is a very stressful form of training, so you should only do a couple of forced reps per set.
Also, your training partner should never end up lifting more weight than you are. Just a few pounds of assistance should be all that’s needed to help you complete another couple of reps.
Adding forced reps to your workouts could be just what’s needed to stimulate additional muscle growth.
G – Build your own garage gym
While there is nothing especially wrong with training in a commercial gym, it could also be why your workouts are not producing the results you want.
Commercial gyms can be distracting places to train, and just getting there can waste a lot of valuable time. In addition, you may find yourself waiting in line to use the equipment you need or that your gym is closed when you feel like a workout.
If training at a commercial gym leaves you feeling frustrated or disheartened, maybe it’s time to set up a garage gym?
Your garage gym is never closed, there are no queues, you can play whatever music you like as loud as you want, and no one will yell at you if you drop your weights, train shirtless, leave chalk everywhere, or commit any other “gym sins.”
While you will need to invest some money in your garage gym, it’s not as expensive as you might think, and you’ll recoup your money within a couple of years as you won’t be paying a gym subscription.
H – HIT and HIIT for time-saving workouts
Lack of time is a common barrier to working out consistently. However, there are a couple of different ways you can train that take far less time while delivering the results you want – HIT and HIIT.
HIT is short for High-Intensity Training and is a form of bodybuilding. HIT involves doing just one set per exercise, with that set taken to failure and beyond using drop sets or forced reps. Using HIT, you can train your entire body in 20 minutes or less.
HIIT is short for High-Intensity Interval Training and is a type of cardio. Like HIT, HIIT involves short, challenging workouts that make the most of your training time. Some HIIT workouts are as short as four minutes (Tabatas) but more commonly last 15-20 minutes.
Both HIT and HIIT are ideal for time-pressed bodybuilders. Three HIT and two HIIT sessions per week should take less than 90 minutes in total, which is the average length of a typical bodybuilding workout. Use these high-intensity training methods whenever you need a workout but can’t spend hours in the gym.
I – Incline dumbbell presses for better chest development and less shoulder pain
The barbell bench press is one of the most popular chest exercises around. However, for some lifters, it’s not a very good pec builder. While this may sound sacrilegious, not all bodybuilders respond well to bench presses.
If you’ve got a deep chest and/or short arms, bench presses may fail to take your pecs through a large enough range of motion to be effective. Conversely, if you’ve got long arms, lowering the bar to your chest could put too much stress on your shoulder joints.
So, while you don’t have to quit the barbell bench press, you may find that incline dumbbell presses provide a better chest workout. Raise the bench to between 30-45 degrees and use the largest range of motion you comfortably can.
Try doing incline dumbbell bench presses for a couple of months as your main chest exercise to see just how effective they can be.
J – Jerky for more protein
Bodybuilders need to consume about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to repair and build muscle. It’s not enough to eat high-protein foods like meat, fish, and eggs at mealtimes; you also need to snack on protein to ensure you’re getting enough of this critical nutrient.
One of the best forms of portable protein is jerky, which is a type of dried meat. You can buy beef, turkey, bacon, and salmon jerky, and they’re all valuable sources of bodybuilding protein.
Jerky is also easy to make using a dehydrator or in a conventional oven.
So, if you are finding it hard to eat enough protein, try snacking on jerky. It’s a delicious and easy way to increase your protein intake.
K – Knee sleeves to less joint pain
Bodybuilding is good for your muscles but can be hard on your joints. Joint pain is common amongst lifters, and the knees are particularly prone to aches and pains.
While knee injuries should be referred to a medical professional, more general knee discomfort can be treated and even prevented with warming, supportive knee sleeves.
Wear knee sleeves during squats, leg presses, and any other lower body exercise or during cardio to take a little stress off your knees.
Knee sleeves also have a psychological effect. Pulling them on feels a little like you are putting on armor and getting ready to battle the weights. Wearing knee sleeves may also enhance the mind-muscle connection for better lower body workouts.
L – Lunges for better leg development
Squats are the undisputed king of leg exercises. If you want bigger, more muscular, more powerful legs, squats are a must. But, while squats are an awesome exercise, they may lose some of their potency if that’s all you ever do. Plus, studies tell us that exercise variety is critical for hypertrophy (1).
One of the best exercises you can use to supplement your squat workouts is lunges. Lunges work one leg at a time, which is helpful for spotting and fixing right to left strength imbalances. They’re also good for balance and hip mobility. And lunges need never be boring, as there are over 15 different variations to try.
A lot of bodybuilders think that lunges are an exercise for wimps, but that simply isn’t true. Just ask Ronnie Coleman, who famously did walking lunges with 220 lbs. as part of his Mr. Olympia training program.
M – Myo-reps for more productive workouts
The myo-reps method is a form of high-intensity training. It was developed and popularized by Norwegian strength coach Borge Fagerli during the mid-2000s. Fagerli created his training system after realizing just how many unproductive junk reps (his term) his athletes were doing before hitting failure.
The idea behind myo-reps is that, unlike during regular sets, once you hit failure, instead of taking a long rest and recovering fully, which is a waste of time, you take a short rest so that, when you do your next set, you are already close to failure.
Using myo-reps goes like this:
- Activation set – choose a light to moderate weight that will force you to fail somewhere in the 12-20 rep range. Rep out until you are within a rep or two of failure, and make a note of how many reps you do.
- 3-5 mini-sets – rest 10-15 seconds, and then do 25% of the reps of your original set. So, if you did 12 reps, pump out another three.
- Repeat – rest another 10-15 seconds, and then do a second “mini set.” Continue until you are either unable to do three reps or have completed five mini sets in total.
Here’s an example of myo-reps, with the productive reps in bold:
- Set 1: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 (activation set)
Rest 10-15 seconds
- Set 2: 1 2 3 4 (1stmini set)
Rest 10-15 seconds
- Set 3: 1 2 3 4 (2ndmini set)
Rest 10-15 seconds
- Set 4: 1 2 3 4 (3rdmini set)
Rest 10-15 seconds
- Set 5: 1 2 3 4 (4thmini set)
Rest 10-15 seconds
- Set 6: 1 2 3 4 (5thmini set)
Because myo-reps are so intense, you only need to do one run-through per exercise. This makes sense because you’ll probably accumulate 20 or so reps that take you very close to failure, and more would simply be overkill.
Whether you are short of time or just want to add some variety to your training, myo-reps could be precisely the workout method you’ve been looking for!
N – New workouts for renewed bodybuilding progress
A lot of bodybuilders are very reticent to change their workouts. That’s a shame because a new workout could be precisely what you need to enhance your muscle-building progress. Your body is the master adapter, and doing the same old workout over and over will soon stop working.
So, if it’s been a while since you last gained any new muscle, it’s time to try a new workout. Write your own using different exercises and set and rep schemes, or try one of the hundreds of workouts in the Fitness Volt library.
Either way, a new workout could be just what you need to start progressing toward your bodybuilding goals.
O – Only compound exercises for the next three months
Exercises can be classified as either isolation or compound. Isolation exercises involve a small number of muscles and movement at just one joint. In contrast, compound exercises involve multiple muscles and joints working together.
While isolation exercises can be useful for targeting individual muscles, compound exercises generally allow you to lift more weight, recruit more muscle fibers, and overload your body more effectively and efficiently.
Try dropping all isolation exercises from your workouts and doing nothing but compound exercises for the next three months. You’ll build more muscle with fewer exercises and get a whole lot stronger. After that, you’re free to reintroduce isolation exercises into your workouts, but you may find you don’t really need them.
But what about curls for biceps and pushdowns for triceps?
Supinated chin-ups and parallel bar dips are just as effective for building bigger arms, and they also work your back and chest at the same time.
P – Pauses reps for more gains
A lot of lifters are guilty of sabotaging their own progress by raising and lowering their weights too fast. Repping out too quickly means momentum takes over, making any exercise less effective. Your muscles will also be under tension for less time, making your set shorter and easier.
Adding mid-rep pauses will fix all these problems, and they’re very easy to add to your workouts.
For example, instead of bouncing the bar off your chest during bench presses, lower the bar smoothly and then hold it on your chest for 2-3 seconds before driving it back up. This is not only harder, but it’s also safer.
You can add mid-rep pauses to almost any exercise. Just make sure you pause when your muscles are under maximum tension. Do not pause with your joints locked, as that simply provides a rest and won’t do anything for your muscles.
Q – Quit staring at your phone!
Many exercisers are so emotionally attached to their phones that they can’t help but stare at them during their workouts. For example, staring at your phone could mean you don’t manage your rest periods like you should, that you are distracted, or end up tying up a machine or workout station that someone else could be using.
Better uses of your time include:
- Grabbing a drink
- Loading up the bar for your next set
- Doing a minute of jump rope or step-ups
- Doing some mobility work
- Offering someone a spot
- Getting psyched up for your next set
Respectfully, if you have the time or energy to stare at your phone during a workout, you probably aren’t training hard enough to build muscle. Leave your phone in your locker or car and, with less to distract you, your workout will be more productive.
R – Rows for a bigger back
Bodybuilders have a saying; if you want to grow, you gotta row. And yet, when it comes to back training, a lot of lifters automatically gravitate toward lat pulldowns and pull-ups first.
Break this cycle and start beefing up your back by starting your workouts with some kind of rowing exercise. Rows are good for building back thickness, and that’s something every bodybuilder needs more of.
Better yet, kick your back development into overdrive by doing nothing but rows for the next 2-3 months.
Prioritizing rows over pulldowns and pull-ups could be just what you need to develop your best back ever!
S – Strength
Bodybuilders are not judged on how much weight they can lift. Instead, bodybuilding is all about aesthetics, balance, and symmetry. That said, getting stronger will enhance muscle growth and increase muscle density. You CAN build muscle using light weights and high reps, but if you want to keep that muscle, heavy weights are the way to go.
Increase your strength by doing including some heavy lifts in your bodybuilding workouts. For example, do five sets of five squats followed by traditional bodybuilding sets and reps for the rest of your workout.
This is an effective way to build muscle and get stronger at the same time and is often called powerbuilding.
T – Thick bar training for better gains
Standard Olympic barbells, as you’ll find in most gyms, are 7.2 feet long, weigh 45 pounds, and have a diameter of 1.1 inches. Barbells made for home or light recreational use tend to be shorter, lighter, and thinner. Dumbbell handles are also usually about an inch in diameter or a little less.
A thick or fat bar has, as the name suggests, a greater diameter, usually two inches or more. Using a thick bar for some or all of the exercises in your bodybuilding workouts is a great way to make them more effective. Gyms often have bars with thick handles, and you can also get clip-on handles that convert standard bars into thick bars.
There are several significant benefits to training with a thick bar, including:
- A firmer grip and more muscular forearms
- Increased strength
- Greater muscle activation
- Increased joint stability and balance
- Less joint pain
U – Unilateral leg exercise for more functionality, better balance, and muscle mass
Squats, deadlifts, leg presses, leg extensions, and leg curls are all great lower body exercises. Whatever your training goal is, they’ll help you reach it. However, these classic exercises also have something in common – they are all bilateral movements. That means they work both legs at once.
There is nothing inherently wrong with bilateral exercises, but they do have a few disadvantages. For starters, it’s all too easy to do more work with one leg than the other. That can lead to strength imbalances, and you could even develop muscle mass asymmetries, where one leg grows bigger.
Because of this, it makes sense to include at least some single-leg or unilateral leg exercises in your lower body workouts.
With unilateral exercises, you can fix those pesky right to left strength imbalances and make sure both of your legs are equally well developed. As an added benefit, unilateral exercises are also more functional and could help boost your athletic performance.
V – Victory raises for bigger, stronger deltoids
The victory raise, sometimes known as the handcuff front raise, is a unique shoulder exercise that hits all three deltoids at the same time. Do it as a finisher at the end of your regular shoulder workout or on its own when you don’t have time to train each deltoid individually.
How to do it:
- Place a mini-band around your wrists and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Raise your arms forward and up overhead while simultaneously pushing your arms out to form a V-shape.
- Lower your arms but do not let the band go slack; keep some outward pressure on the band even at the bottom of each rep.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
W – Weighted carries and walks for fitness, leanness, and building muscle
Weighted carries and walks are a highly underutilized bodybuilding training method. The concept is simple: just pick up something heavy and carry it as far or as fast as you can. You can do weighted carries and walks to get stronger, build strength, burn fat, or improve your conditioning. Some weighted carries do all these things at once!
There are lots of different weighted carries and walks that are ideal for bodybuilders, including:
- Farmer’s walks
- Waiter’s walk
- Zercher carry
- Bear-hug carry
- Front rack carry
- Back rack carry
X – Xtreme workouts for busting training plateaus
Almost every bodybuilder hits a training plateau at least once. Your progress grinds to a halt, and despite doubling down on your diet and workout, you can’t get things moving again.
It’s so frustrating.
While a deload may help reset your progress, you might get even better results by turning the intensity up to 11 and trying an xtreme workout (Yes, we know it’s spelled extreme, but it’s the only tip we could find for the letter x!).
Either way, sometimes the best way to overcome a plateau is to smash through it. However, if you do try some xtreme workouts, make sure you pay extra attention to recovery, and follow it up with a few days of well-deserved rest.
Y – You go, I go workout challenge
To get the best results from your workouts, you should follow a planned, progressive training program. Each week, your workouts should get just a little harder so that your body is forced to adapt and grow.
But, that doesn’t mean the occasional break from your routine won’t do you good.
In fact, if you are starting to get bored with your current program and feel like your motivation is slipping, a change may be just what you need.
Liven things up with the you go, I go workout challenge.
Grab your training partner and pick an exercise, e.g., push-ups. Get down in the push-up position, so you are side by side or facing one another. Partner number one does one perfect push-up, and partner two does the same.
Next, the first partner does two push-ups, and so does the second partner.
Continue adding a rep set by set until one of you cannot continue. The loser buys the protein shakes!
You can use the you go, I go workout method with almost any exercise where both lifters can use the same amount of weight or do roughly the same number of reps, including:
- Barbell curls
- Triceps pushdowns
- Goblet squats
Z – Zerchers, baby!
Zercher might sound like a made-up word, but it’s actually a legitimate training method. It was invented by powerlifter Ed Zercher who wanted a way to do squats without using a squat rack.
Zerchers involve holding a barbell in the crook of your arms, and while it IS commonly used for squats, there are several other Zercher variations to try. Use any of the following exercises to add variety to your workouts or involve your upper body more in your lower body training.
- Zercher squats
- Zercher Romanian deadlifts
- Zercher lunges
- Zercher Bulgarian split squats
- Zercher step-ups
- Zercher weighted carries
Tips for Bodybuilders – Wrapping Up
So, there you have it, 26 handy bodybuilding tips and methods for getting better results from your workouts. While it is admittedly a pretty random selection of information, each morsel of info will help you get more from your training.
Adding just a couple of these tips to your current workouts could be all you need to bust through your current training plateau or avoid the next one.
Remember, variety IS the spice of life!
- Baz-Valle E, Schoenfeld BJ, Torres-Unda J, Santos-Concejero J, Balsalobre-Fernández C. The effects of exercise variation in muscle thickness, maximal strength and motivation in resistance trained men. PLoS One. 2019 Dec 27;14(12):e0226989. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226989. PMID: 31881066; PMCID: PMC6934277. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6934277/