There's nothing normal about being a bodybuilder. That's probably why the sport hasn't gone mainstream yet simply because everything about it is extreme and unlike anything else for which you could compare it to. Having said that, it's still the hardest sport to be good at and maintain for any length of time and that in itself deserves a ton of respect. No other sport out there requires a 24/7 effort as bodybuilding does. If you're a football player, you can have that cheeseburger on your day off and it won't really matter. You can't do that if you're a bodybuilder however because even one bite of that cheeseburger can throw off an entire competition prep and set you back in your progress. You also can't do what feels right, what feels comfortable, what feels natural and what your mind is telling you to do when the pain and the cravings are screaming at you from the inside out.
Our intuition is what helps keep us safe from the extreme and as a bodybuilder, we fight those intuitive thoughts daily. You'll never grow like you could if you succumb to those feelings. You'll never fully realize your potential if you give in to those natural responses to resistance when things get tough to do. How you proceed when your mind is telling you to stop will ultimately decide your fate in this game.
Let's take a look at a few examples of when doing the opposite of what you probably should do to stay safe comes into play as you make your way through this thing we call bodybuilding.
Positive Training Pain
There's nothing like a great set of whatever to get the blood pumping into the target muscle group so that it can expand and grow like never before. We chase that feeling with every rep we execute. As good as that pump feels, it also comes along with pain. Pain within the muscle from a build-up of lactic acid which is our body's defense mechanism against further pain and potential injury. As a bodybuilder, we actually invite that pain to enter in because when it does occur, we know we've done our job and for most of us, at the first hint of said pain we simply carry on until it becomes unbearable. Normal people would stop when the initial pain sets in because it doesn't feel good and if something doesn't feel good you should stop. Bodybuilders keep going despite the pain because the payoff is so rewarding in the end.
There is nothing intuitive about getting under a loaded barbell with five hundred plus pounds on it to perform squats until you can barely walk. Why would anyone in their right mind want to cripple themselves like this for the sake of hopefully triggering a few more muscle fibers to fire and hopefully grow as a result? It just doesn't make any sense from an outsider's perspective looking in. Why risk it? Why put yourself in a situation where some really, really bad things could happen? When we push our body to the max with heavyweights, when we force our muscles to outperform what they did the previous week and when we take our physical capabilities to the brink of insanity, there's never any guarantee that everything will work out in our favor. We are taking a risk every single time we attempt to heave extraordinary amounts of weight. So why do it? Well, it's because that's what we've always done and what we have been able to sustain, hopefully for all of you out there reading this relatively injury free. In these instances, normal intuition would tell us to take the safe road out. Bodybuilding intuition would say put on another plate, let's go!
Eat if you're Hungry-Yeah Right!
Finally and maybe most importantly for making my point here, is the whole nutrition aspect of bodybuilding. Eating as a bodybuilder is by far the most counter-intuitive thing about the whole process. There is nothing normal about how a bodybuilder approaches nutrition. You eat as much as you can of all of the right foods so that you can support your training and grow but it should only be good clean foods so that means you have to eat even more to attain a certain number of calories per day to put yourself in a surplus only to turn around a few month later and start eating less to be in a caloric deficit to start losing the weight you just put on in the hopes that you'll be heavier at the same body fat percentage once you lean down again..........what?! I could literally go on and on about how messed up a bodybuilders approach to nutrition is and how it makes no sense whatsoever to the normal person but I'll keep it brief. When trying to gain mass, you eat lots of food. When you think you've eaten enough and can't possibly eat any more, it's time for your next meal and you have to just shove it in. When dieting down, you eat your meal and then twenty minutes later you're starved but you have to wait another hour and a half to two hours before you can eat again. Everything your mind is intuitively telling you must be disregarded and ignored if you want to achieve the success you're after and this could quite possibly be the hardest part about the whole thing.
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Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc.