Athlete's Journal: Discovering the Art of Bodybuilding
Something shifted in me during prep for my first national competition, working hard but also semi-blindly during the local competition circuit earned me two 1st place wins and the opportunity to now move forward and compete on bigger stages. As exciting as this progression is, it also was pretty scary realizing that I would be going up against more seasoned athletes. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to win the way I did in the past, which felt like a combined formula of good workouts, decent genetics, and pure luck.
I would have to be a lot more purposeful with my fitness, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. Thanks to my coach I was already working out very hard, my diet was admirable and my supplement sponsor Rivalus had me tackling my grueling 6 day 2 to 3 hour a week gym sessions with noticeable endurance. Before this prep, like most new competitive athletes my only focus was getting bigger; -“I need to be bigger, I need bigger shoulders, I need a bigger chest, I need a wider back” - was a constant frantic tune in my head. So naturally I amped it up...adding heavier weight, more reps, and even a second workout in my already intense daily regiment.
Finally! My body was growing in size...but I noticed that I wasn’t shaping up in the way I needed. My new size had me looking more like a blocky power lifter than a statuesque men’s physique athlete. Desperate to discover what I was still doing wrong, I took full body snapshots of myself; front, side, back, and some in my division’s mandatory stage poses. I sat with the images printed out on paper in front of me and began vigorously marking and circling things that needed improving. I’d marked so much I could hardly see my image behind all the black marker and notations. Afterwards, I sat there feeling discouraged from this intense critique I’d subjected myself to, but broke out of the feeling after jokingly thinking “well, at-least now you have a plan”. I was right. That critique gave me specific concrete goals. I was now able to clearly relay those goals to my coach and it even gave me insight on what adjustments I needed to make to my diet.
For the first time I really started to pay attention and learn exactly what muscles made up my body, along with what specific workouts I needed for each. For instance, I learned that my shoulders were made up of three different muscles and as a result my basic shoulder workout was now a front, lateral, and rear deltoid workout.
I remember watching a documentary about bodybuilding where Arnold Schwarzenegger compared the sport to a sculptor creating art out of a piece of clay, sighting the knowledge and attention to detail needed to do so. I now understand his analogy. I’m two years into the sport, and even though I have a ton of work ahead of me, with this new approach in tow I feel like I’m finally understanding the ART of bodybuilding vs. just working out, which has made the goal of creating a winning physique feel more attainable.