As bodybuilders, unfortunately, we age like everyone else. What this means to us is that we need to make sure our training evolves over time as well in order to maximize gains and to remain healthy thus avoiding the pitfalls such as chronic injuries that tend to occur over time.
Starting out a beginning bodybuilder should focus on building a decent strength base. The reasons for this are many and I will discuss a few of the most important ones. First, strength is easy to measure and thus makes it the perfect tool to see small changes over time. It is very difficult to see lean mass gains in the short term but strength gains are very quantitative. Another reason is to perfect what I call the “Get Big” lifts which are the basics that add that crazy size, density, and thickness every bodybuilder covets. There is no other way to develop crazy density without pushing some significant weight around and in order to do that without getting injured, it takes perfecting proper technique. This takes years to perfect which means you need to do these exercises repeatedly in order to master them. This should give you a clue as to why you shouldn’t change your entire routine up every week or two. Once you master the technique and are pushing significant weight you most likely will be hitting the intermediate phase of the life span of a bodybuilder. At this stage, strength is no longer a priority but it is still considered a good measure and will continue to be used however more emphasis will be placed on increasing the rep range on the basics and striving for maximum hypertrophy as the goal.
Thus the basics are still included and are prioritized as the first exercise in a routine but wider rep ranges are used. As an intermediate bodybuilder, you will eventually hit your highest bodyweight and will struggle dearly for every additional pound of lean muscle. At this stage more and more emphasis will be put on developing maximum lean mass as well as reducing body fat to allow that mass to be seen. Most intermediate bodybuilders will have competed a few times and will start to slowly reduce off-season weight as they drop fat and remain leaner year round in the pursuit of pure lean mass and a tighter more shredded contest physique. Lastly, we come to the advanced stage of a bodybuilder. This is where the age of the bodybuilder tends to be in the mid to late thirty’s or early forty’s. At this stage pushing very heavy weights can become a major disadvantage and lead to significant injuries. Strength is no longer a measurement used and the basics are generally put near the end of the routine once the muscle has been pre-exhausted. This allows the advanced bodybuilder to continue to train with very high intensity but avoid the injuries that can occur with years of heavy lifting. At this stage, the bodybuilder tends to focus on muscle contraction using a variety of techniques such as pre-exhaust, unilateral exercises, drop sets, iso-tension, resistance bands etc. Basic compound movements are still employed but are moved to closer to the end of the routine and thus very heavy weights are no longer necessary. By reducing the load on the joints we can increase the longevity of our careers as bodybuilders and enjoy the essence of lifting without the stress of career ending injuries.
The evolution of training as a bodybuilder is a choice that we all have to make and if we choose wisely we can enjoy a life long endeavour of lifting. However, if we fail to adapt and change our training with time then career ending injuries can result and that can lead to a very short career.