Most bodybuilders are natural. Before you raise an eyebrow at that, think about just how few of the 5'8", 360-pound guys in striped tights and baggy tops you actually see at your gym. Unless you train at Gold's, Venice, or in New Jersey, the answer is, most likely, a mere handful. So despite all the sensationalism in the media, with such respected sources as Geraldo Rivera and "A Current Affair" leading you to believe that every gym bag has syringes clinking around inside it, the fact remains that only a small percentage of the millions of weight trainees in the United States indulge in chemical wizardry to enhance their physiques.
Far too many trainees go to the gym looking to get the results without using drugs that a drug user gets. The vast majority of these people end up disillusioned, frustrated and angry. "If I have to shoot up to get a decent physique, it's just not worth it," they spout. Being drug-free ultimately means being second best, they believe. This doesn't have to be true, however. The following bits of wisdom can help you be a real winner in the iron game:
1) Don't compare yourself to drug users.
Believe me, I know all about this one. When I first came to California, I met all the pros and top amateurs in just a few months. I compared their 23-inch arms, freakish vascularity and so forth to my own, seemingly inferior body. What a mistake! I beat myself up mentally every time I saw a "big boy" in the gym, to the point where it was ruining my workouts. Then I took a look around-and realized that for a drug-free bodybuilder I was pretty damned big.
Take a tip from the psychology books, the only person you should compare yourself to is you. That goes for every facet of life but especially your feelings about your physique. Everyone is unique.
2) Train and eat correctly.
Often when people claim that they don't gain because they're natural, it's a crutch. I see these people in the gym, and they're so unfocused and sloppy in their training, it's pathetic. They wander from curl machines to bench presses to the cables at random. They cheat on just about every exercise and rely on training partners to help them lift enormous poundages. For your own safety-as well as for hypertrophy's sake, use perfect form and only cheat on the last rep or two of a good set.
As for nutritional savvy, if you don't have any, you'll never get really big. Most trainees don't realize that to grow without drugs you have to be twice as smart as a drug user, and that includes nutrition.
Read up on the subject. Eat five to six meals a day, every day. And no, you can't go out every weekend and throw back a case of Budweiser. Binges like that undermine all of your heroic training. What you do in the gym is only part of what it takes to make gains. If you're not eating properly and getting plenty of sleep, you might as well stay home and forget about ever having a physique you can really be proud of.
3) Train harder than the drug users.
Impossible, you say'? Not at all. Steroids aren't the ultimate anabolic; the human mind is. Look at the 100-pound mother who deadlifted a 4,000-pound car to rescue her trapped child. Drugs provide an instant reward for intense training by making the results come so much faster, but they're not in themselves a prerequisite. If you're eating plenty of good protein and carbohydrates and you're sleeping right, you should be able to terrorize the gym.
Lift as heavy as you can in good form at all times, and don't quit until you've done as many reps as are humanly possible. Remember that you're natural; so you can't afford to take it easy. A relentless, hungry attitude is vital. Your success is dependent on how hard you're willing to work.
Wilt you undergo the pain of 20-rep, full-range leg presses with 900 pounds, with your most recent meal threatening to come back up? Can you eat every 2 1/2 hours and invest in quality aminos and other items? Will you go to the gym religiously— even when all of your friends are out partying? These are just a few of the things you must do to get big without steroids. If you have discipline, dedication and desire, you'll never need drugs.
4) Compete in natural contests.
Unless you're some sort of genetic superman, don't compete against drug users. You'll only be setting yourself up for failure. If I had a nickel for every time someone blamed a poor placing on his or her refusal to take drugs, I'd probably have enough money to buy the Sunday paper. Compete in an arena in which you aren't already at a disadvantage, and you'll have no excuses. If you win, it was your training and diet that helped you do it, not something out of a bottle.
5) Think big.
If you don't believe that your arms will grow or that you can gain muscular bodyweight, then it won't happen. I don't believe in the term "hardgainer." If you consider yourself a hardgainer, then that's what you'll always be. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, much like that of the prison inmates who were told as children, "You'll end up in jail someday."
You must fiercely believe that you can grow, or win, or whatever it is you want to do. With this positive frame of mind you can't help but succeed. Without it you will surely fail.
These are the principles: Don't compare yourself to drug users, train and eat correctly, train harder than drug users, compete in natural contests and think big. If you adhere to them, you'll never hang your head in shame when Mr. Juice-king struts into your gym—and you'll never quit the sport in frustration. This is the only body you're going to get, so don't abuse it with drugs and don't settle for second best!