BALANCE: This word is typically synonymous with symmetry and proportion and refers to parity in development between muscles. Even more important is parity in the various aspects of your life. You need to find the proper equilibrium between your training, eating and resting and all the other important factors in your personhood: family, friends, work, school, spirituality, recreation, etc. Don’t let one diminish the others. See also perspective.
CAUTION: “Crash through the wall!” “Chase the burn!” “Don’t quit!” A lot of training advice and encouragement focuses on maximizing intensity and going to failure or beyond. This is all well and good, but not if it leaves out one key component: caution. An injury can halt or reverse your progress for months, and some injuries that occur in an instant remain with you for a lifetime. Always approach weight training with a measure of prudence. Warm up and stretch properly and immediately terminate any set when you feel unusual pain.
COURTESY: In the days when bodybuilders were segregated into hardcore gyms, trainers spoke about “the brotherhood of iron.” Today, our community is more diffuse and the old camaraderie has diminished. It’s up to all of us to keep it alive. If someone asks to “work in,” allow him to do so. Offer to spot people if it’s clear they’re using a maximum weight. Beyond that, offer encouragement, support and — when appropriate — constructive criticism to your brothers and sisters in iron. See also respect.
HEALTH: In reference to his cigarette smoking and junk-food tendencies, Mike Mentzer once declared that he wasn’t a “health nut,” he was a bodybuilder. He died at age 49. If you focus on bodybuilding through the prism of pro contests and the endless pursuit of more size and cuts, then it’s easy to lose sight of the health-boosting components of our sport. Don’t make that mistake. A regular exercise program coupled with a muscle-growing fat-deflecting diet, nutrient supplementation and adequate rest is a health-building lifestyle. Health and bodybuilding should go hand in hand.
HOLISTIC: This word refers to the interrelatedness of systems. In fitness, the three systems are the mind, the body and the spirit. Focus on growing your mental capacities as much as your physical capacities. It’s a personal decision how or if you choose to pursue spirituality. The important thing is that you become a well-rounded individual and not merely a collection of well-rounded muscles. See also balance and wisdom.
HUMILITY: To paraphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger, the better you get, the less you have to prove it. Anywhere but on a bodybuilding stage, the overt need to draw attention to your muscles almost always reflects poorly on you. Whether you weigh 160 or 320, every bodybuilder can benefit from a continuous dosage of humility.
LIMITATION: There is so much emphasis on overcoming weaknesses or prioritizing lagging bodyparts to bring them in line that it sometimes sounds as if doing a few more sets per workout can lengthen short clavicles or pull down high lats. The truth is most genetic bodybuilding limitations can’t be transcended. Clearly assess your physique to understand what you can and cannot accomplish through bodybuilding. Accept the things you will never be able to change, and strive to change the things you can. See also realism.
PERSEVERANCE: Nothing comes easy for the vast majority of us who are hardgainers. You can make dramatic changes to your physique, but such changes will require an investment of many months — if not years. Train regularly and eat right, day in and day out. Perseverance is the key to bodybuilding success.
PERSPECTIVE: If you’re not competing in the Mr.Olympia contest, then you shouldn’t spend as much time, money and energy on bodybuilding as a top Olympia contender does. Get your priorities straight, and keep bodybuilding’s importance in perspective. See also balance.
REALISM: Setting unreachable goals can only lead to frustration. Unless you’re a top-level professional bodybuilder, there’s no need to map out plans for winning the Mr.O. Likewise, 300-pound squatters shouldn’t obsess about building up to a 600-pound squat. Set realistic short-term and long-term goals. When you reach those marks, set new ones to continuously challenge yourself with a standard that maximizes your potential but does not exceed your limitations. See also limitation.
RESPECT: Bodybuilding has been and always will be about newness: new mass, new details, new personal bests for lifts. This, coupled with the fact that the majority of its most fervent adherents are in their teens or twenties, can lead to dismissal or even disrespect for our forefathers. Understand that the bodybuilders from decades past paved the way for you — all while using inferior equipment, supplements and training and nutrition knowledge. They deserve your respect. Likewise, as your body transforms, you may find yourself critiquing the bodies of others. This is acceptable if those people are competing bodybuilders, but, if they’re not, resist the urge to judge others by their physiques.
WISDOM: To truly be a success in life, you should grow in wisdom faster than you grow in physical stature. Furthermore, the two are interrelated. Learning what does and doesn’t work to better your physique, and focusing your energies on the former, is the surest way to improve your body. It’s OK to be a physical hardgainer, as most people are, just don’t be a mental hardgainer, too. - FLEX