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Train Like A Champion: What It Takes To Be A Professional Bodybuilder

December 12, 2020

Becoming a professional body builder takes hard work, intellect, competitiveness, passion, and consistency. This is exactly what Matt Law, co-founder of BLK BOX GYM has. Matt has competed and won several provincial and national level shows and is currently an IFBB Pro qualifier.  

Whether you plan to compete at the highest level or just live a disciplined healthy lifestyle, this blog will cover the mindsets, day to day habits, and how to stay motivated when things get hard. You will learn new perspectives that will help you train like a champion. Insights from a bodybuilder, necessary sacrifices, decision making, creating a blueprint for success and a lot more.

Let us get started.


When trying to accomplish a big goal it is important to set routines. To become a body builder, you need a training routine and a nutrition routine. It must be a lifestyle. Once your routine is set, you do not need to rely on motivation as much. Relying on motivation is not a recipe for success, because even the most motivated individuals lose motivation eventually. It is imperative to create a routine which will eventually form into a habit. For Matt, this is exactly what he did. This helped him become extremely consistent with his training and nutrition as these routines were implemented into his lifestyle.     


Goal setting is also extremely important. Matt sets two types of goals. Behavioral goals and outcome based goals, which can be further classified into Short term goals and Long term goals.  


Outcome based Short term goals:

Build more muscle in a short time frame

Lose a certain amount of weight in a short time frame


Outcome based Long term:

Winning a competition

Attain the physique of a fitness icon he admires


Behavioral Goals:

Meal Prep daily or weekly

Doing "x" minutes of cardio per week

Doing "x" training sessions per week  

Eating "x" meals per day

Stretching "x" minutes a day

Posing practice "x" minutes a week


Behavioral goals lead to action. Repetitive actions lead to favorable outcomes. If you do not have behavioral goals set, it is hard to accomplish your outcome based goals.


For Matt, since he does not particularity like doing cardio, his needs to make cardio a habit. For this to happen, he sets aside 30 mins every day for cardio. This allows him to burn extra calories, maintain his cardiovascular health, and most importantly, discipline his mind. By doing 30 minutes daily, instead of say, 90 minutes 3 times a week, allows him to build a routine and develop a habit that will stick. Additionally, Matt likes to listen to audio books about business, self-development etc. This is a behavioral goal he has set that will lead to him one day winning his IFBB pro card.  


Many people fail to stick to their New Years resolutions because they come up with outcome based goals without allocating the proper behavioral based goals. After a few weeks they will start to burn   out or give up, because they do not see any results. Without setting behavioral goals, one may do too much in the beginning only to gas out after a short duration. Instead, aim to make small changes to your routine and behaviors, over time it will lead to amazing outcomes. Make sure you set realistic behavioral goals, or you may also be discouraged if they are too difficult.  


Goal setting is like running a marathon. You cannot sprint the 1st 100 meters. If you do, you will get really exhausted and later you won't even be able to walk. Marathon runners are able to run so long because they have proper pace. For the 1st 10 km they may take an hour or so, and for every 10 km afterwards, they will set a different time depending on their progress. Marathon runners constantly adjust their running speed (behavioral based) in order to most effectively reach the finish line(outcome based)  


Similarly, in training in order to attain a certain level of physique, you must train frequently and consistently. Luckily for Matt, he is intrinsically motivated to train because its an activity he enjoys. On the other hand he does not like doing cardio, therefore he needs set behavioral based goals in order to stay consistent in the long term.  


In order to help set productive behavioral goals, here are some questions you need to ask yourself


What behaviors are beneficial to help you reach your goal?

What behaviors are derailing you from your goal?  

How will you remove the bad habits from your life?  

How will you implement the good habits into your life?  

Are you aware of the habits that you have? How can you bring more awareness to your own behaviors?     


In the next section we will discuss what separates the exceptional from the average joe. The champions from the participants.

What sets a champion apart?

As a competitor, Matt has been first place, second place, third place, and even unplaced. To be a champion, hard work and discipline is essential, but you also need to work smart. For example if you require 210 minutes of cardio every week, its smarter to break it up into 30 minute sessions than to try to do it all in one day. Maybe you absolutely despise cardio, but you are okay with eating less food; instead of doing copious amounts of cardio, you can simply eat a little bit less or add a mini circuit into your workouts. This would achieve the effect as doing cardio, but you end up feeling less stressed because you did less cardio which you dread. Working hard isn't always better, find different ways to meet your behavioral goals that fit your particular preferences.


Self education is also important when it comes to becoming a champion. For Matt, he is a Bachelors of Kinesiology and a Certified Personal Trainer. Additionally, he spends a lot of time consuming fitness related media and is constantly keeping up with the latest fitness science and trends. Reading books, researching articles, investing in online courses, sharing knowledge with similar professionals; all of these things collectively help Matt develop the perfect fitness blueprint to achieve his goals.

  

  Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.

  Bruce Lee


On a side note, learning how to evaluate the quality of the information you're consuming is also a crucial skill to have if you want to be a champion. In the fitness world, there are generally two types of information: "bro science" advice, and "science-based." While sticking with science-based studies is a good rule of thumb, you must use your critical thinking to determine whether the information is reliable or not.  


Fitness is a rapidly growing discipline, every week there are new articles on the most updated training and nutrition protocols. If you followed the advice of every article, you'd soon find that a lot of the information is contradictory and the literature constantly corrects itself.    


On the contrary, if you wanted to build big legs, maybe taking the advice from that guy in the gym with big legs isn't a bad idea. Remember, everyone responds differently and the only way to find what works for you is to be open to new ideas and approaches and apply them to yourself until you find what works best.  

Matt's Personal Blueprint

All year round, Matt tracks his training and nutrition. He creates a training routine and tracks the sets reps and weight he performs every workout. He also keeps track of how many calories and grams of macronutrients he eats everyday. This may sound like a lot, but once you establish this as a routine, it becomes automatic. For more on his training split read  INTRODUCING MATTHEW LAW: PERSONAL TRAINER AT BLK BOX GYM


Since Matt has been training for 10+ years, he is very in tune with his body and is able to make adjustments to his training & nutrition routines on the fly. For a beginner, it is better to stick with a routine and build your discipline and consistency. Once you get a good feel of your body, you can have more flexibility and deviate from your routine as you see fit.


Although Matt tracks his training and nutrition year round, the level of strictness drastically increases during competition season. Matt not only tracks his macronutrients, he also tracks his micronutrients, water intake, sodium intake, meal timing, sleep, stress levels. This level of detail is important when you are competing to win. When he is not competing, he just tracks his macronutrients.  

A Champions mindset

To become a champion, not only do you need to be competitive, you must understand your "Why." If you do not know your "why," you will inevitably give up when times get tough. When it comes to bodybuilding competitions, you have to constantly surpass your limits. You need to push yourself to do things you never thought you were capable of, and you need to do this over a long period of time. If you can do this, then you have what it takes to be a champion.

Summary:

  1. You need to have a structured training and nutrition routine
  2. You need to make fitness a lifestyle
  3. You need to set realistic behavioral goals that lead to outcome goals
  4. You need to work hard AND work smart
  5. Follow a proven blueprint
  6. Understand your why which will help you stay motivated and help you push through hard times. It is not a fun event. You need to do the work.

How to learn more from Matt

To help others who want to compete in bodybuilding, or create their own optimized fitness program, BLK BOX GYM offers Online Coaching. BLK BOX GYM wants to help people develop a structured training and nutrition program to achieve their fitness goals. Whether its stepping on stage for the first time, or attaining a certain physique for a vacation or an important life event, the coaches at BLK BOX GYM will provide the knowledge and tools for you to succeed. For more info, check out their online coaching here.

Written by

Ken Lu

Ken has a Bachelor's Degree of Psychology from the University of British Columbia, specializing in Sport Psychology. As well as being a Certified Personal Trainer, Ken is also a Movement & Mobility Specialist, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has trained for and won the 2018 NPAA BC Men's Physique Championship.