The Basics of Bodybuilding: A Beginners Guide

Basics of Bodybuilding

The bodybuilding world can be intimidating for the newly interested. There are many old school concepts and principles that you need to know to get started. But  there are many so-called gurus out their preaching utter nonsense. This needs to be avoided. Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about bodybuilding – without the nonsense.

 There’s a lot that goes on when it comes to transforming the human body. It’s a highly intelligent machine that can accomplish great feats when pushed to the limits. But when you’re new to bodybuilding, you don’t need complicated. To understand and get the basics right, you just need the simple.

But, first things first, let’s clarify what bodybuilding actually is… 

Defining ‘Bodybuilding’

Bodybuilding takes on many forms. On the elite level, you have guys walking around packing 250-300+ pounds. Say the word ‘bodybuilding,’ and the first thought most people have are of these monstrous muscle bodies flexing on stage. While that’s certainly the face of bodybuilding, it’s not all that bodybuilding incorporates.

Technically, anybody who is actively trying to transform their body is a bodybuilder. You don’t have to pack on slabs of muscle to become a bodybuilder. No matter how you want to look or perform, get started on the right foot by following this guide.

The Basics

No matter the goal, it’s imperative lay the foundation. So whatever body style you are aiming for, compound lifts are a must have in your arsenal. Compound lifts are exercises that require the movement of multiple joints.

The Critical Compound Lifts


The king of all exercises, as it’s often referred to, squats are critical to developing lower body strength, size, and power. There are many variations of the squat and the ones you use will be based on your capabilities, goals, and equipment available to you.

Dead Lifts

Arguably, one of the most effective, bang-for-your-buck exercises, the deadlift is the ultimate test of overall body strength. Your entire posterior chain (hamstring, glutes, & back), as well as biceps and shoulders will grow stronger on a consistent deadlift routine.

And, let’s forget bodybuilding for just a second, the deadlift simply makes you a better human in general. If you could prevent struggling to bend down and pick up things, as you got older, would you do what it took? It surprisingly doesn’t take as much as you might think.

OverHead Press

A solid upper body and overall core strengthening exercise, the overhead press, one could argue, is the ultimate test of strength. Regardless, it is an awesome movement to develop the upper body.

Now, this is FAR from an extensive list of all the great bodybuilding exercises, but they’ll be plenty for the absolute beginner to get started. So how do you start implementing these exercises?

Well, the barbell variations make these lifts better. However, as a beginner you may not be able to start with the barbell right away. That’s ok.  Body weight, resistance bands and dumbbells are all great substitutes until you are able to use the barbell comfortably and safely.  Work on getting your technique right first, then strive to get to the barbell versions as soon as you can. You’ll see greater results when you do!

Workout Splits

The bodybuilding style routine is often a one or two body part split each day. Meaning that each day you’ll do a different body part. For example:

Monday: Chest

            Tuesday: Back

            Wednesday: Legs

            Thursday: Shoulders

            Friday: Arms

The above is a pretty common routine among bodybuilders. This set up allows you to workout more frequently but also allows for certain muscle groups to recover while you work other ones.

This is a good setup to get started on. Once you learn more about how your body responds to different set ups, you can adjust it to what works better for you. Which brings up a good point: KEEP TRACK!

Track everything! Track your body weight each morning, track what you eat, how you feel, how sore you are, how your workout went, how much weight you’re lifting. Track as much as possible. This will be incredibly valuable when you hit plateaus or sticking points, which everybody does from time to time. Having tracked your progress, you’ll be able to look back and see what you’ve done in the past and be able to adjust from there.


The following priorities are critical to keeping you safe, first and foremost, as well as helping you progress as efficiently as possible. You must never neglect the first for the second or third. It is essential to follow the priorities below:

  1. Form
  2. Speed/Tempo
  3. Weight


Using proper form is critical, not just for safety reasons, but if you’re not using the proper form, you’re not engaging the muscles properly and you will not see the growth you are looking for. Ask yourself, what’s the reason I’m doing this exercise? If you’re doing squats because you’re trying to build up your quads, make sure your quads are actually engaged and working.


Using proper speed and tempo is another way to keep you safe and healthy. It will also help place the necessary resistance on the muscles, helping them to grow.


Now, everybody wants to show off his or her strength. But there is a time and place to do that. It’s important to be done with the first two priorities in mind. Not only will using proper form and tempo keep you safe, it will also allow you to be at your strongest.

The body can be very efficient when working properly. Do yourself a favor and never get these priorities out of order. You want to be in the gym a long time, right? If that’s the case, staying healthy will be imperative. Battling injuries all the time is not a fun experience.

There are literally 1,000 page books on the subject of bodybuilding. But when it comes to something that has a lot of moving parts and seems complicated to a beginner, it’s necessary to break it down into the simple, main parts.  This article does just that, and is simply a beginners guide to getting started. There is more than enough to chew on for the absolute beginner. But it will also yield big results.


Good luck, and remember; patience, dedication, and a relentless mind will be necessary for you to achieve the body you seek!