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10 Tips to Make It BIG as a Natural Bodybuilder

For many years, drugs and success in bodybuilding went hand in hand. But now the tide is turning, and naturals have a chance to step up to the major league.

by Skip La Cour

In addition to the hard work and slow progress of natural bodybuilding, many of the toughest obstacles are generated by our own negative thoughts. How many times have you heard a natural justify a loss because the other guy was on drugs? Or worse, how many naturals do you know who progress to a point, then stop, because to get any further they think they need to do drugs?

Now there is finally an avenue for the hard-working natural to earn some credit and publicity. That is, if the natural bodybuilder himself doesn't block his own road to success.

It's been tough to excel in a sport that up until now gave little publicity or magazine coverage to its winners. To get on the cover of one of the major bodybuilding magazines, you had to do drugs. To go pro, you had to do drugs. Basically, to make it in the sport, you had to do drugs. Finally, that tide is shifting as naturals now have a real chance to succeed.

1. Believe in "unbelievable results." As the saying goes, "If you shoot for the stars, the least you will get are the clouds." Honestly assess your body's strengths and weaknesses. Don't limit what you can accomplish just because you are a natural. The most often used excuse for achieving inferior results is that one "does not use drugs." Never use being drug free as part of your criteria when deciding if a body part is either good or needs work. You either have good legs or bad legs -- period!

Steroids and other drugs definitely give users an advantage. But that doesn't necessarily mean your genetic makeup won't enable you to get big, ripped, strong, or all of the above. Be realistic in your goal setting, but be sure that you are setting your expectations high enough.

2. Be patient! Instead of dreaming of how awesome you would look if you took drugs, spend that time improving your knowledge. With proper training, good nutritional habits, decent genetics, and enough time in the gym, you can be a very good bodybuilder by anyone's definition. But as a natural bodybuilder, this will take more time than those using drugs. You must be extremely patient and stick to your commitment. Learn from everyone, whether they use drugs or not.

3. Be proud of yourself -- but do not get self-righteous. You shouldn't judge another person's personal decisions. Regardless of how right you feel you are, judging them harshly will never influence them to change their behavior. The drug-users will probably just lash back at you in retaliation. Instead, become a positive example of what is attainable drug free.

It takes a lot of hard work, knowledge and discipline to become a good bodybuilder -- whether you use drugs or not. Some people just have different standards of what they will do in order to "get big" or "ripped." Hasn't anyone in the general public ever asked you, "Why in the world do you spend so much time to get those muscles?!" Who are they to judge you?

If you choose not to do steroids -- good for you! Quit criticizing the other guys and get to work. If you can't hang with the big boys, enter drug-tested contests only. I believe if you spend less time on your "soapbox" and more time training and eating intelligently, you can give any bodybuilder a run for their money. Show everyone just how good you can be drug free. Let your physique do your talking.

4. As you improve, get ready for the skeptics. Natural bodybuilding must be the only sport in the world when you get too good, it sometimes becomes a bad thing. It seems that the entire general public believes anyone who spends a lot of time in the gym and has any degree of muscle mass has to be on steroids. "There is no way they can get that big naturally!" they say.

This can be especially frustrating to the natural bodybuilder. Whether you are 140 pounds or 240 pounds, you probably have been accused by someone of using steroids. If not, you will as you get better. Although you want to be known and respected for your decision not to use drugs, everyone in the general public is not going to believe you.

What happens when natural bodybuilders get so good they begin looking "unnatural"? Their creditability is questioned. Everyone in the gym thinks they are on drugs. If they are ever in a bad mood, it's because of steroids. Sore losers accuse them of cheating the system. People have even gone on to say about me, "Why doesn't he just be a man and admit he takes drugs?" All of my efforts and now even my manhood is questioned?!

I have in the past tried my hardest to prove my status to the world with no success. I don't even try anymore. I remember listening as a 6-foot, 170-pound natural bodybuilder ranted and raved for about a half-hour about how someone in his gym accused him of being on steroids and how mad it made him. As his face turned every shade of red, I realized, "If they are saying that about him, I can just imagine what they saying about me being 5'10", 230 pounds in contest shape! I don't worry about what everybody thinks anymore and you shouldn't either.

5. Give better natural bodybuilders the credit they deserve. "There's no way that guy was natural!," disappointed competitors mutter after leaving most natural bodybuilding shows. It seems to me that the general opinion of a lot of natural bodybuilders is that anyone better than they are must be on drugs! These complainers are usually the same hypocrites who go berserk when anyone accuses them of drug use.

If this applies to you -- get out of your comfort zone and quit trying to make yourself feel good with excuses. They passed the testing process just like you. You should give those better than you the credit they deserve and use them to motivate you to get better. Maybe they trained harder and smarter, knew more about nutrition, had better genetics, or have been bodybuilding longer. Find out what they did better than you and beat them next time. All you are doing is keeping natural bodybuilding "second-rate" by spreading your opinion that if you are good, you can't be natural. How do you expect the sport you are so enthusiastic about to flourish if you spread such negativity?

Because of differences in genetic potential, natural hormonal levels, training methods, nutritional habits, and others, natural bodybuilders grow at different rates. It is quite believable that the physique that took you ten years to build could get demolished on stage by someone who has just been training for two.

6. Applaud past drug-users for competing drug-free. The benefits of steroids and other drugs do not last forever. Most natural contests require competitors to be drug free for at least one year. Most experts believe the benefits of the drugs have disappeared by the end of that time.

Instead of criticizing those who have once used drugs, applaud them for their efforts to compete without them. Lifelong natural bodybuilders actually have a mental advantage because of not knowing how much easier it is to get in contest shape with drugs. Most successful bodybuilders who try to go drug-free have a hard time dealing with the fact that they will be weaker, have to diet more strictly and for a longer period of time, will not get as ripped, and will have smaller muscle size. Many do not even get off the starting block. Those past drug-users who do compete deserve credit for being able to persevere while getting results inferior to those they are accustomed to getting. Applaud them for coming "clean."

If you do lose to a past drug-user, before you go into a rage, ask yourself the following questions: Was it their past drug use -- or my lack of size, symmetry, or conditioning that caused me to place behind them? Was it because they used drugs in their past – or did they place ahead of me because they have superior genetics? Was it the fact that they have been training 15 years -- while I have only been training for three years -- that caused the judges to see them as better than me? Most of the time, all the drugs they may have used in the past won’t overcome these disadvantages you are facing. Be honest with yourself!

7. Only enter contests in your best shape. Natural bodybuilding's success will be determined by the quality of its shows. Because many natural bodybuilders have such low expectations of what can be accomplished drug free, many enter contests in horrible condition.

Find out what it takes to look your very best. Don't assume the quality of the competition won't be very good because it's a natural contest.

8. List the reasons why you choose to train drug free. Natural bodybuilders are in a very difficult position. They must train harder and smarter, diet more strictly and longer, to get less dramatic results than their drug-using counterparts. Yet, the general public usually lumps them with all bodybuilders and doesn't give them the credit deserved. Why in the world would anyone choose to train this way?

You must have an ironclad will to persevere as a natural bodybuilder. But what about when you have just had enough?

List the reasons on paper why you have decided to train without the use of drugs. Refer to it in the toughest times -- when you feel like doing drugs or giving up bodybuilding altogether.

9. List the rewards for being a drug-free bodybuilder. What are the rewards for natural competitors?

Writing down all the rewards you could possibly gain if you do well can make working towards them a lot easier. Keep this list of rewards with the list of reasons you train naturally and refer to them often to fuel your motivation.

10. Take advantage of the new series of natural contests. Natural bodybuilding contests have gotten very little coverage in the major bodybuilding magazines in the past. Every lifter dreams of gracing the pages of the major muscle magazines or even becoming a bodybuilding star. This is difficult for any bodybuilder, but especially tough for naturals. A lot of bodybuilders would do anything to accomplish this dream -- even if it means taking drugs.

The NPC Ironman Naturally series of contests, the NPC Team Universe, the Natural Musclemania are tremendous avenues for exposure. I am certain the bodybuilding magazines will soon give more coverage and information about natural training. Hopefully, these contests and publicity will breed a whole new crop of new bodybuilding stars!

Natural bodybuilding will now get some very well-deserved credit. This is a great opportunity for those who have decided to train drug free to be rewarded for their efforts. Implement my advice to become the best you can be. Who knows, maybe you can make it big as a natural bodybuilder!

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