Bodybuilding progress never occurs in a straight line. The body is a living organism capable of adapting to changing workloads. We are stimulated by many things in our lives – good and bad – that affect our training, recovery, and growth.
Achievement in bodybuilding growth also occurs on several different simultaneous levels. A gain in muscle mass is an achievement. A loss of body fat is an achievement. Lifting more weight than before is an achievement. Some achievements come at the expense of others. A gain of five pounds of muscle is usually accompanied by a gain of 1 to 5 pounds of fat and water. Inversely, a loss of 5 pounds of fat is typically accompanied by a loss of 1-3 pounds of muscle mass.
A clean measurement of success with bodybuilding growth is very hard to achieve. Typically, every person in the gym has the same goal – get big muscle and be lean. But achieving that goal requires the accomplishment of a thousand smaller goals, all of which are very different for many trainers.
Starting lines are different for every person. Some naturally small and skinny people might train their entire lives to achieve the conditioning and muscle mass that some mesomorphs are blessed with by age 16. Given these differing starting lines, the paths we take to achieve gains in the gym will be different. The skinny ectomorph will focus more on mass gains for several years, while the more genetically blessed mesomorphs will achieve optimal mass quickly and then devote time to refining the muscle groups. Understanding and accepting that you may transform your physique completely, yet still not come close to the physique that some people were naturally blessed with, helps in setting goals and staying focused over time.
We’re all going to hit obstacles in terms of bodybuilding progress. Often, it’s external. Real-life stress from family, work, and school will cause cortisol levels to rise and place stress on the central nervous system (CNS), which will slow recovery. Additionally, sometimes we’ll reach bodybuilding progress plateaus without any external pressure. Your body has natural limits, and we do reach them sometimes. When this happens, it’s important to adjust training, diet, sleep, and supplementation in order to stimulate the body and encourage growth in new ways.
Realistic expectations lead to realistic goals. Understanding that obstacles will arise, and progress will never be a consistent linear path is important to long-term bodybuilding success.