Bodybuilders Intuition – “Listening to Your Body”


by Cade Thomas

Let us just get one thing out of the way – this article will be laden with thoughts of mine that some of you will label “bro-science”. You could say that not only is there going to be bro-science lathered on top of this page, but it will be baked right into the core. Now, if that troubles you in some shape or form because you feel that something must include a laundry list of references for it to be considered valid or useful, please proceed to shelter your eyes now and prevent this dreadful sacrilege from entering your brain.

*looks around*

Are they gone yet? Phew. Now we can get on with our lives. I find it much easier to just throw up the white flag off the bat so these textbook junkies can fill themselves with pride and let the big boys play in peace.

One phrase you will hear bodybuilders toss around in interviews when being questioned on their methods is – “I listen to my body”. This can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but commonly it is all people needed to hear to dismiss anything the subject has to say afterwards. This is the green light to the thought “clearly the person doesn’t know what they are doing or talking about, and must have reached their level of progress through taking orders or blind dumb luck”. Personally, I feel like these athletes offer plenty to learn from.

One variable that can make or break a bodybuilders success is appetite in the off-season. We can assume that most competitors when pre-contest will be watching the clock and wiping drool off of their chin waiting to chew on a piece of microwaved white fish, but off-season can be a different story. Many struggle with consuming the amount of food needed to make significant gains. This is one area I feel “listening to your body” can be extremely beneficial. Quite often you hear of someone struggling to push down the calories and is looking for something they can take to increase their appetite. While there are situations where this is necessary and being hungry is certainly a good indicator that you are primed to grow, the problem is that usually the lack of hunger is due to something they are already taking. This “take X to counteract Z” approach is sloppy and in my opinion unnecessary. The best approach would be to see what you have added and pinpoint which supplement or food source could be causing any problems. If you are taking 150mg Anadrol a day and getting most of your carbs from Oatmeal, perhaps ditching the orals and relying on a more easily digested starch would cure the problem. I personally know that I am hungry almost instantly after eating fish and white rice, so if hunger is an issue it would be wise to use these sources as much as possible.

Thinking on your feet is integral to progress. Being set in a plan is restrictive and doesn’t line up with the unpredictability of the human body. Just because the online world is obsessing with Trenbolone Acetate and you might have read some (idiot) one say it is necessary for success in the sport, how successful are you going to be if even 200mgs a week gives you heartburn, makes you irritable, and erases sleep from your life? We could either load up on Zantac, 5-htp, start meditating and abusing sleep medications…or possibly just “listen to our body” and cease taking the compound. There are no “musts” in bodybuilding, and wasting your time forcing your body down a path of resistance seems ridiculous when you could find the road that doesn’t fight back and continue to progress. When you change up supplements or food sources, take mental notes (or physically write information down if that helps you) about what methods fight you and what agrees with you. There is no reason to have to push through a brick wall when I can assure you there are smarter choices for YOU.

Everyone has faced the “old-timers”‘s speech about how you have to squat, bench press, do this press, lift this weight, blah blah blah. This is absolutely ridiculous. Muscles have no idea what exercise you are doing. Your quads don’t magically wake up when you load the bar for the free weight squat and think “Oh thank god, he is squatting, now it’s time to grow because this exercise is HARDCORE”. For some people, squats are such an effective exercise that they can pretty much be used exclusively to develop thick legs. However, I promise most of these squat-worshippers are short stocky men with strong hips. Personally, I don’t care what Mr.Old School tells me I HAVE to do when he is 6 inches shorter than me and has zero understanding of how certain exercises affect a different body structure. If squats work for you, consider yourself lucky as it will remove a lot of critical thinking in your leg routine…but if they just strain your lower back, risk injury, and force your glutes to develop at rapid pace then it’s time to move on and start growing. Not everyone is capable of truly FEELING what is working or not, and this is why I consider the “listen to your body” types to be truly more advanced than the science worshippers. If EZ bar skull-crushers force you to ice your elbows day and night but one arm cable pulldowns fill your tricep with so much blood that your shirt doesn’t fit the same way when you leave the gym, I suggest listening to your tricep and not the stubborn old guy with mutton chops in the gators gym tank.

I like results. I feel like the quickest way to achieve your goals in any aspect of life is to reduce resistance from any outside force and proceed down the path that works for YOU. In our modern society of study-obsessed weight lifters it can be intimidating to suggest something might work for you that goes against what others believe. I truly believe training should feel good. I believe you should be hungry and enjoy food (to a degree). Not everyone is built with a brain that allows such freedom and the Left-Brained crowd might be better off following a stricter outline, but I do believe everyone can learn to listen to their body’s cues and turn that feedback into results. I respect the bodybuilders who take responsibility for their own progress and after all, that’s the art of this sport – it’s the pursuit of bettering and building yourself into the image that you desire.