Natural Bodybuilder Workout (Tips, Routine & Supplements)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 27, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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You can grow muscle and improve your appearance without using performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids.

However, you have to stop routines built for or by steroid-enhanced weightlifting superstars and begin exercising like the natural you are.

As a coach with over 10+ years of experience, I've guided many clients into gaining muscle mass naturally with perfect workouts.

In this article, I will provide my expertise and findings on the natural bodybuilding program, macro and micronutrients for natural bodybuilding, and tips for natural bodybuilding.

Quick Summary

  • A natural bodybuilder workout focuses on compound and isolation exercises, emphasizing muscle growth without the use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids.
  • Natural bodybuilding emphasizes the importance of an effective nutrition and fitness regimen, including working out each muscle group twice a week for faster recovery and enhanced training frequency.
  • Research published in PubMed indicates that maintaining a high protein intake of over 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight while reducing total calorie intake can help minimize muscle mass loss.
  • In my opinion, achieving a strong and shredded physique through natural bodybuilding is not only attainable but also a healthier and more sustainable approach compared to using performance-enhancing drugs like steroids.

Natural Bodybuilding Sample Workout Routine

A body builder lifting weights

Upper Body Workouts:

  • 4 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions of the bench press
  • 4 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions of barbell rows
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of the shoulder press
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of pull-ups or pull-downs
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of bicep curls
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions on tricep extensions
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of lateral raises

Lower Body Workout: 

  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of squats
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of leg press
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of lunges
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of leg extension
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of the hamstring curl
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of calf raises
  • 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of hanging leg raises

Developing a Natural Bodybuilding Routine

A man in the gym working out for bodybuilding

When I developed my natural bodybuilding routine, I had to find the right balance between workout intensity and recovery.

Overdoing workouts can lead to injury instead of growth.

Focusing on compound exercises and progressive overload is fundamental in a natural bodybuilding regimen to efficiently build muscle.

Progressive Overload

Weights getting progressively heavier

I've personally experienced the benefits of progressive overload in my muscle-building journey. It's one of the most effective techniques for natural growth.

To build muscle, you must subject the body to increasing stress.

There are three choices for doing so:

  • Increase the weight
  • Increase the number of repetitions performed with a weight
  • Reduce the length of time between sets

All of them will work the muscle harder by challenging it to perform something it has never done before.

The 5x5 method is an example of this.

You execute 5 sets of 5 repetitions of your major compound exercises.

Compound Exercises

In natural bodybuilding, prioritize strength through compound exercises like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses, and bent-over rows.

These multi-joint movements engage several muscle groups, building strength effectively.

A great starting point is the 5x5 method, which focuses on these fundamental exercises and is easy to adopt.

It's widely recognized for effectively boosting overall strength in natural bodybuilding.

The Primary Factors in Developing Natural Muscle

A buff male in the gym reading

Everyone should understand critical basic concepts, whether you're a new trainee or a seasoned lifter.

I've been in the natural bodybuilding scene for years, and I can't stress enough how important training, nutrition, and supplementation are for developing natural muscle.

To properly develop natural muscle, three key things must be considered:

  • Training
  • Proper Nutrition
  • Supplementation

We have gone through training in the above section.

Let's look at the nutrition and supplementation requirements for building a natural bodybuilder physique.

Natural Bodybuilder's Calorie Guidelines

A bodybuilder calculating calories

Since natural lifters rely solely on their diet and workout regimen, becoming an expert in nutritional planning is essential. A meticulously balanced diet, rich in the right macronutrients, is key to fuel muscle growth and enhance recovery in the absence of performance-enhancing drugs.

I've personally followed the calorie guidelines for natural bodybuilders, and it's all about finding the right balance in your diet to fuel muscle growth and recovery naturally.

Whether enhanced or not, a natural bodybuilding diet shares fundamental principles.

The key distinction lies in allowing more time for reducing body fat while preserving muscle mass. It all starts with calorie management.

You must determine how many calories you require to lose or gain weight and to maintain your weight at a healthy rate.

You'll want to nail the caloric surplus (the "bulking") and caloric deficit (the "cut") so you don't gain or lose too much body weight.

Depending on your objective, you should eat 200-400 calories more or less than your maintenance calories [1].

You should target to lose or gain half a kilogram per week, or around 1.1 pounds. It may appear low, but several studies published in PubMed have shown it is the best sustainable approach to losing weight while preserving lean muscle without losing strength [2].

When you lose weight, you also decrease testosterone because you lose lean muscle mass. The goal of bodybuilding is to lessen this impact, which is often done by protein supplementation [3].

Macronutrients for Natural Bodybuilding

Close up shot of foods with protein

Based on my experience, once you've determined how many calories you require, divide them across the three macronutrients: protein, carbs, and healthy fats.

1. Proteins

Protein is essential for natural bodybuilders since it promotes muscle growth when eating in a calorie deficit.

When you lose weight, part of it is fat, and some are lean muscles.

According to research published in PubMed, decreasing total calories can minimize muscle mass loss by eating over 2.2 g of protein per kg of body weight [4].

Protein provides the building blocks from which muscle tissue is developed.

“Strength training is vital for muscle gain, as is eating an appropriate amount of protein. Protein comprises amino acids, which serve as building blocks for the body's cells and tissues.”
- Catherine Carver, Master of Public Health

2. Carbohydrates

Close up shot of foods with carbohydrates

Carbohydrates supply the energy that the body needs to put those building blocks (protein) together to form muscle tissues [5].

3. Fats

These also offer energy, but more significantly, healthy fat aids in normalizing critical hormones (such as testosterone) necessary for steering the muscle-building process, according to the Frontiers in Nutrition [6].

Micronutrients for Natural Bodybuilding

Close up shot of foods with iron

Micronutrients are the minerals and vitamins in food that assist with bodily processes, from eye-hand coordination to lowering muscle fatigue [7].

As vital as they are, bodybuilders may be lacking in a few critical ones while dieting, particularly vitamin D, zinc, and iron, which aid in boosting performance in the gym, as they tend to begin cutting meals from their diet to shed weight, based on my coaching experience.

1. Iron

Close up shot of foods with iron nutrients

Iron is essential for athletic performance and the production of new red blood cells.

A deficiency can lead to nutrient-deficiency anemia, affecting performance and potentially causing cardiac issues and breathlessness.

Exercise itself depletes iron levels, putting athletes at higher risk. Men should strive for at least 8.7mg of iron daily, while women should aim for 14.8mg, according to the study published in PubMed [8].

2. Vitamin D and Zinc

These two nutrients are required by your body to stimulate testosterone synthesis.

If you lack these two micronutrients, your body cannot produce the testosterone needed to lift weights and execute other "tasks" [9].

Natural Bodybuilding Supplements

Close up shot of bodybuilding supplements

When it comes to natural bodybuilding, supplements can assist you in gaining an advantage. I've personally explored the world of natural bodybuilding supplements, and they can indeed provide an advantage in your journey.

Aside from protein, there are a few essential ingredients for everyone interested in natural bodybuilding.

Navigating the world of supplements is crucial for natural bodybuilders. It's important to choose products that are transparent about their ingredients and avoid banned substances, ensuring you're only consuming what's necessary for muscle growth and recovery without compromising your health or competition eligibility.

Let's briefly examine a few that might help you maximize your exercises.

Pre-Workout Supplements

“If you don't adequately fuel yourself before workouts or intense exercise, you'll be less energized, weaker, and fatigued sooner than usual. Pre-workout is intended to assist in combating this by allowing you to go harder and longer.”
- Matt Lovell , Certified Sports Nutritionist

Pre-workout supplements are intended to help you get the maximum benefit from each workout.

They mix caffeine, other stimulants for increased energy, and vitamins like agmatine and citrulline to boost blood flow, according to the Experimental Physiology [10].

A therapeutic dosage of beta-alanine is also included in the supplements for greater endurance, and Alpha GPC and Lion's Mane Mushroom extracts for increased focus [11] [12].

While pre-workout supplements provide various benefits for enhancing workout performance, it's important to note that they primarily focus on optimizing physical performance rather than hormonal balance.

In cases where individuals face significant hormonal imbalances, such as low testosterone levels, considering therapeutic doses of testosterone replacement therapy under medical supervision may be necessary.

This approach can help restore hormonal equilibrium and support overall fitness and well-being.

Creatine

Close up shot of creatine on a wooden spoon

Experts recommend consuming 5g of quality creatine monohydrate daily to maintain optimal muscle creatine content.

Creatine is shown to support muscle growth and strength, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [13].

Rest and Recovery

To gain muscle naturally, you must prioritize rest and recovery. Without anabolic steroids, the body takes longer to recover from strenuous workouts.

A two-day rest period is advised for maximum muscle growth [14].

A standard weekly workout split that offers optimal recuperation for muscle development is the 3 days on, 1 day off, and the 2 days on, 1 day off splits.

Training Tips for Natural Bodybuilding

A man in the gym bodybuilding

1. Don't Use Too Much Volume

Volume implies the number of repetitions and sets performed per workout.

While you must perform enough exercise volume to tear down your muscles so they may come back larger and stronger, too much will delay recovery.

As a natural bodybuilder, you should establish how little you require rather than how much you can tolerate.

For most lifters, this means keeping exercises to 6 to 8 sets per primary muscle group and 2 to 4 sets for smaller ones.

2. Train Every Muscle Group Two Times Weekly

Most advanced natural bodybuilding competitions require training every muscle group once every week.

These workouts are often long and hard, requiring a week to recuperate.

Based on my coaching experience, such extensive exercises are inappropriate for natural bodybuilders, and you should instead workout each muscle group twice a week.

Because your exercises are shorter, you will recover faster, allowing you to exercise more frequently.

3. Keep Your Workouts Brief

A buff male working out in the gym looking at his watch

Natural bodybuilders should limit their exercises to 60 minutes or less.

Long workouts are difficult to recuperate from without the use of artificial supplementation. Long activities raise cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that suppresses muscle growth, according to the Biology [15].

Shorter exercises result in lower cortisol levels, quick recovery, and faster development.

4. Drink a Lot of Water

Based on my personal experience, adequate water intake offers a variety of great benefits, such as efficient protein synthesis, good digestion, and waste elimination.

Water allows nutrients to reach the circulation and muscles while removing waste products from the body.

Water is also essential for supplement users.

Many sports supplements, such as creatine, use water and can quickly dehydrate you.

A solid rule for any dedicated bodybuilder is to take at least one gallon of water daily.

FAQs

How Many Hours Do Natural Bodybuilders Workout?

Natural bodybuilders work out for about one hour every day. This equates to 5 to 7 hours every week.

Can You Be a Bodybuilder Naturally?

Yes, you can be a bodybuilder naturally. By excluding the use of products such as anabolic steroids, insulin, and human growth hormone, you can work out and gain muscles naturally.

How Long Does It Take a Natural Bodybuilder To Build Muscle?

It takes around 12 weeks for a natural bodybuilder to see bigger changes in building muscles. Muscle gain is a gradual process. It might take between three and four weeks to notice an improvement. You'll see some tangible outcomes after 12 weeks.

Supplementation for Natural Muscle Bodybuilding

Establishing a natural bodybuilding physique for natural bodybuilding competitions or personal achievement is not simple.

Learning your way around the gym is essential, but remember that diet will account for 70% of the outcomes you see.

Incorporate the correct exercise program, healthy eating plan, and pre-workout supplements to achieve your desired physique.

These supplements will provide you with the energy and pump you need to complete your sets and reps and get you closer to attaining the natural bodybuilding physique.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17848938/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20205751/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20096034/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10574520/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8878406/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7561707/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019700/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28277407/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28668998/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5999519/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4595381/
  12. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1536/lions-mane-mushroom
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6015912/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9312330/
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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