Training practices and ergogenic aids used by male bodybuilders

J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jun;27(6):1609-17. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318271272a.


Bodybuilding involves performing a series of poses on stage where the competitor is judged on aesthetic muscular appearance. The purpose of this study was to describe training practices and ergogenic aids used by competitive bodybuilders and to determine whether training practices comply with current recommendations for muscular hypertrophy. A web-based survey was completed by 127 competitive male bodybuilders. The results showed that during the off-season phase of training (OFF), the majority of respondents performed 3-6 sets per exercise (95.3%), 7-12 repetition maximum (RM) per set (77.0%), and 61- to 120-seconds recovery between sets and exercises (68.6%). However, training practices changed 6 weeks before competition (PRE), where there was an increased number of respondents who reported undertaking 3-4 sets per exercise at the expense of 5-6 sets per exercise (p < 0.001), an increase in the number reporting 10-15RM per set from 7-9RM per set (p < 0.001), and an increase in the number reporting 30-60 seconds vs. 61-180 seconds recovery between sets and exercises (p < 0.001). Anabolic steroid use was high among respondents competing in amateur competitions (56 of 73 respondents), whereas dietary supplementation was used by all respondents. The findings of this study demonstrate that competitive bodybuilders comply with current resistance exercise recommendations for muscular hypertrophy; however, these changed before competition during which there is a reduction resistance training volume and intensity. This alteration, in addition to an increase in aerobic exercise volume, is purportedly used to increase muscle definition. However, these practices may increase the risk of muscle mass loss in natural compared with amateur bodybuilders who reportedly use drugs known to preserve muscle mass.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Bicycling
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / administration & dosage*
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Running
  • Steroids / administration & dosage*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Walking
  • Weight Lifting*
  • Young Adult


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Steroids