Part 3: Twenty Ways to Become a Contrarian Bodybuilder

By Terry Grant

“Most people want to believe rather than to know, to take for granted rather than to find out.”– James Thurber

In Part 1, we learned that a “contrarian” is a person with a preference for taking a position in opposition to the majority.

In Part 2, we covered the first 10 Ways to Become a Contrarian Bodybuilder by doing the opposite of what most people do.


In this killer post I’ll cover the next 10 Ways to succeed at building the body of your dreams by doing the opposite of what most trainees are doing. Then I’ll segue into revealing the highly controversial and Original Contrarian Bodybuilder! You’ll definitely want to read this all the way to the end. 

11. Most people… Train their muscles to absolute failure and beyond!

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Never trains to absolute failure and typically ends the set 1-2 reps short of muscular failure. On more demanding exercises, such as the deadlift, he may decide to stay even further away from failure, since doing so becomes even more risky and could lead to serious injury. Instead of training to failure, he trains for success and to set new personal bests.

By always being able to complete the last rep with good form, he finishes each set with a victory. A few times a year (or in a competition) he may bend this rule and really push himself to test the boundaries of his strength and power. Yet, he understands that if he always pushes his body beyond what it is capable of, his technique and form will breakdown and this breakdown could easily lead to an injury that sets him back for weeks, months or possibly even years.

The risk far outweighs the reward. Training too close to failure on a regular basis also has a tendency to fry your nervous system, prolonging recovery and thus your ability to train frequently. Grinding out a few more reps may look “hardcore”, but it may actually reduce your strength and muscle gains in the end.

12. Most people… Look for complicated solutions to what are often simple problems!

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Realizes that a simple, basic strategy can be powerful and extremely effective. He grasps the concept that men like to make things intricate and complex, while nature often promotes that which is simple and easy. To gain weight, all one needs to do is eat more calories than his body and metabolism can burn off. If he does this consistently, he will gain weight.

That being said, he desires to have those calories converted to muscle and not fat! So he knows he must do some type of strength training to stimulate the need for his body to produce additional muscle tissue. He creates the demand by carefully selecting the best exercises for his training program. He then focuses his efforts on gradually adding more weight to the bar or by working through a progressive series of challenging bodyweight exercises over the next several months and years.

He knows that he needs high levels of testosterone and growth hormone in order to build muscle and recover from his training, so he makes sure to eat natural, whole foods and get plenty of sleep. He knows even though this strategy is simplistic in nature, it will NOT be easy.

13. Most people… Break the body up into muscle groups and train each muscle using isolation exercises.

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Is aware that the body’s musculoskeletal system works holistically and should be trained as a functional unit.  He comprehends that there are more than 640 muscles in the human body and that groups of muscles work together and antagonistically to create movement through space. Because he is conscious of this he primarily selects exercises that simulate the body’s fundamental movement patterns instead of individual muscle groups. 

The body moves in six basic ways: squat, bend, lunge, push, pull, and twist. By selecting compound exercises that correlate with these motions he will be able to train the majority of his muscles, while simultaneously improving his body’s ability to perform these movements in a dynamic environment such as in work, sports, or combat. In other words, he is training the body and muscles to work in an integrated fashion as they are required to do so in everyday life.

This type of training improves both the appearance of the muscles and their ability to function in a coordinated effort to move and produce force. This philosophy forms the foundation of his training method; however, certain isolation exercises may also be used to target lagging muscles, weak points or in the rehabilitation and prevention of injuries.

14. Most people… Eat the traditional “three square meals” a day without question!

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: May eat anywhere from 0-6+ meals a day depending on his particular purpose and immediate goals for his physique. If his current goal is to gain size and strength he will either be eating 3-4 huge meals a day to fulfill his caloric surplus requirement or break these into multiple smaller meals that he consumes over the course of the day.

A common bodybuilder approach is 6 moderate sized meals a day, eaten every 2-4 hours. Then again, one may choose whatever works for them, whether it is 3, 4, 5 or more meals. In the end, it doesn’t really matter as long he’s taking in enough calories and nutrients to maintain an anabolic state. The same principles apply to fat loss except that you must maintain a caloric deficit instead of a surplus.

Occasionally it is a good idea to have zero meals for a day. This is called fasting and it gives the body and digestive system a break, allowing more energy for healing, removing toxins and other bodily processes. You will NOT lose muscle by incorporating intermittent fasting days into your program, granted that you do them infrequently. Your weight may fluctuate during the fast, but you will regain it once you begin eating again.

On a muscle building phase you may do a fast once a month to reduce fat gain and reset the body. They can be utilized weekly on fat loss phases and work great specifically after a cheat day. Fasting can also help to build mental toughness, appreciation for food and increased clarity of mind.

15. Most people… Think mindset stuff is weird, hokey or too “New Age!”

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Understands that the mind leads the body and knows that having the proper mindset is vital for success. He realizes how important a positive attitude is to reaching and achieving his goals. The common world view is that the mind is within the body; however, being the contrarian that he is… he may wonder whether the body is really inside the mind!

Like the Zen master, he tames a turbulent and noisy mind through Zazen (daily meditation practice.) This is the first step to gaining control over his mental faculties and emotions. He knows that every thought he has influences his perception and experience of reality, therefore he is careful to choose his thoughts wisely. Thoughts are both observant and creative energies and you can only achieve that which you first believe is possible.

In his ongoing study of successful men and women he takes notice of the repeated use of visualization and optimistic attitudes of athletes, entrepreneurs, and those that achieve greatness. He begins monitoring his own internal self-talk and repetitive thought patterns which flow forth almost habitually and subconsciously. He makes a great effort to visualize his successes and affirm the positive beliefs he desires to uphold. He encourages himself through positive self-talk to harness the hidden power deep within the recesses of his subconscious mind.

He fully grasps that the ability to think is what separates us from all of the other creatures that inhabit this planet. He is indeed “a thinking man.” Living consciously is the master key which opens the doors to his ultimate fulfillment.

16. Most people… Literally follow the “No Pain No Gain” maxim to a fault!

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Listens to the biofeedback and signals that his body is sending him while he is training and adjusts his intensity and programming accordingly. He realizes that to make strength and muscular gains he is going to have to push through temporary physiological and psychological pain by stepping out of his comfort zone and into the hurt box. However, he is keenly aware of the difference between this “discomfort” and the true pain signals that his body gives in precedence to an injury.

Sharp or nagging pain in the muscles or joints is his body’s way of signaling to him that something is amiss. Blindly ignoring or training through this type of pain (hoping that it will go away) is violating your body’s cautionary and forewarning mechanisms. Doing this most assuredly sets the stage for muscular imbalances, joint problems, sprains, strains, and muscular, tendon or ligament tears. In other terms, serious damage and injuries that may ultimately end your training for longer periods of time or even permanently!

It’s better to cut a set short, rest another day or end the workout prematurely then to ignore your body’s internal wisdom by pushing on, reciting the old “no pain no gain” mantra. In a true contest of might between ‘iron and steel’ versus ‘flesh and bone’…. Iron and steel will win every time! You can overcome their resistance by forming an alliance with your body and heeding its counsel. After all, you are in this battle together… ‘Til death do you part!

17. Most people… Limit themselves to one specific type of training method!

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Incorporates a wide variety of training methodologies and philosophies into his programs. He is constantly looking to improve his performance and his results and therefore remains open to new ideas and systems. He understands that there’s more than one approach to getting bigger, stronger and faster and that each approach has something to offer him.

He may experiment with many different ways, such as: bodybuilding, powerlifting, bodyweight exercises, ring training, strongman, martial arts, and other athletic styles in his effort to reach his ultimate potential. If he finds a particular training system that fits his temperament and produces exceptional results for his goals and body type he may decide to narrow his focus and go deeper into the mastery of that method. On the other hand, he may elect to create his own hybrid training system by incorporating the best of all worlds.

By recognizing that each art has its own advantages and disadvantages, its own insights and oversights, he can compare and contrast the various styles; blending them into a method that goes beyond methods, beyond techniques and into an art form that borders on the realm of the formless.

18. Most people… Think that they must have a gym full of equipment to succeed!

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Intuitively recognizes that his body is the only tool he needs. Of course having a gym and a few special pieces of equipment can make his mission easier and interesting. Still the Contrarian appreciates these things as luxuries and NOT necessities. He will NEVER use lack of equipment or a gym membership as an excuse.

With nothing but his body and his intellect, he can perform a wide variety of bodyweight exercises to get the job done. When those get easy, he can utilize harder progressions that employ the use of leverages to make the exercises more difficult. If there is a children’s playground or park nearby, he can take advantage of it by incorporating the parallel bars, monkey bars, swings and other pieces of equipment into his training. He may sprint up hills or use the limbs of a tree or lift logs and heavy stones. The world is his gym!

He may learn, with a quick internet search, how to make his own weights, gymnastic rings, chin-up bar or other home-made and relatively inexpensive pieces of equipment. If he is lucky enough to have a barbell and some weight, then he has everything that he needs. Granted that he knows what to do with what he has and how to progress as he gets stronger. As he continues to grow wiser in training and in life… he finally comes to the realization that it doesn’t take a gym full of equipment to build muscle… only the wisdom, passion and desire to do what it takes.

19. Most people… Think stretching makes them weaker, is boring and a waste of time!

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Acknowledges that muscle is built through the lifting of weights; though he equally appreciates that proper joint integrity is maintained and enhanced through static and dynamic flexibility and mobility training. He knows that one without the other is both limiting and problematic.

Intense training can cause muscles to become tight and stiff over time, which can affect one’s range of motion and ability to move and perform at maximum capacity. To preserve his joints and to retain the full length and elasticity of his muscle bellies and tendons, he develops the habit of regular, dynamic mobility exercises that move the joints through their full range of motion. This include exercises like moving the neck up and down, side to side and through full  rotation by looking over one’s shoulders; small and large shoulder, elbow and wrist circles; shoulder shrugs; as well as, waist, hip, knee and ankle circles.

After lubricating the joints he will then move on to specific stretching or yoga-like movements that elongate the muscles and restore their length, suppleness and optimal tension. The habitual implementation of these two practices as a recovery method from your weight training will actually make you stronger in the end and safeguard you from injury; allowing you to age gracefully and stay active well beyond what the average person experiences.

20. Most people… Are looking for the ‘perfect program’ that will solve all their problems!

The Contrarian Bodybuilder: Knows that it’s not the program by itself that brings results, but rather his own effort, consistency, perseverance and ability to follow the program to its end. A training program is like a detailed map guiding you from Point A to Point B and preferably designed by someone who has walked the path before you. The map can lay out the path to follow and the details of the terrain, even short cuts or detours to avoid potential difficulties. Nonetheless, YOU must walk the path if you ever want to arrive at your desired destination.

In the same light, YOU must put in the effort and follow the training program as it is outlined. In the end, it is not the map that takes you to where you want to go. Sure it helps to get you there, but it is your own two legs that carry you over the hills and through the woods. Similarly, a well designed training program can be of great assistance to you and without one it may seem impossible to achieve your goals.

However, at the end of the day it is your own inner drive and desire, your sweat and effort, your discipline and dedication… day in and day out… that makes you successful. Execution of the program is what creates the body you’ve imagined for yourself. Without your continual action and exertion to apply what you’ve learned over the long haul, the training program is just a piece of paper that will be of little use to you.

Whoa there buddy, we’re NOT done yet!

So far we’ve covered a lot of material in this Series on Twenty Ways to Become a Contrarian Bodybuilder. To succeed in life, sometimes we have to man up and be willing to march to the beat of our own drum, to follow our intuition and instincts wherever they may lead… even if that flies in the face of modern beliefs, culture and what the majority of people say and do.

Well, I’m not done yet, stay tuned for Part 4 where we’ll talk about one of The Original Contrarian Bodybuilders that was at the pinnacle of fame in the “Golden Years” of bodybuilding, the 1960’s. He even trained Arnold Schwarzenegger when he first arrived in America!

Can you guess who this Contrarian is?

If you can’t wait and MUST KNOW…
>>>> Click Here to learn more about him! <<<<

Related posts:

  1. Part 2: Twenty Ways to Become a Contrarian Bodybuilder
  2. Part 1: It’s Time to Become a Contrarian Bodybuilder
  3. Part 4: The Original Contrarian Bodybuilder (Vince Gironda)
  4. The Foundation of Mass Building Workout Routines Part II
  5. Think & Grow HUGE! Part 1 – Definiteness of Purpose

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