Beginner’s Guide: How to Train for Men Physique Competition in 2021

Men Physique Competition

Men Physique Competition training involves training with aesthetics, not performance, as the primary goal.  Training to improve body composition is about increasing lean muscle while reducing body fat.  The goal is to have a nice sculpted appearance.  

Beginners should focus on building sound habits with daily workouts, disciplined nutrition, engaging in adequate amounts of non-exercise activity and sleep to optimize muscle growth.  

This article overviews essential tips for beginners who are interested in improving their physique for a figure competition.   


Routine is everything with physique training, and that means consistency.  Unless you’re sick, you must get to the gym and follow your schedule like clockwork.  Consistency yields the best results down the road.  

A physique-focused workout routine should have an emphasis on building lean muscle, which means dedicated resistance training.  Train smart, train hard.  Approach each workout with determination to attack the weights.

Weekly Training Schedule

The number of workouts per week will be determined by your ability to recover from each training session.  Beginners often make the mistake of training too hard, too often, which can adversely affect muscle building and cause burnout.  More is not always better.  Better is better.  

Exercise stress should be administered in concentrated doses but must incorporate rest between each dose.  Over time, the number of workouts per week can be increased as your body becomes more tolerant of the stress.  Advanced bodybuilders train 5-6 days per week.

Most beginners should consider either a 3-day per week training schedule, leaving room to increase the training volume to 4-days per week.  Working out three days per week allows for rest days between each session and mixes well with life outside the gym (career, family, social, etc.) 

3-Day Training Template:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday (or Friday)

Weekends are a great time to train if weekdays don’t offer a lot of time.  Using a three-day training template, you have a lot of options.  

Adding another workout day is a judgment call, but many people are ready for a fourth training day after 6-8 weeks.  

Resistance Training 

Focus the majority of your gym time on improving compound lifts.  

  • Deadlifts
  • Squats (front and back variations)
  • Lunges
  • Bench Press (flat, incline, decline)
  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • Dips
  • Chin-ups
  • Pull-Ups
  • Rows
  • Overhead Press
  • Core training 

Compound lifts are the foundation of an effective muscle-building program and provide the most bang for your buck.  These lifts challenge multiple muscle groups at a time and pack on the most muscle over time.  Improving performance with these exercises needs to be a top priority.   

Accessory exercises will fine-tune your shape. Auxiliary lifts isolate specific areas of the body and can be added to workouts.  These lifts might include: 

  •  Bicep Curls
  •  Tricep Push-downs
  •  Leg Extensions
  •  Hamstring Curls
  •  Deltoid raises 
  •  Cable cross-overs (pecs)
  •  Dumbbell fly (pecs)
  •  Lat pull-downs
  •  Straight Arm Pull-downs

Non-training days can be dedicated to cardio and NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis.  Be careful to avoid overdoing cardio, which can impact your muscle gains and suck away valuable energy needed for hard lifting sessions.  Use cardio sparingly.  

NEAT represents any activities that aren’t exercise.  Walking is the best example and one of the most underrated low-level activities that contribute to body transformation.  Shooting for 10,000+ steps per day is a worthy goal.  

Walking is the easiest and most beneficial way to improve your physique without messing with your performance or gains.  Aim to walk outside or on a treadmill (flat or incline) for 3-6 hours per week.

Benefits of walking for physique include:

  • It doesn’t add training stress
  • Walking is restorative and helps with recovery
  • Burns fat spares muscle
  • Builds aerobic fitness and work capacity
  • Functional in that it improves daily living
  • Low-impact for the joints
  • Better than running for physique athletes
  • A great activity to use while in a fasted state

Beginner’s to physique competitions will embark on their journeys from different starting points.  Reducing body fat and increasing muscle is vital to a lean and sculpted look.  Contest prep can be mentally and physically exhausting, so veteran bodybuilders recommend keeping body fat at a respectable level year-round to make contest prep easier.  This allows for maximum retention of muscle mass.  

Essentials for Men Physique Competition Training Workouts

Bronzer, oil, and proper clothing might be needed for your fitness competition, but the essentials for daily workouts are simple.  

  • Minimalist shoes
  • Breathable, stretchy athletic clothing
  • Water or rehydration beverage
  • Protein supplement for post-workout nutrition

Minimalist shoes put your feet closer to the floor and allow for a more natural stimulus.  Deadlifting, squatting, and lunging are best performed in flat-soled shoes that are overly cushioned. 

Wearing clothing that moves when you move is a must—muscle-building benefits from a full range of motion effort.  Being able to squat deep without restriction is essential.  

Sipping water throughout the workout ensures you stay hydrated while you sweat.  Other hydration replenishment beverages are available if you tend to sweat more.  Hydration is key to performance and recovery.  

Having a post-workout protein supplement ready is a convenient way to hit protein intake and take advantage of the anabolic (growth) window after each workout.  Ingesting adequate protein post-workout also helps jumpstart the recovery process.  

Other Tips

Diet is king

Abs are made in the kitchen.  When you’re aiming to build muscle while losing fat, diet is arguably the most critical component.  The intensity of your gym time should be matched with discipline in your diet.  Shooting for 80-85% compliance to a clean diet will yield excellent results.  Reserve the other 15-20% for cheat meals, etc.  Just remember, diet plays a critical role in getting lean. 

Here’s a list of some example foods to include in your diet:

Protein:  Lean beef, lean turkey, turkey breast, chicken breast, steak, egg whites, game meats, white fish, salmon, nonfat cottage cheese, protein powders.   

Carbohydrates:  Brown Rice, white rice, sweet potato, white potato, whole-grain bread, oatmeal, cream of wheat, quinoa, rice cakes, pasta, all fruits.

Vegetables:  All green and color types of veggies. 

Fats:  Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, avocado, cheddar cheese, olive oil, fish oil, flax oil, coconut oil, nut butter.  

Protein is a primary building block for the body and is vital for muscle growth and overall body composition.  Protein intake should be around 0.7-1 gram per pound.  

Sleep and Recovery

A good night’s sleep (and naps) is one of the most overlooked performance enhancers.  Sleep is crucial to muscle growth and performance.  When you sleep, growth hormone is released, and recovery takes place.  You’re only able to train as hard as you can recover.  

Sleeping is when the body has the best opportunity to grow.  Make sleep a priority.  Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep per night; adjust as needed.  


Fitness and figure competitors are the epitome of consistency, hard work, and discipline.  There’s no instant gratification or “secret sauce” with building an incredible physique.  You have to show up every day and put in that work.  Keep your eyes fixed on the prize and trust the process.  


I’m unfamiliar with training for physique competitions and muscle building. Can you help?

Of course.  At Team Iron Minds and Bodies, we’re experts in working with clients of all levels and know-how.  We’ll customize your training plan and coach you on the best muscle approaches to building.  

How long do workouts last?  

The length of the workout isn’t as important as the quality of the work completed.  Most training sessions should last 90 minutes or less, allowing time to work through all exercises on the schedule for the day and adequate rest between each effort.  

Will I be sore?

Most likely.  DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is common 24-72 hours after a workout and will dissipate with time.  Muscle soreness is an indicator that you introduced a new stimulus.  If you’re new to lifting weights, chances are good you’ll experience soreness after workouts.  Soreness commonly arrives 

Can I relieve soreness?  

Walking, self-massage, low load movements of what made you sore in the first place.  These activities will help rid the body of soreness faster.  

Team Iron Minds and Bodies is Sacramento’s premiere gym.  We’re experts in coaching clients through highly successful body transformations, prepping for physique competitions, and administering the best approaches to building muscle.  We care about your results, success and support you every step of the day.