Recreational bodybuilding - bodybuilders who don't compete

by Jason Stallworth

September 22, 2019

You lift weights almost every day, and you have a passion for the gym. On top of that, you follow the 80/20 rule for your diet, give or take.

The thing is, you just don’t have that deep desire to compete in bodybuilding. 

And you know what? That’s okay! You are, like me, a recreational bodybuilder!

In this post, I’m going to get personal with you and share my typical workout and diet plan that fits the recreational bodybuilder lifestyle

What Is A Recreational Bodybuilder?

chest exercises: cable flyes crossovers

A recreational bodybuilder is one who trains consistently, eats decent and follows the bodybuilder lifestyle, but not to the extreme. 

In addition, recreational bodybuilders typically do not compete, nor do they have a deep desire to. They’re happy maintaining a great physique and pursuing small, incremental progress. 

I basically just described myself, and I assume you’re in this boat as well. It’s actually an amazing place to be in life. You’re strong, healthy, feel and look good, but you also enjoy many of the things in life a competitive bodybuilder doesn’t.

A recreational bodybuilder understands balance in life. Training is important, but if you have to miss a workout every so often for something else important, you don’t get all bent out of shape (in a literal and figurative sense!)

You also don’t get your panties in a wad if you don’t eat on schedule every 3 hours. You know that as long as you follow the 80/20, or even 70/30 rule some weeks, you’re going to be ok and maintain your muscle mass – you’re not going to become unhealthy overnight.  

Not Competing Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Committed

Now, let’s take a step back. Just because you’re not going all out to compete on stage doesn’t mean that you’re not committed

Think about it. Most people around you, like at work or your family, think you’re crazy for going to the gym as often as you do. Or if you’re like me and you wake up at 4:30 AM to go workout…most people think you’re clinically insane! 

And even though you don’t follow the super strict competition diet, you still eat more than normal people do, and for the most part, you eat better. 

So there’s a pretty steep commitment level to maintain all of that, even if you don’t compete. 

Whether you compete or not, the iron, the weights, going to the gym to push yourself…that’s in your blood and part of who you are. So don’t ever doubt your own dedication just because you don’t compete. 

Recreational Bodybuilding Workout Plan

incline barbell press chest day chest exercises

Chances are you already have your own workout routine. In fact, you probably have several. But I’m going to give you one of my own recreational bodybuilding workout plans. 

This is going to be a 4-day workout plan, which fits nicely into most people’s schedules. I suggest making this 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, then 2 days off. You’re training split can look like this…

  • Monday: Back
  • Tuesday: Chest
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Shoulders and Arms
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

If you don’t have a Monday-Friday work schedule, you can change this up to fit your schedule. You can even switch up the workout days, like this…

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Back
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Chest
  • Sunday: Shoulders and Arms

Alright, let’s give in to the workouts! 

Back Workout

If you want to build a big, muscular back, you need to do plenty of rows. And there are enough rows in this workout to make your back muscles grow!

Even though you’re a recreational bodybuilder, you pour your heart into every workout. And you know that back training is the highest priority among upper body muscles because it’s the largest and most complex muscle. 

You’ll start heavy (of course!) but then you’ll begin to incorporate more reps into your workout. This will give you both the mass building benefits as well as bring out those striations and definition in your back. 

Exercises Sets x Reps
Barbell Rows 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Dumbbell Rows 4 x 8
T-Bar Rows 4 x 10
Lat Pulldowns 3 x 12*
Seated Rows 3 x 12*

* Drop set on final set

Chest Workout

Ah, chest day! It’s finally here. Whether you’re a competitive or recreational bodybuilder, chest day is openly (and secretly) many lifter’s favorite workout. 

This chest workout is going to be similar to your back workout. You’ll start out by going heavy on a compound exercise. From there, you’ll increase the reps to get that pump. 

Exercises Sets x Reps
Bench Press 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Incline Dumbbell Press 4 x 8
Dumbbell Flyes 4 x 10
Cable Crossovers 4 x 12
Dips Rest-pause x 3*

* For dips, you’ll do a giant rest-pause set (x3). This mean you do 1 set, rest about 7 seconds, do another, rest another 7 seconds and do a final set. This is brutal and you will be sore!

Leg Workout

Now for the most brutal of workouts! It’s leg day!

Get ready for a high volume and high rep leg workout. You should take a slightly different approach to leg training. You literally need to annihilate legs when you workout. And I’m going to show you how to do that is this workout. 

You’ll start with heavy squats, but after that, it’s all about pumping more blood into the muscle. There will be a mix of moderate and high reps (high reps for quads, and moderate for hamstrings…this seems to work wonders for building leg size!). 

**If you can throw in a 5th workout, I highly recommend that you do second leg day. Too many foci too much on the upper body and not enough of legs. And it shows! So be sure to read my post: Training Legs Twice Week: How to Build Bigger Legs

Exercises Sets x Reps
Squats 5 x 6-8
Leg Press 5 x 20
Lying Leg Curls 4 x 10*
Leg Extensions 4 x 15*
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts 4 x 10
Standing or Seated Calve Raises 7 x 15

* Drop set on final set

Shoulders and Arms Workout

Training shoulders and arms are going to give you an extreme pump! Seriously, you’ll walk out of the gym barely fitting through the door! 

The reason you’re pairing shoulders and arms in the same workout is that you actually hit your shoulders and arms when you trained back and chest earlier. 

  • Shoulders get worked with both chest and back
  • Triceps are stimulated when you work chest (any pushing exercise)
  • Biceps are worked with back (any pulling exercise)

With this workout, you’re going to burn them out! 

*For more in-depth information, you should also check out my post: Shoulders and Arms: Why You Should Train Them Together

Exercises Sets x Reps
Seated Dumbbell Press 4 x 8
Lateral Raises 4 x 10
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions 4 x 10
Standing EZ Bar Curls 4 x 10
Rope Pressdowns 3 x 12*
Dumbbell Hammer Curls 3 x 12*

* Drop set on final set

Recreational Bodybuilding Supplements

For recreational bodybuilding, I don’t recommend taking a butt-load of supplements. In fact, I don’t recommend that to anyone. 

If you take too many things, you’ll never know what’s working and what’s not. 

So here’s my recommended types of supplements:

Optional Supplements

If you want to take things to the next level, you could add something like a test booster or fat burner, depending on your goals. Below are links to products I recommend (these are my review pages and there are also links to buy):

Recreational Bodybuilding Meal Plan

Now we’re getting to probably the most controversial part of bodybuilding. The diet.

Granted, we’re talking about recreational bodybuilding. But there’s just way too many fads and trends that people are quick to jump when it comes to diet.

The truth is that it’s really not complicated. You’ll see 2 sample meal plans below: one for workout days and another that for non-workout days. 

They’re both simple and sustainable. And neither is extreme or cray-cray. 

*You’ll need to adjust the serving sizes according to where you are and your goals. 

Meal Plan on Workout Days

Vegetarian meal goat cheese with berries
  • Meal 1:
    • Whole eggs
    • Oatmeal
    • Serving of fruit (like blueberries in your oatmeal)
  • Meal 2:
    • Greek yogurt
    • Nuts (cashews, almonds)
  • Meal 3:
    • Beef or chicken
    • Jasmine rice
    • Green vegetables
  • Meal 4 (Post Workout Shake):
    • Whey protein powder
    • Almond milk
    • Natural peanut butter
    • Banana
  • Meal 5:
    • Fish or turkey
    • Sweet potato
    • Broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower

Meal Plan on Non-Workout Days

  • Meal 1:
    • Whole eggs (cage-free_
    • Pancakes
  • Meal 2:
    • Steak
    • Rice
    • Optional desserts
  • Meal 3:
    • Whey protein powder
    • Almond milk
    • Blueberries
  • Meal 4:
    • Pizza (or any cheat meal)
    • Craft beer! (this is totally optional!)

You can clearly see that the ‘workout day diet’ is semi-strict and in line with a typical bodybuilder diet.

On your off days, you may want to relax a little. And that’s okay. Just be honest with yourself on where you are, and where you want to be! 

If you need help with meal planning, definitely check out the post below that caters to your goals:

Meal Plans for Mass Gains
Meal Plans for Getting Shredded

Build Muscle and Enjoy Life

Being a recreational bodybuilder is one of the most awesome things you can be in life. And I’m certainly not opposed to someone who wants to compete or do it professionally. If that’s your dream, go for it and pour your heart into it. Don’t look back. 

But for many of us, we just love to train and build muscle. We really don’t care if we ever step on stage or not. We may have other aspirations that were going on professionally.

For example, my #1 passion is music. And you can check that out at JasonStallworth.com.

Bodybuilding is purely recreational for me, although I also own this site and blog, and I thoroughly enjoy helping others attain their physique goals! 

You probably have other passions in life that you’re pursuing as well. And I hope you continue to pursue those and succeed! The cool thing is that we always have bodybuilding as our foundation of discipline to get things done and push through! 

Train with Passion,

Jason