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Natural bodybuilding training & diet

NPA competitor David Ashton gives you all the advice you need for a great, natural-looking body


By: Top NPA Competitor David Ashton


David AshtonI have been training consistently for the past 4 years. I started bodybuilding as I hated being skinny and wanted to improve myself. I can honestly say it's the best decision I've ever made! Bodybuilding has given me great confidence in other aspects of my life and given me the belief that anything is possible as long as you're prepared to work hard for it.

The training and diet in this article is what I used to adapt to my body type and therefore is aimed more at the 'hard gainer' - for people who have a fast metabolism and are naturally very thin. When I started lifting weights I was a feeble 9 stone!!


I decided to stay natural as I wanted all of my gains to be a product of MY hard work, not a chemical enhancement. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for the guys that take performance-enhancers, train hard, diet and compete. Just not the guys who are juiced-up to the eyeballs, do 10 minutes on the rower, 3 sets of dumbbell curls and then rush of to the pub!

Also, I believe that there's more to life than bodybuilding and I'm not willing to jeopardize my health for an extra inch on my arms.

NPA (Natural Physique Association)

I competed in my first competition last year in a natural organisation called the NPA. If anybody has any doubts about 'natural athletes' then they should see some of the guys at these shows. HUGE!!

All of the athletes in the NPA are a great inspiration for any bodybuilder wishing to stay drug-free. It's a fantastic organisation wish continues to grow every year due to the hard work and commitment made by Michael Phillips, Lee Kemp and the rest of the NPA committee. Without organisations like this there would be little hope for natural bodybuilders wishing to compete.


I eat a high protein, high carbohydrate, moderate fat diet. I eat every 3 hours with each meal consisting roughly of 30-40g protein with 50-100g carbs.

David AshtonIt is often very difficult to eat every 3 hours due to work commitments etc. That is why I often use a protein shake (such as LA Whey) or a weight gain shake to replace a meal. However, always remember that supplements are there to supplement your diet! Don't think that you can have breakfast and then 5 protein shakes every day!

It is most important to eat before and immediately after training. Before to fuel your body with the energy needed for your workout and afterwards to flood your fatigued muscles with the nutrients it needs to recover and GROW!

Sources of protein that I regularly use are - chicken, turkey, tuna, protein shakes

Sources of carbohydrates I regularly use are - pasta, brown rice, brown bread, oats

I don't worry about eating chocolate or anything like that - hard training will keep the fat off! Also, my fast metabolism allows this.

I recommend snacking on nuts when feeling hungry between meals. They are an excellent source of calories needed to 'bulk up'. Also, although nuts are high in fat, these are healthy fats that help to reduce cholesterol.

Training (the fun part!)

I'm not a big believer in the 'get in, get out' training philosophy. I used this style for over a year and only made moderate gains. I believe in staying in the gym 'until the job's done'. Until my muscles are full and pumped and I know I gave it my all!! I don't mean training for 3 hours!! I just mean taking time between sets to stretch and focus etc - generally enjoying my training.

Also, I try not to get too caught up in the science of training, for example male hormone levels dropping after 45 minutes which leads to muscle breakdown, catabolism, raised cortisol levels etc. You have to do what feels right for your body.


*Please note it is important to change your routine every 4-6 weeks. The following is an example of my current routine.

I train 5 days on 3 days off.

Day Bodypart

1 Chest
2 Back
3 Legs
4 Shoulders / Traps
5 Arms

Flat Bench Press - 5 x 15,10,8,4,1
Incline Bench Press - 5 x 10,8,6,4,1
Dumbbell Pullovers - 3 x 10
Cable Flys - 5 x 8-12
Dips or Pushups - 3 x failure

Bent-over Barbell Row - 5 x 15,10,8,4,2,
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown (to front) - 5 x 8-12
Seated Machine Rows - 5 x 8-12
Low Cable Rows - 5 x 15,10,8,6,4
Pullups - 3 x failure

Seated French Press - 5 x 15,10,8,6,4
Lying Tricep Extension (Skull crushers) - 5 x 10,8,6,6,4
Cable Pressdown (wide grip) - 5 x 8-12
Single dumbbell overhead extension - 5 x 10

Barbell Curl - 5 x 15,10,8,6,4
Incline Dumbbell Curl - 5 x 8-12
Preacher Curl - 5 x 8-12
Concentration Curl - 5 x 10

Barbell Wrist Curls - 5 x 10

Seated Barbell Press - 5 X 15,10,8,6,4
Seated Dumbbell Press - 5 x 8-12
Machine Press - 3 X failure
Side raises - 3 x 8-12
Front raises - 3 x 8-12
Bent-over Rear raises - 3 x 8-12

Barbell Upright Rows - 5 X 15, 10,8,6,4
Seated Dumbbell Shrugs - 5 X 8-12

Barbell Squat - 5 X 20,15,10,8,6
Leg Press - 3 X 8-12
Leg Extensions - 5 X 8-12
Leg Curl - 5 X 8-12
Calf Raises (using Leg Press) - 5 X failure



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