Retro Role Model

How Iron Dad Clark Bartram Forges Family and Physique - at 45

You’ve no doubt seen Clark Bartram’s face and physique on countless fitness-magazine covers. He’s got that all-American appeal and attainable muscle size that attract men and women alike. He’s a former military man, the United States Marine Corps, and a family man who’s a master at keeping it all in perspective—with a smile on his face.

Clark’s wife, Anita, and two children, Taylor, 17, and Mitch, 13, keep Dad in line and training hard. He has to stay in shape to keep up with them! In his younger competitive-bodybuilding days it was all about getting big. These days his training is customized to keep him at an appealing muscular peak and maintain a focus on antiaging and longevity—and that’s what we’re here to talk about.

Q: What motivates you to train hard these days?

A: Several things actually. I’ll list them in no particular order because they are all equally important.

1) You see the main reason in the accompanying family photo. I want to be able to run with my daughter, play football with my son and keep up with my wife for a very long time, so being fit and healthy obviously helps a ton.

2) I think Jack LaLanne said it best: “I can’t die; it would be bad for my reputation!” I feel the same way. If I let myself go, it would be horrible for my reputation. I’ve built an entire carer on this statement: “I’m Clark Bartram, and I’m always in shape.”

3) Because of the example I am to so many people, I feel so blessed to have opportunities like these, and I take my place in the fitness community very seriously. We all know how people respond to you when you have a good physique, and I use that as a platform to motivate and encourage others.

4) Vanity. I would be a liar if I didn’t admit that I enjoy being in shape and the attention it brings.

5) If I’m not in shape, I don’t eat. Many of my deals, businesses, contracts and relationships in business revolve around my being fit. I’m obviously not going to be able to live off my physique forever, but I’ll ride it out as long as I can.

6) I think we all owe it to ourselves to take care of the body we have been given. Too many people, in my opinion, take a healthy body for granted, and I don’t want to be one of them.

7) Energy. If I don’t work out consistently, I feel horrible.

I imagine if I sat here long enough, I could come up with several more reasons why training hard is important to me, but I think what I’ve said so far sums it up pretty good.

Q: How is your training different now from what it was in your 20s and 30s? Do you still lift heavy?

A: Heavy. That’s a relative term now, isn’t it? In relation to how I trained 10 to 15 years ago, no, I don’t train heavy. In relation to how I feel sometimes, yes, I train heavy. Seriously, I use moderate weight, close to perfect form and a nice tempo so I feel every fiber as I move through the exercise. I’ve become very keen about knowing my body over the past 25 years or so—I know exactly what I need in relation to weight, angles, tempo, exercises, duration, time under tension and anything else that relates to really benefitting from every rep.

Back in the day it was all about how much I could bench, how long I lifted and if I puked when I was done—or, better yet, made someone else puke. Now I’m all about quality time in the gym, maximizing every repetition and not necessarily losing my breakfast. But it’s still fun to make other people blow chunks!

Q: What’s your bodypart split?

A: Typically, I train one bodypart each day of the week and do an ancillary part like calves or abs. I do one bodypart per day: Monday, chest; Tuesday, back; Wednesday, legs; Thursday, shoulders; Friday, arms; weekends, off.

I’ve been doing that type of routine for many years now. I think that getting rest between bodyparts is especially important as we age. I could do those long, hard routines if I wanted to, but wisdom overcomes vanity and stupid passion for lifting.

Q: Do you have set bodypart routines, or do you just wing it when you hit the gym?

A: Wing it, baby! I fly by the seat of my pants. As I mentioned earlier, I’m very instinctive, and I don’t want to get caught up in some “routine.” The word even sounds boring to me—routine. I love variation and the ability to select as I feel the necessity. Sometimes I’ll stay on one exercise for my entire session. Let’s use bench press for example. If it’s feeling good, and I’m into it, I might stay there for 10 sets or so, then hit the door.

I think that many people get caught up in a program and don’t allow themselves the freedom to enjoy the ability to pick and choose. I even blow off the gym for weeks at a time and either do nothing at all or something totally different yet very demanding. The gym, the weights or a program is not the only way to develop a great physique. I was doing jujitsu for a while. I do plyometrics at my house, flip tires occasionally, do kettlebell training with my friend Dmitri Sataev. I’m actually considering becoming GS–certified through www.usgsf.com. It’s a great diversion from typical weightlifting, and it has its place in a routine for sure.

When I train with Dmitri, I’m pushed outside my limitations because he makes me do things I would never do on my own. He pushes me by challenging me, and that really gets me fired up, so I have to prove myself, and I have great workouts as a result—and there isn’t a bench press in the whole gym! I would highly recommend that anyone train with this guy if you are in or around the San Diego area or you’re planning a visit. It’s Russian hell!

Q: Do you train to failure? And how about intensity techniques like supersets, forced reps and drop sets? Do you ever use them?

A: No, not really. Occasionally my partner will have to give me a bit of a spot, but not intentionally. I just wore out before I intended to. I can remember when I used to get all fired up before a set and push till there wasn’t anything left. Then I’d make my partner pull it off me 10 times more. I’m not really sure how effective that was, to be totally honest. I have to believe it was because I was trying to prove myself to every other knucklehead in the gym.

Bodybuilding and weight training in the ’80s were a lot different from what they are today. We had some amazingly fun times in the gym with some seriously interesting characters. I remember Saturday squat sessions where about five to seven of us would open Family Fitness Center early, pull up a bench, grab the knee wraps and chalk, have a trash can close by for when the first guy would puke, and squat and laugh for hours. I don’t see that anymore, and I sometimes miss that camaraderie that was developed around challenging each other’s manhood in a fun, loving way. If you couldn’t squat 405 for 20 reps, you were the official weight racker!

Q: Ah, laughing and puking. Those were the good old days. How about cardio? How often and what do you do?

A: I do cardio after every weightlifting session. I typically do 20 minutes or more on the StepMill. I’ll often join in on a Spin class, and in the evenings, if I’m getting ready for something, I’ll add sprinting. I actually blew my calf out pretty good doing the shoot for this article. Most guys probably wouldn’t admit that, but I’m pretty open and honest. I was sprinting with my daughter, and Michael Neveux, photographer extraordinaire, asked me to do “one more.” As I was speeding down the track at a world-record pace, I heard and felt a nasty pop. Man, did that hurt.

I tell you all of that to say this: I honestly thought I was done, but, amazingly, I recovered rather quickly. Cardio is key if you want to get to that next level. I think most people just cruise on the treadmill and don’t get to their target heart rate and never really burn fat. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that cardio should be done after weight training, when the glycogen stores are depleted, so you can jump right into the fat-burning state. There are those who would argue with that, but it works for me.

Q: Do you warm up for each workout, or do you just do lighter warmup sets for each exercise?

A: I’ve never really been a warm-up guy in the sense of stretching. I think that stretching prior to lifting makes you weaker, so I’ve always just used a lighter weight on whatever exercise I’m doing.

Again, back in the old days, one set on the bench with 135, and I was ready to go straight to 315 or so. Now I have to take my time and get the tendons, muscles, neck, low back and just about everything else ready to go. It’s partially due to the fact that I train at 5:30 in the morning, so I’ve just rolled out of bed.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about training in your mid-40s?

A: Creativity. Honestly, lifting weights is pretty boring. Frank Zane once said to me, “I’ve lifted for the last 40 years, and I’m pretty much bored with it.” At the time I couldn’t even acknowledge what he was saying. How could a guy who made his living from lifting weights get bored with it? Well, now I know. I know I’ll never stop, but figuring out how to do a biceps curl differently than I did 20 years ago is pretty difficult, so boredom is a real issue for me.

Also, when you’ve accomplished certain things in your career and a certain level of fitness, you tend to need to find different motivating factors. It used to be shows and covers for me; now I use my birthdays. I want to look better each year on that day. Shooting this cover helped spark my excitement level. I typically stay in really good shape year-round as well, so when I say “lose my motivation,” it’s in relation to really taking everything to the next level to fine-tune my look. That’s why I started doing some training outside my comfort zone.

Q: Do you have any favorite supplements now that you’re middle-aged?

A: I’ve always been a big proponent of glutamine and glucosamine. The glutamine I use to maintain lean muscle and not go catabolic, and the glucosamine is for aching elbows.

I’ve never really been into any “designer supplements,” pro-hormones and the like. I’ve just always depended on hard work and good food.

I have tried different things over the years, but I’m not consistent enough with them. I always use a great multivitamin and occasionally I’ll dabble in products that are marketed well. Of course, I use a quality protein powder and occasionally a meal-replacement powder, but that’s about it.

I’m always looking for that competitive edge, however. If I try something and it works, I’m an advocate for life. With that said, I’ve recently teamed up with Sci-Fit Nutrition. I’m not a paid endorser; I’m actually a fan of the products because I know the integrity behind how they are manufactured. I’ve been working with the company on and off for about 10 years now and have come to realize that they’re really doing the supplement thing the right way. They have a wide variety of choices, actually the widest in the industry, so that means there is something for everyone. So I’m putting some of the products to the test.

For example, being that I’m over 40, I’ll admit I need a testosterone boost, so I’m currently taking Sci-Fit’s T-Max Kit. The idea behind the product is to increase testosterone levels and increase sleep. It’s an a.m./p.m. formula, and by the looks of the ingredients, I think it’s something that will work. Trust me, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Recovery is important to over-40 training as well, so I’m trying the company’s Shockwave product, as it has a great combination of glutamine, BCAAs, glucosamine and a few other ingredients that support recovery, cell volumizing, repair and things that any over-40 trainee should be concerned with.

Q: Does your family support your gym habit?

A: My family is very active as well, as shown in the accompanying photos. My daughter is a great sprinter at her high school, and my son is an excellent football player. They do support me and secretly love the fact that I’m successful in my career. You know that teenage kids cannot openly admit that their parents are cool, but how many daughters get to be on a cover with their dad?

We are all very active together. I play football and basketball constantly with my son. Anita and Taylor will go to the gym together or work out in our garage gym. Taylor is showing an interest in doing something related to fitness. Currently, she wants to study nutrition or physical therapy in college, and Mitch wants to go to the NFL. That’s all they’ve known their whole lives, so it’s sort of odd to them if someone doesn’t have a lifestyle like mine. I’m guessing that in a few short years, when they get out on their own, they’ll appreciate what I do even more.

Q: Does your wife train with you?

A: Anita and I don’t train together regularly, but we sometimes do. She teaches a women’s group-training class at our house. She has appeared on two IRON MAN covers with me as well as a Natural Bodybuilding cover, but she doesn’t really care about that stuff; she just does it cause I ask her to. She is as pretty as any fitness model out there, for sure.

Q: Absolutely. I’ve been pestering Mike [Neveux] to shoot her for our Hardbody feature. What about the kids? Do you encourage them to train, or do they not have any interest?

A: Now that Mitch is getting ready for high school football, he’s showing a desire to get bigger, stronger and faster, and we all know that a carefully crafted program can do that, so we will be embarking on that together soon.

Taylor loves being in shape and understands how it benefits her athletic performance as well, so both of them are pretty self-motivated. I try not to be the doting father, but sometimes it’s hard not to be overly anxious trying to help them understand the long-term benefits of lifting and eating right. It’s awesome to see your kids make informed choices on their own. It makes you feel as if you did something right in the parenting process.

Q: What are your diet philosophies? Are you a low-carb guy?

A: Not a low-carb guy at all—actually, the more carbs the better. I seem to get tighter and fuller with carbs and stringy and flat on low carbs. I think people overreact to carbs. The body needs carbs, and they do exactly what I just described—fill out the muscle.

I eat consistent, well-proportioned meals and eat clean 95 percent of the time. My philosophy is to get lean and stay lean; it’s much easier for me that way. That’s why my bodybuilding career ended. I started modeling a lot and could no longer afford to get big, get lean, get big, get lean. I went from a light heavy to a middleweight, so I figured I was going the wrong way and it was time to get out before I was a bantamweight.

The mistake people make, in my opinion, is copying someone else’s nutritional regimen. In order to really understand what your body needs—and get lean in the process—it’s vital that you use the help of a professional. I’ve hired nutritionists for years. It does many things—you become accountable to someone other than yourself; you’re investing money, so that should be motivation to follow through; your body is getting exactly what it needs in order to get the desired result. Honestly, if you’ve never done it, do yourself a favor and get with someone for 12 weeks or so, and learn everything you can along the way.

Q: So you stay lean year-round—never a bulking phase during the winter?

A: I pretty much stay lean year-round. I’m think about putting on a little size, however. I’ve been looking at some old photos and kinda like a fuller look in my face.

Q: How would you change what you’re doing now to get bigger?

A: It’s difficult because I always like to stay so lean, but here’s what I will and have started to do:

1) Decide to let go and gain a few pounds, which means I’ll lose a bit of definition.

2) Start using good supplementation. As I stated earlier, I’ve never been too much of a supplement guy, but now I’m putting Sci-Fit to the test, and it seems to be taking effect already.

3) Train heavier. I’m pushing myself a little harder than normal and it actually feels good once I get nice and warmed up.

4) Change my lifts. I will focus more on powerlifting moves—heavy bench, squats and deadlifts. That basic approach works well for me because my arms and shoulders will grow as a result of pushing myself harder on basic stuff.

5) Eat more. I’m starting to eat a bit more of everything with not a whole lot of concern as to whether it’s lean or will add to or subtract from my definition.

6) Rest. Being older means I need more rest between heavy workouts.

One thing I’ve noticed about aging and being lean is that if you’re too lean, you look older. The sucked-in-face look doesn’t bode well when you’re older. That’s one reason I want a fuller look now. I just think it looks better.

Also, I do miss having a bit of size. If I get to 200, with abs, at 5’9”, I’ll be good. I usually walk around at about 190 and pretty lean. At 200 and fairly lean I’ll be big but not gross, so I can still model, but my face will look healthy and not overdieted. It will be difficult; packing on muscle isn’t as easy as it was 10 years ago.

Q: Can you list your typical diet for one day?

A: Sure.

Meal 1: 4 ounces oatmeal with protein, flaxseed and crushed pineapple; coffee

Meal 2: Canned chicken, safflower mayo and seven-grain bread; apple

Meal 3: Mediterranean salad at Pita’s restaurant—tons of fresh veggies, chicken, hummus and pita. (They used to call it the Clark plate, but someone tried to eliminate my name; mentioning them should get me back on the menu!)

Meal 4: Turkey tacos—fresh turkey (I usually bake a big turkey and keep it around), fresh corn tortillas and salsa

Meal 5: Same as meal 2

Meal 6: Protein shake with blueberries and flaxseed oil

I stay pretty basic. I don’t need much variation, so that’s a good representation of what I do all of the time unless I’m getting ready for a shoot or something that I need to be tighter for.

Q: Any cheat days or cheat meals? When and what’s your favorite junk food?

A: Yes, I cheat occasionally. I love a good pizza, cheesecake and Wheat Thins. I keep the cheating to a minimum unless I go on a week-long binge cycle—then look out, everyone and everything. I’ll go off the charts and eat everything in sight. Anita and the kids laugh and hide food, and Anita gets mad that I stay so lean when she’s watching me eat ice cream, pizza and anything else you could imagine.

Q: What businesses, Web sites and/or supplement companies are you involved with at the moment?

A: How many pages do we have? I’m always coming up with something new, starting a new project or brainstorming a new idea. You can ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I always have at least 10 irons in the fire. You have to in this industry, especially when you are an aging fitness model who can only live off his physical prowess for so long. Here are a few:

1) I’m working with two friends launching a network marketing company called TLC, Total Life Changes. We are marketing a liquid multivitamin and a weight-loss and detox tea. You can learn more at www.TLCPro.com or www.IasoTea.com.

I use the products and believe in their efficacy 100 percent. The multivitamin is great tasting and very complete. It’s called Nutra Burst. The tea, Iaso Tea, is really great. Anyone will benefit from the use of this product, especially people who don’t have consistent bowel movements. Many women have a problem in that area and really need to try this product. You have nothing to lose but a few pounds of undigested gunk in your colon. A person could also generate a great income referring others to the products. I think anyone would enjoy a few extra dollars these days, especially for suggesting something that works.

2) I’m manufacturing gym equipment in China and coming out with a line of accessories—bars, agility ladders, balls and all of that PT type of stuff. Look for it soon at www.ClarkBartram.com.

3) I’m growing my Web site with the help of a super marketing company called Incendia Media. They’re also responsible for our sister site owned by IFBB pro Jamo Nezzar, called www.MyFitTribe.com. Both sites are social networking sites dedicated to fitness and motivation and are excellent resources for aspiring fitness professionals to get their message out. We will be blowing them up this year. If anyone wants to get involved, just drop me an e-mail at Clark@ClarkBartram.com.

4) I’m working with www.AbCoaster.com. I personally feel this is the best abdominal product for a professional gym or for home.

5) I’ve had an endorsement contract with www.Schiek.com for years, and they are honestly the best on the market. Real guys with a real desire to sell great products, and I back them 100 percent. John, thanks so much for all you have done for me.

6) I am the director of media relations for ISSA. I do all interviews, videos and a host of other things. If you’re looking to get certified, the ISSA is the way to go.

7) I do video production, write, speak, mentor, fitness modeling events, consult and still model.

8) Last but not least, I just finished my first co-starring role in a feature film. It’s a sci-fi thriller called “Hunter Prey.” It should be out in 2009 either in selected theaters or on the Sify Channel. It was really fun going outside of what I’ve always been known for, my body. I was covered up the whole time, and my body had nothing to do with the character I played. I’m anxious to see how it turned out, and I’ll just have to get ready for the feedback both positive and negative. The science-fiction community knows what they like and what they don’t, so they can be pretty brutal if they come across something they don’t enjoy. From being on the set and seeing the amount of production that went into the film, I’m pretty confident, however, that most people will enjoy it, and I’m positive that I’ll be proud to have been involved in making it. Please go out and see it, rent it, watch it on TV or whatever.

Q: Whew! No wonder you stay so lean. You burn off every calorie you take in. One last question: Do you have any tips for middle-aged bodybuilders that I—er, um, they—can use to keep gaining muscle as they age?

A: I think most middle-aged bodybuilders probably have a pretty good grasp on what’s going on, but if I was addressing middle-aged beginners or casual lifters, I would say to get a good understanding of why you want to be fit. I personally feel that the motivation needs to be deeper than “looking good.” I always have people ask themselves “why” on deeper levels.

Don’t be satisfied with “I want to look good”; ask yourself why you want to look good. “I want to have more energy.” Well, why do you want more energy? “I want to be able to keep up with my kids.” Why do you want to keep up with your kids? When you start getting to a deeper, heartfelt motivation, you’ll increase the odds of sticking with it. Often times those superficial goals aren’t strong enough to bolster your desire to get fit. IM

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