Q: I know that Arnold trained four hours daily. Why do experts now recommend only 45-minute workouts for naturals?
A: Back in the 1970s, bodybuilders trained much longer than they do today. The typical bodybuilder trained six days a week and did lots of sets for each bodypart. Most workouts lasted two to three hours. Arnold and other top bodybuilders of that era worked each muscle group three times a week, often training twice a day, six days a week in preparation for a competition.
Gradually, bodybuilders learned to train less frequently while cutting back on the number of sets and training harder. By performing fewer sets, they were able to use heavier weights and recover better, and because they were not training so often, their bodies were able to recuperate more easily and grow.
Using steroids will help overcome the problems of excessive training and enable the body to recuperate in a way that wouldn’t be possible without the drugs. In addition to building muscle, training uses calories for energy. Training too much and too often without taking a day off will deplete your energy reserves and prevent you from growing.
The idea of training for only 45 minutes per session came from a study that claimed that your testosterone would drop if you trained any longer than that. Although I agree that intense and shorter workouts are more beneficial than longer and less intense ones, I don’t think your gains will dramatically drop off if you train for longer than 45 minutes.
In order to get both bigger and stronger, you need to stimulate the muscles with the right amount of resistance and intensity. If you are training heavy, using the compound exercises for six to eight repetitions, you will have to rush through the workout or cut it short in order to finish in 45 minutes.
A workout to build muscle shouldn’t be a race to finish in record time. You need enough time to warm up the muscles, do enough sets to stress them sufficiently for them to grow, and take enough rest between sets to give each mass-building set your full effort and intensity.
Most of my workouts last approximately 90 minutes. If I train two or three muscle groups in one workout, that averages out to 30 to 45 minutes for each. Bigger muscle groups, like the legs, chest and back, take longer because I use more exercises and more sets to work them thoroughly. When I am training heavy, I like to take plenty of time between sets and not rush the workout. Again, it isn’t a race to finish at a certain time. The main goal is to do enough during the workout to train your muscles to grow.
Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a three-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. For information on his exciting new program, The MP6 Cycle Training, check out his Web site at www.JohnHansenFitness.com and become a memeber. To attend the Natural Olympia Fitness Getaway, go to www.NaturalOlympia.com. Send questions or comments to John@NaturalOlympia.com. Look for John’s DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle,” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse, www.Home-Gym.com. IM