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Cardio, Splits and Bodypart Hits

Q: I purchased your book and must say that it’s one of the best I have read. I have a few questions. I’m somewhere between mesomorph [athletic build] and endomorph [heavy build]—probably more endomorph. I obviously do not compete. My main concern is to get to 7 to 10 percent bodyfat. I’m currently between 15 and 20 percent. I’m following the sample diet you outline for endomorphs for  a 175-pound body. I was able to go from 184 to 175 in about three weeks, but for the past two I’ve been stuck at 175. Should I increase cardio from 30 minutes to 45 minutes after my workout? Do you have any other suggestions?

Due to a back problem, I’m not doing any squats or deadlifts. I know that’s one of my problems, and my leg training is relatively high rep. Should I designate more sets for arms and shoulders? I’m basically following the two-day alternate split on page 76, except that I’ve moved deltoids to arms day.

Monday: Chest, back, calves

Tuesday: Deltoids, arms, thighs, abs
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Chest, back, calves
Friday: Deltoids, arms, thighs, abs

I can’t work out on Saturday or Sunday. I’ve read somewhere that it’s best to train each muscle group two times per week to generate enough testosterone. Is that only for the first year—until you get very strong—or would that hold true all the time? Should I switch to a different program after six months?

A: Thanks for the compliments on my book, Natural Bodybuilding. I’m glad you liked it and that it has been helpful in improving your physique.

You didn’t say how much weight you wanted to lose. A 10-pound loss in three weeks is a lot, so I’m sure some of it was probably water as well as bodyfat. Most people will lose one to two pounds a week on a fat-loss diet. 

The diet you’re following from my book recommends 2,700 calories per day, with 294 grams of protein, 193 grams of carbohydrates and 86 grams of fat. It breaks down to 43 percent protein, 28 percent carbs and 28 percent fat. That’s a great diet for losing fat while maintaining or building muscle because it’s high in protein but only moderately high in carbohydrates. The lower carbs encourage fat loss while allowing for enough glycogen for energy in your workouts and postworkout recovery. 

I recommend cycling carbohydrates. Instead of eating the same number of carbs every day, alternate the count to keep your metabolism stimulated. That will prevent it  from slowing down, but you’ll still be losing bodyfat because you’re getting fewer carbohydrates.

The diet you’re following is for training days because I included a postworkout drink, like 2:1:1 Recovery from Optimum Nutrition or RecoverX from Muscle-Link. The postworkout drink adds 60 to 70 grams of carbs to your diet. If you eliminate it on your nontraining days, you’ll reduce your carbohydrates significantly. 

If you were to train four days a week, you’d be eating slightly more carbs (193 grams) on those days and fewer (approximately 133 grams) on the other three days. By alternating between higher and lower carbs, you reduce your bodyfat without running the risk of losing muscle because of low glycogen stores. 

Give the carb-cycling program a try before increasing the amount of cardio you do. By eating fewer carbs several days per week, you should gradually trim your bodyfat. Always try to lose fat by manipulating your diet before increasing your cardio. 

You asked about training each muscle group twice a week and how that relates to testosterone output. Training each muscle group twice a week is an intermediate program. You should do a moderate number of sets for each muscle group to make sure that the muscles have recuperated before you train them again that same week. 

Your body releases testosterone as a result of heavy, intense weight training—compound, basic movements such as squats, deadlifts, barbell rows, bench presses, etc. Testosterone release doesn’t have anything to do with how many times you train each muscle per week. 

When you feel that you’re doing too much work at each session, you can split up your routine over three days instead of two. That will enable you to train fewer muscle groups each time. You’ll also rest each muscle group for a longer period before training it again. 

I don’t recommend doing more sets for your deltoids and arms just because you can’t do squats or deadlifts. You can make your leg and back workouts very intense even without squats or deadlifts. Use moderately heavy weights for higher reps in your leg and back workouts. Training techniques such as 1 1/2 reps, preexhaust and supersets will help you heighten the intensity.

Q: Does beta-alanine work as well as phosphatidylserine to reduce cortisol in the body?

Beta-alanine and phosphatidylserine can each help your workouts, but they have different purposes. Beta-alanine helps buffer the lactic acid buildup in the muscles when you’re training, enabling you to train harder. I always take a scoop of Optimum Nutrition’s Threshold, a beta-alanine supplement, about 15 minutes before my workout. 

Phosphatidylserine works by lowering the body’s count of cortisol, a catabolic hormone that can eat up muscle tissue. By taking PS (found in Muscle Link’s Cort-Bloc), you can help keep your body in a catabolic-free state, which is more conducive to building muscle. 

Q: I’m 23 years old, 6’1” and 100 kilograms [220 pounds]. I’ve been training for three years—two days on/one off/one on/one off, on the following bodypart split: 1) chest and biceps; 2) shoulders, traps and back; 3) legs and triceps. I was wondering how much training I should be doing because I’m a concrete laborer and work five days a week, 10 hours a day. I’ve had good results, but I’m now struggling, which is not very motivating. I recently started training at home with a power rack, bench, barbell and dumbbells. What are your thoughts regarding a good split and how many sets and exercises I can do without overtraining? I feel that hitting the muscle only once a week isn’t enough, and I’m not sure how many rest days I should be taking. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

A: That’s a great question because recuperation is so important when it comes to growing muscle. Many people concentrate on their training routine without considering how much rest they need between workouts to maximize their muscle growth. 

I recommend that you modify your program so that you train on the weekend. You can keep your current program of splitting up the body over three days with five days, which gives you five days of rest between muscle groups:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Workout 1 
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Workout 2 
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Workout 3 
Sunday: Workout 1 
Schedule begins again; continue cycling the workouts.

That schedule has you training on the weekends, when you don’t have to deal with working a full day before going to the gym. You should be well rested on those days, which makes them perfect for training hard and geting in some very productive sessions. During the week you train only two days a week and rest on the other three. That should really help with your recuperation. 

I also suggest switching around the muscle groups you work together so that you don’t overlap by indirectly training a bodypart two days in a row. Right now, you’re training chest and biceps at workout 1, shoulders and back at workout 2 and legs and triceps at workout 3. 

If you do workouts 3 and 1 back to back, you’ll end up training triceps the day before you train chest. That could lead to overtraining the triceps, or it could interfere with your chest workout if your triceps are sore. Also, if you do workouts 1 and 2 back to back, you’ll train your biceps the day before your back session. 

I recommend that you train your legs in between your two upper-body days to eliminate the overlap described above. Here is a better schedule:

Workout 1: Chest, triceps, biceps
Workout 2: Legs, abs
Workout 3: Shoulders, back

The only overlap is that you train shoulders the day before you train chest when you do workout 1 on the day after workout 3. When that occurs, you can switch things around a little—work back and biceps together, and then the next day train chest, shoulders and triceps. For example:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Workout 1 (chest, triceps, biceps)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Workout 2 (abs, legs)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Workout 3, modified (back, biceps)
Sunday: Workout 1, modified (chest, delts, triceps)

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Workout 2 (legs)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Workout 3 (deltoids, back)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Workout 1 (chest, triceps, biceps)
Sunday: Workout 2 (abs, legs)

I recommend doing a moderate number of sets. For bigger muscle groups like chest, back and legs, perform as many as 10 to 15 sets. For your deltoids and traps, do 10 to 12 sets. For smaller muscle groups like triceps, biceps, calves and abs, keep the sets at six to 10. Good luck!

Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a two-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. Check out his Web site at, or send questions or comments to John@NaturalOlympia

.com. Look for his new 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, You can send written correspondence to John Hansen, P.O. Box 3003, Darien, IL 60561.  IM

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