Q: I hope you can help me. I train three days a week: Monday: chest, arms; Wednesday: legs; Friday: back, shoulders. I love that routine, but a lot of times my chest feels undertrained. What can I do?
A: The problem may be the chest routine you’re following, or you may be taking too much rest between chest workouts. I don’t know what stage you’re in with your training. If you’ve just started working out, you may be taking too much rest between bodypart hits. Only advanced trainers need six to seven days.
I suggest that you don’t take as many rest days. For example, using your current routine, you could organize it like this:
Monday: Chest, arms
Thursday: Back, shoulders
Saturday: Begin cycle again
You will train your chest (and your other bodyparts) every five days instead of every seven days. You’ll be training the muscles more frequently, so they won’t feel undertrained.
I don’t know what exercises you’re using for your chest program, but I recommend that you concentrate on the basic exercises using both barbells and dumbbells. I like to include two pressing exercises and one flye movement. Here are two good chest programs:
Barbell bench presses 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Incline dumbbell presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Flat-bench flyes 3 x 10, 8, 8
Dumbbell bench presses 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Incline barbell presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Incline dumbbell flyes 3 x 10, 8, 8
Q: I’ve been training for two years now, mostly at my home gym, but I joined a real gym about three months ago. Ever since I got your “Real Muscle” DVD, I’ve wanted to get as big as you. I know it will take a long time, but I’m not sure if my gains are big or steady enough. I always try to stay very lean, and I’m afraid to get fat. I think that might be one of my biggest problems. Last year at about this time I ordered your book, and when it arrived, I started to follow a bodybuilding diet for the first time in my life. I started eating six meals a day, very clean, but I restricted my carbs and took in no extra fat—probably 2,500 calories a day. About a month ago I started to eat a little more. Here’s what I eat now. I started adding the avocado and olive oil for extra fat only yesterday. The peanut butter I added a month ago:
Meal 1: 1 egg plus 7 whites, 120 grams oats with 12 grams raisins, 1 tablespoon olive oil
Meal 2: Whey protein plus 2 egg whites plus 400 milliliters fat-free milk, 2 slices whole-wheat bread, 1 fruit
Meal 3: 180 grams chicken plus 90 grams brown rice, 45 grams avocado
Meal 4 (postworkout): 1 scoop whey protein, 300 milliliters fruit juice, 300 milliliters fat-free yogurt
Meal 5: 1 can tuna, 40 grams fat-free cottage cheese, 85 grams whole-wheat pasta, mixed vegetables, 45 grams avocado
Meal 6: 1 scoop whey protein, 2 egg whites, 400 milliliters fat-free milk, 2 slices whole-wheat bread, 10 grams peanut butter
I also take a multivitamin each day plus 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C and 1 flaxseed tablet. I don’t take creatine or glutamine at this stage.
That adds up to about 3,669 calories, 295 grams of protein, 422 grams of carb and 71 grams of fat. My weight is not really going up on this diet. I’m 17 years old, 5’10”, and I’ve weighed 160 for more than six months.
I followed a program similar to the two-day split mentioned in your book. It looked like this:
Chest: bench presses, incline flyes, flat-bench flyes—10 sets; delts: standing dumbbell presses, upright rows—7 sets; traps: shrugs—4 sets; triceps: dips, seated extensions—8 sets
Day 2, Workout 1
Quads: squats, front squats, leg presses—9 sets; hamstings: stiff-legged deadlifts, leg curls—7 sets; calves: donkey calf raises—5 sets
Day 2, Workout 2
Back: wide-grip chins, seated cable rows, barbell rows, deadlifts—14 sets; biceps: lying dumbbell curls, barbell curls—6 sets; forearms: wrist curls, reverse wrist curls—6 sets; abs: 6 sets, different exercises
I trained four days a week, with two days being a double split because I couldn’t train back and biceps intense enough after the leg routine. I still wasn’t seeing gains with that program, and when the winter came, I got sick three times and lost muscle. I think my immunity went down because of my double-split training and undereating. So now I’ve started to follow an advanced program—a five-day split. I’ve been on it for a week: Workout 1: chest,triceps; workout 2: quads; workout 3: lower back—deadlifts—traps, delts; workout 4: lats, biceps, forearms; workout 5: calves, hams, abs.
I’m currently a noncompetitive bodybuilder, but I’m wondering what the prize money is like for natural bodybuilding contests.
What is your view of my diet, and how necessary do you think a bulking phase is for me? I really want to get bigger—160 is not doing it for me anymore because of stuff like when we’re visiting my grandmother and she offers me cake and other foods I can’t eat. It creates awkward moments, especially when I’m only 160 pounds and don’t feel like a bodybuilder. What should I add to my diet when bulking? Also, do you think I could add as much size as you if I’m staying lean all the time and gaining maybe four pounds a year?
I’m also unsure of my training program. Can I follow a five-day split when bulking? I like exercising each muscle to the max so that it gets sore for the next four days or so. I was thinking, though, of combining a three-day split with the five-day split. I use all of the basic exercises for six to 12 reps.
A: You seem to be trying really hard to get bigger and gain weight. You’re putting a lot into both your training and your diet, and that’s great. You aren’t really doing anything wrong, but your metabolism is still very fast because you’re only 17 years old. Most guys your age are in the same situation. I have a few suggestions that you can use to start gaining weight to get bigger.
First of all, I suggest that you don’t go to the gym more than four days a week. Training five days a week isn’t necessary, and cutting back to four will give you another day of rest, which is very important when you’re trying to add size. The day you train abs, calves and hamstrings can be combined with other bodyparts so you can have that day totally off.
Try the following in place of the split you’re currently using:
Day 1: Chest, triceps, calves
Day 2: Abs, quads, hamstrings
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Delts, traps, calves
Day 5: Back, biceps, forearms
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Rest or begin cycle again
One of the keys to getting bigger with your training program is to keep getting stronger. A stronger muscle is a bigger muscle, so the stronger you can get on the basic exercises, the more mass you’ll add to your physique. Many bodybuilders use the same weight week in and week out, but if you want your physique to change, you have to force it to change by using heavier weights. That way it has to get bigger to adapt to the new workload.
Another important point is to keep the sets moderate. The number of sets per bodypart you were doing in the first workout you detailed was good. You want to train all areas of the muscle for complete development, but you don’t want to do an excessive number of sets because that could lead to overtraining.
Now let’s talk diet. As you probably know, diet is the main component for gaining size. No matter how hard you train and what exercises you do, if you don’t eat enough calories along with the proper proportions of macronutrients, you won’t get bigger. It’s as simple as that.
I think part of the problem is that you’re afraid to really eat a lot of food because you don’t want to get fat. You said you want to stay lean all the time and only gain four pounds a year. If you choose to go in that direction, you should understand that it’s going to be a long time before you get big. At that rate of progress, it will take you five years to get up to 180 pounds.
When I was your age, I wanted to be big too, but I didn’t care about staying lean. I just wanted to get as big as possible. Like you, I had a hard time getting bigger and gaining weight. I didn’t really care about getting fat because it was so hard to add weight. I was thankful for any pound I was able to add to my frame.
I was training four days a week, using the basic exercises, and I was keeping the sets moderate. I was training heavy every week, using weights that would allow me to do only six to eight reps each set. Well, I couldn’t gain a pound of bodyweight despite the effort I was putting into my workouts. I remember during one eight-month period, my weight didn’t go up one pound.
It wasn’t until I drastically increased the amount of food I was taking in that I started to gain weight. I was already eating a lot in order to get bigger, but it wasn’t working. I practically had to double the amount of food I was taking in to gain weight.
My bodyweight was stuck at 205 pounds, and I wanted to be at 230 before I started to cut up again. I started to add foods to my diet that had more fat in them because I knew that one gram of fat contains nine calories compared to one gram of protein or carbohydrate, each of which has only four calories. I wasn’t eating foods like avocados and olive oil but rather protein foods that had more fat. I ate less chicken, fish and egg whites and substituted whole eggs, red meat and whole milk in their place.
I also added some very-high-calorie protein drinks: two cups of whole milk, one egg, two scoops of protein powder, one banana and two scoops of ice cream. Processed together, it would fill up all eight cups of the blender.
For breakfast I ate seven whole eggs (not just the egg whites) and made an omelet with muenster cheese. I also included three slices of whole-wheat toast with butter and honey on top. Lunch was always a half pound of lean hamburger with four slices of whole-wheat bread and more muenster cheese—two cheeseburgers.
I was purposely eating foods that were not only high in protein but also high in fats. That made my calorie intake much higher. I also included lots of complex carbohydrates each day in the form of whole-wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice.
After eating like that for more than a month, I saw my bodyweight start to go up. After several months I’d bulked up to 220 from the 205 I’d been stuck at. By the end of the summer I’d gained another 10 pounds to get my weight up to 230.
Honestly, at that weight I looked more like a football player than a bodybuilder. I probably went a little too far and could have stopped at 220, but I wanted to push it to the limit and see how much I could gain. By the time I finished bulking, all of my bodyparts had grown considerably in size. My arms, chest, delts, back and thighs were all bigger than ever. Even my calves got bigger from carrying around all the extra weight.
When I competed again, my physique had totally changed. I’d gained mass all over, and the stringy look I’d displayed as a teenager was a thing of the past. Of course, one of the reasons that bulking program worked so well for me was that my metabolism was superfast. If I’d tried eating that many calories later in life, when my metabolism was slower, I would have added much more fat than muscle.
So my advice to you would be to keep training hard and find a way to increase your calories. Don’t worry so much about adding a little fat because, with your fast metabolism, it’s going to be almost impossible to get big without adding some fat to your physique. You can always lose it later, after you gain the size you need. The next time you’re at your grandmother’s house, say yes when she offers you cake and cookies. You’ll make her happy and gain the size you’re looking for all at the same time.
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 www.NaturalOlympia.com, or send questions or comments to him via e-mail at 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. Listen to John’s new radio show, “Natural Bodybuilding Radio,” at www.NaturalBodybuildingRadio
.com. You can send written correspondence to John Hansen, P.O. Box 3003, Darien, IL 60561. IM