Q: I’m 39 years old and married. I’ve been weight-training drug-free for 15 years, but I’ve never lost the huge amount of bodyfat that’s around my waist. How do I reduce the fat around my waist without losing any lean-muscle mass? Right now I have a 36-inch waist, and I weigh 215 pounds.
A: Losing bodyfat without sacrificing muscle mass requires the right training program combined with an optimum nutrition plan. You are smart to try to lose only bodyfat while maintaining muscle mass, as that’s the key to looking lean and muscular. So many people try to lose fat at any cost and end up losing just as much muscle as fat, which does little to change the look of the physique.
I recommend that you start by writing down what you eat every day. Knowing exactly what you’re eating each day will really help you understand where you are now and help you get where you want to be. Be sure to figure out how many calories you’re eating, as well as how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Your diet is the deciding factor when it comes to losing bodyfat. It’s important to eat at least five meals per day to keep your metabolism stimulated. You also need to eat enough calories to maintain the muscle tissue; however, your calorie intake should be just below what you need to maintain your bodyweight. It may take a bit of experimentation to figure out what the correct amount is, but if you keep recording your diet each day, you’ll arrive at the right number soon.
As far as the optimum ratio of the macronutrients, I prefer to eat 40 percent protein, 40 to 45 percent carbohydrates and 15 to 20 percent fats. That gives me enough protein to build muscle tissue, enough energy from the carbohydrates to train hard and a good amount of essential fatty acids from omega-3 fats. If I’m eating slightly below my maintenance level of calories, I slowly lose bodyfat while maintaining my muscle mass. Your training routine is extremely important when you’re attempting to drop bodyfat. You need to continue to train heavy and hard to maintain the muscle tissue. If you train with light weights or decrease the intensity, you’ll most likely lose muscle along with the fat. Less muscle tissue equates to a slower metabolism, which will make the fat-loss process even more difficult.
You should attempt to train your muscles intensely with only a moderate number of sets. Too much volume in a workout or training too many days of the week will result in overtraining, which may lead to sacrificing more muscle tissue. The possibility of overtraining is greater when you’re dieting and reducing your calories.
In addition to your weight workouts, you can add cardio to aid in your fat-loss efforts. Performing cardio immediately after your workout or first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will help burn more bodyfat. I believe in using cardio in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and an intense weight-training program. It would be a mistake to rely only on cardio or only on your diet to lose bodyfat. The best results will come from a combination of weight training, diet and cardio.
Q. In a recent column you suggested a twice-per-week routine, with chest, back and shoulders at the first workout and legs and arms at the second. I took your advice and lift on Monday and Friday. My only concern is that training my arms on Friday and then my chest and shoulders on Monday will result in overtraining my triceps. I’ve been at it seven weeks now, and I notice that on Mondays my triceps seem to give out sooner than they should. I guess my question is, Should I train my triceps on the same day as I bench-press, or should I flip the days and give my triceps three days of rest instead of two before I do my bench presses?
A: I think either of your suggestions would work. Switch the bodyparts you train to the opposite days. Training your chest, back and delts on Friday and then working your legs and arms on Monday may eliminate the overtrained feeling in your triceps. It sounds as if you need the three days of rest after your triceps workout instead of the other way around.
If you want to switch the routine around to train your triceps with your chest, I recommend that you change to a three-day split. Train chest and arms on the first day and legs by themselves on the second day. Take a day off, and finish with delts and back the following day. Take another day off, and then start the cycle again. That routine provides five days of rest for each bodypart. It’s a more advanced version of the routine you’re now using because you train the body over three days instead of two and you get only five days of rest between workouts for each bodypart instead of seven.
If you feel that you need seven days of rest between bodypart hits but you still want to try the above routine, simply add more rest days. Train chest and arms on the first day, take the second day off, train legs on the third day, take two days off, and then train delts and back on the sixth day, followed by another day off. Repeat the cycle the following week. That’s the routine I follow when I begin training again after a competition. It provides plenty of recuperation, which enables me to train heavy and build more size during the off-season.
How much rest you require between training sessions for each bodypart usually depends on where you are as a bodybuilder. A beginner has yet to develop the neuromuscular efficiency that’s so important in training the muscles with intensity. A novice trainer doesn’t have the ability to train as intensely as an advanced bodybuilder due to the nerve-to-muscle connection. That’s why a beginner can train each bodypart three times per week without fear of overtraining (provided you also keep the sets low).
As bodybuilders advance and become more efficient at increasing their training intensity, they require more recuperation time between workouts for each bodypart. That’s why I recommend training each bodypart once every seven days for an advanced bodybuilder who’s using heavy poundages and high intensity. An intermediate bodybuilder (someone who’s been training at least one or two years) will probably need four to five days of rest between bodyparts. Intermediates will be using heavier poundages and training the muscles more intensely than they did as beginners. Determine where you are, and set up your training program accordingly.
Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Natural Mr. Olympia and is a two-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. Visit his Web site at www.naturalolympia.com. You can write to him at P.O. Box 3003, Darien, IL 60561, or call toll-free (800) 900-UNIV (8648). IM