Q: I enjoy your articles, especially your recent over-40 training insights. I’m 39 and have trained sporadically for the past 20 years. I’m recovering from rotator cuff surgery at the moment, but as soon as I’m able to start training, I’d like to get in my best shape. Considering my age, should I split my workout so I train each muscle group every six or seven days, or should I start with a three-day split, using a two-on/one-off routine?
A: If you’ve been away from training for a while, you should probably begin with a limited number of exercises and train each muscle group twice a week using a two-on/one-off routine. It’s always better to start out slowly when coming back from a layoff. Your body will respond best to a limited amount of training.
After a few months of training consistently on that schedule, you could spread your training over three days as opposed to two. Try a two-days-on/one-day-off/one-day-on/one-day-off schedule. That gives you five days of rest between workouts for each bodypart. You’ll need that extra rest because you’ll be training each muscle group much harder and with more sets than you did during the first routine. Here’s one example of how you could divide your muscle groups for that training split:
Day 1: Chest, arms, calves
Day 2: Abs, legs
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Shoulders, back, calves
Day 5: Rest
Stay with that routine as long as you feel you’re getting results. If your training intensity increases to the point that you don’t feel you’re getting the recuperation you need, schedule more rest days. You could take a day off after each training session, which would increase your days off between workouts for each bodypart to six days instead of five.
Another option is to divide your bodyparts over four days instead of three. You could train two days in a row, followed by a day off, and then repeat that cycle until you cover your whole body. Here’s one example that gives you six days of rest for each bodypart:
Day 1: Chest, triceps, calves
Day 2: Abs, upper legs
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Shoulders, calves
Day 5: Back, biceps, abs
Day 6: Rest
Begin slowly and train each bodypart twice per week. As your poundages go up and your intensity increases, begin dividing your body over three days, and increase the amount of rest between workouts for each bodypart to five days. Stick with each routine as long as it produces results. After six months of consistent training, you can increase your rest between workouts for each bodypart to six days if you feel you need it.
Q: I’m 17 years old, and I have two questions. I’ve been searching the Web for answers for about three weeks. Everyone has something different to say’and most of them are on steroids. Some people are telling me I should just take pro-hormones. I know drugs aren’t the way to go, so here are my questions: 1) What’s the best rep range for building muscle size? 2) What are the best supplements?
A: The best range of repetitions for building muscle is typically between six and 10. That range has been shown to thicken the muscle fibers and increase the size of the muscles while also pumping blood into the muscle tissues.
After your warmup sets with lighter weights and higher reps, use a weight that limits your reps to six to 10. The reps should be very difficult to perform. If you can do 12 to 15 reps by really pushing it, then you need to use more weight for maximum muscle growth.
Lower repetitions’one to four’will build more strength than muscle mass. That’s because the tendons and ligaments take over more of the load. Powerlifters and other athletes primarily aiming to increase their strength often do sets with a resistance that limits their reps to between one and five. A higher rep range’six to 10’gives you more of a pump in your muscles, which is a big factor in muscle tissue growth.
Going in the other direction and doing very high repetitions’15 to 20’doesn’t provide enough resistance to thicken muscle fibers. A set performed with low resistance and higher reps will definitely pump up the muscle, but you need heavier loads to build muscle fibers. ALL Some muscle groups may respond better to more or fewer reps than the recommended six to 10. The calf muscles, for example, seem to respond better to a resistance that permits anywhere from 12 to 30 reps. I like using both high and moderate reps for calves, as the higher-rep sets pump more growth-producing blood into the muscle, which helps them grow.
v The quadriceps also appear to respond to slightly higher reps. The leg muscles can handle a lot of work, more than some of the smaller muscles in the upper body. I’ve found that it’s beneficial to train the legs with both heavy weights and high reps’12 to 15. It’s a brutal combination that can produce growth for bodybuilders who have a difficult time developing quads.
As for your second question, I recommend that before you stock up on supplements, you make sure your diet is sound. You should be eating at least six meals per day with enough of the three macronutrients’protein, carbohydrates and fats’to promote growth. The first supplement I recommend is a good protein powder and/or meal replacement. To keep your muscles in a positive nitrogen balance, you need to eat protein every
2 1/2 to three hours. That gives you the amino acids your muscles require to grow. Since it’s highly impractical to eat a whole-food meal every three hours, protein and meal-replacement drinks help you fit in those meals more conveniently. I normally drink at least three protein or meal-replacement shakes each day.
I use Muscle-Link’s Pro-Fusion protein powder and Muscle Meals meal replacement. The reason I prefer that brand over others is its formulation of micellar casein along with whey and egg proteins. That superior combination makes for a slower amino acid release, giving the muscles a continuous flow of the building blocks they need.
I also highly recommend a postworkout drink to speed your recovery as well as aid in muscle growth. I take RecoverX, which has 40 grams of whey protein’fast-acting protein, so it’s quickly absorbed by the muscle cells’along with 60 grams of simple carbs. That’s the perfect combination for feeding your depleted muscles the nutrients they crave right after a hard training session.
The other two supplements that I highly recommend are creatine and glutamine. Creatine is a great supplement to keep your strength and energy levels high during a heavy training session. I take a serving of Muscle-Link’s CreaSol titrated creatine before and after my workouts. Glutamine is invaluable in building the immune system and helping with recuperation and muscle growth. When I’m in heavy precompetition training, I take five grams of glutamine when I wake up, before and after my workout and immediately before bed.
Note: For a great discount offer on RecoverX and CreaSol, visit www.x-rep.com/xdiet.htm.
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