Q: I’m 42 years old, and I’m working out in my garage and running. Can I build muscle at my age? Should I be working my abs every day? For example, I do crunches between sets of incline dumbbell presses and so forth all through the workout. Does a low-carb/higher-protein diet build muscle mass? How can I lose fat and build the muscle? I’ve lost quite a bit of weight already, but I don’t want to lose muscle. By the time I’m 44, I want to be featured in one of these magazines. I’m 6’6′ and a retired Blackhawk test pilot from the 101st U.S. Airborne Division. Before that, I was in the Marine Corps.
A: Although it’s possible to lose fat at the same time as you’re building muscle, it’s more likely to happen if you’re new to training or if you’re coming back from a layoff. Still, intense training combined with a good nutrition plan can bring you results.
You have to demand more from your muscles each time you train them. You can increase the intensity of the workout by using more resistance (poundage), doing more work (increasing the number of sets) or training with the same resistance and the same volume in a shorter period of time (decreasing your rest periods between sets or using supersets).
You also have to factor in recuperation. Muscle grows during your time away from the gym. If you’re training every day or doing too many sets at each workout, you won’t have enough time to recover, and your muscles won’t grow.
You mentioned that you’re running as part of your routine. Running is a great way to increase your cardiovascular capacity and burn calories, but it can also burn muscle tissue. I would recommend decreasing the amount of running you do. Replace it with a less intense form of cardio, such as fast walking or riding a bike. You’re trying to burn excess bodyfat but retain the muscle tissue.
Concentrate on the basic exercises. Those movements work several muscle groups at the same time and add the most muscle mass.
As for the abs, you can train them every day, but it’s not necessary, and it won’t speed up the process of losing fat or building an impressive six-pack. I train my abs twice a week with a variety of exercises designed to attack the muscle group from all angles. I train them very intensely, and then I let them recuperate. In my opinion, that’s all you need to develop great abs. Hitting them with countless repetitions of crunches won’t develop them any more quickly.
Losing fat is primarily a matter of eating correctly. A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet will get rid of the fat, but you need to be careful that you don’t lose muscle mass when you follow that type of diet. If you’re going to eat low carbs, a better way to do it would be to cycle your carbohydrate intake. That involves eating a low-carb diet for two to three days, followed by a high-carb day, then repeating the cycle. The high-carb day restores the glycogen that’s depleted by eating low carbs and from your intense workouts.
Be sure to keep both a diet and a training journal to monitor your progress. Write down everything you eat, and total up the calories, grams of protein, carbs and fats every day. That will help you determine the correct number of calories your body needs for losing fat while still gaining muscle. Aim for 1.25 to 1.5 grams of protein per day (especially on your low-carb days), and eat six meals a day to keep the muscles supplied with the amino acids they need for growth. You’ll also be stimulating your metabolism by eating the smaller, more frequent meals.
Don’t worry about adding muscle mass at your age; 42 is very young for bodybuilding. My dad trains several times per week at home, and he looks fantastic. In fact, he recently told me that he just added another half inch on his arms. Not bad for a guy who just turned 66!
Q: Due to family and work constraints I can only train at home. I have 200 pounds of dumbbells, a Swiss ball and a stationary bike. What kind of routine can you suggest over three days? I would like to concentrate on my abs.
A: You didn’t mention whether you also have an adjustable incline bench as part of your home gym. If you don’t have one, you should look into adding it because it will enable you to do a lot more exercises.
If you’re going to train your body over three days, I suggest splitting your bodyparts in the following manner:
Day 1: Chest, arms and abs
Day 2: Thighs, calves
Day 3: Deltoids, back and abs
Day 4: Rest
You could train that way throughout the week or adjust it in any way to fit your schedule. If you want to train a total of only three days per week, you could do the Day 1 routine on Monday, the Day 2 routine on Wednesday and the Day 3 routine on Friday.
Here’s a good program:
Day 1: Chest, arms and abs
Dumbbell bench presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Incline dumbbell presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Flat-bench flyes 3 x 8-10
Seated two-arm dumbbell extensions (one dumbbell) 3 x 10, 8, 6
Bench dips 3 x 10-12
Lying dumbbell extensions 2 x 8-10
Incline curls 3 x 10, 8, 6
One-arm dumbbell preacher curls 3 x 8-10
Crunches on the Swiss ball 2-3 x 30
Seated knee raises 2-3 x 30
Day 2: Thighs and calves
Dumbbell squats 3 x 12, 10, 8
Dumbbell stepups 3 x 10-12
Dumbbell lunges 3 x 10-12
Dumbbell leg curls 3 x 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts 3 x 8-10
Day 3: Delts, back and abs
Seated dumbbell presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Seated lateral raises 3 x 10, 8, 8
Bent-over lateral raises 3 x 8-10
Dumbbell shrugs 3 x 12, 10, 8
Dumbbell pullovers 3 x 12, 10, 8
One-arm dumbbell rows 3 x 10, 8, 6
Hyperextensions on Swiss ball 2-3 x 15
Reverse crunches 2-3 x 20
Lying leg raises 2-3 x 20
Keep track of your workouts by recording what you do at each session. That will enable you to set small goals for yourself before your next workout. Make an attempt at each workout to add another rep or increase the poundage. That will motivate you to have a good, intense workout every session. Training at home is difficult at times because you have only yourself to push you. By setting goals for yourself, you’ll continue to make progress. Good luck.
Q: I’ve been lifting for 10 years, and I’ve entered five shows, but I haven’t competed in two years. I love to train, but my diet has been up and down. Here are my questions: Do you believe in liver tablets? Why or why not? What do you do for leg separation? What natural supplements do you prefer?
A: I just began taking liver and amino acid supplements on a regular basis. I used to take liver tablets when I was a teenager, but it’s been years since I took them regularly. I think the liver and amino acid tablets help increase my protein intake without eating more food. They seem to provide a better environment for building muscle, and I think they’re excellent supplements if you’re trying to gain mass or hold onto muscle while losing bodyfat.
Liver tablets are very high in B vitamins, which are an essential part of any diet. They combat stress and provide energy. Liver tablets are especially high in vitamin B12 and are an excellent source of protein.
I believe that the best exercises for leg separation are movements that force a great stretch in the quadriceps. I’ve always favored leg extensions because they isolate the quads and allow for a peak contraction as well as a superior stretch at the beginning of the movement.
Lunges with a barbell or dumbbells are also excellent for developing quad separation. The bottom position of this exercise builds great quad separation. The bottom part of the lunge is where the quads are stretched to the maximum.
Another good exercise is the sissy squat. The extreme stretch at the bottom of the movement is so demanding that your bodyweight will give you plenty of resistance. To perform the sissy squat, grab the vertical support of a squat rack for balance and lower your body by forcing your hips forward and bending at the knees. In the bottom position, your upper body will be almost parallel to the ground but on the same plane as your thighs’no bend at the waist’and your quads will experience a superior stretch. When I’m preparing for a contest, I like to do sissy squats at the end of my leg workout.
As for supplements, I always use protein powder to get in the amount of quality protein I need for growing from my intense workouts. I use Muscle-Link’s Pro-Fusion and Muscle Meals because they contain a combination of whey and micellar casein protein. In addition, I take glutamine several times a day to help with recuperation and avoid muscle tissue breakdown.
I also use Muscle-Link’s CreaSol creatine to help fuel my workouts and increase my strength, and I love RecoverX as my postworkout feeding, as it contains 40 grams of whey protein and 60 grams of simple carbs, both of which are essential immediately following a training session. And now I supplement each meal with liver and amino acid tablets to add to my overall protein intake.
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 1-800-900-UNIV (8648). IM