Q: I’m 33 years old, 5’7′ and weigh about 165 pounds. I’ve seen many guys who are big, cut and lean, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of them started with steroids to get them to a certain point. I’ve been thinking about trying some to get me started. I live in a small town, and there are no bodybuilders here. I’ve already tried sending e-mail to trainers to help me out with diet and working out. I guess my question is, What can I do to get quick results? If worst comes to worst, I am going to get some steroids. No trainer or bodybuilder takes me seriously. I’ve offered guys $500 for one month if I can see some kind of difference. I’m not the richest guy, but I’d be willing to make a sacrifice. I want to have women look at me for once. I don’t want to be the one who gets sand kicked in his face.
A: I can see that you’re frustrated in your desire to get bigger, but, trust me, steroids are not the answer. You mention that so many bodybuilders started taking steroids when they began training. First of all, that’s probably incorrect. To begin taking drugs before you have a good diet and training program in place is guaranteed disaster. If all you had to do to get bigger was pop a few pills, there would be hundreds of thousands of massive bodybuilders walking the earth. It doesn’t take much common sense to figure out that there’s a lot more involved than that.
You need to develop a training and nutrition program that will build your body naturally. In this fast-paced world everyone wants results yesterday. You have to understand that building your body takes time. That goes for you, me, Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler. No one builds a great physique overnight. You’re dreaming if you think that you can just pop a few pills and’presto!’instant muscles!
You mentioned that you’re 165 pounds at 5’7′. Those are average statistics for a beginner in bodybuilding. Even without seeing any photos of you or knowing any of your stats, I don’t think you’re below average by any means. With a good training and diet plan, it’s not unrealistic to expect to gain 15 to 20 pounds of muscle your first year of training. That will require lots of hard work, discipline and consistency on your part, but the dedication will pay off in the form of new muscle mass. Can you imagine what 20 pounds of lean beef will do for your physique? Talk about a new look!
To begin with, use a training program that works each muscle group twice a week. Train a total of four days per week and keep the sets moderate, with an emphasis on the basic exercises. Focus on increasing your strength by striving to lift heavier poundages each week. Lift big to get big. Increasing the resistance you place on your muscles is the first step toward building more size. Here’s a good example of a mass-building training routine:
Monday and Thursday
Bench presses 4 x 12,10, 8, 6
Incline presses 3 x 8, 6, 6
Dumbbell pullovers 2 x 10-12
Wide-grip chins 3 x 8-12
Barbell rows 3 x 8, 6, 6
Seated cable rows 3 x 8, 8, 6
Clean and presses 3 x 12, 10, 8
Upright rows 3 x 10, 8, 6
Barbell shrugs 3 x 10, 8, 6
Standing calf raises 3 x 12-15
Tuesday and Friday Incline half situps 2 x 25-30
Hanging knee raises 2 x 25-30
Squats 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Leg presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Leg curls 3 x 10, 8, 6
Stiff-legged deadlifts 3 x 10, 8, 6
Lying triceps extensions 3 x 10, 8, 6
Parallel-bar dips 3 x 8-10
Incline curls 3 x 10, 8, 6
Barbell curls 2 x 8, 6
As for your diet, begin eating six meals per day. Eat approximately 1.25 grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight, which, for you, means 206 grams of protein each day. If you eat six meals every day, that’s 34 grams of protein at each meal. Buy a book that lists the macronutrients of every food (calories, protein, carbs and fats) and write down exactly what you eat each day. You need to get analytical about your diet if you want to eliminate the guesswork and make some real progress.
Choose low-glycemic carbs that contain a lot of fiber. Foods such as oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, pasta and vegetables will help in your quest to build more muscle mass as well as provide you with the energy you need to power you through your heavy-duty workouts.
You can supplement your diet with protein drinks. Drinking one between solid-food meals will make it much easier to eat six meals a day. Mix protein powder or an MRP with skim milk, fruit (my favorite is bananas) and some flaxseed oil (for essential fatty acids). Here’s a good sample diet:
Meal 1: 2 whole eggs, 5 egg whites, 1 cup oatmeal,1/2 cup blueberries
Meal 2: Protein drink (2 scoops Pro-Fusion, 1/2 banana, 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil)
Meal 3: 5 ounces chicken breast, 1 large baked potato, 1 cup broccoli
Meal 4: Protein drink (Muscle Meals meal replacement, 1/2 banana), 1/2 cup oatmeal
Meal 5: Postworkout meal (3 scoops RecoverX mixed with 2 scoops CreaSol titrated creatine in water)
Meal 6: 6 ounces lean beef, 1 cup brown rice, vegetable salad, 2 tablespoons lowfat dressing
There you go. Now you have a complete training and diet strategy to build your physique. Stay away from the drugs and get to work building your body naturally. No more excuses! Put in the work that’s necessary to develop a muscular body, and be prepared to start fighting off the ladies.
Q: I have some questions about cardio. First, how many times a week should I do cardio if I want to cut up? Second, if I do it in the morning, should I eat beforehand? Third, is it best to do it at 60 to 70 percent intensity? Last, is it bad to do cardio 15 to 20 minutes after a workout? I also have one question about my workout. People say to train a muscle group once a week, but I train each muscle group every four days. For example, I train chest on Monday and again on Saturday. Do you think that’s enough time to recover? After I work out, should I drink a protein shake with a mix of malto and dextrose, or is it fine to eat some fruit instead and then have a meal an hour later?
A: If you’ve read my articles, you know that I’m not a big believer in using cardio to lose bodyfat. I’ve found that too much cardiovascular exercise in combination with a reduced-calorie diet can lead to a loss of muscle tissue.
When I’m trying to get ripped, I always start by reducing the number of calories I take in. That allows me to slowly lose bodyfat while maintaining my muscle mass.
If you decide to add cardio to your fat-loss program, I recommend you begin with three days per week and take it from there. Do as little cardio as necessary to get results. More is not necessarily better. I prefer to do cardio on the days I don’t weight train to prevent any excessive catabolic activity.
The morning is the best time to do cardio. That’s because your body will have low blood sugar from your not eating overnight. As a result, there will be only a small amount of sugar to be burned off before your body starts to use stored bodyfat for energy. To prevent any muscle catabolism during the cardio session, however, it’s a good idea to take in some fast-acting protein before heading off to the gym. I always use a serving of whey protein and glutamine about 15 to 20 minutes before my cardio.
As for the intensity of your cardio session, there are two methods you can use. One is the interval method, in which the intensity is very high for a couple of minutes, followed by a longer period of moderate intensity. You repeat that interval throughout the session. For example, if you use the treadmill, you increase the speed until you’re running and keep that up for two or three minutes, followed by a longer interval of about four to six minutes of walking at a fast speed. Then you run again and so on.
The other method is to use a more moderate intensity level for extended periods. That’s supposed to promote more fat loss by keeping the body in the fat-burning zone. Too much intensity could become more anaerobic and burn more muscle glycogen and less bodyfat.
Personally, I like to keep the intensity moderately high. I normally use the treadmill, and I set it at a speed where I’m forced to walk at a quick pace. I walk at a speed of approximately 3.5 mph and elevate the incline to where I’m forced to really work. After 30 to 40 minutes of that I’ve stimulated some additional fat burning.
As for doing your cardio at the end of a workout, that’s also acceptable. Since you’re burning carbohydrates for energy during your weight-training session, your body will be in the same metabolic state as it is first thing in the morning’i.e., glycogen-starved and ready for some fat burning. Twenty minutes of cardio immediately following a high-intensity weight-training workout will help to burn more bodyfat.
Optimal recovery time between workouts varies from individual to individual. If you feel recovered after four days, you can definitely train that muscle again. Generally, as a bodybuilder becomes more advanced, he or she will need more time for recuperation. There was a time when I trained each bodypart once every four or five days. Now I do it once every six to seven days. If you’re making progress, you must be getting recuperation. If you feel overtrained and can’t give your all to every workout, then you may need some more rest.
You mentioned that you train each muscle group every five days. If you split your bodyparts over three days, you could train two days on, take a day off and then train one more day before taking another day off. Then start the cycle again. If you split your body over four days, you could train four days in a row, take a day off, and then start the cycle again.
For my postworkout drink I mix RecoverX with creatine immediately after my workout. RecoverX contains glucose and maltodextrin along with whey protein, which is essential for postworkout recuperation. You need that fast-acting protein along with the simple carbs to create high insulin levels. The increased insulin drives the amino acids and carbs directly into the muscle cells.
Fruit contains fructose, which does not as effectively create the muscle-glycogen-storing environment as glucose and maltodextrin do. Also, since fruit contains fiber, it’s going to take a lot more time to digest than it would to digest a postworkout drink like RecoverX. You’d be much better off taking a supplement that’s designed for postworkout recovery than eating a solid-food meal. Eat a solid-food meal that has plenty of protein and carbs about 30 to 45 minutes after you drink a RecoverX shake.
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