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Prophetic Genetics

Sergio Oliva, losing that gut and torn biceps tendon.

Q: All the pros talk about how they have such great genetics. Is there any type of genetics that would prevent someone from making it as a professional bodybuilder?

A: I remember reading an article by Bill Pearl once in which he addressed that question. He stated that if a bodybuilder has a weak bodypart that he cannot improve, no matter what he does, that may prevent him from making it to the pro level. Bill wrote the article more than 20 years ago, however, and times have definitely changed since then.

Back in the late 1970s and '80s the magazines used to discuss the lineup of the upcoming Mr. Olympia contest each year. While evaluating the competitors, the writers would inevitably discuss the bodybuilders' strong and weak points. I remember that Sergio Olivia was often singled out as a true genetic freak, a bodybuilder who didn't have any weak points. Calves, arms, chest, legs, back, forearms, minuscule waist'Sergio's were all great. Have you noticed that most of the professional bodybuilders today don't have many weak points? Thanks to medical and pharmacological advances such as calf implants and synthol injections, weak bodyparts are now few and far between.

That's obviously not a natural phenomenon. All bodybuilders, even the great ones, usually have one or two bodyparts that are weaker than the rest of their physiques. Even Arnold had thighs that were slightly out of proportion to his enormous upper body.

But I think Bill Pearl was right. If you have one bodypart that's noticably much weaker than the rest of your physique, it could prevent you from reaching the top in bodybuilding.

Another stumbling block could be poor bone structure. If you have a very narrow shoulder structure or a wide waist, that will definitely hinder the overall look of your physique. Even adding more muscle will still not dramatically alter the look of the physique.

Another factor is the actual shapes of the muscle groups. Many of the top professional bodybuilders, such as Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler and Ronnie Coleman, have beautifully shaped physiques that flow together and are very pleasing to look at. If you have one or more bodyparts that have a weird shape, there's not much you can do about it.

As in other sports, genetics plays a big factor in making it to the professional level. The best sprinters, baseball players, tennis players and boxers were all born with physical gifts. The exciting thing about genetics is that you never know how far you can go or how good you can get until you try. You may have a champion physique just waiting to come out and not even know it!

Q: I'm a 38-year-old male, 5'7' and 180 pounds, and I'm a police detective. I'd like to begin working out, not necessarily to bulk up but to strengthen my upper and lower body and lose the pudge I've accumulated over my 16 years on the job. Because of my wife's medical problems, I haven't had a chance to work out the way I'd like. I'm trying to eat the right foods, but I'm hoping you can recommend some sort of workout routine and diet that will put me back on the right track to feeling better and healthier and also surviving on the street. Can you give me some advice?

A: You didn't say how much time you have available each week to work out, but I'm guessing it's not much. Even so, you can definitely get back in top shape and achieve your personal objectives with a limited amount of training time. I recommend a limited, basic routine that will help you increase your strength and muscle size, followed by 30 minutes of some type of aerobic exercise for fat loss.

Three days per week in the gym is all you need to get the strength and muscle mass you're looking for. I recommend splitting your body into two separate workouts to allow for sufficient recuperation time. Try this:

Workout 1
Bench presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Incline presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Front lat pulldowns 3 x 10, 8, 6
One-arm dumbbell rows 3 x 10, 8, 6
Hyperextensions 3 x 12-15
Seated dumbbell presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Upright rows 3 x 10, 8, 6

Workout 2
Incline situps 3 x max reps
Incline knee raises 3 x max reps
Leg extensions 3 x 12, 10, 8
Leg presses 3 x 10, 8, 6
Leg curls 3 x 10, 8, 6
Pushdowns 3 x 10, 8, 6
Barbell curls 3 x 10, 8, 6

Alternate these two workouts three times a week. For example, if you're going to train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, perform workout 1 on Monday, workout 2 on Wednesday, workout 1 on Friday, workout 2 the following Monday, and so on. Increase the poundage on each set as the reps decrease. Each of these workouts has a total of 21 sets. If you are moving at a good pace, you should be able to complete a training session in about 45 minutes.

At the completion of each weight-training workout, perform at least 30 minutes of cardio by walking on a treadmill, using a stair machine or riding a stationary bike. You can even take a fast walk outside if weather permits. Work at a good pace but not too intensely, for you're burning fat for energy. Doing your cardio workout after the weight training will burn more fat because your glycogen (carbohydrates stored in the muscles) should be depleted after an intense bout with the weights.

ALLAs for your diet, eat five to six small meals each day in order to keep your metabolism stimulated. Increase your protein intake to at least one gram for each pound of bodyweight. Eat complex carbs for energy and stay away from simple sugars such as fruit juice, junk foods and other refined foods. Keep your fat intake low by staying away from fried foods. Drink plenty of water. I drink at least one gallon a day normally and increase that amount when dieting.

Even with a busy schedule such as yours, it is still possible to eat five to six meals a day by supplementing your diet with protein drinks. Eat a good breakfast in the morning, have a protein drink three hours later, eat a high-protein, complex-carb lunch, another protein drink three hours later and so on, until you've eaten six meals for the day. Remember, feed the muscles and starve the fat.

Q: How is your arm coming along since you tore your biceps tendon last year?

A: It's coming along pretty well; thank you for asking. As you know, in order for the biceps to regain its original shape, the tendon has to be surgically reattached. I'm sure you've seen bodybuilders or other athletes who have incurred this injury and chose not to have surgery to reattach the tendon. Their biceps becomes shortened and looks grossly misshapen'not an attractive option for a competitive bodybuilder.

I tore my biceps tendon in a freak accident at work on October 20, 2000, and I had surgery to repair the torn tendon five days later, on October 25. I explained to the surgeon, Dr. James Boscardin, that I am a competitive bodybuilder and how important it was to keep the scars as small as possible. Being an experienced surgeon, Dr. Boscardin kept the scars very small, and the one near my biceps insertion is now almost invisible.

The hard part wasn't the surgery; it was the recovery. I had to wear a cast for six weeks to give the tendon time to reattach to the bone. Having never worn a cast before, I was shocked at how stiff and atrophied my arm was when the cast finally came off. I wasn't worried too much about the atrophy because I knew that with muscle memory, I would regain the size of my biceps in no time; however, it took me forever to regain the supination of my arm.

After months of physical therapy I had made minimal progress in the supination of my injured arm, and I was sent back to my surgeon for additional X-rays. The X-rays revealed calcification in my forearm as a result of the surgery. The doctor believed that the calcification was preventing my arm from regaining supination. It looked as if I was going to need another surgery to remove the calcification. That was bad news.

I went to other doctors to get some additional opinions. Three other surgeons all gave me the same answer: If I wanted my supination back, I'd need more surgery. Fortunately, I went to see an osteopath, Dr. Steve Lubera. The first thing Dr. Lubera did was to manually turn my wrist over into full supination. His theory was that if he was able to turn the wrist manually, there could be no calcification blocking the movement. He recommended more intense therapy to work the supinator muscles in my forearm, which had become extremely stiff and atrophied while my arm was in the cast. After months of therapy with Dr. Lubera, I have now regained full supination. I started training again in March, after an agonizing five months off, and soon increased my bodyweight to 240 pounds. I'm currently in training for the Natural Olympia on November 3, 2001. If you'd like to check out the training and diet programs that are necessary to compete in a drug-free bodybuilding competition, check out my Training Diary by logging onto the IRONMAN magazine Web site at or my Web site at Wish me luck!

Editor's note: John Hansen is the '98 Natural Mr. Olympia and a two-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. Visit his Web site at You can send correspondence to P.O. Box 3003, Darien, IL 60561, or call toll-free 1-800-900-UNIV (8648). IM

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