Q: If you could narrow it down to one or two factors, what do you think are the most important ingredients in becoming a successful bodybuilder?
A: It is actually a number of factors, most of them more mental than physical, believe it or not. I would narrow it down to desire, consistency and persistence.
Desire comes from the heart. You have to really want to be a bodybuilder to be successful. Where desire comes from is individual. The passion and desire you have for bodybuilding will create what Arnold calls ‘want power.’ When the average person hears about a bodybuilder’s daily regimen, they inevitably remark about the incredible discipline and will power it must take to do what we do. Arnold would always argue that he loved bodybuilding and he wanted to be successful at it so it was his want power that naturally led to his will power. Eating six times a day and training heavy and hard are not inconveniences to a bodybuilder who really wants to build an impressive physique.
Consistency is also very important to a bodybuilder because the body thrives on it. You must consistently train your muscles heavy and hard in order to get them to grow bigger and stronger. You must consistently eat enough of the right nutrients on a daily basis so the body will develop to it’s full potential. Doing that only four days of the week instead of seven or six months of the year instead of 12 will drastically cut down your chances of success in bodybuilding.
Persistence follows closely on the heels of being consistent. Anyone who takes up bodybuilding has to realize that overnight success does not happen for most of us. It’s usually only after years of hard training and proper nutrition that one develops an impressive physique. Most people who aren’t successful will give up on bodybuilding because they don’t get the results they want soon enough.
Desire for bodybuilding should help in being more consistent and persistent. If you really want to be a bodybuilder, you’ll persistently look for the best training and nutrition information out there until you develop the physique you want. If the desire is there, you won’t quit until you’re successful.
Q: I’m a fairly fit woman who’s been weight training for about five months. I started training three days per week, then four days per week’pushing muscles on Tuesday and Thursday and then legs and pulling muscles on Monday and Friday. I was doing three exercises per bodypart with a rep sequence of 12-10-8-6. I just switched to a different program, one recommended by a so-called expert bodybuilder. It’s still four days per week, three exercises per bodypart, but I do 15 reps. On some exercises I can only do 12 reps. I’m confused. Do you just go ahead and do anything as long as you see changes in the body? How long do you stay on one program? Do you continually rotate exercises? I really enjoy working out with weights and want it to be fun as well as produce results. Are you supposed to spot work your weakest bodyparts? Help.
A: First of all, congratulations on your decision to begin a weight-training program and stick with it. Most people who begin weight training get confused because of all the training programs and numerous exercises that are available. You’ve asked some good questions and that shows me that you’re interested enough to seek progress in your body.
The type of training program you use as well as the number of sets and reps you perform all depends on the goals you have for your physique. The first program you mentioned in your question is a good one for increasing size and strength although 12 sets per bodypart may be a little much considering the amount of time you’ve been training. Using a poundage that allows you to do six to 12 reps a set is good for building mass. If that’s what you’re after, that’s a good routine.
The second routine you describe has you doing a higher reps’12 to 15. Although you’ll probably build some size from that routine, especially considering the short amount of time that you’ve been training, you won’t build as much strength because the resistance isn’t as high as the previous routine. It also sounds like you’re training to exhaustion with the second routine, which may lead to overtraining if you’re doing too many sets or training too many days per week.
You should have a specific goal in mind when you begin a training program. A football player will train differently than a bodybuilder who will train differently than a person just looking to get in shape. Since you’re a female who is just beginning a weight training program and is doing it to get in shape and have some fun with it, I would recommend training three to four days per week.
You should shoot for between 10 to 12 sets for the larger bodyparts like chest, back and legs and four to eight sets for smaller bodyparts like your arms, calves and abs. If you’re interested in toning up the muscles, use a poundage that allows you to do eight to 12 reps per set. If you have a bodypart(s) that you want to concentrate on, you should train those bodyparts first in your training routine when you have the most energy. You could probably split up your bodyparts so you’re training the whole body over a two-day period.
As for rotating exercises, I usually stick with exercises that I’ve found through experience to be the most productive. Since those exercises work so well, it doesn’t make sense to drop them in place of inferior exercises; however, I’m always willing to try out new exercises if I’m looking to concentrate on a certain area of my physique. As for the basics I don’t think you can really replace them. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, barbell rows, bench presses and so on have proven their value for decades and that will never change.
I think it would be a great idea to change your training routine and use a variety of different exercises in your training program. You could change things around every six to eight weeks. That will keep your enthusiasm high.
My final tip is to record your workouts in a training journal. Take note of which exercises seem to work the best for you, where you’re getting sore after a training session. Are you getting the results that you’re looking for? After awhile, that feedback will provide valuable insight into your body and give you the knowledge you’re seeking.
Q: I’ve been lifting weights for several years now and have made some significant gains in both muscular size and strength but cannot seem to overcome my bodyfat percentage. I’m carrying about three or four percent more bodyfat than you were carrying in your first set of assessment photos shown in your Training Diary on the Web. I’ve tried lowering my calories and have had some success, but I’m always discouraged with the associated strength loss. I’ve been following your diet/workout, but I feel that my diet is my biggest flaw. I also just read a book called Power Eating by Susan Kleiner, Ph.D. It seems to be very informative, but I’m blown away by her recommendations for protein/carbohydrate intake. According to her formula, bodyweight (in kilograms) x 8 = daily carb intake and bodyweight (in kilograms) x 1.6 = daily protein intake. I weigh 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, so to make size/strength gains and decrease bodyfat percentage, according to the book, I have to take in 800 grams of carbohydrates and only 160 grams of protein’and I’d have to eat approximately 4,500 to 5,000 calories a day to do it. I’m currently eating six times a day and my approximate daily intake is as follows:
Protein 230-250 grams
Carbs 350-370 grams
Fat 45-50 grams
I also workout five to six days per week for 90 to 110 minutes a session and do cardio two to three days a week for 20 to 25 minutes. I would appreciate any advice you could give me on the carb/protein intake as compared to the information above.
A: First of all, I agree with you. I think eating 800 grams of carbs a day while you’re trying to lose bodyfat is absolutely not going to work. Also, only eating 160 grams of protein when you weigh 220 pounds is way, way too low for adding muscle mass.
The protein and carb figures that you’re currently following seem to be much more in line to what you should be eating for adding muscle and losing bodyfat; however, I think you could increase your protein intake to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. That would bump up your protein to approximately 275 grams of protein per day.
At the same time, you could probably decrease your carb intake. When I’m dieting to lose bodyfat, I adjust my caloric intake by adjusting my carbs. On the days I don’t train, I take my carbs down until the amount is equal to my protein intake. On training days my carb intake will be higher because of my postworkout drink, which contains 60 to 70 grams of carbs.
In your case you should decrease your carb intake to approximately 275 grams on your off days and then bump it up to approximately 330 grams on the days you train. I think that will help you to make the changes in your bodyfat percentage without changing your calorie intake.
Speaking of your training, I noticed that you said you train five to six days per week. In my opinion, that’s too much training for a natural bodybuilder. Even though you’re only training for 90 to 110 minutes each session, I think you’d be better off training only three to four days per week by combining more bodyparts in one workout and then having more days off. Training almost every day puts too much strain on the body as a whole and is probably leading to overtraining. That may explain why your strength is dropping so much when you make a slight decrease in your calories. If you made those changes and ate 275 grams of protein, 275 grams of carbs (on your off days) and 50 grams of fat, you’d be eating about 2,650 calories. On the days you train, you could increase your carb intake to 330 grams, which would increase your total calories to 2,870 calories. By alternating those amounts, I think you’ll reach your goal of gradually losing bodyfat.
Perform your cardio sessions first thing in the morning for about 45 minutes on an empty stomach. I think it’s best to do your cardio on the days you don’t weight train. That will decrease your chances of overtraining. If you weight train four days per week, I would not do cardio more than two to three days per week. Let me know how my suggestions work out for you in your quest to get ripped!
Editor’s note: John Hansen is the ’98 Natural Mr. Olympia and 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