Todd Opheim's Q And A! The Secrets To Bodybuilding Success.

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I receive tons of e-mail from bodybuilders like you who are having trouble gaining size and strength, losing fat, or meeting other goals. I try to answer them all when I have the chance! Here I will post some answers to some of the questions that I have received in order to help others who may have a similar problem. Get ready to blast through your goals!

Note: Newest questions are on top.

QUESTION:

How long before I want to be cut do I start eating and exersizing to get cut? How many weeks or months do you start preparing to get cut? Thanks.

ANSWER:

The length of time it takes to get cut is dependent upon at least a few different factors. You need to know how many pounds of fat you need to lose. I figure this out by taking my bodyfat and figuring out my current lean body mass. If I am aiming for a certain bodyfat %, I will then divide my lean body mass by (100-desired bodyfat %) to get my desired bodyweight. This number will be the number I aim for to achieve. For example, if I am currently 222 pounds at 10 % bodyfat, I have roughly 200 pounds of lean body mass (222 x .90). If I want to be 5 % bodyfat, I take the 200 pounds and divide it by .95 to get my desired bodyweight at 5 %. This is roughly 210 pounds. So I then take the 222 pounds that I am at 10% bodyfat and subtract off the 210 pounds that I would estimate myself to be at 5% bodyfat (provided I don't lose lean tissue during dieting). This gives me 12 pounds to lose. I can then decide how slowly or quickly I would like to lose those 12 pounds. I recommend you try to lose no more than 2 pounds per week.

So, given that I need to lose 12 pounds, I would probably diet for about 6 weeks. The idea would then be to create a weekly caloric deficit of 7000 calories which is equal to 2 pounds of bodyfat. Each pound of bodyfat is equal to 3500 calories. I would do this by restricting my calories somewhat (on a carb rotation diet), and also increasing my caloric expenditure (by increasing my cardiocascular activity). I generally aim to get 50% from diet and 50% from cardio. Of course this is only one example, but the formula holds true regardless of current and desired bodyfat. Basically, the more bodyfat you have, the longer the diet will be. If you stay fairly lean the diet can be somewhat short. If you are like alot of bodybuilders who mistakenly believe they need to be "huge" in the off-season, you may be in for a longer dieting season. I know this is somewhat complex, but this should serve as a great guideline for you. I hope it helps.

QUESTION:

Hi, do you think I need to take supplements while I am working out? How much faster or bigger will I get if I am not using any supplements? Right now I am taking 1-AD and Ecdy-bol and I am taking Isomatrix protein powder Could I just use the protein powder and nothing else and still be satified? Thanks a lot I am going to jump on the band wagon and try your workout for the 2 months and see what happens. Keep up the good work, bye.

ANSWER:

As far as supplements go, I will give you my standard reply. You must have a sound nutrition base and training program in place first. You must sleep enough. You must hydrate yourself well. Once you get all of the above in order, you can then choose whether or not supplementing is in your best interest. Remember supplementing is just that. It does not act in place of training, diet, rest, and hydration, it is in addition to. As for specific supplements, I generally recommend supplemental protein and meal replacements in order to ensure you are getting adequate nutrition (this is especialy important for busy people). There are many other supplements out there that may or may not aid you in your specific endeavors. I suggest researching them at Bodybuilding.com, and making your own decision from there. Best of luck to you.

QUESTION:

I'm relatively new to lifting. I started out on the body for life program to lose some weight and tone up a bit. Lost weight, most of it muscle. In any case I would like to start gaining some of that weight back. I'm 6'2, 195 lbs. and approx 11-12% BF. I would like to start packing on weight, but would prefer not to go over 16% BF.

So here's my question(s). I like to run or ride my exercise bike in the a.m. (approx 2 mile run 8-9 minute pace or in rain/snow 25 min on the bike). If I work up to a diet of around 4200 calories a day and hold that for the duration of your 2 month program will I be shooting myself in the foot as far as gains are concerned? I'm thinking 300-400 calories given to cardio 2 days a week.

Sorry if this is a repetitive question for you. In reality I'm up to the point in this sport to know how to stretch, eat OK, hold good form and warm up properly. That's my accomplishment that I'm quite proud of. I'm confident that I can handle your program, but would appreciate your advice before starting (thinking about third week in X-mas for a start date).

ANSWER:

It is difficult to tell what would be an ideal situation for each individual withou actually meeting with you, but I'll give it a shot.

Congrats on starting you bodybuilding endeavor. 195 pounds at 11-12% bodyfat is a very respectable beginning. Provided you know the proper form on all of the exercises, I think the mass gaining program would be an ideal situation for you. This program is best applied when one is taking in a somewhat hypercaloric diet. My general recommendation is to multiply you current bodyweight by 20 to come up with a basic number of calories to begin with. This would put you at approximately 3900 calories a day. At this caloric level, you should be giving your body the nutrients and calories it requires to gain mass. Some of this mass will likely be from bodyfat, but will be to a lesser degree than if you exceeded this number. If you are not gaining at the pace of approximately 2 pounds per month, you can then choose to increase your calories slightly. If you are gaining more than 2-4 pounds per month, you can be assured that the majority of that increase is coming from fat.

Again, it is difficult to be specific when working with people I don't know, but this should be a good start. My biggest suggestion would be to resist the tempation to get too big too quickly. The body needs time to put on quality mass. If you try to rush it, you will fall into the trap that many a bodybuilder has fallen into, which is becoming a bloated mess, and then being forced to diet forever to even resemble a bodybuilder again. To put it another way, if I told you that a year from now, you would be 205 pounds at 10 % bodyfat, you probably wouldn't squabble. In fact, if I could gain over 10 pounds of mass in a year, I would be stoked. Well, think of it this way, if you work out 3 times per week and gain only one ounce of muscle per workout, you will put on 12 ounces of muscle in one month (this equates to 3/4 pound). Over the course of 12 months this is 8 pounds of muscle. I have personally been bodybuilding for around 10 years and have managed to put on about 40 pounds of muscle over that time frame. That equates to about 4 pounds per year. The depressing part is that I have probably gained less that 1/2 ounce per gut busting workout in that span of time.

OK, so you get the point. Increase your calories, but only within reason. Train hard, eat right, rest, hydrate and grow. Most importantly be consistent and persistant and the gains will come. If you could see similar results to mine, in 10 years you could be 235 pounds at 10% bodyfat. I don't know about you, but that seems like a pretty big dude to me. I hope this helps. Good luck.

QUESTION:

My question is how do I increase my upper arm mass? I have been lifting for about 10 years and I have never been satisfied with my arms. Should I focus on low reps and high weights for biceps and triceps or should I try something else. Also, what training volume would you recommend for these two muscle groups for optimal stimulation and recovery. Thank you for your time.

ANSWER:

The first thing you need to do if your primary goal is bigger arms, is to focus on prioritizing them. I would recommend pairing your bis with your chest and shoulders, and your tris with your back, and having your leg workout fall between the two upper body workouts. This way you will be able to focus on your arms as a number one priority. It is difficult to say what the proper stimulus is for these muscle groups, as each individual differs. I have found that the typical protocol for these is 2-3 sets of 3 different exercises in the 8-12 rep. range. If you are typical, this is what you have been following. I suggest that you break outside of this typical range and try something different.

With that in mind, here is a program I suggest. Note: 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6 means to do four sets, with the first set reaching failure at 12 reps, the second at 10 reps, the third you should get 8 at the most, and the last set should be 6 reps.

Biceps

Straight Barbell Curls 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Preacher curls 3 x 10, 8, 6
Hammer curls 3 x 12, 10, 8
Incline Dumbbell Curls 3 x 15, 12, 10

Triceps

Close Grip Bench Press 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Skull Crushers 3 x 10, 8, 6
Vertical Dips 3 x 12, 10, 8
Rope Pushdowns 3 x 15, 12, 10

As you can see, the volume is 13 total sets. The rest interval between sets should be 60- 90 seconds. I would use 90 seconds for your first two exercises of each muscle group, and then decrease to 60 seconds for the second two exercises. This will allow you to focus on pushing maximum weight on your first two exercise, and then increasing blood flow on your last two exercises. As you can see, there are multiple angles being hit be the various exercises, which should allow you to hit every fiber in your bis and tris. Follow this program in conjunction with the three day split I outlined above, and try to limit your chest, back and shoulder work to 9 total sets each to avoid overtraining. I would train four days per week on this program, rotating the workouts. Follow this program for 8 weeks, and I am sure you will be pleased with the results.

QUESTION:

I was wondering what the best supplement is out there to build muscle mass? Is soy/whey protein good enouph, or do I need all that other supplements like creatine, etc. to just get me confused. I'm 30 years old 6'0", 180 lbs. Will your all year routine get my body more massive? Please help with some input. Since I'm an ectomorph I really need it. Thanks!

ANSWER:

There is no supplement out there that will build muscle mass (other than anabolic steroids) for you. Supplements will help to compliment your training routine, and there are some that will make it easier for you to gain mass while on the routine. Soy/whey protein are an excellent means for increasing your dietary protein. Other supplements that will help in your endeavor are creatine and glutamine. I suggest you try 5 grams of creatine daily and 10-15 grams of glutamine daily. The details on these products can be found on Bodybuilding.com. As far as the year long program being effective at building mass, I can only say, yes, it will help. The first few months are building blocks for months to come. I'm sure that if you start with month 1 and work your way through for the entire year, you will be pleased with your results. Good luck and train hard.

QUESTION:

How do I get my stomach muscles big and how do I lose fat?

ANSWER:

Getting your stomach muscles big is a simple matter of applying the basic bodybuilding principle of Gradual Prgressive Overload. The rectus abdominis is the muscle most people refer to as their stomach muscle, although there are other muscles in the stomach region. The most effective way to build muscle in this area is by performing the basic abdominal exercises involving trunk flexion, such as crunches and hanging ab raises. In order to see increased mass in this area, you must increase the weight you use on these basic exercises and work in a repetition range between 10 and 15 reps. If you are doing more reps than 15, you need to increase your resistance. I prefer to do abs only 2-3 x per week, choosing one exercise for my lower abs (hanging ab raises), one for my upper abs (weighted crunches), and one for my obliques (hanging oblique raises). I do 3 sets of each in the order listed, and rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

As far as losing fat goes, you must take in fewer calories than you burn off. Your caloric intake should have a proper balance of protein/carbs/and fat, in order to ensure that you are losing fat and maintaining muscle mass. You can add cardiovascular exercise to the mix in order to accelerate your fat loss, starting at 3x per week at 30 minutes per session at an intensity of roughly 70% of estimated heart rate max. These are only general suggestions, but if you start with these, I am positive you will see results.

QUESTION:

How to I get the V shape in my upper body and reduce my waste size? I am having trouble doing that.

ANSWER:

V-shape is accomplished by maximizing shoulder width and minimizing the waist line, along with adding to quad sweep and calf fullness. In order to maximize your upper body V-taper, I suggest you focus on exercises that will widen your shoulders such as overhead presses, lateral raises, and upright rows. Other upper body exercises that will help in this appearance, but are not shoulder specific are the bench press for wider pecs, and pullups or pulldowns for wider lats.

In order to minimize your waist, you must lose fat in that area which is a simple matter of diet and cardiovascular exercise. The goal is to approach things from both areas. If you are able to add 1" width to your shoulders and reduce your waist by 1", you will have the appearance of being 2" wider in your shoulders.

QUESTION:

My name is Tyler and I'm 17 yrs old, I'm 5'6" and I weigh 140 lbs. I've only been lifting for a few months and right now I really need to build some mass. Right now I'm eating over 4500 calories daily because I have a very fast metabolism and I don't gain weight very easily. I was just wondering if it'd be okay for me to use this workout you posted at http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/workmonth10.htm. You said in the article that you use it to build mass but I haven't been lifting very long so I dunno if it's too advanced for me or not. But anyway if it is too advanced for me could you be so kind to help me out and design a mass building routine for me with mostly compound movements?? I'm going for that Mike Mentzer look.... more husky than defined. Thanks in advance!

ANSWER:

If you have only been training for a few months, the mass workout should be very effective for you. It is fairly low in overall volume, but the intensity should be kept high. In order for you to see the greatest amount of progress on this program, I would suggest you add 2 weeks to the front of the program by performing week #1 for 3 total weeks. This will afford you the opportunity to work on your form on the core exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench press. These "warm-up" weeks will give you a sounder base, as you approach your heavy weeks in the future. This will help to minimize your chance for injury. Be safe, and really focus on the big 3 squats, deadlifts, and bench press, and you will be very pleased with the results you will get in the next 2-3 months.

QUESTION:

Hi! I am 18 and want to enter a local bodybuilding competition. They want to see me to see if I could compete or wait until next year. What advice would you give to making me look my best if I have to see the people in 2-3 days?

ANSWER:

Without knowing any specifics on how you look, I really would just go in and show them what you have without making any major changes. To make significant changes in your body, it takes months or even years - NOT days. Any advice I could give you to make you look better in 2-3 days likely wouldn't make a difference. Be dedicated to a long term bodybuilding lifestyle, and you will be rewarded.

QUESTION:

I am almost finished with your Mass Gaining Workout Program that you detailed HERE. I have gained size and strength. Thank you! I want to continue gaining size and I want to really build my arms up. What program do you suggest I start after I finish this one in a few weeks?

ANSWER:

Basically, you have been working on increasing overall body strength, which should be extremely beneficial for you if you transition into a higher volume program, as you will be able to use more weight, which will lead to greater hypertrophy. You also said that you would like your arms to grow, which should also happen as you transition into a higher volume program. With this in mind, here is what I suggest you try after you have completed your 5 repetition week.

Day #1 - Chest and Back

Incline Barbell Presses 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8*
Flat Dumbell Presses 3 x 12, 10, 8*
Incline Dumbell Flyes 3 x 15, 12, 10
Pulldowns 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8*
Bent Over Barbell Rows 3 x 12, 10, 8*
Barbell Shrugs 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8*
Reverse Pec Deck 3 x 15, 12, 10
Hyperextensions 3 x 15, 15, 15

Day #2 - Legs and Abs

Walking Dumbell Lunges 4 x 15, 12, 10, 10*
Leg Presses 4 x 15, 12, 10, 10*
Leg Extensions 3 x 15, 12, 10
Romainian Deadlifts 4 x 15, 12, 12, 10*
Lying Leg Curls 3 x 15, 12, 10*
Standing Leg Curls 3 x 15, 12, 10
Donkey Calf Raises 4 x 15, 15, 12, 12*
Seated Calf Raises 3 x 15, 12, 12
Hanging Ab Raises 3 x 15, 15, 15
Weighted Crunches 3 x 15, 15, 15

Day #3 - Shoulders and Arms

Close Grip Bench Press 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8*
Overhead Dumbell Extension 3 x 12, 10, 8*
Rope Pushdowns 3 x 12, 10, 8
Alternate Dumbell Curls 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8*
Preacher Curls 3 x 12, 10, 8*
Incline Dumbell Curls 3 x 12, 10, 8
Arnold Dumbell Presses 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8*
Barbell Upright Rows 3 x 12, 10, 8

This program should be followed on a three day split, working ideally on a 2 on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off schedule, but can be adapted to fit your schedule. I suggest that you do not try to workout more than 3 days in a row, as this will be too difficult on your overall recovery abilities, and you will see decreased results. As you can see, the volume is quite a bit more than the Mass Program, and the reps are higher. Your body should adapt to this with increased hypertrophy. You should keep your rest intervals at about 60 seconds if at all possible. On some exercises, such as the walking lunges and leg presses, you may choose to bump your rest intervals to 90 seconds, but try not to exceed the 90 seconds. As far as the * goes, you should superset these sets with the first set of the following exercise. WIthout a doubt, you will achieve some awesome muscular pumps with this program, which will lead to a greater amount of nutrients being shuttled to the muscle. Don't overdo it on the cardio, but I do think that 3 sessions of 20-30 minutes each at a fairly low intensity 60-7% of estimated heart rate max, would benefit your strength training program. This cardio should follow your weight training or could be done on off days.

Also, as you can see, I gave arms a priority in your program by giving them their own day. I ordered the sequence with them in front of shoulders, which is contrary to many programs, but with your goals in mind, this will allow you to hit them while you are still fresh.

You should perform this program for 8 weeks or so, and shoot to increase your poundage on at least a bi- weekly basis. I hope this helps.

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