A: Hi Gary,
Fat loss was my main goal, so I performed cardio every morning, and on the two days I didn't lift weights, I would usually go back to the gym in the evening and do cardio again. I don't know if that much cardio was necessary, because I probably lost some muscle, and I definitely lost some strength.
I recommend only doing as much cardio as necessary to see your abs, without losing weight too quickly, or else you'll lose muscle too. I like doing cardio every morning, because it makes a great time for me to read and have a devotional time. For that reason I still do it every morning for about an hour, but the intensity isn't as high. If you don't like cardio, then I would go as intensely as possible for about half-an-hour; that's what I did during the contest.
I didn't follow the training in the Body-for-Life book, because I've read a lot about weightlifting, I know my body, and I think the training I outlined is what works best for me.
The Body-for-Life book does work though, and when I met the other Champions in Colorado, many of them did follow the book. Honestly, the weightlifting is a much smaller component than the nutrition. Your bodybuilding success comes from eating 6 healthy meals per day.
Best of luck, God bless, and please let me know if you have any more questions.
[ Q ] How come you try to keep your workouts between 40 and 45 minutes?
A: Workout length and workout intensity are inversely related: you can work out hard, or you can work out long, but you can't do both. I know some people are saying, "I work out long, and I'm still working out hard at the end of my workout!"
While that is true in their minds, and I'm sure they are pushing themselves as hard as possible at the end of their workouts, the reality is that they aren't doing much in the way of muscle growth.
Marathon runners are working hard at the end of a marathon, but they're not doing much in the way of muscle growth either. In fact, you could say that they're being counter-productive to muscle growth, as is a bodybuilder after he works out past a certain period of time.
| 30 Minutes Or Less
30 - 45 Minutes
45 Minutes - 1 Hour
Over 1 Hour
Marathon runners work out long and push themselves hard, and as fruits of their labor they look… well, most of you know how marathon runners look, and I'll just say that I've never heard a bodybuilder say, "I wish I had the build of a marathon runner." Sprinters on the other hand have very muscular physiques, and their workouts are short and intense.
In the weight room, you can either train for endurance, or for strength and mass. Our muscles have their own form of memory, and when they get used to training for more than an hour, they become accustomed to endurance training. When muscles are exercised for 40-45 minutes, they become accustomed to strength and mass training.
Also, every set that's done in the gym uses our body's resources, and these resources have to be replenished with food and supplements. It never surprises me when someone comes up to me in the gym and says, "I don't know why I'm not gaining any muscle, even though I've been working out every day for an hour-and-a-half."
Training too long leads to overtraining, but it also uses up too many resources for the body to have any available for muscle growth. Genetics play a part in marathon runners being skinny, but the main reason is that they burn too many calories to gain any muscle. The same thing happens to bodybuilders when they work out too long.
Probably the greatest reason to limit workout lengths is hormone control. Depending on a number of factors (intensity, time of day, how many calories you've consumed, how much you've slept at night, etc.), cortisol levels start to increase around the 45-60 minute mark of a workout, and testosterone levels start to decrease.
Cortisol is necessary for health, but it's also a bodybuilder's biggest enemy as it leads to catabolism. Imagine catabolism as your body running out of resources and burning your muscles for fuel.
[ Q ] If you don't mind, just so I can be clear on this; you get your gains doing only 10 sets per major body part, and only six sets on smaller ones? Maybe I do too many sets? I've been doing about 18 per bodypart drop setting 3 sets at a time.
Also, you do really low reps which I have read on this website makes you strong, but not necessarily bigger since hypertrophy is facilitated through a higher rep range. Could you please explain your theory on that? I would appreciate your help and response.
Ernesto in Dallas.
A: Hi Ernesto,
I perform about 8 sets for large body parts like chest and back, and 6 sets for smaller body parts like biceps and triceps. For me, this doesn't seem like a few number of sets. When I first started working out, I would perform 16 sets for chest and back: 4 exercises, 4 sets each, and 9-12 sets for biceps or triceps. Now I know that the only way I was able to perform that many sets was to have lower intensity for each set.
One problem with performing so many sets is that it's difficult to put as much intensity into each set. When you're on your third set for chest, and you know you have 13 sets left, you aren't going to push yourself as hard as if you were on your third set for chest, and you know you only have 5 sets left.
In the previous question I explained why I want to keep my workout length to around 45 minutes. The only way to perform a large number of sets within a 45 minute period is by decreasing the rest time between sets. The problem with this is that then weight-training workouts become endurance workouts. I like to have enough time between sets (2-3 minutes) to regain enough strength to maximally overload my muscles with the next set.
To be totally honest with you, most of my gains come from my diet: high protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Diet is 80% of it; that's why guys in the gym look the same month-after-month, because even though they're training hard, their diets aren't good.
You are definitely doing too many sets. You can train for endurance and look like a marathon runner, or you can train intensely and look like a sprinter. Once you start doing too many sets, not only do you overtrain and your hormone levels drop, you also start to condition your muscles for endurance. This happens even though you think you're pushing yourself as hard as possible.
It's much more beneficial to do 9 sets of all out intensity on chest, giving each set 100% versus doing 18 sets. If you're doing 18 sets, you might think you're putting 100% into each set, but you're just wearing yourself out. Nine sets is even a little lenient, because I know some awesome amateur and professional (natural) bodybuilders who do even less sets than those I listed.
The lower reps are essential. If you focus on the negative, and I mean REALLY focus on it (lowering the weight under control, and feeling it rip your muscles apart), you'll understand why lower reps and heavier weight is more beneficial for muscle growth. Higher reps build endurance, not strength and size.
Also, higher reps might give you more of a pump, but that's just the build-up of lactic acid and blood in the muscle, which has nothing to do with muscle growth. Overload builds muscle, and overload comes from lifting heavy weight that rips the fibers apart so they rebuild stronger and bigger.
I'm all about hypertrophy too… trust me. I want my muscles as big as possible, and I trained for years in the 8-12 rep range; however, it isn't nearly as effective as the 4-6 rep range.
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A: In the previous question I explained how I perform a limited number of sets per body part. I'm not denying that leg extensions, cable crossover, and concentration curls will work; however, the real question is, do these exercises work as well as free-weight, multi-joint, compound exercises like
No, they don't, so why would I compromise my muscle growth by performing exercises that aren't as beneficial? If I'm only going to perform a limited number of sets per body part, of course I'm going to use the best exercises for muscle growth.
I say isolation exercises don't work as well as multi-joint exercises because they don't recruit as many muscle fibers; therefore, they don't build as much muscle or burn as many calories. Free-weight, multi-joint, compound exercises require the weight to be balanced, which recruits stabilizing muscles.
How do you feel when you perform a heavy set of presses, squats or barbell curls? Compare that feeling with the feeling after performing a set of cable crossovers, leg extensions, or concentration curls. The reason you're breathing hard after a set of one, and not another is that you're using so many more muscles after one and not after the other.