Evolution of Bodybuilding

40…the new 20 How to Get Bigger and Better with Age Part II


training over 40By the time you guys read this it should be just a few weeks before my actual 40th birthday, which will occur on October 31st of 2008. Yes, I was born on Halloween, and I have already heard all the jokes (no, I never take my mask off!). When you think about it, it is pretty ironic that I was born on a day when the tradition is to dress up in a costume and go door-to-door looking for all kinds of tasty, but empty calories. Last year I tried dressing up like Conan, ringing the doorbell and saying, “Trick or Chicken…breast meat only please!” As you can imagine, that did not go over too well (darn it…what’s the big deal about grilling up some chicken and keeping it by the door?). But I digress…

What I am really here to do for you guys is further discuss the differences between my training strategies of today vs. 15-20 years ago. As well, I will also offer you a look at my current workout design, and nutrition/supplement regimen…the one I actually used to get into tip-top shape for my recent Iron Man photo shoot!

That was Then…This is Now

Exercise Selection

That was then:

When I started lifting weights in my mid teens I had only one goal…to get BIG. I needed muscle and bulk badly because at 5’11.5 ” and 125 lbs my sister looked more threatening than me! After doing extensive amounts of reading and research I discovered that the fastest road to raw size was through basic, heavy movements. So, my program was based around squats, leg presses, dead lifts, bent rows, bench presses, incline presses, weighted dips, military presses, barbell curls, and skull crushers. Unlike many misinformed beginners I stayed away from the fancy machine and cable exercises and busted my butt with good old heavy metal. And let me tell you…it worked! I got bigger and I got stronger and everyone around me took notice. Most people believed I was on the juice…and I was! Apple, grape, and orange were my favorites! Ha! However, after many years of training this way I noticed that I looked more like a wrester or football player than a bodybuilder. I was a mound of mass without shape or artistry. In addition, my joints were taking a real beating and I began to accumulate my share of aches and pains. But that was then…

This is now:

Nowadays my goals are somewhat different, although I am still seeking more muscle mass (and always will). However, more than anything I am meticulously attempting to “sculpt” the perfect physique (as perfect as my own genetics will allow). My focus is on refinement of every muscle group, which includes better overall shape, lines and tie-ins. I also am seeking better separation between each muscle group and improved proportion and aesthetics. In order to accomplish these things I now utilize many different exercises, as well as angles, grips and stances. I still include at least one basic movement per workout, but will then venture towards more isolation exercises using dumbbells, cables and machines of all types. In fact, I am constantly trying out new ways to position my body and alter the angle of push/pull in order to target a muscle, or section of a muscle, with laser-like precision. Don’t get me wrong…I still love to lift heavy and can still move prestigious poundage, but my challenge now is not just in acquiring more size, but in creating a masterpiece.

Rep Range

That was then…

Similar to the fact that it was my understanding that the basic lifts built the most muscle, I also came to believe that heavy weights and lower reps (4-5 or so per set) was the Holy Grail of mass. And like I mentioned above, this approach definitely worked…for several years at least. However, after a time I found that diminishing returns, progressive aches and pains, and nagging injuries began to take the place of ongoing progress. But this did not stop me, as I thought the solution lied in going even heavier. The stronger a muscle, the bigger a muscle, right? Well, right and wrong. It took me years to finally embrace the fact that not only are muscles made up of different fiber types that respond uniquely to varied rep ranges, but also that our anabolic machinery needs to be stimulated through more than just one pathway if reaching your genetic potential is the goal. Yes, get stronger…but do so in many rep ranges, not just one. But that was then…

This is now…

These days my training regimen has but two consistent themes…intensity and variation. In fact, for those of you that have read my articles and columns here in Iron Man you are well aware that I change workout protocols every week through my POWER-REP RANGE-SHOCK (P/RR/S) and FIBER DAMAGE-FIBER SATURATION (FD/FS) training programs. These changes include not only a wide variety of rep ranges, but also lifting tempos, rests between sets, and intensity techniques. Every week my goal is to attack the muscles differently and to force the CNS to deal with a unique form of stress. Where in the beginning my training was fairly one-dimensional, now it is utterly dynamic. Heavy weights still play a role, but are only one part of a multi-faceted approach to hypertrophy. This system has rewarded me with continuous and steady gains in muscle, a lack of training related injuries, and a far more challenging and enjoyable method of working out.

Focus and Concentration

That was then…

Without a doubt since day one in the gym I was serious as a heart attack and chock full of drive and intensity. However, although I always utilized relatively strict form on most movements I never really concentrated on the action of the muscle while it was working. My main goal was to move the weight from point A to point B under good control, but my mind was not necessarily focused on the mechanics of the exercise and how my muscles actually felt while contracting and lengthening. But that was then…

This is now…

As the years go by I can feel myself developing a better and better connection with each of my bodyparts. The old saying, “Put your mind into your muscle,” should not be taken lightly, as there is evidence to suggest that the more you think about the working muscle, the more fibers you can get to fire. Exhaust more fibers and you are on the road to better gains! When I am performing a set, not only do I drown out everything that is going on around me, but I also make sure to feel my target muscle work through every inch of the movement…from the concentric to peak contraction to eccentric to stretch. I call this “Precision Training,” as I literally picture myself as a machine, kind of like the mechanics of a working clock. Every repetition is deliberate and precise, with my body locked into a position that will allow me to zero in on exactly the area of a muscle that I wish to hit. I definitely feel that I am training on a “higher level” these days, and I have no doubt it is a major contributor to my ability to continually improve my physique.

Not Getting Older, Getting Bigger!

Unlike most sports and activities where age often hinders performance, when it comes to bodybuilding I believe you can enjoy continual improvements well into your 50’s and even 60’s if you make the proper adjustments to your training (and nutrition) strategy. What you need to do is work with nature and not against it. Listen to your body and pay attention to the signals it gives you. Understand that building the body is a lifelong process that requires a more sophisticated and meticulous approach with each passing year. However, never look at aging as a detriment, at least not when it comes to your physique. Consider that as time goes by you can continue to build more dense, thick and refined muscle, with more separation and striations…more “mature” muscle, so to speak.

Appearing on the cover of Iron Man at age 40 was definitely a dream come true for me. And knowing that I look better now than I did twenty years ago only adds more fuel to my motivational fire! In fact, I am hoping that I can be an Iron Man cover man again at age 45, 50, 55, and beyond, each time looking better than the last. Oh yeah…definitely, that’s the goal. So just make sure you keep your subscriptions up!

12-Week Iron Man Cover Shoot Training Program

In order to arrive in top condition for my Iron Man photo shoot, I began to prepare approximately twelve weeks beforehand, utilizing a 2 day on, 1 day off, 2 day on, 2 day off training schedule. I feel this is the optimal way to stimulate hypertrophy, while allowing for proper recovery and repair. My body parts were split as follows:

Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Abs

Tuesday: Quads, Hams, Calves

Thursday: Lats, Traps, Lower Back, Abs

Friday: Biceps, Triceps, Forearms, Calves

My program was broken up into four 3-week cycles of POWER (week 1), REP RANGE (week 2), and an FDFS/SHOCK (week 3) training hybrid (note: you can read my full articles on both P/RR/S and FD/FS training at www.ironmanmagazine.com). After each 3-week cycle I would begin again, but each time with a different set of exercises. The following is an example of one full 3-week cycle:

Week 1 (POWER)

Rest Between Sets: 2.5 – 3.5 minutes

Lifting Tempo: 3/0/X

Chest/Shoulders/Abs

-Flat DB Press…3 x 4-6

-Smith Machine Incline Press…3 x 4-6

-Weighted Dips…2 x 4-6

-Shoulder Width Grip BB Upright Row…3 x 4-6

-Seated DB Press…2 x 4-6

-Standing Side Lateral…2 x 4-6

-Cable Crunch…2 x 12-15

-Hanging Straight Leg Raise…2 x 12-15

Quads/Hams/Calves

-Hack Squats…3 x 4-6

-Leg Press…3 x 4-6

-Smith Machine Lunge…2 x 4-6

-Lying Leg Curl…2 x 4-6

-Smith Stiff Leg Deadlift…3 x 4-6

-Single Leg Leg Curl…2 x 4-6

-Calf Press…4 x 6-8

Lats Traps/Lower Back/Abs

-Weighted WG Pull-up…3 x 4-6

-Underhand Grip BB Bent Row…3 x 4-6

-CG Seated Cable Row…2 x 4-6

-One Arm DB Row…2 x 4-6

-Partial Deadlift…3 x 4-6

-BB Shrug…3 x 4-6

-Weighted Incline Sit-up…2 x 12-15

-Supported Knee-Hip Raise…2 x 12-15

Biceps/Triceps/Forearms/Calves

-Standing Alternating Hammer Curl…2 x 4-6

-Strict BB Curl…2 x 4-6

-90 Degree Preacher DB Curl…2 x 4-6

-Smith Machine CG Bench Press…3 x 4-6

-Seated Overhead DB Extension…2 x 4-6

-Single Arm Rope Pushdown…2 x 4-6

-Seated Calf Raise…4 x 6-8

Week 2 (REP RANGE)

Rest Between Sets: 1.5 – 2.5 minutes

Lifting Tempo: 2/1/2/1

Chest/Shoulders/Abs

-Hammer Machine Incline Press…2 x 7-9

-Smith Machine Bench Press to Neck…2 x 10-12

-Incline DB Flye…2 x 13-15

-Bodyweight Dips…2 x 16-20

-Seated Side Lateral…2 x 7-9

-Alternating Front DB Raise…2 x 10-12

-Seated Rear Delt Flye Machine…2 x 13-15

-Single Arm Standing DB Press…1 x 16-20

Quads/Hams/Calves

-Smith Machine Squats…2 x 7-9

-Sissy Squats…2 x 10-12

-Single Leg Leg Press…2 x 13-15

-Single Leg Leg Extension…2 x 16-20

-Seated Leg Curl…2 x 7-9

-Lying Leg Curl…2 x 10-12

-Smith Stiff Leg Deadlift…3 x 13-15

-Standing Calf Raise…1 x 10-12, 1 x 7-9

-Seated Calf Raise…1 x 16-20, 1 x 13-15

Lats Traps/Lower Back/Abs

-WG Supported Incline Row…3 x 7-9

-Underhand Grip Pulldown…2 x 10-12

-CG Hammer Machine Row…2 x 13-15

-Stiff Arm Pulldown…2 x 16-20

-CG Cable Upright Row…1 x 10-12, 1 x 7-9

-Behind the Back BB Shrug…1 x 13-15, 1 x 10-12

-Weighted Hyperextension…1 x 16-20, 1 x 13-15, 1 x 10-12

-Lying Straight Leg Raise…1 x 16-20, 1 x 13-15

-Ab Crunch Machine…1 x 13-15, 1 x 10-12

Biceps/Triceps/Forearms/Calves

-90 Degree BB Preacher Curl…2 x 7-9

-Low Cable Curl…2 x 10-12

-Reverse BB Curl…2 x 13-15

-V Bar Pushdown…2 x 7-9

-Seated Machine CG Bench Press…2 x 10-12

-Single Arm Overhead DB Extension…2 x 13-15

-DB Kickback…1 x 16-20

-Single Leg Calf Press…1 x 10-12, 1 x 7-9

-Seated Calf Raise…1 x 16-20, 1 x 13-15

Week 3 (FDFS-SHOCK HYBRID)

Rest Between Sets: varies

Lifting Tempo: see below

Chest/Shoulders/Abs

-BB Incline Press (6/1/X)…2 x 4-6

-Flat DB Flye (2/4/X)…2 x 6-8

-Superset: Cable Crossover/DB Pullover…2 x 10-12 each

-Hammer Machine Shoulder Press (6/1/X)…2 x 4-6

-Behind the Back Cable Side Lateral (2/3/X)…2 x 6-8

-Dropset: Single Arm Cable Bent Lateral…1 x 10-12, drop, 6-8

-Superset: Weighted Floor Crunch/Lying Knee-Hip Raise…2 x 16-20 each

Quads/Hams/Calves

-Lying Machine Squat (6/1/X)…2 x 4-6

-Sissy Squat (2/3/1)…2 x 6-8

-Superset: Leg Press/Leg Extension…2 x 10-12 each

-Lying Leg Curl (6/1/X)…2 x 4-6

-Hyperextension (2/4/1)…2 x 8-10

-Dropset: Single Leg Standing Leg Curl…1 x 10-12, drop, 6-8

-Superset: Standing Calf Raise/Seated Calf Raise…2 x 8-10/16-20

Lats Traps/Lower Back/Abs

-Weighted WG Pull-up (6/1/X)…2 x 4-6

-CG Seated Cable Row (1/4/X)…2 x 6-8

-One Arm DB Row (1/4/X)…2 x 6-8

-Superset: Stiff Arm Pulldown/Underhand Grip BB Bent Row…2 x 10-12 each

-Superset: DB Shrug/Partial Deadlift…3 x 8-10 each

-Dropset: Cable Crunch…1 x 12-15, drop, 8-10

-Superset: Supported Straight Leg Raise/Seated Bench Knee Raises…1 x 16-20 each

Biceps/Triceps/Forearms/Calves

-Standing BB Curl (5/1/X)…2 x 4-6

-Low Incline DB Curl (2/4/1)…2 x 6-8

-Dropset: Seated Hammer Concentration Curl…1 x 10-12, drop, 6-8

-Weighted Triceps Dips (6/1/X)…2 x 4-6

-Incline EZ Bar Overhead Extension (2/4/X)…2 x 6-8

-Superset: Reverse Grip Pushdown/Pushdown…2 x 10-12 each

-Calf Press (4/1/X)…1 x 6-8

-Calf Press (1/4/X)…1 x 6-8

-Dropset: Seated Calf Raise…1 x 12-15, drop, 8-10

Repeat cycle with a new set of exercises.

Eric “Merlin” Broser
-Head of Athletes/Ambassadors at FitStrong www.fitstrong.com
-CEO B Built International www.b-built.net
-Natural Professional Bodybuilder/Judge/Advisory Board Member
-Columnist @ Natural Muscle and muscleandfitness.com 
-Creator of the FTX2™, PRRS™, FDFS™ and O-Bey-6™ Training Systems

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