by John Hansen
Q: Youíre a great inspiration and my new role model. Iím 16, and Iíve been wanting to bulk up for two years. First off, Iím using the four-day pull/push split that you recommend in your book Natural Bodybuilding. Is it okay to do three exercises for the major bodyparts and two for the smaller ones? Letís say I do three exercises for shoulders on Monday and then three on Thursday. Will I be at risk of overtraining?
Second, a question about counting calories: On my oatmeal package it says 120 calories per 30 grams of oats, which also includes 20 grams of carbs. So if I multiply those 20 grams by four, I get 80 calories, while on the package I see 120 calories. Which number should I go with? Third, I tend to gain fat easily. Last time I did a two-month bulk, I got a gut that took me ages to lose. I think it was due to my eating carbs late at night. I go to school and normally train between 6 and 8 p.m. I have a postworkout shake, then a meal at 9:30 p.m. Should I have carbs with that meal or just stick with veggies? If yes for carbs, how manyó60 to 80 grams?
Meanwhile, is it reasonable for me to weigh 190 pounds at 13 to 14 percent bodyfat by 2013 if Iím training each bodypart twice a week? Right now Iím at 6í and 145 pounds with 10 percent bodyfat. As to cardio, how often should I do it to keep fat gains low? Finally, Iíve been training for three months and have gone from 135 to 145 pounds. Would it be okay for me to incorporate drop sets, or is that for advanced trainees?
A: If youíre using the four-day-split routine, you can do three exercises for the major muscle groups and two for the smaller muscle groups and you wonít overtrain as long as you keep the sets moderate. Because the sets are limited, itís important to choose the best mass-building exercises in order to maximize your muscle growth.
For the deltoids, itís okay to use two to three exercises because theyíre a complex muscle group consisting of three separate heads. In order to fully develop the deltoid, you need to do a pressing exercise for the front head, as well as an exercise for the side and rear heads.
When training to gain more size, I like to choose basic exercises that use several muscle groups to perform the movement. Exercises like barbell and dumbbell presses for the front deltoids and upright rows for the side delts and traps are great mass builders because they incorporate other muscle groups like the triceps and traps. That enables you to use more weight to build more mass.
As to the oatmeal, one cup of oatmeal contains 300 calories, with 10 grams of protein, 54 grams of carbohydrate and six grams of fat. You may only be looking at the carbs when figuring out the calories but you need to add the grams of protein and fat. There are four calories for each gram of carb, which means 54 grams of carbohydrates will add up to 216 calories.
If you gained too much fat when you tried bulking up in the past, it wasnít just from eating carbs at night but too many calories and carbs overall. I donít know how much you were eating then, but it was more than your body needed. Thatís why you put on fat.
What Iíd recommend is to write down how many calories youíre taking in along with numbers on protein, carbohydrate and fat. If you find that youíre putting on too much fat when trying to bulk up, you can look at your diet notebook and figure out what to cut back on.
Endomorphs, who have a slow metabolism, have to be very careful when adding size. Obviously, you need more calories so you can grow, but you have to eat the right amounts of the macronutrients so you gain muscle without adding too much fat.
For those who are trying to bulk up and get bigger, Iíd normally recommend a diet consisting of 35 percent protein, 50 percent carbohydrate and 15 percent fat. If you have a slow metabolism, you may need to eat more protein and less carbohydrate to keep from adding bodyfat. A diet consisting of 45 percent protein, 30 percent carbohydrate and 25 percent fat may work much better.
The bottom line, of course, is always the number of calories youíre taking in. If youíre eating the right macronutrient percentages but your calorie intake is too high, youíll still add unwanted bodyfat. You have to find the right number of calories that will enable you to gain size without adding too much fat.
That said, if youíre eating your last meal later at night and youíre worried about bodyfat, I wouldnít include carb in that meal. Your postworkout drink will restore your glycogen, so you wonít need additional carbs for your last meal of the day. Iíd stick with proteinóchicken, steak or fishóalong with some type of fibrous vegetable.
Itís hard to say how much weight you can gain over the next couple of years. Youíre only 16 and have been training for just a couple of years. At that age you can make some truly remarkable gains in a short period of time if you eat correctly and train hard. I went from 135 to 155 pounds in my first year of training when I was 14 years old. I was overtraining by working out six days a week, twice a day, but I still made impressive gains because my body was new to training.
Itís more important to focus on doing the exercises correctly and building muscle size and strength slowly in your growing years. Donít try to rush the process by lifting too heavy or eating too much food. Your body will be ready to grow at your age, so do everything right with your training and nutrition and watch how fast you grow.
If you choose to do cardio, I would stick with no more than a 30-minute session three times a week. I always liked to do my cardio first thing in the morning or immediately after a workout because I felt it tapped the fat stores more efficiently than doing it at other times of the day.
As for drop sets, I think theyíre a training technique too advanced for you at your stage of the game. Focus on the basic exercises, and do them in textbook form to build up your strength. When you get stronger on all the basic movements such as bench presses, incline presses, squats, deadlifts, barbell rows, dips and overhead presses, youíll build the muscle size youíre seeking. Drop sets, supersets and preexhaustion techniques are good for advanced trainers who are looking for ways to shock their complacent muscles into growing. Youíre not at that stage yet.
Editorís note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a two-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. Check out his Web site at www.NaturalOlympia.com, or send questions or comments to John@NaturalOlympia.com or P.O. Box 3003, Darien, IL 60561. Look for Johnís DVD, ďNatural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,Ē along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, ďReal Muscle,Ē at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse, www.Home-Gym.com. Listen to Johnís new radio show, ďNatural Bodybuilding Radio,Ē at www.NaturalBodybuildingRadio.c om