Training for natural bodybuilding [Interview]

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Bodybuilding-Natural interviewed me about a bunch of different topics, mostly related to training. This interview is a great short read to get familiar with my methods if you’re new to my site, since it touches on many topics I’ve written on. The interview is in Italian, but I’ve posted the English original below.


And yes, this is the third Italian group that interviewed me this week. Italy is going Bayesian! It makes sense that the birthplace of the Renaissance appreciates a rational approach to mental as well as physical self-improvement.


  1. What is the right weekly training frequency to stimulate growth and hypertrophy?


As much as I’d like to just give you 1 number here as the answer, the optimal training frequency depends on various factors, because you have to take into account your required recovery period. For example, women recover faster than men from most types of training, so they should generally train with a higher training frequency. Another example: psychological stress can make you need twice as long to recovery from strength training, so if you have a professional athlete who does nothing except train and an investment banker that’s under high stress every workday, you shouldn’t be giving them the same program.


  1. In your workouts do you prefer high volume or high intensity training along with the use of some techniques? Or alternation of these?


Just like for training frequency, optimal training volume and intensity depend on various factors. In the article I linked above, for example, you’ll find that women also respond differently to high volumes and high intensities than men.


  1. Do you prefer a split routine with one-muscle-per-week or a full body workout 3 times a week? Why?


I happened to have just received this same question in another interview, so let me quote myself: “High frequency training is highly underrated in bodybuilding circles I believe. There is ample research that the traditional ”˜bro split’ of hitting each body part only once a week and then completely annihilating it is not a great way to add muscle beyond the novice level. The research on the benefits of higher frequency training goes all the way back to the year 2000, but the bodybuilding community is always slow to catch up on the science.”


  1. Do you follow Helms’s recommendations?


Assuming you’re talking about protein intake, Eric and I recently debated this in detail on my blog.


  1. How to adapt the training routine with a low-calories diet? And with an high-calories one?


The lower your calories are, the lower your recovery capacity, so you generally want to reduce training volume and/or frequency when in a deficit compared to when bulking.


  1. Are there effective strategies to train lacking muscles or you think that we have to train them like all other muscles?


The first thing to determine here is whether a muscle group is truly lagging. I’ve had many clients that thought a muscle group was lagging, but based on objective standards, it actually wasn’t. (And similarly, people can be unaware they have lagging muscle groups.) For example, men often think their chest is lagging so they try to increase the training volume of their chest work but they just end up overstressing the pecs and incurring a shoulder injury.


That said, assuming you have a legitimately lagging muscle group, in principle you should train that muscle group just like any other similarly developed muscle group. Like I explained in my article on structural balance theory in Alan Aragon’s Research Review, muscle growth is largely a local, intrinsic process. So one muscle group’s size does not generally affect another’s directly.


  1. I always read your posts on fb and see that you’re interested in the circadian biorhythms. Can you tell us something about it?


Your circadian (sir-kay-dee-an) rhythm is a daily (~24 h) cycle of biological activity. The biological activity with the most obvious circadian rhythm is your sleep-wake cycle. Think of your body as having an internal clock that regulates when to activate every system. Actually, the part of your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) has built-in molecular oscillators that function very much like a pacemaker. That’s why the SCN is often called your internal or biological clock. The SCN interacts with virtually every major system in your body, including hormone production and central nervous system activity.


Simply put, at different times of day your body is primed for different types of activities. When your biorhythm gets desynchronized from your daily agenda, your body does not function optimally. The results of this include a decreased metabolism, more cortisol production and less anabolic hormone production, lower insulin sensitivity, poorer recovery from exercise, a worse cholesterol profile, more hunger, impaired mental performance and lower sleep quality. It’s not an understatement to say that practically everything you do benefits from a stable, synchronized circadian rhythm.


I’ve written a few articles on how your circadian rhythm affects your training and your diet on my site.


  1. What you can tell us about ondulating periodization vs block periodization?


How much space do you have, ha? In my PT Course I have a whole week dedicated to discussing the topic of periodization. Briefly though, undulating periodization has a lot of support in the literature and I implement it often in my programs.


Block periodization is something that isn’t as useful for bodybuilders. The idea behind that comes from athletes that need to focus on several different goals, like endurance, power and strength. If you primarily care about muscle size and fat loss, which means you’re a bodybuilder, block periodization isn’t very relevant for you. People like the idea, because it gives them an excuse for program hopping, but my best client results consistently come from people who follow a systematic approach to program updates instead of radically overhauling the entire program every time after an arbitrarily determined number of weeks.


  1. What do you think about the development of women’s muscular potential without AAS supplementation? Is that potential equal to men’s one?


In contrast to popular belief, women can indeed build just as much muscle as men. The myth that they can’t is the result of misinterpretations of the hormonal gender differences, the social stigma on hard training women and because women often either train like pussies or they train exactly like men without taking advantage of their physiological strengths.


I go into great detail on the muscular potential of women in this article.

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About the author

Menno Henselmans

Formerly a business consultant, I've traded my company car to follow my passion in strength training. I'm now an online physique coach, scientist and international public speaker with the mission to help serious trainees master their physique.

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