I want to develop the kind of physique guys like you, Lee Labrada and Mike Christian had in the ’80s and ’90s. How can I add mass without my midsection getting out of hand as we see on some guys today?
You raise an interesting point. When I was competing, there were certainly a number of very big bodybuilders. In addition to those you named, there were also guys like Berry DeMey, Gary Strydom and Rich Gaspari.
We had size comparable to today’s pros, but we seldom displayed distended bellies or bulging waistlines. In fact, each man I mention was capable of performing a vacuum pose, something that is all but unheard of today. In all my years of competing, I don’t think I saw a guy with a tighter midsection than my good friend Lee Labrada, and he was certainly no slouch in the muscularity department. So the question becomes what did we do (or not do) to gain quality mass while keeping our waistlines trim?
One general trend that I’ve seen among some of today’s pros is their propensity to bulk up quite a bit in the offseason. Some will go 30, 40 and even 50 pounds above their contest weight in an effort to add mass. I believe that such gorging tends to stretch out the stomach and intestines and, consequently, the abdominal wall. After walking around with a distended abdomen for half a year, I imagine it would be difficult to control it during the other half.
During my competitive days, many of us took a more moderate approach to adding mass to our frames throughout the year. We didn’t drastically vary our offseason and pre-contest diets. Sure, we would cut back on carbohydrates leading up to a competition, but we were never eating so many in the first place that we needed to radically change our diets. As a result, we would never be more than 15-20 pounds away from contest condition.
The old axiom still holds true: to add a maximum of muscle and a minimum of fat, eat frequent small meals daily. I’m talking five or six spread out two to two-and-a-half hours apart. You’ll come to find that eating this way is easier on your digestive system and keeps your metabolism humming throughout the day, enabling you to continuously burn excess fat, even when you’re resting.
As for your training, you might have heard a saying I often use: stimulate, don’t annihilate. Work the muscles just to the point where they will respond with growth, but don’t blast them such that you make it hard for them to recuperate and, in fact, weaken your immune system by overtraining. I believe that overexertion in the gym can lead to a somewhat less than aesthetic physique, just as overeating does.
Even in bodybuilding, which is very much an extreme sport, you must remember that moderation is key. If you follow this philosophy, I think you’ll find your physique developing right along the lines of those pros you admire so much. – FLEX