There comes a point in bodybuilding where there has to be a fine line drawn between what is perceived as healthy and what is really healthy.
Yes it’s true that in most cases, I will say that a muscular individual with a lower body fat range is healthy. But when does it become unhealthy?
Let’s talk about the relationship between the heart and the body it has to carry around.
Working out under heavy workloads for a number of years can increase the size of the heart, and taking steroids and especially HGH can increase the heart size even more.
A slightly enlarged heart isn’t always unhealthy, but a drastically enlarged heart is unhealthy.
My heart is slightly enlarged myself. I went to have a chest scan done a few years ago as well as a test where they look for blockages in your carotid arteries and all came back fine, but I was told that my heart was slightly enlarged.
So no, this isn’t some myth that is just going around. I want you to know that whether your body is carrying around 300 lbs of fat or 300 lbs of muscle, it’s not healthy in ANY EVENT and your increased risk for an early death goes up quite a bit.
Go take a look at all of the bodybuilders who have died off in their 50’s and 60’s (which to me is an early death)..
..and you’ll see that most of them were guys who stayed larger.
Also take into consideration that many of these bodybuilders suffered from liver and kidney issues due to taking extremely high amounts of harsh, oral steroids.
Now these guys that I’m talking about, these guys aren’t even the newer generation. I’m going back to guys from the Golden Era up until the 90’s, which in my opinion is where conditioning was at it’s peak.
But now we are into the mass monster days, and just because you haven’t seen many of them drop off yet, I’m telling you that it just hasn’t been enough time. It’s coming, and it’s coming soon.
So where is a good place to draw the line between size and health?
Well let me just say that for starters, nothing is worth bad health issues, not even muscle. In my honest opinion, my body type is where I draw the line.
I’m going to use myself for an example because it’s me who is trying to walk the fine line between size and definition, but in a manner that I can slowly cut back on as I get older.
It’s a known fact that those on lower calorie diets live longer.
You aren’t going to continue to eat like an off-season bodybuilder does and expect to live until you’re 80 years old.
Even the old timers who didn’t abuse the drugs nearly as bad as most of us do today died off in their early 70’s. And those were the lucky ones!
As you get older it gets harder to lose weight, period.
For starters, your body has been walking around at X amount of weight for a long, long time, and it doesn’t just want to drop it off.
When I try to lose weight, what happens to me is I become extremely hungry and my face looks very thin and wiry. I do not look healthy, and I look more wrinkled and older in my face too.
The only way it’s going to happen for me is to totally change the way I work out and commit to a more cardio regimented routine and not weights.
At 35 years old I’m not ready for that yet, but I’m certainly aware of it. As I get older this will be the plan, trust me.
One thing I’ve always enjoyed is mountain biking, and there is probably going to come a point where that is going to take over weightlifting as I get into my mid 40’s and beyond.
I’m just going to have to come to the realization that at my height and age there is a healthier weight I can walk around at.
Why my stance on performance enhancement is what it is!
You will notice that most dosages I talk about are pretty moderate. You’ll also notice that even beginner dosages are a lot lower than what is commonly recommended.
There is a good reason for this. Honestly speaking, I could dump 2,000 mg worth of steroids into my body on a weekly basis right now, and I probably won’t gain a damn thing that I would not gain on less than half that amount.
I’ve just been doing this for so long it’s not a realistic expectation anymore. So why would I take more knowing that it’s a total waste?
I would be spending more money for absolutely no reason at all, and I’d be taking further risks for absolutely no reason at all. To add onto all of that, taking all of that stuff isn’t going to make me feel any better!
I’m actually going to feel worse on more, and part of the way we feel plays heavily into the way we train and more importantly, the way we carry ourselves and treat other people!
Who would you rather be? The guy who takes just enough and loves life and training, or the guy who takes whatever he can get his hands on and treats people like shit and hates the world?
I know who I’d rather be!
There is more to life than your physique being your sole identity.
If you feel like you’re nothing without your body, then I feel sorry for you. This was myself at one point in life (probably for a while) and let me tell you, it’s not a rewarding way to live.
Not only is there more to you than your body, but don’t you get sick and tired of people only knowing you for that?
Never mind the fact that you may be good at playing the guitar, scuba diving, working on cars, or hold an important role at your job/career.
Only being known for muscles isn’t rewarding to me.
I think it was cool for a long time when I was developing myself, but then as I got a little older and wiser, I got fed up with people not acknowledging accomplishments I’ve made anywhere else in life.
Two points I’d like to cover here are:
#1) Do accomplish other things in life, because you’re not going to be young and strong forever.
#2) Do not be afraid to come off steroids or go through phases where you may not be as big and strong.
Do you have any idea how much bullshit I hear on a regular basis about my body? I’ve heard it all before.
I’ve heard everything from, “Man, you are huge!” to people asking me if I’m even going to the gym anymore because I’ve “trimmed down”.
I do not care at all what those people think, and I am not bodybuilding for any of those people. I am bodybuilding for me! This is my life and my health I’m playing around with.
If I decide it’s a better idea to cut down to under 200 lbs and have more stamina, then it’s my decision. If I decide to hold at 220 lbs for a while then it’s my choice for me, not them!
When I spoke about using myself as an example of what I consider pushing the edge of all-around health/size, I used myself because if I tried like hell then I could probably cut back to 200 lbs. Which at my height of 5’9″ would probably be the healthier long-term body.
There is certainly no way I could walk around 30-40 lbs more muscular than I am now and be healthy, not long-term anyway.
I’ve seen enough bigger guys have trouble later on in life, and it’s almost always heart related EVERY TIME! Heart issues are always the biggest common denominator with all of the bigger guys.
I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from achieving their goals, and this article is more for the mid-aged guys than it is for younger beginners.
I’m just reminding you guys that at the end of the day your heart is the #1 muscle in your body and without your heart you cannot live.
I know if I’m thinking of this very issue myself then other guys may be thinking of it too, or at least need a reminder.
The 10 step staple routine (follow throughout the year):
- Never stop doing cardio
- Never stop training abs (abs can be a good gauge of overall fitness level and they also stabilize the spine to prevent back problems as you age)
- Have more days in caloric restriction than caloric abundance, even if it means you cannot lift quite as much weight
- Try to eat more whole and natural foods and avoid prepackaged foods
- Restrict all sugar outside of workout recovery or a cheat meal
- Don’t be afraid to train more for pump than overall weight lifted
- Never stop swimming and keep stretching (swimming is the best low impact exercise there is for cardio in my opinion)
- Get outside as much as possible (we were not meant to be indoors 24/7 and the sun is healthy for us, supplement with vitamin D3 if you cannot get outside everyday for at least a few hours)
- Avoid remaining sedentary and oversleeping! An object in motion stays in motion, an object at rest will remain at rest. People who stay active live longer, period!
- Allow for adequate recovery time which is going to increase as you age. You will find that you may do better on a 2-3 times/week weight routine and a 3-4 times/week cardio routine rather than the opposite.
The point of working out and exercising
Barbells and dumbbells were invented to help rehabilitate us, not to tear us down further than what daily work/stress already does.
When it comes to bodybuilding, you’re going to have times where you’re going harder than other times. Then you will have down times and break times.
Do not let some numbskull and their comments deter you from going down the road that is best for you! If working out does not help you feel better and only makes you a mental case, then what is the point of doing it?
If working out is destroying your life then why are you doing it?
See, there comes a point where it’s no different than someone who is a crack-head, it’s just not perceived the same because it’s the gym and not recreational drugs.
But there has to be a point where you should realize that this should enhance your life and not destroy it.
And maybe that point isn’t always 200+ lbs at sub 10% body-fat, but it’s a point where you can comfortably manage it.
Remember, at the end of the day it should be just as much about mental sanity as it is about muscles.
Over and out
21 thoughts on “When Muscular Size Meets Early Demise (And the 10 Step Staple Routine)”
Great article! Never read anything like it before. Nowadays bodybuilding sites only have articles like how to have bigger biceps and ignoring the true insight on bodybuilding provided by you brother.
Awesome article, great read, and so true. Love your site and articles. Keep it coming
I recently read an ebook that talks about caloric restriction and intermittent fasting being good anti aging strategies. So it’s good to hear that you believe it can help us live longer too.
I also finished ‘Becoming the Bull.’ The stories in between the bodybuilding advice made it extremely enjoyable, one of the best book I have read this year.
Good stuff.. Christmas is upcoming and a few aggressive and genuinely insane workout songs would be nice. My current choice (found it a few days on youtube) is definitely “Vision“ by Bloodshot Dawn.
Insane song, but always ready for more.
As always you are right on the money JD. I was in Golds Gym during The Golden Era in fact I saw the shooting of Pumping Iron. I was a guest of family friend the legendary Eddie Giuliani. I can fully attest to the fact that The Golden Era Bodybuilders were very health conscious and did not do crazy amounts of steroids. They were California “health nuts” as well as bodybuilders.
This is BRILLIANT!! Thank you for sharing your input. Arnold made a comment of how he used to eat during his prime and from what I could gather it was mostly in a Keto state, or in their terms the Anabolic Diet.
Thanks for the great info as always John, have a very merry Xmas!!
Thanks for sharing John,
T Nation did an article a while back about guys, some featured by bodybuilding.com, dead before 50. It was invariably from heart or kidney failure. It was a tragic and eye-opening read. On the outside these guys were shredded to the bone and on the inside they were a trainwreck.
Wishing you the best of health! Other than family, nothing else is more important.
Good stuff boss, I get every word your saying. It’s true, I’m 40yrs old myself and weigh 270. I don’t lift heavy anymore I just go for the pump. You can still build muscle only benching 160. Even though people still tell me I look in my late 20’s I don’t feel it. I have my months of eating 8/10 x a day that’s getting hard. As for high doses when I gear up there not needed. You can build on 50mg of test prop eod, sometimes I’ll go 100. No more orals. Last time my side hurt it was my liver. So enjoy your youth fellas but be smart. You always lose some gains at sometime. I been doing this along time. Training harder and high doses just fucks you up in the long run. Be safe.
“You can build on 50mg of test prop eod, sometimes I’ll go 100.” – Spot on Brother! That is as much as I do now or 100mg of Test Enanthate. That’s it! And I blow up like a tank. People think too that I am in my late 20s as well.
My ONLY big problem/challenge is curbing my Sweet tooth. Talk about a Carb load LOL!
Don’t be to hard on your self bro, sweet tooth come and go. I always gave in. As much as you train it won’t effect you at all. Just keep it simple and don’t feel guilty. Do you really believe that all those IFBB’s stick to there diet’s? Everyone I have learned from said do it or later you keep thinking about it and it will drive you crazy. A little extra carbs is not going to hurt you.
This is the type of information that cannot be found on other bodybuilding sites and is what sets you apart from the others. Keep up the good work and keep keeping it real.
Excellent article!! I am certainly going to print the 10 steps and add some other points you made along with it as well. I enjoy eating and eat a lot and I am 41 turning 42 next year. Already my cardio conditioning has declined although I lift weights 4 times a week. I often do a 24 hour Water fast just to flush out my body because I read fasting is extremely good for the entire body.
This article certainly has enforced quite a lot of valid points which I am going to incorporate going into 2016.
Thanks John! Much appreciated!
This is a very well written article but so depressing. JD you are 35 years old and already worrying about aging? While health is still number 1 you can still lift heavy weights after 40.
Great article. My mind wanders as I sit here reading at 41 years off age, eating a 1500 calorie breakfast wondering what I will max out today and what will hurt for the next 2 days. I was in the mental process of determining what my next step in the gym will be, yiu just made me decision a lot easier. Thank you
Excellent article! I’m 41 and I do 100% bodyweight — no weights at all. I’m also 100% into functional training, from my warmups of bridging, planking, handstands, etc to the jump rope, burpee and plyometric intervals I do for cardio. I go to Walmart and look at the “Wall-Martians” and think, I don’t want to be riding one of those scooters in a few years!
The scooters are everywhere, I rode around on one with my son once for fun, but definitely don’t want to need one!!!
John, that is the most life affirming post I’ve ever read in this industry. Kudos to you for talking sense.
Even Ronnie Coleman decreased his size after stopping competing…good call there JD
I don’t know if it’s the right place to ask that but anyway.
I’ve been suffering from health problems for the past years and as a result I became a skeletton. Before of all this time spent without moving I lost almost all muscles. I can’t even do a single push ups even if I put my knees on the floor like girls do.
So anyway, I’m healed now and I’ve decided to work out to get a decent body. The thing is, my body is very weak.. Right now, I don’t want to get big or to get ripped. I want to find a method to strenghten my body. I don’t want to become impressive or very muscular, I want it not to threaten to break at any movement anymore. I have very weak knees, ankles, wrist and no muscular base at all.
I’ve decided to begin by doing push ups, crunches and squats every day. Do you have any advice to strenghten the joints?
Thank you in advance…
All of that will strengthen with body weight movements.