You Can The Natural Physique Way!
Since I stopped competing in Natural Bodybuilding I have always missed competition. As time went on, as-well as my age, I started to think it may be too late as any sport I enjoyed, athletics for example, wouldn’t really be possible due to knee and shoulder problems. I didn’t really want to believe that though, there must be a sport that I can compete in and be competitive!
I looked into various sports but I didn’t have any passion for them, when I have that passion for something then I know I will give it my all, 100%, no less. I had already got back into BMX riding 3 years ago, a sport I have always loved since the early 1980’s, even when bodybuilding I still followed the sport, although not riding much myself. I started riding skateparks and ramps again and i’ve loved every minute of it! The feeling of being on my bike is a feeling that I crave. The best thing though is that there’s a massive over 40’s riding scene. Freestyle BMX isn’t something that I’m amazingly good at though, but it’s something that I love immensely. An added bonus is the fitness side, it’s pretty much like interval training, you ride for a couple of minutes, have a short rest, then go again. But I needed that competition still….
Ever since I discovered BMX back in 1982 I have loved watching and reading about BMX racing. It’s fast, exciting and spectacular to watch. I was always too shy to start racing when I was younger as I didn’t know anyone that raced, everyone was into the freestyle side of things, which was fine and that’s what I done, spending most of my days riding over the very famous Rom skatepark in Essex. Fast forward many years to the present day and here I am, a big boy that can now do things on his own!
Late last year I bought a BMX race bike, a stunning piece of kit that I couldn’t wait to use. I contacted my nearest race club and they said they would put me on the mailing list to inform me of the training times. Well, I booked myself onto the INTRO TO BMX that everyone has to do. I was told there was a few over 40’s that race at the club so I would’t be the only one. I turned up and to be honest I was a bit nervous, not because of the riding but because I would’t know anyone! Well I needn’t have worried as everyone was really friendly and the first guy I spoke to was 50 years old, so I felt ok!
Well, the intro bit took all of 2 minutes as they could see that I could ride ok so I was straight into the training session. I had no idea what to expect! After a couple of laps to warm up and a few jumping jacks we had a short ‘core’ session, planks etc and then onto walking lunges and bodyweight squats, I now know how my clients feel when I train them!
What followed was some sprints on the bike, some starting gate practice and skill lessons on manualling (basically a wheelie without pedalling) over some jumps and some crash training. I loved it! Feedback was good as I was told that they would of never thought I’d never raced before so that really boosted my confidence and one of the guys there thought I was hiding something as I could ride my bike well lol. They are a really good crowd.
So after the training session I drove home with a big smile on my face knowing I had made the right decision, starting a sport that I know that i’m really going to enjoy. It’ll take time building my fitness and skills but I can’t wait for my first race!
I will continue a blog on here too as I know there are a few over 40 people that look at this site thinking that maybe the time has past to follow their passions. Well, it is never too late to follow a passion or to have fun! With some good training and healthy eating you can do whatever you want! Go on, go for it….
'Should I Fitness Train For Equine Sports?’
I have been Personally Training rising Dressage star Sofie Butchart for a few months now and she has really benefitted from the extra fitness, strength and overall well being that results from the training. She is winning competitions and is more determined than ever.
I know my bodybuilding career is ever so slightly different from equine sports but the drive and mental focus needed to win transfers over to all sports! We work on visualisation techniques and a winning attitude as well as the fitness etc.
I’ll hand over to Sofie and she can tell you in her own words how she transformed herself to rise in the world of Dressage. I did not ask her to write anything for me, this was done off her own back!
‘ Within the equine world it is hard to find the time to be healthy and look after your body correctly. Although in order to perform our best to contribute to our equines overall performance, we should look after ourselves like we do our horses!
Previously I literally lived on fast food, carbs and anything with sugar in to give me a boost of energy on a busy day. I had an extremely inconsistent diet with massive gaps between meals, then times of binge eating. I managed although my concentration levels, energy levels and my overall health were pretty awful! I was ill a lot, I would get injured very easily and feel run down the majority of the time.
I knew things had to change to not only become a better rider but also a fitter and healthier person! That’s when I met Peter Chown, former Natural Mr Universe and Heavyweight World bodybuilding champion who is also a well respected personal trainer and nutritional advisor.
With Peters help and guidance I have transformed from being McDonalds favourite customer to now managing to consistently eat the right foods to fuel my body and being healthy. I also train at the gym with Peter 3 to 4 times a week and under his watchful eye I am stronger and fitter and also i’m loving seeing the visual changes. I feel great!
During my training sessions with Peter we do some cardio but mostly weight training to help strengthen my whole body for my riding. We have recently progressed to training lower body and upper body both twice a week. I have felt a huge difference within my riding performance as well as feeling so much better in myself.
Beforehand I had ‘strength’ in my riding muscles but I was extremely weak in other areas making me prone to injuries, form hernias to having major surgery on my shoulders due to reoccurring dislocations.
Peter is always on the end of the phone for me whenever I have any questions regarding my nutrition plan and training.
Originally I thought eating healthy was just salad and boring foods, it isn’t, I now really enjoy my meals A LOT!! I cant lie, when I first started my nutrition plan I felt awful, my body wasn’t used to healthy food, I craved Dominos pizza so much! But I stuck to it and now I look back at how I used to eat and it makes me feel sick! I wouldn’t feed my horses an inconsistent and unbalanced diet and expect them to perform at their best, although I was doing it to myself.
I also have acupuncture and visit an osteopath every 2-3 weeks to keep any twinges at bay and help my bodys energy and my mind. My horses are very sensitive and their performance changes drastically if I am not ‘on form’ so it’s important for their sake I keep myself in the best shape I can mentally and physically.
I hope this has given you and idea to my personal training structure, how I look after myself in order to perform at my best and also how anyone can turn their lifestyle around with guidance and support, not just in the equine world but anyone! ‘
Natural Physique member Michelle this past weekend attended a paralympic trial for the British paracycling team. Michelle was picked due to her success in an earlier trial. She was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) 6 years ago and after getting over the initial shock she fought back.
Her big goal was to make the paralympic cycling team due to being a keen cyclist. We worked hard together on resistance training, bike work and also her nutrition and supplementation while listening closely to her body due to her body not recovering the same as someone without a condition.
The big weekend came and she worked hard at the trial but unfortunately she couldn’t be classified. The reason being, in the assessors own words, ‘you are too strong, too fit and have rehabbed yourself so well that we can’t classify you!’ . We were gutted in a way at first as it seemed the dream was over and we done “too well” but the most important thing is health. MS is very unpredictable, you never know what is around the corner. But with exercise, good nutrition and a very positive attitude it can be fought and held back.
So, whatever your goal, whether you have a condition, disability or are as healthy as can be, just go for it. Don’t let the dream go.
So congratulations to Michelle for working hard and getting that trial in the first place and Bossing MS! The dream isn’t over.
TURN THEM CALVES INTO BULLS!
One thing I get asked a lot is how I built my calves. My calves are one of my best body parts which have always got their fair share of attention. I’m not going to lie to you, genetics has played a big part, and both my parents are genetically blessed with calves. BUT I still had to train them hard, very hard!
As we are talking bodybuilding the two muscles we will focus on are the gastrocnemius, the main bulk of the calf, and the soleus, the flat muscle under the gastrocnemius. Nothing looks more impressive than a big set of shapely calves, on men or women. But they can also be the hardest body part to improve. Genetics play a big part in their development but that doesn’t mean they can’t be improved, they can, it may just take a fair bit longer than other body parts and a lot of patience and pain! You have people say that if you have bad genetics for calves that they can never be improved, rubbish of course they can! A great example is a good friend of mine, fellow natural bodybuilder and multi title winner Fivos Averkiou. We’ve known each other almost thirty years and back then his calves left a lot to be desired, but over the years he kept pounding them, never giving up the belief they will grow. And they did! They are not a weak point anymore, and they look pretty impressive now!
One thing you can’t change and that is the shape of your calf. You may hear that some people have high calves and some low. What this means is that a high calf (we are talking the gastrocnemius here) doesn’t come down far down the lower leg, it can look like a little bump below the knee! Nothing can change the length but they can still grow lots! A low calf, obviously the opposite and also the most desirable so if you have caves like these then you are very lucky and have the potential to build great calves!
You may hear calves need a lot higher reps to improve, maybe around 15-20 reps. I’m not really a believer in this and have got great results using lower reps, but it’s best to experiment because what works for me may not work for you. Try a phase of high reps and a phase of lower reps and see what happens. Or for great results mix up the reps! You can use a variety of foot positions on your calf exercises. For example on standing calf raises you can have your toes pointing in to hit the outer calf, toes out for inner calf and straight ahead to hit the whole calf.
As you may have guessed I’m a big believer in the basic bodybuilding exercises, nothing fancy, no sexy exercises as we are talking bodybuilding and we want maximum growth. Also strict form is high on my list as you want to work the muscle as hard as you can. I’m always seeing people train calves loading up silly weights and only using the mid range of the movement and just bouncing the weight, if you do this you will not get anywhere. When you do your sets every rep must go all the way up getting a full contraction and all the way down for a full stretch for full development.
As for the exercises, you are looking at an exercises with your legs straight which will work the gastrocnemius, and an exercise where your knees will be bent about 90 degrees, this will work the soleus. For a beginners routine pick one exercise for the gastroc and one for the soleus. A great basic routine for you guys would be:
Standing calf raise 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Seated calf raise 3-4 sets 0f 10-12 reps
If you are an intermediate you could add another exercise to hit the calves hard:
Standing calf raise 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Donkey calf raise 3-4 sets 0f 10-12 reps
Seated calf raise 3-4 sets 0f 10-12 reps
Train them 2-3 times a week and watch them grow! I'm a big believer in training calves more often than other parts, they respond much better to more frequent training than other bodyparts.
Put a lot of effort into your calf training and don’t leave them as an after thought at the end of your leg workout. They will burn like hell and are one of the most painful muscles to train, but be consistent with them and you will reap the rewards!
Big Bad Back Training!
There is nothing like an impressive back. If you look over the past three decades all the Mr Olympias have had outstanding back development. Samir Bannout Mr Olympia in 1983 had a big and highly developed back, complete with Christmas tree development in the lumbar region. On to Lee Haney, Mr Olympia from 1983-1991 had a back as wide as a jumbo jets wings! Then the Brits took over the best back prize with Dorian Yates dominating the Mr Olympia from 1991 -1997 with a back incredibly detailed, thick and wide and as hard as granite. Ronnie Coleman was next with freaky development winning the Mr Olympia from 1998-2005. Along came Jay Cutler winning in 2006 and ’07 and regaining the title from Dexter Jackson in 2009 with an extremely wide back although not as detailed as Ronnie’s but up there with the best for width and thickness. If you have no idea who I am on about then open up another tab in your web browser and get googling and you will see what I am talking about. Great back development looks amazing and makes you stand out from the chest and arms brigade in most gyms these days, of course none of you belong in that category do you? You better not otherwise I have not taught you a thing! It’s all about complete development ok and if I see any of you lot ignoring legs and back then we are going to fall out!
The main muscle that stands out when you look at an impressive back is what us bodybuilders call the lats, the latissimus dorsi muscle. This is what gives us that impressive width and thickness. Then you have the upper back muscles that look like small mountains from shoulder to shoulder consisting of the rhomboids, teres major and trapezius muscles. The lower back looks mighty impressive when developed and these are the erector spinae.
I go on about it in every training article, and I am going to go on about it again as it’s even more important with back training and that is form. FORM FORM FORM FORM!!!!!! Got it? Good! I see so many people training back with bad form, pulldowns where the body is parallel to the floor or even worse the head nearly touching the floor. Serious you should spend some time in the gym where I work. I see it all there. The worse I have seen is bent over rows where the person has so much weight on the bar that he has to have a spotter either side of the bar to help him lift off the squat then he proceeds to do what seems like having an epileptic fit then has the spotters help him back with the weight. It’s shocking! Although it does crack me up that he thinks he’s tremendously strong and that he thinks everyone watches as they are so impressed, what he doesn’t see is everyone laughing at him, bless!
What is unique with your back? You can’t see it can you? When you train chest, arms shoulders etc you can see these muscles in the mirror which really helps you focus on the muscle and use the visualisation technique. As you can’t see your back that means you really have to focus on the movement and muscle to really hit the muscles hard. Your visualisation skills will develop very quickly with back training. So when you first start training back do not worry about the weight. Go for the feel, really feel all them muscles working, feel the contraction. Once you have mastered all that the weights you use will go up and you’ll be nice and strong and using great form with good contractions at the top of the movements.
Right, on to the training! I am going to give you a beginner’s workout and an intermediate workout for the more advanced. We will stick with basic exercises as you will know by now that that’s what I know is best and for bodybuilding we don’t want any of them sexy exercises doing 400 movements at once. We are after building good quality muscle and as much of it as possible naturally OK?! The beginner’s workout will consist of three exercises and intermediate will consist of four. The exercises will consist of a vertical pull movement and two horizontal pull movements. For the intermediate workout I will add a big compound movement that will hit the whole body but will help build a big strong back, and it is one of the best exercises you can do!
Machine Pulldown (various grips)
Chins (various grips)
Bent over row
Seated and various cable rows.
Onto the workouts!
Machine Pulldown. 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
You will find this machine in all gyms. It is great for building width to the back and also some thickness. You can use various grip positions but for this workout we will use a wide grip. Grab hold of the pulldown bar about 1.5 times shoulder width, keep the back in neutral, chest expanded and shoulders back. Keep your core muscles tight and start to pull the bar down to the top of the chest so you get a good strong contraction in your lats. Keep the shoulders back at the bottom of the movement, do not let them roll forward. Keep the chest up and squeeze the lats. Keeping the weight nice and controlled raise the weight back to the start position.
A great exercise for building thickness and one that will help the beginner keep the back in neutral. Have one knee and one hand placed on a flat bench, back in neutral and core tight. Have the opposite foot on the floor and grab a dumbbell with the other arm. The starting position will be with the dumbbell hanging, while keeping the back in neutral pull the dumbbell up towards the body pulling through with the elbow and keeping the elbow close to the body. Focus on pulling with the back and not the arms! Slowly lower to the start position.
Wide Grip Seated Row 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
This is a great exercise for thickening up the upper back muscles and also for pulling the shoulders back for an improved posture as posture is important! We do not want them shoulders pulled right forward and have a rounded back looking like An ape walking around the gym, it’s really not a good look trust me! On a seated row machine ( if your gym doesn’t have one of these use a cable machine and pull a bench in front of it), use a wide bar, for instance the pulldown bar. Sit on the bench, knees slightly bent, back in neutral and core tight, chest up. Take a wide grip of the bar and pull the bar into the lower chest. Keep your elbows up so that the elbow wrist and shoulder are all in line. Pull the shoulders right back and make sure you do not shrug your shoulders. Feel that contraction then lower the weight back to the starting position. You do not need a lot of weight on this exercise it’s all about the feel.
That’s it for the beginner’s workout. It will hit all the muscles in the back and get you off to a good start.
Deadlift 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
This is one of the best exercises you can do to gain mass on the whole body but also great for building thickness in the lower back and all over! Start with the bar touching the shins. Grab hold of the bar with one hand using an over grip and the other hand using an under grip. Your grip will be just outside your lower legs. Get you hips down and have your back in neutral, core tight and chest up. Once you are in position pull the weight off the floor until you are standing tall. Make sure you pull while pushing your heels into the floor. The best thing to do is rather than thinking of pulling the weight up, imagine you are pushing your feet through the floor. Then lower the weight under control back to the floor. So many people round their back when doing this exercise, don’t! Keep it in neutral throughout. If your back rounds you have too much weight. Form remember!!!
Bent Over Row 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
One of the best back exercises for thickness and width. Take an over hand grip on the bar, have your back in neutral and core tight. Have your back at about 45 degrees and knees slightly bent with your backside sticking out. Pull the bar towards the midsection pulling the shoulders back and pulling through with the elbows. Contract the back muscles then lower to the start position. Do not round the back or throw the weight up. Control and form at all times. I’ll be watching!
Wide Grip Seated Row 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Same as in the beginner’s routine but using a little more weight, again keeping good form though.
This routine will be all you need for building an impressive back. The addition of deadlifts will take your physique to another level and make your physique more powerful looking.
Good luck with your back training, listen to what I have said and go for it! Do not ignore this important bodypart. I may be watching!
SOFIE BUTCHART ON TEAM NATURAL PHYSIQUE
Natural Physique has recently taken on the training and nutrition of dressage champion Sofie Butchart. Sofie approached me to help with her nutrition for the competition year ahead and I also persuaded her to let me help her with resistance training which she was excited about!
We are training at Muscle Limit Gym twice a week when she can and Sofie is already making great progress!
Check here at Natural Physique and my Instagram (@Chownie1) for progress updates. Check out Sofie's Instagram @sofiebutchartdressage and website www.sofiebutchartdressage.co.uk .
NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED
The Sissy Squat doesn't sound like a tough exercise does it? Ok, its not quite as tough as a back squat, but it is tough, do not let the name fool you. It's named after a Greek mythical king called Sisyphus who was made to push a big rock up a hill only for it to roll back down again for eternity, as punishment for being a not very nice person. He ended up with big legs funnily enough.
This exercise is a great quad exercise for men and women to add to your leg training, or if you train at home and haven't got much equipment, then this will hit the quads hard. It isolates your quads really well as the hamstrings and glutes are mostly eliminated from the exercise.
It's also a great exercise to superset with a compound leg exercise like the squat or leg press, this will have your quads on fire!
To add size, shape and awesomeness to your legs then this is it, demonstrated by my buddy, of Diversity fame, former client and now owner of his own PT business Bodybox, Terry Smith -
-Stand Upright, feet shoulder width apart.
-Lean back until your body forms a straight line your neck to knees, supporting yourself by holding on to a piece of equipment.
- You can use just bodyweight or when you are stronger then hold a weight place across your chest.
- Descend as far down as you can to work through the full range
-Drive back up through the quads to the starting position.
Give it a go and let me know how you get on!