Clarence Bass: Senior Bodybuilding
I'm not sure why exactly, but I've noticed on The Peak Testosterone Forum a lot of guys 50+, like myself, who
want to lift weights, put on muscle and look good in their senior years. Well, I had the privilege of interviewing one of the undisputed kings of bodybuilding who has written many
articles for the biggest bodybuilding publications and web sites, Clarence Bass. Many of you will recognize his name as some of what he has written has become bedside reading in the bodybuilding community over the years. And, if you do not believe that Clarence walks the talk, check out these Pics of Clarence Over the Decades. He is clearly in an elite few who has stayed healthy, avoided major injuries and build mass year after year.
Check out the interview with him below:
NOTE: By the way, one of the very interesting things about Clarence Bass is his hormone profile: he is NOT a high testosterone guy and is NOT on HRT. You'll see that he built his house with
testosterone right around 500 ng/dl. I see guys all the time saying that they cannot build muscle any more with T levels right around that. I grew some muscle in my late 40's with testosterone in the 300's. It's definitely more difficult, but it can be done. So, once again, there are no excuses for avoiding the gym, pavement or pool time.
INTERVIEW WITH CLARENCE BASS
Q. I saw your pics and was just stunned with what you achieved in your senior years. Guys like you, Jack LaLanne and Bob Delmonteque give me hope that I can look good through my senior years! I'll start by asking you which of your books and web pages are most relevant for guys who want to try to achieve muscle mass?
A: My 3-book Ripped series is aimed at hard core bodybuilders. Ripped 2 focuses on building muscle without fat. I would also suggest Great Expectations, which was written when I was 70 and has a broader focus. More about each of our books and our website follow.
Q. And one follow up question that I have is if you trained any differently after, say, 50 than in your younger years? More volume? Less heavy compound lifting? Less/more intensity? Or did you continue with "business as usual?"
A: I trained just as hard, but less often. Biggest mistake older bodybuilders make is training too much and too often. The key is to find a proper balance of stress and rest. You’ll find a good discussion of this in my book Challenge Yourself.
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Q. Looking at your pics, it seemed like you actually added muscle from your mid-50s to mid-70s. Is that true? If so, do you think you are just gifted genetically or do you believe all guys can put on a lot of mass in their senior years, i.e. "it's never too late?"
A: Muscle can be added after 50—and much older. No question about it. You’ll find case histories in Biomarkers by Evans and Rosenberg. Everyone, of course, responds best in the early stages of training. My physique came along quite nicely after 50. I kept my workouts short, hard and infrequent—and continually challenged myself. Diet is also a factor; I never starved myself. My photos from 15 to 75 are in the training pictorial on our website.
Q. One of the common complaints of aging men is that it is so easy to put on weight, especially that gut fat. Of course, there isn't anyone, senior or not, that does a better job of maintaining a low body fat percentage year round than yourself. So can you give us a couple of tips and point us to the right place to find out how you did it?
A: It is true that excess calories are more likely to be stored as visceral fat when you are older. Regular training, strength and endurance, and calorie control (bulking up usually adds fat) is the best way to combat the trend. I started training when I was 13 and never stopped. I also paid attention to my diet, more so when I turned to bodybuilding in my late 30s.
My 10 books cover my training over a 35 year period, from 40 to 75. Each book has a different focus; as I changed the books change. The core ideas of my diet and training stay the same, but the application becomes more focused on fitness, health, and the aging process. Importantly, I never stopped learning and trying to improve. If you want the whole story, read the books in the order they were written. Each book stands on its own. Our first book, Ripped, has sold over 50,000 copies and just went into its 12th printing.
Q. To me it seems that joint and connective tissue stress is a stronger limiting factor as you age. Any supplements or tips to overcome this issue?
A: My rule is: If it hurts don’t do it. You have to be more careful about your joints as you grow older. That’s one of the reasons why I switched from Olympic lifting to bodybuilding as I approached 40. I also switched from running to biking to save my joints. Making small changes as I went has allowed me to keep training a very high level.
I focus on sensible training and healthy eating and don’t rely on supplements for joint health.
Q. A lot of the guys on my site were hypogonadal and are now on HRT like I am. However, you have never been on HRT and have been natural your whole career, correct?
A: My book Ripped tells about my brief experiment with steroids. It explains what happens when you take steroids and more importantly what happens when you stop. I decided that steroids were counterproductive for lifetime fitness and never took them again. I have never used HRT.
Q. Do you have any idea what your testosterone and estradiol levels have looked like over the last 10 years? I'm asking, because many of the men will be interested to know your stats.
A: My health and fitness have been evaluated regularly at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas since 1988, when I was 50 years old. My testosterone was measured for the first time in 2000, when I was 62; it was normal at 483 ng/dl. The reference range was 241-827. Interestingly, my latest test, in May of this year, at 76, was slightly higher, at 514. My doctor calls my testosterone readings “quite healthy.”
I’ve written a number of articles about HRT on our website; the latest and most comprehensive was added in our current update: Clarence Bass Article on HRT.
Q. My impression is that very few of the professional bodybuilders made into their 60's and 70's in good shape. The exceptions are, I believe, yourself, the names above, Steve Reeves and Bill Pearl. So what is the reason that so few last into the senior decades? All the chemicals? Past injuries? Chronic disease?
A: It varies from case to case. Those that keep training and take care of themselves do pretty well. The more consistent you are with training and healthy eating the better you do.
Q. So what is your take on protein requirements for senior lifters? Do you believe that the standard 1 gram per pound of body weight is ideal or is that too much or too little protein?
A: Your body can only use so much protein at each meal. The important thing is to include some high quality protein (eggs, milk and fish, for example) in each meal. Excess calories from any source, including protein, are deposited as fat. I focus on eating a balanced diet of whole foods and don’t count calories or macronutrients.
Q. And should 50+ guys be taking any of the standard bodybuilding supplements such as creatine and BCAA's? Or is that really necessary (or possibly detrimental) in your opinion?
A: I take creatine before and after workouts, but don’t take bodybuilding supplements otherwise. Again, I rely on eating a balanced diet of whole foods.
Q. I know you try to stay as natural as possible, but you eventually went on a statin. Did you struggle with any myopathy-related issues while on a statin and do you take supplemental CoQ10?
A: I take a low dose statin and haven’t had any trouble. I do take CoQ10 along with the statin, as recommended by my doctor.
Q. I know that many men would benefit and enjoy reading your articles and books. Can you point us all to the best location to find these?
A: I write one or more articles each month for our free website, 396 in 10 different categories to date. Our books are available directly from us or on Amazon; they can also be ordered at your local bookstore. You’ll find details
on each of our books and DVDs on our website: Clarence Bass Home Page.