Larry Burt is one of the most experienced natural bodybuilders in the world. With nearly 30 years and 34 competitions under his belt, Larry has spent his entire adult life training and competing.
In our interview with Larry Burt, we look at some of his greatest accomplishments, why he decided to remain natural, and what Larry plans on doing when he retires from competition.
Muscle and Strength: Larry, you've been competing since 1980. How many competitions have you been in, and what has been your greatest accomplishment?
Larry Burt: I've competed in 34 shows since 1980. Over the years, I hit the stage with the NANBA, NPC, NGA, INBF, NANBF and WNBF. My greatest accomplishment was winning the 2006 NANBF Mr. Natural USA Overall. This qualified me to turn pro with the WNBF. Competing drug-free this long has been a true blessing.
Muscle and Strength: You lost the 2003 Mr. Minnesota by 1 point. How did that feel, and was it your greatest bodybuilding disappointment?
Larry Burt: Bodybuilding is a very subjective sport. As a judge myself, you deal with a lot of different opinions. It was disappointing, but you must move on. You shouldn't take it personal. I looked at making improvements to my physique. You should always try to come out with a better package next time.
Muscle and Strength: You're currently 46. How much longer do you plan on competing, or are you taking it year by year?
Larry Burt: I'm currently training for the IFPA Masters Pro Cup (9/26/09) in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It's a lot more work these days preparing for a show. I didn't do cardio until I hit 40. My contest prep went from 8-16 weeks as I got older. I may be retiring from competition after this contest. Promoter Aaron Callister will be bringing the 1st ever Natural Pro Show to Minnesota next May. This two day event is exciting news…for the amateur and pro athlete. More information can be obtained at www.nanbf.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Muscle and Strength: If you retire, will you still stay involved with the sport, or are planning on just taking it easy?
Larry Burt: I will continue to stay involved in bodybuilding. I judge bodybuilding/figure shows for the NANBF. Each January, we put on a free bodybuilding/ figure seminar in Minnesota. On the side, I do some personal training at LA Fitness. I'll miss the contest prep, but it has been a wonderful journey!
Muscle and Strength: I can't get through an interview without these questions. What does your training routine and split look like? And what are your primary training philosophies?
Larry Burt: I change my routine every 8 weeks. Basically, my off-season is 4 days per week and pre-contest is 6 days.
My favorite 4 day split is:
I train abs on every workout day. 16 weeks before a show, I do cardio sessions. I change equipment and intensity levels daily to shock the system. I'll start out with a 20 minute cardio session and progress to 40 minutes as the show draws closer. I switch between the Stairmaster, elliptical, bike and treadmill. I keep a daily log for my exercises and max lifts. The exercises change weekly to incorporate muscle confusion. Lifting as heavy as possible to a contest helps retain the muscle mass. I train each workout as if it were my last. My philosophy is train intensely, eat nutritiously and rest adequately. I recently joined LA Fitness (www.lafitness.com). They have an excellent variety of free weights, machines, and cardio equipment. I've always been a member of small hardcore bodybuilding/powerlifting gyms. They helped build the foundation. I miss the t-bar row, deadlift platform, and hyperextension.
Muscle and Strength: Lifting along side powerlifters can often open your eyes with regards to using different training approaches. What are your thoughts about bodybuilders and strength training...how important is it for a bodybuilder to get strong? And what have you learned from powerlifters along the way?
Larry Burt: I think some of the best bodybuilders have started with powerlifting moves. I still incorporate the basic power moves into my routine. They include the squat, bench press, military press, deadlift and bent-over rows. I think it is important for a bodybuilder to get strong and put on more muscle mass with strength training. It builds the solid foundation. The powerlifters have influenced me to use perfect form and mental concentration. I use visualization techniques on big lifts. Focusing on the muscle at work helps change the physique. There definitely is a place for powerlifting in the bodybuilding lifestyle. I really respect their brute strength.
Muscle and Strength: What does a typical off-season diet look like for you? And how many grams of protein do you shoot for each day?
Larry Burt: I keep the diet pretty clean year round. I usually have one cheat day per week. I don't like to put on a lot of extra body fat in the off season. It takes too long to take off at 1-2 pounds a week. I shoot for 200-280 grams of protein each day. This equates to 6-7 protein sources at about 40 grams each serving. My protein sources include egg whites, tuna, turkey burger, chicken breasts, IDS whey isolate protein powder, tilapia and fat-free cottage cheese. I quit all red meat 16 years ago. My off- season diet consists of 6-7 small meals per day. They contain protein, complex carbs and good fats. I don't count calories. My favorite carbs are brown rice, Yukon gold potatoes, vegetables, fruits, steel cut oatmeal, and wheat pasta. I get all my fruits and veggies at the local farmers market. They contain more nutrients, less chemicals and taste better than the mass produced items. To round off the diet, I take in some flax seed oil, olive oil, natural peanut butter and fish oil caps. I consume one gallon of filtered water daily. For sports nutrition, I supplement with IDS whey isolate protein, Now multi-vitamin/mineral, Glutamine, Glucosamine, Now bromelain, Flax Seed Oil, and ZMA.
Muscle and Strength: We live in an age when individuals find it easy to rationalize away the use of any drug. Why did you make the choice to remain natural? And have you ever regretted that choice?
Larry Burt: My thoughts on staying natural involved longevity in the sport and a healthy lifestyle. I feel very blessed to still be competing on the pro circuit at 46 years old. I never regretted the choice of staying natural. Bodybuilding was meant to be a positive healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of early deaths due to drug use/abuse over the years. It is important to talk to youth about the dangers of drugs. The drug use is only a temporary high in the big picture. God intended for us to live a long healthy life.
Muscle and Strength: Is your wife involved with fitness/lifting at all, or does she view your passion as slightly off center?
Larry Burt: I met my wife Judy in 1984. She was involved in jogging and aerobics classes at the time. Shortly thereafter, I introduced her to weight training. She started to see her body change and enjoyed the discipline of lifting. In 1995, Judy decided to enter her 1st bodybuilding contest, the Minnesota Classic. This was huge springboard in her life. It gave her confidence to quit her job of 20 years, go back to school , and pursue her passion of cooking. In 2003, we competed together in the Mr./Ms. Minnesota and Mr./Ms. Midwestern in Chicago. Judy retired from competition in 2004. Today, Chef Judy enjoys a successful career at Saint Paul College. She still weight trains 4-5 days per week. Her passion for bodybuilding has opened up opportunities in judging, seminars and personal training. We are a team in the wonderful sport of bodybuilding.
Muscle and Strength: You're a very spiritual man...how does your personal faith tie in with bodybuilding? Do you feel as though you are doing what you were called to do?
Larry Burt: My father, also a competitive bodybuilder, started me with weights in the 70's. Dad always stressed the importance of representing Jesus in bodybuilding. He said the platform is a win-win situation. Bodybuilding involves the mind, body and spirit. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our personal faith effects all the choices we make in life. Everybody is born with different gifts. I was called to serve and help people. The security business and personal training have been a perfect fit. Helpful resources have been the ministries of Joyce Meyer (www.joycemeyer.org) and Billy Graham (www.billygraham.org).
One of my favorite scriptures is " Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men " (Colossians 3:23).
Muscle and Strength: You mentioned earlier that one of your primary training philosophies is to "train intensely." How many sets do you do per body part, do you training to failure, and what types of techniques or methods do you use to keep the workout intensity high?
Larry Burt: I keep the workout intensity high each day I walk through the gym doors. First off, I have the exact routine logged in my training journal. Previous max lifts are recorded. This gives me a goal to shoot for. You must be mentally focused on the body part being worked. I use the mind/muscle connection. Try to blast the muscle with perfect form. My intensity involves little rest time between sets (60-90 seconds). I keep the weight as heavy possible with lower rep ranges, never going above 10 reps per set. Each exercise consists of 4 ascending sets. Increase the weight each set. For example, set 1 would be 8-10 reps, set 2 is 6-8 reps, set 3 is 4-5 and last set is 2-4. Biceps, triceps, and calves involve 2-3 different exercises. Quads, shoulders, chest, abs and back consist of 3-4 exercises per session. Having short-range goals also fire up the intensity. This may be an upcoming contest, weight loss or muscle increase... Visualize a better workout than last time ! Limit distractions in the gym and concentrate on your training regimen. Progress is bound to happen!
Muscle and Strength: What type of training routine and split would you advise for a young hardgainer trying to add muscle?
Larry Burt: The best advice I have for the young hardgainer trying to add muscle is to cut back the work load. Instead of training 6 days per week, workout 3-4 days a week. Overtraining will defeat the purpose. Less is better in the iron game. We need plenty time to recover and build muscle. Also, try to be patient. Progress will happen with consistency. Use basic compound movements to build muscle. They include the bench press, squat, deadlift, rows, curls, and military presses. Limit the number of exercises and sets that you do. Try to train heavy without sacrificing proper form. Keep your daily protein intake high (1-2 grams per body pound). Drink 1/2 to 1 gallon water each day. Get ample sleep. Listed below is a sample program for the young hardgainer:
- Monday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
- Chest- Bench Press/Incline Press/ Dumbbell Flyes (Do 3-4 sets each exercise. Increase weight each set)
- Shoulders- Front Military Press/ Dumbbell Lateral
- Triceps- Close Grip Bench Press/ Cable Push-Downs
- Wednesday: Quads/Hams/Calves
- Quads- Leg Extensions/ Squats/ Leg Press ( Do 3-4 sets each exercise. Increase weight each set)
- Hams- Ham Press on Leg Press/ Lying Leg Curls
- Calves- Standing Calf Raisers/Seated Calf Raisers
- Friday: Back/Biceps/Abs
- Back- Deadlifts/Bent-Over Rows/ Lat Pull-Downs (Do 3-4 sets each exercise. Increase weight each set)
- Biceps- Barbell Curls/ Preacher Curls
- Abs- Crunches/Leg Lifts (Do 3-4 sets at 10-15 reps each set)
A hardgainer should limit or avoid excessive cardio work.