• Name: Steven Michael Herman
• Age: 49
• Height: 5’10”
• Weight (Photo Shoot): 187-ish
• Weight (Off-Season): 196-204 lbs.
• Body Fat: 7 %
• Hometown: Manhattan
• Gym: Crunch Fitness Lafayette
• Profession: Art Director / Fitness
2. What got you started in bodybuilding/fitness?
I just wanted to look like the professional athletes on television. Bodybuilder? I don’t think I had ever even seen a real bodybuilder, other than Charles Atlas in the ads in comic books. I puttered around with the weights off and on my whole life. It wasn’t until the last two years that I got serious with the weights. I’m dead serious with the weights, but outside of the gym I’m never serious. Wanna hear a few jokes?
3. What keeps you motivated to train?
The foundation of all my future goals is my physique. That is my product. Without that product I will not get to the Promised Land (I always like to throw in a little Jewish parable every now and again). Subsequently, when I head off to the gym I’m thinking, “Okay, Herm, this is it. Go out there and get the job done. From this all good things will spring.” I’m focused like a laser beam. You can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him. That’s me. Grrrr.
4. What workout plan has worked best for you?
Bulking for three months followed by cutting for three months. I’ve been doing this for the last two years and I keep making steady and solid gains. I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m going to be 49 in a few weeks, so I must be doing something right. Interestingly enough, I find that if I bulk for more than three months, I start feeling fat and sluggish, even though my body fat never gets higher than maybe 11 percent-ish (which for me, is morbidly obese). If I continue to cut for more than three months, I start to lose hard-earned muscle. Oy vey! The three-month mark seems to be the magic number for me. Also, it’s good to shake up one’s routine a little every three months or so. You don’t have to turn your routine upside down, just a little tweak here and there; it keeps your body guessing.
5. What is your philosophy about cardio?
I don’t have a one size fits all philosophy for cardio. It varies depending on where I am and where I need to go physically. However, I do think as you get older, the need for a healthy heart supersedes bodybuilding considerations. Conversely, excessive cardio is detrimental to bulking, so when I’m bulking I do perhaps two very light half hour cardio sessions a week; sometimes only one. When I’m cutting and cutting hard I will do 35 minutes to an hour in the morning pretty much every day and then go back to the gym at night and lift for between two and three hours. I try to rest as little as humanly possible between sets during a cutting phase. I’m huffing and puffing the whole way. It’s brutal, but gets the job done as far as fat burning.
6. What is your philosophy about weight training?
I don’t advocate this for anyone but myself; but this is my philosophy and it works for me: If I go to the gym, and there isn’t some point where I say to myself “Holy mother of God! How on earth am I going to get through with this?” I don’t consider it a solid training session. I push myself so hard that it is more of a mental challenge to get through my training than a physical one—although physically, it’s no picnic. Often, when people get to that point they go to plan B and take it easy the rest of the way or say “Okay, that’s it for today.” When I break through that wall—and there is a wall every single workout—I feel like I can tackle anything life throws at me. At the end of the day, my philosophy is: The more agony you endure, the more satisfaction you’ll glean.
7. Do you prefer HIIT or steady state cardio?
I think alternating the two is the way to go. If I had a photo shoot where I was looking to hold on to as much mass as possible, I’d opt for longer, less intense cardio. If I was willing to part with a little mass in order to get shredded, I’d go for the HIIT. I like to hold on to as much muscle as possible, while achieving maximum definition. If you’re not a hardcore bodybuilder and just want to have nice lean muscle, be fit overall and you had to choose between the two, then HIIT would be the way to go. Again, I think varying the two is best of both worlds; it breaks up the monotony as well.
8. What are your top 5 favorite exercises?
In my not-so-humble opinion, I don’t think people should have favorite exercises. Having favorite exercises is a bodybuilder’s worst enemy. For example, I know guys that have fantastic biceps and people always tell them they have fantastic biceps; their biceps are their pride and joy and they look forward to doing curling movements to hone their pythons, which detracts from the attention, focus and concentration needed to keep every body part up to snuff. A lot of these bicep guys have spindly legs and no calves to speak of. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t having a symmetrical, aesthetic physique what bodybuilding is all about? That’s why my favorite exercises are the ones that will bring up a lagging body part. I love executing those movements before and after I’m doing them. While I’m doing them? Not so much.
9. What is your philosophy about nutrition?
Is this an invitation to get on my pulpit? Any serious lifter who is not very well versed in nutrition is doing themselves a major disservice. Other than the actual lifting of the weights, bodybuilding is all about nutrition; from utilizing food for fuel to building muscle. How many times have you heard the expression “Abs are made in the kitchen”? You hear it all the time because it’s true. Ripped quads, shredded triceps and a striated chest are also made in the kitchen. A well-defined total physique is made in the kitchen; and that’s a fact, Jack. Granted, you can get huge eating Taco Bell, but ain’t nobody gonna’ see your muscle underneath all that fat. I’ll boil it down to this: Once you decide you are serious about your physique, you need to think about everything you put into your pie hole in terms of “Will this get me where I want to go or will this set me back?”
10. What nutrition plan has worked best for you?
I don’t eat fatty foods, processed foods, fast food, anything with sugar or white flour and avoid alcohol one hundred percent. If you just do just those things you’re off to a rip-roaring start. I keep my carb intake low from Sunday through Wednesday—25 grams or less. Also, I only eat very lean protein sources and when I do consume carbs, they are always complex carbs. Even on my cheat day (which is Saturday) I opt for brown rice and ten-grain pizza dough—I’ll put my ten-grain pizza dough against all comers, healthy or otherwise. Who wants a piece of me?
Anyone who says they exercise and eat smart and can’t lose weight is fibbing. These are the people who sneak to the cookie cabinet in the middle of the night and think no one will notice. Well, guess what? We notice.
11. What is your favorite cheat food?
This reminds me of the five favorite exercises question. I don’t have a favorite cheat food. It’s not like I have cravings for a certain horrible, artery clogging something while I’m on the treadmill. I don’t let food control me. Food is my bitch. During the week, I’ll peruse one of my eight bazillion cookbooks or look up recipes online and pick something that looks really interesting and delicious. I’ll have healthy varieties of old standards, too; for instance, a grass-fed grilled hamburger smothered in sautéed onions on an Ezekiel English muffin or spaghetti and meatballs with Barilla Plus pasta or whole-spelt pasta. I really can’t pick a favorite cheat food. It’s like asking Mrs. Brady who her favorite Brady is (although we all know it’s Marsha, Marsha, Marsha)!
12. What is your favorite health food?
Everything I eat is health food. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “How come I can’t get a straight answer out of this guy? I’m very iconoclastic.
13. What supplements have given you the greatest gains?
I think the amino acid, liver tablets, colostrum and HMB combo would be the four horseman of the apocalypse as far as pure gains. Ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin stack can’t be beat for fat loss (sometimes losses are as important as gains). The E/C/A stack works especially well if you throw yohimbe and grapefruit extract tablets into the mix. DHEA and tribulus boost testosterone, which in turn helps build muscle and lose fat. The older you are, the more you need to boost your (dwindling) testosterone.
14. What does your pre and post workout nutrition consist of?
Pre-workout, I dip into my one gallon hermetically sealed container into which I have mixed Nature’s Plus Red, Blue, Green and Yellow Lightning powders (fantastic products). I mix them all together. It’s a great natural energy boost and combined they have hundreds of important nutrients and superfoods. I put two tablespoons of my Lightning mélange into a tall glass. That’s followed by a scoop of Green Energy powder—another superfood powder that’s excellent for health, energy and all-around vitality. Then, it’s two scoops of True Protein Hydrolyzed Ultra Grade protein powder. You can customize the True Protein, so I have them throw in a protease enzyme complex, vitamins and minerals and electrolytes. Post workout is two scoops of True Protein right after my workout. I’ll mix in glutamine when I’m cutting or maintaining and waxy maize when I’m trying to bulk.
15. Which tools have helped you most with your nutrition and training?
Tools? There are a lot of tools in my gym. Okay, seriously, I don’t know if this would be considered a tool per se, but I think trial and error have helped me the most. I use myself as a guinea pig (or maybe a lab rat, since I am a gym rat) and I step back and look to see what is working and what isn’t. I’m constantly peering under the hood of the car (that is my training and diet regime) and tinker with the engine. I think trial and error combined with me being a merciless, objective judge of myself amount to the best tools. In short: The brain is the best tool. If you’re willing to experiment and make mistakes and use your head to fix said mistakes and make adjustments, you will be way ahead of the game.
16. Have online resources (social networks) helped you in your training? If so, what are they and how have they helped you?
No question Bodybuilding.com far and away. The progress pictures alone are worth the price of admission. Not only can I see where I was, where I am and where I’m headed, I also get feedback and encouragement from people. Also, I put all my goals up there for the whole world to see and this makes me feel more accountable and I feel like people are cheering me on (because they are). It’s like being the home team 162 games a year. Another thing is that people often ask me for advice and when I help them out, I am also helping myself out. When I give someone some training or dieting tips, it reinforces those principals in my head. When I was in college, I had instructors who were advertising guys during the day and taught at night. Almost all of them said the reason they taught was that by teaching others fundamentals, you reinforce that into your own head. I never understood that until now. Now I get it.
17. Where is the first place you turn to when looking for training / fitness / nutrition advice?
With the advent of the Internet, you don’t need to rely on one source. I treat recipes and training/fitness/nutrition the same way. I go to as many sources as I can possibly find. Then I find a few more. Then still more. After that, I take a consensus of what makes sense to me and what I think will work. Then, I formulate my own recipe or training/fitness/nutrition based on what information I have ingested and my current knowledge. It’s like putting information in a blender and pouring out a knowledge shake. On the other hand, if you are just starting out, I recommend you pick one or two people (no more than two, one is better) who you trust and respect. Listen to them and only them. There is so much contradictory and downright specious information—or to put it more accurately, misinformation—that it is easy for the beginner to get dazed and confused.
18. Who are your favorite fitness/bodybuilder competitors or role models?
Without any false modesty: Me. From where I was less than two years ago, to doing interviews with established bodybuilding sites at 49 years old, is just unfathomable to me. Good unfathomable. I think everyone should live their lives as a narrative where they are their own hero. It’s a good mindset to have; thinking to oneself “Would a hero blow off work-outs?” or “Would a hero give up after a few setbacks?” We all have setbacks, but brushing them off and plowing on his the heroic way. As General George S. Patton said “Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom.” I’ve bounced more in my life than a game ball from an NBA championship game—a triple overtime game.
19. What obstacles have you had to overcome (injury, illness, relationships, etc)?
The perception of being too old. I have crumpled up such silly thoughts and flushed them down the toilet. When I was clawing my way out of an alcoholic haze and hitting the gym after years and years of downtime, I initially thought, “You’re 47 years old, why are you doing this? What 47-year-old have you ever heard of that ever did what you are trying to do?”
There was no one; but I put it in my head that I was going to be the first and that failure was not an option (my motto). Every single workout during that time had me wanting to quit and concede that maybe I was, in fact, too old. But I wanted to be a hero in my narrative (see answer above) so I gutted it out, and now here I am. I had/have a few physical injuries along the way—many in fact—but I’d rather not go into them and sound like a complainer. Early on, someone gave me this invaluable advice about bodybuilding: If you can’t take pain, then this isn’t the game for you. Ouch.
20. What was the biggest mistake you made when you first started training?
Diet and not breaking down my training into body parts. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing back then, so I’d go to the YMCA, play basketball for 45 minutes, and then I would lift weights for 45 minutes (hitting every body part I could think of). Next, I would hit the heavy bag and speed bag and then run two miles on the track. After that, I would have a beer or two or three and a big bowl of spaghetti or Ramen noodles as I was living very hand-to-mouth and that was all I could afford. I was 143 pounds. These days, I walk around at about 195 pounds and I have less body fat. Forty-nine-year-old me can kick 22-year-old me’s ass—big time. I think 22-year-old me would be too scared to mess with 49 year-old me (but maybe not, I was always very feisty)!
21. What tips would you give to a beginner?
Make sure to build a solid foundation of strength and mass. Focus on squats, deadlifts, benches and pull downs or bent over rows. Those are the mass builders that will give you the foundation to build a great physique. Don’t get caught up in too many biceps curls and tricep press downs and leg extensions. You should do them, no doubt, but try to concentrate on improving your overall strength on the big compound movements. I see a lot of guys in the gym doing frontal lateral raises and they have no deltoid mass whatsoever…sad. They should be doing heavy military presses and standing upright rows.
So, in a nutshell—focus on the big compound movements for the bulk of your early training. When you’ve built a little muscle mass (the foundation), then you can start building the house. Also, I think beginners should be cognoscente that this is a lifelong journey. Every time I think I’ve hit my goals I take a long, hard look and see lots of room for improvement. I’m not saying don’t enjoy the moment, but bodybuilding is a just as much about the journey as it is the destination. Eat smart and train hard and you’ll be traveling in first class.
22. What are your future fitness goals?
Get certified as an AFPA personal trainer and health and wellness consultant. Start up a website called “Cooking Up a Great Body” with accompanying videos with on YouTube and public access television. Down the line, I’d like to write a syndicated column for guys in my age bracket with the latest tips on staying fit, healthy and vital. I’m always on the lookout for new products and foods that have fitness or youth enhancing benefits.
Further down the line, I’d like to open up a small private gym in Manhattan where I can work with select clientele mapping out everything from their workouts through diet and supplementation. Also, I’d like to do some high profile fitness modeling in the “Fit and Fifties” category in a few major muscle magazines. I have 13 months to my fiftieth birthday. A lot of people would dread turning 50. Not me. I’m going to enjoy the ride. Bring it on, baby.
23. Where can we find you on MuscleDog.com?
My profile on here is HermTheWorm — go check it out. You’ll see my bio, fitness stats, photos, favorites and more.