Shredded At 44: Fitness Model Helmut Strebl Talks With

How did you get started with bodybuilding?

At 12 years old, I was a skinny weakling and an easy prey for bullies as I stood out in absolute contrast to a schoolmate who was a muscle machine. At first, I got into lifting weights only to protect myself. But soon, I was also determined to put myself on a physical par with this schoolmate, my odd twin. Here was wishful thinking. From it, there came my dream of becoming a fitness model. I liked weightlifting from the start. My first pair of weights was five kilos a piece. This was two bottles of washing detergent, filled with water though. I did not have proper dumbbells until a few years later. I was 16 years old when I joined my local gym. From early on, high aspirations and mental conditioning have been the keys to my life in fitness training and competition.

For I feel that to develop in the sport takes big dreams and a mind set for realising them. Bodybuilding is the art of the possible.

Where does your motivation come from?

What truly motivates me is my mission to serve as a graphic example of achieving ideals—ultimate fitness dreams and more. ‘My life is my message’, so I would have it.

There is for me too the simple fact that training can feel so good. I mean incredibly good, when the mood and energy are right.

What workout routine has worked best for you?

My routine is far from being over-programmed. Every five or six days, I train each of my major muscle groups.

Monday: Back/Shoulders/Calves/Abs

  • Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns – 4×16-20
  • Chin Ups Close Grip – 3×12
  • DB Rows (Pronation grip) – 3×8-12
  • Seated DB Military Press – 5×8-12
  • Seated DB Side-Arm Raises (neutral-grip) – 3×15-20
  • Standing BB Upright Rows – 4×8-12
  • Seated Calf Raises – 5×30-50
  • Standing Calf Raises – 5×10-15
  • Seated Machine Crunches – 6-8×30-50
  • Leg Raises (in abdominal chair) – 5×20-40

Tuesday: Chest/Triceps

  • Bench Press – 5×6-10
  • Stability Ball DB Bench Press – 5×10-15
  • Butterfly Machine – 5×10-15
  • Seated BB Tricep Extension – 5×8-12
  • Dips – 5×15-20

Wednesday: Biceps/Hamstrings/Abs

  • Seated BB Preacher Curls – 5×8-12
  • Standing BB Bicep Curls – 5×6-10
  • Lying Leg Curls – 4×8-12
  • Seated Leg Curls – 4×6-10
  • Bench Crunches – 5×30-40
  • Incline Bench Crunches – 5×30-50

Thursday: Quads/Calves

  • Incline Leg Press – 5×20-30
  • Seated Leg Extensions – 5×15-30
  • Seated Calf Raises – 5×30-50
  • Standing Calf Raises – 5×10-15

Friday: Glutes/Chest (Heavy)

  • Lying-Down Machine Glutes Extension – 5×20-30
  • Standing Machine Glutes Extension – 5×20-30
  • Decline Close-Grip Bench Press – 5×3-5

Saturday: Rest

  • Recovery Day

Sunday: Back/Calves

  • Seated Row – 4×15-20
  • Reverse-Grip Lat Pulldown – 5×10-14
  • Seated Calf Raises – 5×30-50
  • Standing Calf Raises – 5×10-15

I usually do supersets, and less often mammoth sets, working them to failure. I punctuate a series of reps with ‘resting’ by breathing in and out about five times.

And holding to the dictum that what is necessary is never unwise, I follow these seven procedural imperatives:

  1. Always warm up
  2. Observe proper posture
  3. Breathe properly
  4. Stop lifting if I feel pain
  5. Observe proper form
  6. Use torso stabilisation
  7. Execute full range of motion

Intensity and following my instincts are to the point here. I have a calendar notebook. In it, I sometimes plot in advance the exact days and hours for training my shoulders, chest, back, quads, hamstrings, triceps, and biceps.

But I always treat this as a very rough blueprint for action.

What is your diet like?

As opposed to my workouts, my diet follows more detailed planning. I eat between five and seven meals a day. I have lean protein in every meal: Egg Whites, Turkey, Chicken, Beef, White Fish. For my carbs, I go heavy in season on the Sweet Potatoes and Brown Rice. During this time, I cut carbs in the evening.

My off-season diet is clean enough to keep me at 213-218 lbs. (97-99 kg.), with body-fat in the single digits. I am 6’3”. Here is a sample day’s menu during off-season:

  • Meal 1: 5-8 Egg Whites + 1 Yolk, 1 Chicken, large cup of Coffee, 3 Bagels with sweetener Jam, Mustard, Low-Fat Spread
  • Meal 2: Meal Replacement Shake: 50 grams of protein, 80 grams of carbs
  • Meal 3: Cooked Basmati Rice and Turkey/Chicken
  • Meal 4: Basmati Rice and Turkey/Chicken/Fish
  • Meal 5: Basmati Rice and Turkey/Chicken/Fish
  • Meal 6: 10-12 Egg Whites (No Yolk) and 4 slices of Brown Toast

When I cut down for a competition, I do what is necessary to peak at 4% body-fat.

This means decreasing my carb intake and slightly increasing my fat consumption. I also do carb cycling for about a month prior to the event. Each of my cycles lasts four days. For the first three, I have between 150-200 grams of carbs, divided over six meals.

On the fourth day, I just escalate, to between 300-400 grams. After this ‘high day’, I start the cycle again.

Favorite bodybuilders?

Our finest strength comes from the head. When I look at others in the discipline, I am always struck by how much there is to appreciate and learn from. We are all glorious in our way. I have favourites whom I deeply admire, who are my superheroes—Confucius, Gandhi, Vince Lombardi, Thomas Edison, to name a few. I think they also thought of themselves as challenged souls. They also understood that the secret of getting things done is to know what things remain undone.

I realise that our particular strategies and methods in the sport can differ, radically even. But for all of us, there is surely one single prime mover: that unseen control-centre of the mind.

It is from here that we are given to know that in training, it is strong will and creative imagination which matters most. My future development preoccupies me. Even when I reach peak form for any competition, I consider myself a work in-progress.

Training and taking joy in getting ripped is what I shall do for the rest of my life. As for my current state of play, I stay comfortable being uncomfortable.