By Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT
“I accidentally took my son’s preworkout supplements this morning,” says Andy Haman, fresh off a weeklong promotional tour in Brazil. “I forgot that I already took mine about an hour before that, so if I start going too fast, please stop me.”
This response almost perfectly frames the personality juggernaut that is IFBB pro Andy Haman. Quirky but engaging, he’s one of the sport’s most affable characters. He loves to talk, and not just about big lifts, spray tans and most-muscular poses. Over the course of our discussion, Andy managed to rifle through a broad, blurred but customarily entertaining array of topics from Tony the Tiger and padlocked pantries to his predictions for the 2017 Mr. Olympia. The easy solution would’ve been to pull back the reins, as he suggested, but you’re about as likely to stifle Andy in conversation as you are in his career.
At 45, he continues to compete and build his brand, doing both with a flair befitting a man of his flamboyant coiffure. His posing routines are about as dramatic as you’d expect. Forget about the classically scored, traditional routines of Zane — Andy is a gifted practitioner of crowd play, using props, hip-hop and comical narrative to eat up his stage time. Though he’s been a bodybuilder for decades, his pro career is still relatively young. He earned his IFBB pro card in 2007 with a win at the Masters Nationals and has been a fixture on the bodybuilding scene ever since.
“I genuinely love what I do and when you have that, it never feels like work,” he says, wide-grinned. “I enjoy it more now than I ever have. I thought I was chasing the notoriety — I wanted to be in the magazines and see my picture everywhere — but the best part has just been meeting people and traveling for this. I’ve had so many people tell me that I’ve been an inspiration to them. It’s really emotionally humbling, and when that happens you really cherish it.”
Just how cherished are those moments for this teacher-turned-physique artist and merry father of four?
“I can’t foresee bodybuilding not being a part of my life,” he says. “I think I’ll always be involved until I can’t be. I think it’ll be a lifelong lifestyle for me. Barring injury, I think I can still compete for another 3–5 years. After that, time will catch up to me and I may not be able to do what I was once able to do or look the way I want to look. It’s tough for most people who get into their 50s to get onstage, unless you’re an Albert Beckles!”
Mid-40s notwithstanding, Andy still trains like a possessed man. His sinewy, 260-pound physique is evidence enough of that. Still, he’ll lament the fact that he can’t train like he did when he was 25, and then turn around and bang out several reps with apparent ease around the 600-pound mark. “I can still throw on some good weight that makes me feel like I’m a young man,” he adds. Then, after a pause, “Maybe I have a little ego left in there.”
As for identity, Andy considers himself a husband and father first. But when he punches his time clock at the gym, he slips into his alter ego — a bullish, hard-charging lifter bent on getting better each day and willing to suffer to earn it. Here, we take a look at how his latter persona trains, eats and supplements.
MMI: What’s your overall philosophy on training?
Andy: Anybody who’s stuck with something for a long time has had a lot of philosophies over the years. The biggest factor for me has been consistency. I’ve been working out for 32 years and I’ve been in the gym for almost all of it. When young athletes tell me they’re working out and not getting big I ask them how long they’ve been training. No matter how long, the problem is usually inconsistency. Whether you’re trying to get bigger, faster or stronger, if you’re not working at it consistently, it’s not going to happen. It’s like a job. If you don’t come in on time, do your work, and work well with your colleagues, it’s not going to pay off. I do everything I need to every day to get better, then tomorrow, I wake up and do it all again. It doesn’t matter how I train. Actually getting to the gym is the hardest part of the day. Be consistent with your workouts and the food you put into your body. If I don’t brush my hair or teeth all day, it’s gonna catch up to me. If I don’t go to the gym and eat right, I’m going to be overweight and out of shape.
MMI: At 45, is your training any different than it was when you were 25?
Andy: I don’t know if I’m become smarter, but I’ve definitely become wiser in what I do. I still fall into the dummy category and try to lift heavy once in a while but for the most part I can’t train as heavy as I used to. That’s not a surprise to anyone who’s been around bodybuilding for a while. Now, I pick the exercises that I really feel. For a long time, I did exercises I thought I was supposed to do even though I wasn’t feeling them in the targeted muscle groups; I think I wasted a fair amount of time in the gym doing that. The number one priority now is to evaluate how the exercises feel. If I go to the gym and do a shoulder press and my shoulder is clicking, I stop and I don’t do it anymore. It’s my body telling me how it feels — that it’s sick or hurt. It’s really been a change for me over the years, especially the last 4–5. I try to zero in on those aspects that are making me feel good and that work instead of zeroing in on the aches and pains. I don’t try to annihilate and beat myself up anymore; I wait until I get home and let Michelle do that to me (laughs).
MMI: What’s your favorite bodypart to train? Why?
Andy: Shoulders. Over the years, I’ve really improved them; they still haven’t hit a wall. I think I can still make strides with them versus other bodyparts that I may have stagnated at.
MMI: Are there bodyparts that you’ve had to back off on over the years to maintain balance?
Andy: My legs are one of those bodyparts that I’ve had to either take a break from or not train as much because they’ve always been huge. Now, they’re not as big as my upper body, but I’ve worked my whole life to get my upper body bigger than my legs. Now people say my legs are small. I’d better hope so! I’ve been working on them for 25 years! I looked like I was 5´4˝ my whole life with small shoulders and a flat chest, but a big ass and quads! I don’t train my arms that much. Biceps and triceps get a lot of work at other times of the week. My job is all about balance. At this stage in life, it’s not about trying to get to 300 pounds, it’s about trying to look aesthetic and athletic, not like a Quadzilla or King Kong.
MMI: Do you not like that mass monster look?
Andy: I still love those guys who are freaky. I have great admiration for the work that’s involved with that. I think that Tom Platz, with his ridiculous legs, was a hero for a lot of us. Today there are so many big, massive bodybuilders, but Jay Cutler, for me, is my favorite bodybuilder in contest shape. Both onstage and off. He stole my haircut! Flex Lewis is a really cool-looking bodybuilder in his own right. Kai Greene is absolutely insane and insanely nice. Brandon Curry, I think he’s going to be Mr. Olympia in the next 3–5 years. He’s just got all the tools.
MMI: What bodypart is the toughest for you to train?
Andy: My back is the toughest. It’s been my weakest bodypart my whole career. It’s not only weak visually but it’s also weak in strength, too. Prior to bodybuilding, I wasn’t even working my back. To this day, it’s a struggle for me. I think it’s partly genetic but I also don’t have the kind of time to devote to it because of the rest of my bodyparts.
MMI: Barbells, dumbbells, cables, machines — what’s your favorite equipment to use in the gym?
Andy: There’s nothing like barbells and dumbbells. I think there’s gonna be a time when the younger generation doesn’t even know what real barbells and dumbbells feel like because there are fewer of them in the gym. Now, they’re coated or rubberized or whatever. Traditional barbells or dumbbells with knurling on them — those make me feel like I’m lifting.
MMI: How does your training change precontest?
Andy: I start doing some of those muscle groups like calves, traps and abs a little bit more. I start posing a bit more throughout the workout. I have to up my cardio. My actual weight training doesn’t change much. I don’t need to decrease my rest much because I don’t rest much throughout the year, period.
MMI: And what’s your contest prep diet like, in general?
Andy: At this point, the philosophy is whoever suffers the most wins. If you can suffer, then it’s going to work out. After you turn a certain age, you have to go on a zero carb diet. Having carbs precontest, when you’re older, stifles your ability to burn fat. My protein goes up, fat goes up a bit, and carbs are completely out. It depends on the shape I’m in but I typically go on a 12–14-week, zero carb diet. If you can get through three days of zero carbs, you can almost get through three weeks because the first couple of days are harder than anything. I’ll go for two weeks without eating carbs then take one meal and eat anything I want. That revamps my metabolism, then I’ll go back to zero carbs.
MMI: What are your favorite lifts and why?
Andy: Machine preacher curls. I love ’em. I think anytime you can sit down, it’s fun (winks). I just feel like it’s pure pump. Weight, mind, muscle — it’s a great angle and it works. I still love doing the bench press, even though I’m not the biggest fan of it. I know that doesn’t make sense. It beats me up but I still love doing it. I also enjoy doing cardio, mainly because of how I feel after. It makes my body feel great.
MMI: What’s on the competition calendar for you for the rest of 2011?
Andy: I’m going to try to get involved with the IFBB Pro World Masters contest in December in Miami. They’re bringing back all the different masters, as well as guys who are still in shape and competing. Ronnie Coleman is supposed to be in it. Vince Taylor, Dexter Jackson, Troy Alves, Milos Sarcev, Toney Freeman, Darrem Charles, Johnnie Jackson, Melvin Anthony — it’s a 40-and-over deal.
MMI: Is there anything different about the way you diet, compared to most other bodybuilders?
Andy: I try to have a serving of eggs, fish, chicken, turkey and beef every day, especially when I’m on zero carbs because I have to get that protein count high. Some guys are “chicken, chicken, chicken” or “fish, fish, fish.” Not me. That drives me absolutely insane and it’s hard to maintain every day. Also, I try to eat one head of lettuce a day, which takes more calories to digest than it has calories in it. I don’t drink milk anymore, either. Milk is for babies.
MMI: On a zero-carb or very low-carb diet for so long, how do you flavor your food?
Andy: I use artificial sweeteners like Sweet ’n’ Low a lot, even on meat. I use tempura sauce, which is high in salt but who really cares about your heart (laughs)? I’ll also use a small amount of low-sugar Heinz ketchup. I’ll season ground beef, egg whites, ground turkey or thin pork steaks with minced onion or garlic. Also, I eat a package of fat-free bologna everyday — it’s not heart friendly but it’s delicious!
MMI: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
Andy: Definitely Pop Tarts! I ate Pop Tarts for most of my life because I didn’t believe that nutrition was important. Once I did understand it, I had to monitor the doughnuts, pastries, Pop Tarts, beer, candy bars and the pizza I consumed. I’m like anyone else in that I love that stuff. We actually have a padlock on our pantry; at night my son locks it and takes the key. He’s the only one who knows where it is, which is good because I’ll get in there at night and eat a whole pack of Twizzlers or Ding Dongs.