How Rugby Player Stefan Terblanche Builds Muscle In His 40s

You can still have a body like this in your 40s


Kieran Legg |

Former rugby player Stefan Terblanche has a training secret: Compound movements at a high intensity will build strength, while cutting down on training time._sl_170807_5116

Stefan Terblanche
Age: 42
Athlete Type: Rugby Player
Height: 187cm
Weight 96kg

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Sleep + Compound Lifts

A formidable all-rounder – he was quick, strong, and could switch positions on the fly – Stefan Terblanche would go on to become the blueprint for the modern rugby player.

It was an approach that netted him one of the best finishing ratios, one he maintained for the uncharacteristically long shelf-life of his career. What was his secret weapon? A miracle postworkout shake? A Hungarian ice bath? Nope. “Sleep,” he laughs. “Sleep, sleep some more, and sleep again, and when you don’t think you can sleep anymore, try and grab a little more shut-eye. I honestly slept through my career, on planes, team buses, in the team room, sometimes in team meetings – don’t tell Nick Mallett. Whenever I could find a gap.”

Related: 3 Tips To A Better Night’s Sleep

Terblanche may have retired from the sport, but he has only become more formidable with age. For many star sportsmen, the moment the curtains close on their careers, that unquenchable fire to train and stay in peak condition is suddenly extinguished. But this rugby player couldn’t imagine a life without a strict training regimen. “I love training,” he says. “I always tried to stay fit, healthy and maintain a balance.”

During his career he was fortunate to avoid injuries. He says too many athletes are injured at a crucial stage in their career. “Being able to stay on the field, and more often than not being available for selection, allowed me to develop my body alongside my skill in the sport.”

Ageless Advice: Getting older? You can still build monster muscle and fitness, Terblanche says. Switch to shorter training sessions, at a much higher intensity. Endurance often goes with age, but strength doesn’t have to. For example, a fast 5km run can have the same (if not a better) effect as a slower 10km jog.

Related: 8 Bizarre Side Effects That Happen to Your Body during Exercise

These days, with no gameday on the horizon, the 42-year-old enjoys setting and achieving new fitness and training goals. “To see my body grow, develop and change has felt like a miracle, really. The body is truly an amazing creation,” he says. He relishes putting his body through hell in the gym, seeing how it reacts, recovers and ultimately bounces back from injuries and fatigue.

“I loved and still love pushing my body,” he says. “Once it’s gone to that tired, dark place once – you’re never going to be afraid to go there again.”

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Terblanche admits that getting older does make training harder. “It’s an issue, but not an excuse,” he says

Related: The Best Weight-Lifting Advice For Men Over 40

His advice: adapt and train smarter. Despite being CEO of the SA Rugby Legends Association, travelling for work and meeting with sponsors, he still finds time to work out. He favours big, compound movements, as they hit the most muscle groups in a single lift. Think bench, squats, and deadlifts – the building blocks of any strong body.

To supplement his intense sessions, Terblanche eats a lot. “I mean, I’m always hungry,” he laughs. According to him, the worst thing you can do is skip meals. It’s only going to ramp up your hunger for the next meal, dialling up your cravings for something that’s going to derail your journey.

Terblanche’s body is the result of a life of healthy choices and doing what he loves. “If you’re starting training right now, be smart – don’t expect your body to look like the guy on the front page of this magazine,” he says.

“Running can help you lose weight, but weight training doesn’t just add muscle; it can cut through fat, and help you shed the kilograms.”

[Terblanche will be on the fitness panel at the Men’s Health RESIDENCY event in Johannesburg on 31 August  – get your ticket today!]

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