Sunday, November 8, 2015

Muscle building for older guys

Let me lead with a disclaimer: I'm not a personal trainer. Use this post as "food for thought," and run all ideas past a fitness professional and your doctor before making decisions about any rigorous exercise routine.

I share this information because it works for me and because clients have asked me to share it.

First, I've found that the most important thing is to start off with easy, light lifting and work up gradually. That way, over time, I came to understand what my 54 year-old body can tolerate. For example, I found out that I tolerate 2 weight lifting sessions a week; more than that, and I feel too tired, achy, and foggy headed. I also found that, if I go more than one week without lifting, I needed to work back into my routine slowly, starting with the lowest weights. (Several times when coming back from a longer layoff often due to a vacation, I pulled a muscle or tweaked my rotator cuff.) Finally, I need at least 2 days of rest in between weight-lifting days to recover, but 3 days work better.

Second, I recently aggravated some elbow tendinitis when I decided to use some twisting motions on a few dumb bell lifts (military and and chest). I saw some younger men doing these motions, presumably to work more muscles, particularly in the forearm. However, a few weeks after I started using these motions, I developed an achy elbow. So, for older weight lifters, I recommend not going below a 90 degree angle with your elbows when doing presses and keeping your wrist angled in the same direction, if possible, during the entire lift. In summary, the less twisting at the wrist and elbow, the better. 

Third, I found that my body can't tolerate most high-intensity techniques. (For example, when I pyramid, I pyramid down, not up. Also, I lift heavy weights slowly.) Following from that principle, I use a planned weight lifting technique called Periodization. This technique was developed in the Eastern Bloc countries in the late 80s for their Olympic weight lifters. The basic idea is to move from lower weights and higher repetitions to higher weights and lower repetitions.

So, start by dividing your workouts by body part. I have three weight-lifting workouts:
  1. Biceps, triceps, and forearms
  2. Shoulders, neck (traps), and back
  3. Legs, calves, and chest 
On one day of lifting, do one category (for example, biceps, triceps, and forearms). On your next lifting day, do the next category (shoulders, neck, and back). I do three sets but periodize only the first set, and I use mostly free weights. Pick a few exercises that leave you plenty of room to increase the weight over time (I plan two exercises for each body part, and I fill the rest of my routine with a few alternative exercises). So, I periodize a total of 6 exercises. Write down your lifting regime in a notebook, and bring your notebook to the gym with you.

Let's take a look at a possible schedule for a triceps pull-down (rope) exercise:
  • 15 repetitions at 40 lbs
  • 12 repetitions at 45 lbs
  • 10 repetitions at 50 lbs
  • 8 repetitions at 55 lbs
  • 6 repetitions at 60 lbs
Before scheduling your weights, make sure that you're fairly certain that these weights and repetitions are easily do-able. You can always move up quickly if they are way too easy. When you are finished, write down how many repetitions you managed to do. When you reach the weight for 6 repetitions, see if you can go past that and do more.

So, do one body-part category on every weight-lifting day, and increase the degree of difficult when you cycle back to a given body part. For example:
  1. During your arms routines, do 15 triceps rope-pull-down repetitions at 40 lbs for your first set. (Do what you can for the second and third sets.)
  2. Lift for your shoulders, neck, and back.
  3. Lift for your legs, calves, and chest.
  4. During your next arms routine, do 12 repetitions at 45 lbs.
This way, each body part gets plenty of time to recover, and you're increasing your weights gradually. Also, in a given week, you'll be lifting "heavy" on one body part and "lighter" on another, which overall taxes your body less.

If you find that you successfully lifted the heaviest weight only 6 times, then schedule your next period and increase all the weights by 5 lbs, as follows: 
  • 15 repetitions at 45 lbs
  • 12 repetitions at 50 lbs
  • 10 repetitions at 55 lbs
  • 8 repetitions at 60 lbs
  • 6 repetitions at 65 lbs
If you were able to do more than 6 repetitions on the heaviest weight, increase by more weight accordingly. For example, if you lifted the heaviest weight 10 times, then, on your next schedule might look like this instead:
  • 15 repetitions at 50
  • 12 repetitions at 55
  • 10 repetitions at 60 (because you were able to do this last time)
  • 8 repetitions at 65
  • 6 repetitions at 70 
Finally, nutrition matters. Probably the most important thing to do is to make sure that you're taking in enough protein. Once you've gotten your planned lifting in place, it's time to apply the formula: take in 75% of your lean (non fat) weight daily in grams of protein. 

So, I currently weigh approximately 215 lbs. I figure that my lean weight is probably close to 185 to 190 lbs. My protein intake should be approximately 140 grams of protein a day. A chicken breast is between 20 and 25 grams of protein. That's a lot of daily protein!

Here are specific nutrition tips:
  • I use a reduced cholesterol, whey-based protein that I get at a fitness nutrition store. (it was recommended that I not use soy-based protein, given its tendency to increase estrogen.) I usually drink two full-serving shakes a day, which give me 120 to 140 grams of protein. The rest I get in my regular meals.
  • Before every workout, unless I've eaten a meal recently, I eat something with some carbohydrates. I like eating a Kashi bar, which includes whole grains, some protein, and no high fructose corn syrup.
  • During every workout, I drink an energy drink that contains some Creatine.
  • I take daily Creatine supplements in capsule form (available from a fitness nutrition store).
  • I take an arginine based supplement to boost energy on the day I lift weights (available from a fitness nutrition store).
  • I take a daily supplement called Androbolix to boost my ability to build muscle (available from a fitness nutrition store).
Again, this is what works for me. Consult with your doctor and personal trainer to get expert consultation on what would be best for your nutritional needs and workout regime.

Also, as I mentioned in my recent update about my Belly Reduction Program, I take a break from all weight lifting and supplements during the first week of the month, and I use that as an aerobics-only week to reduce fat.

That's it! I hope you found some or all of this helpful. 


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