Revisiting the Basics of Strength Training for the Older Guy

arnold
Arnold Schwarzenegger Photo credit: forum.bodybuilding.com

I decided to revisit an article I’d read sometime ago called Strength Training for the Middle Aged Guy! I found at Bodybuilding.com. It’s a summary of Brian Konzelman’s five-year journey from a 46-year-old…

…average unhealthy middle-aged American male, overweight, out of shape, and having typical middle aged health problems. At five foot eight inches tall, I tipped the scales at 185 flabby pounds with a body fat of 35%…

…to a 51-year-old athlete who weighs in at 175 pounds with 14% body fat, healthy blood levels, and the heart of a much younger man.

But now that I’ve had some experience with different training routines, including 5×5 strength training, how does his advice stack up to what I’m going through?

He has three important points that I think still hold up.

  • Most of the fitness and strength training information out there does not apply to you.
  • Most of the nutritional information out there goes not apply to you.
  • Strength training is one component of being in shape.

It is still true that most of the blogs, articles, and books written about strength training are written for much younger people. Also, I agree that strength training is only one aspect of overall health, diet, cardio, and general lifestyle being other key components.

Konzelman was writing from the perspective of a 51-year-old, and as of this coming Thursday, I’ll have ten years on him (as he was writing in 2013). If the three points above were true for him then, how much more are they true for me and people like me now?

I noticed an interesting difference between year 1 of his training and year 2.

In year one…

The exercises were the big multi joint free weight movements, squat, deadlift, chins, bench press, shoulder press, rows, pullovers, one set of 12 slow reps to failure, full-body routine Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Total time per workout of 30 minutes each session.

This isn’t exactly what I am doing now, but it’s close enough for some positive comparison. Big multi-joint compound free-weight movements such as squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, and rows. Yep, sounds like me, though my reps are usually less, with more sets, and I don’t lift to failure (or I try not to).

deadlift
Photo credit: ironmanmag.com.au

But how did things change for Konzelman in year two?

I continued with the full body routine 3 times a week. I continued adding pounds of muscle, and pounds to the bar, but the amount of weight I was lifting began to tax my joints and recovery ability.

I began to notice that I was no longer able to progress as I had been doing, and wound up leveling off, stagnating, and not recovering fully. I was learning about overtraining.

So I could be reading about my own future a year from now or even less, given that I’m older now than when Konzelman encountered his issues with overtraining at age 50.

Ultimately, Konzelman found his groove, so to speak, at least as of a couple of years ago.

There were a number of links posted in the above-quoted article, but many were broken, probably because the information was outdated and either pulled or the URL changed to point to something more relevant.

I searched for “more relevant” but didn’t really find it. Burn Fat and Build Shape with Strength Training wasn’t a good fit for me, while The Basics of Training for Size or Strength seemed more interesting in describing the (supposed) opposing goals of lifting for muscle size and for physical strength.

James
This is me after cardio.

But as Konzelman already noted, most of this information doesn’t really apply to me. The photos of the authors of these articles show they are young men writing for young men (or young men and women).

Also, the examples of exercises for building size vs. strength didn’t map to each other, with the lower body being emphasized in the former and the upper body in the latter samples.

However, the difference in lifting for size vs. strength may not be as distinct as popular wisdom suggests, and I’m currently training to see if I can leverage both myofibril and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

Today was a cardio day so I don’t have a lot of numbers to report. I do have another “success” announcement, though. As of this morning, my waking body weight was 190.1 pounds, which translates to 86.22 kg or 13.57 stone (my height is just slightly under 6′ 3″ which is about 75 inches or 190.5 cm).

I ate just one fried egg for my pre-cardio meal and took my usual Omega-3 supplement in order to inhibit my cardio work from “stealing” protein from my muscle mass as well as to stimulate fat burning.

I weighed myself post-cardio workout before eating or drinking anything and I ended up slightly lighter at 189.3 pounds, which is about 85.86 kg or 13.52 stone.

I know, not much of a difference, but I’ll take any advantage I can get, even if drinking a glass of water brings back that eight-tens of a pound or even a bit more.

small SuperboyI don’t have records that go back that far, but I’m willing to bet based on vague memory, that I haven’t been this light in 10 years or more. If I were to compare my weight when I started recording it in MyFitnessPal on March 1st to what it was after my workout today, I’ve lost 18.4 pounds/8.34kg/1.31 stone.

It’s pretty exciting.

I’m not turning into a mass monster or anything like that, but as I lose more fat, what I’m slowly building underneath is becoming more distinct. Looking forward to tomorrow and all the tomorrows after it.

Sometimes it is only through seeing a fault in others that we can recognize it as existing within ourselves.

Rabbi Shranga Silverstein

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