BEEN TRAINING SINCE THE “IRON AGE”?
Q: I’ve been lifting for about 20 years now, and I often struggle with joint pain and flexibility issues. How can I modify my workouts to still benefit from them?
A: “Age is just a number”, some people will tell you. Yeah, tell that to your joints. After some 25 years of training hard and heavy in the gym myself – plates piled on top of one another in my daily battle against the iron – I often surprise people when they learn I’m 46.
Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., author of “Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength” (Human Kinetics, 2006), co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, “LL Cool J’s Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle” (Rodale, 2010), says your experience level and goals are the most critical factors of how you train. This is especially true for beginners, he adds, since there isn’t much difference in how beginners of different ages should train. But as you become more of an intermediate and advanced lifter, you should start thinking about age-appropriate training. If you’re an advanced older trainer, it’s time to consider other areas of focus.
MODIFY YOUR ROUTINE FOR ADDED BENEFITS
Because declining hormone levels, specifically testosterone and growth hormone, contribute to a 3%-5% reduction in muscle mass per decade after the age of 25, you likely won’t make dramatic changes in your physique regardless of how often you train, Stoppani says. You also won’t lose what you have as long as you hit each body part once a week. I suggest incorporating more endurance activities, such as cycling and running, to boost your cardiovascular health, something men in their 40s and older should be concerned about. And in terms of flexibility take on activities that increase your range of motion and flexibility, such as martial arts or yoga. Exercises such as the clean and jerk and the snatch will increase your range of motion, flexibility and balance, since they involve an exaggerated range of motion.
One factor you certainly don’t want to take for granted as you age is joint health. In fact, research shows that while heavy training can increase cartilage breakdown, light training can boost joint regeneration, meaning always going heavy is a recipe for sore joints. That’s why I recommend alternating heavy and very light workouts for a particular muscle group.
LET YOUR AGE WORK IN YOUR FAVOUR
Maximise your testosterone and growth hormone levels by following these guidelines:
- Utilise extended warm-up and cool-down sessions.
- If you’ve been training for many years, back off your training frequently but substitute other physical activities to increase cardiovascular health as well as flexibility.
- To maximise testosterone, choose multi joint exercises performed with low to moderate reps (3-8) and longer rest periods (about three minutes), while avoiding high-intensity techniques like forced reps and supersets.
- To maximise growth hormone levels, use slightly higher reps (10-15) on multi joint exercises with slightly shorter rest periods (1-2 minutes or less), and use a variety of high-intensity techniques.
- Follow every heavy workout for a muscle group with one using very light weights (about 15-25 reps) to stimulate joint recovery.
- Use negative training every 2-3 months to stimulate the replacement of old and weaker muscle fibres with new and stronger ones.