Programming Strategies for the Old (ish) Meathead

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“You just wait until you’re my age….and we’ll see if you’re still training like that.”

That was a quote I received – on more than one occasion – from a handful of older guys who, after watching me complete a set of heavy deadlifts or some crazy metabolic circuit, would give me the standard pat on the shoulder, subsequent “just wait” speech, and sometimes top it off with handing me a  Werther’s Original.

Get it?  Old people loooooove Werther’s Originals……LOLs!!

This was when I was 25 and just started my first job as a trainer in corporate fitness. Unlike the commercial gym setting, in corporate fitness my job was to be “present” for all the employees of the establishment where I worked.

The company I worked for would be brought in to run another company’s fitness center with the objective of getting people to move and to lead healthier lifestyles.

It was our job to be in the gym to facilitate workout programs for the employees whether they came in prior to their work day, during their lunch break, or even after hours.

In addition, we also did stuff like organize fun runs and build fancy, colorful bulletin boards on a monthly basis.  But I don’t like to talk about that.

Too much glitter paint for my liking.

As the resident “meat head” however, I was generally the one who would hang out in the gym and introduce people to weight training and/or workout alongside some of the employees (guys and girls included).

And it was there where I’d receive some of the push-back or dialogue as follows…..

Why do you lift so heavy? I just want to get toned.

I don’t want to get too bulky!

You just wait till you’re my age.

Blah blah blah.

I’d actually get sort of pissed whenever one of the guys would tell me I’d change my ways once I got older.  I felt it was a cop out to garner such a mindset.

Some would even go so far as to say, “metabolism slows down and you lose muscle as you age anyways, so what’s the point of working so hard?”

Actually, dick, it’s not that our metabolism slows down or you lose muscle due to old-age, it’s because as we get older we tend to be less active.  It’s not so much an age issue (although, to be fair, there is a metabolic drop off, just not as profound as we think), as it is a laziness issue.

Of course I was a bit more tactful in my response, but it only served as a way to advocate that weight training was an important component of a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle.

What MAKES muscle KEEPS muscle, as I like to say.

So, what’s the point of all this?

Now that I’m the age of some of those guys who busted my balls back in the day (37), I have to say…………they were right!

Well, kinda.

My buddy Bryan Krahn said it best in a recent Tweet:

I’m not 40 (three more years baby!!!!), I by no means think I’m old, and still like to think that I get after it in the gym. However, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t changed the way I train to a degree.

1.  I still place a premium on STRENGTH and still perform a fair amount of low(er) rep training with the big lifts (squats, deadlift, bench press), but I’ve definitely toned down my frequency.

Rather than EVERY session – like I did in my 20s and early 30s – I’ll now perform 1-2 “strength-based” days per week and then revert to more high(er) rep, hypertrophy based training the other 2-3 days.

It looks something like this:

My training week starts on the weekends, cause I’m cool like that.

Saturday: Lower Body Strength – Deadlift emphasis.

We have a great crew that trains at CP on Saturday afternoons, and I like taking advantage of the camaraderie and fumes of Axe Body Spray.

Sunday:  Hill or Stadium sprints.

Nothing crazy, but it’s amazing how much better hill or stadium sprints feels on the knees compared to flat ground.

For those with cranky knees this is an excellent option as you don’t have to decelerate your bodyweight as much.

Monday: Upper Body Strength – Bench Press emphasis.

Tuesday: Legs – high-rep squat/deadlift technique emphasis.

Wednesday: Chest/Arms – higher rep bench press and, you know, arms.

Thursday: Back/Shoulders

Friday: OFF, hang out with my cat.

This approach still allows me to hit my big lifts hard, albeit not at the expense of having my joints flip me the bird 24/7.  Plus, as an aside, adding in a bit more of the “silly” bodybuilding work has been fun and has made my training much more enjoyable in the grand scheme of things.

I mean, dude, I have an arm day!!!!

2.  Something else I’ve tweaked as of late is implementing some LIGHT lunges BEFORE I squat.  You can call this “Pre-Priming,” “fucking stupid,” or whatever you like, but the goal here is to allow some additional blood flow into the hips and knees to help warm them up prior to squatting.

It flies in the face of traditional programming practice, but like I said…..I’m doing LIGHT lunges here, nothing crazy.

I’ve found that my joints – my knees in particular – have welcomed the change.

3.  I love training back, and it’s not uncommon that I train it EVERY training session to some capacity.  I like this approach for most people as well given most are sitting in front of a computer for 8-12 hours per day playing Candy Crush or taking their 17th “selfie.”

Again, this isn’t a scenario where you have to go gang-busters every session, but even on your lower body days it wouldn’t be a bad idea to toss in some light cable rows or high-rep face pulls to help offset the incessant flexion most of us are in on a daily basis.

Video credit to Mike Robertson.

4.  Along those same lines, I’m also not opposed to adding in some form of squat pattern into the mix daily.  I’ve actually “extended” my warm-ups to the point where after I perform my foam rolling and dynamic drills, I’ll toss in 2-3 sets of LIGHT Goblet Squats and Swings to “groove” the pattern(s) and to help get my heart rate up.

Some other, random, things to consider:

– taking a yoga class once a week.

– perform more Turkish Get-ups throughout the week.

– get your beauty sleep.  8-9 hours per night. Not kidding.

– eat more gluten.  Just cause.

– And, just to reiterate…….never stop trying to get stronger!!!

And those are just a few subtle tweaks I’ve made to my programming now that I’m not 25 anymore.  They’re no where near concrete, and will probably change within a few months, if not weeks, and they may not fit into YOUR goals and needs, but I do feel all the above hits on a number of components that will help most dudes in the long run.

While I don’t feel I’ll ever blurt out the phrase “wait till you’re my age,” I can now appreciate where all those guys back in the day were coming from.

That, and Werther’s Originals are delicious…..;o)

Have your own insight to share?  I’d love to hear them.

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