The only link to this page should have warned you that you would see a forty something year old man with his shirt off, so you should have known not to look if thatís offensive to you. (Now I'm over 50, so, more recent posted images are of an even older man!) What that link might not have told you, is this is my page to describe what I know about strength training and where you can find some interesting scientific information on this subject. My workout plan described below is the one I developed over 30 years taking strength training and physiology classes and reading what the experts on the subject have to say in magazines like Muscle and Fitness. However, my best results have been attained while working with a top trainer/coach on team 3D-David Esparza in Santa Barbara. His personal experience as a world champion natural bodybuilder and years of coaching and training and study created a resource that can't be beat!
One of the most interesting sources of information Iíve come across on what goes into building muscle is found in the pages of Scientific American. The articles listed below were my favorites. Unfortunately, one of them shatters any hope I ever had of really building any muscle, since it says my age precludes serious increases in mass, oh well (I have proved that the situation is not quite that dire.). Another of my favorites here talks about the influence of genetics on muscle mass, and, in particular, a possible method to curb the bodyís tendency to catabolize muscle mass in favor of supporting other life processes, like thinking. It is based on knowledge gained from a breed of Belgian Bulls called Double Muscled. These animals have a genetic mutation that prevents them from catabolizing as well as they should, so they donít lose muscle, even when they donít use the muscle. That is a very fascinating article.
(ďGene DopingĒ by H. Lee Sweeney, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, July 2004)
(The Mystery of Muscle; Scientific American Presents; Men: The Scientific Truth; by Zorpette)
Anyway, here is the photo I promised:
At the end of this page, I'll include some photos of myself in a bodybuilding competition at age 50. As time goes on, I'll include some photos of future results.... post 3D Training with David Esparza.
For the rest of this page Iíll describe my exercise and diet plan and suggest variations to that plan that would be healthier.
First, my philosophy for exercise is to do mostly anaerobic strength training using ďhighĒ resistance (weights that feel quite heavy) and just throw in some fun aerobic activities a few times a week like bike riding, swimming or playing on the trampoline. I am consistent in my weight training, but not religiously so. If something more interesting presents itself, Iíll skip the workout.
Of course, that all changes when getting ready for a competition. Then, strict adherence to diet and exercise are critical... including measuring everything and tracking results. But, this article is about a lifestyle that is more sustainable for a typical professional scientist like me.
Second, my workouts are broken into six (4) muscle groups.
The first group is the abdominal muscles. These muscles get hit 4 days a week with high repetition, low resistance. But not zero resisitance! Things like crunches with starting with a warm up of 70 reps and then 4 sets of 120 repetitions. I use at least three different exercises each day for abdominals and core training. I keep changing the exercises used by having six different ones, and using a different combination of three of these every two weeks.
One very important note about exercises, especially those for abs and core: You must focus on two things; First, do the exercises using proper form! this is essential to avoid physical injury and to properly shape the muscles. Second, the idea is to contract the muscles you want to build! You must create a mental connection to the muscle being worked and you must focus on contracting those muscles all the time during the exercise... it really does take concentrated mental focus to get this right!
My second through sixth groups are: Legs, Back, Biceps/Triceps, Chest, Shoulders. For these groups I have at least eight exercises for each group and I choose a different combination of four of these for every workout. My coach changed my ideas on muscle confusion - I used to stick with a routine for a full month before changing it up, but now, I change the combination of exercises every time I work a muscle group. Each combination must be balanced so that Iím not missing any area of the muscle group. And, of course, you should focus on improving weak areas of a muscle group with a little more emphasis by spending a bit more time with an exercise that emphasizes that part of your muscle group. Repetitions are kept to 15-20 for the warmup and then 8 to 12 reps by using weights heavy enough that I canít do any more than that in one set. I usually do only 4 sets of each exercise and I do each of these muscle groups only once a week, which works out to a nice 6 days a week working out. (By the way, if you push yourself, you could do these workouts in a half an hour getting 3 sets of each of four exercises, but I usually take an hour and enjoy too much rest time in between. Thatís when I get to read my copy of Scientific American).
So, there you have my entire workout plan. It is lacking in serious aerobics, but my motivation probably doesnít have anything to do with living that long anyway. You donít need a personal trainer if you can keep track of all of that in your head so you know what youíre doing each day and if you can motivate yourself to keep at it. However, I did resort to a personal trainer because he knew how to evaluate my weaknesses and he knew an amazing array of exercises. That made it worth it, and added the motivation of being on an actual team getting ready for competitions. I wish I could give you the motivation, but I canít even tell you where mine comes from. Iím probably not willing to admit my motivation to myself. Sorry.
My diet, like my workout plan, is not as healthy as it could be. I avoid too many carbohydrates, but you must add enough to build muscle when you are building and enough to keep your body burning fat when you need to. Fruits are part of my diet, but not a lot of them. Yes, I do eat too much fat, usually combined with some sugar in things like cheesecake, but I consider such indulgences as essential to sanity. Protein is part of every meal, all six of them per day and I try to keep the protein low in fat like fish or poultry or egg whites for 3 of those, while the other three have a bit more fat, like steak or ground beef. I use nuts like almonds or walnuts. and sometimes add some fruit, most often dried fruit since it easier to store in the desk for energy between meals. Of course, I do add a high quality protein drink and some multivitamins taken around the time I do the weight lifting, either an hour before or an hour after the workout. And, when you want to gain size, use an almond or peanut butter sandwich with some strawberry jam right after the workout... the insulin spike is timed perfectly for building those muscles you just worked.
Well, that is my diet and exercise plan in a nutshell.
When I have some time, I will consider adding interesting info about the physiology and molecular biology of muscle development. It is a very fascinating subject and of course touches on subjects like neurobiology and aging, which may be even more interesting.
Good-bye for now.
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Can you be Fit Over 40? Learn about how to diet, how to exercise and how to think in order to be fit over forty.