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Fit Over 40 - Featuring Paul Burke - On Sale Now

Online Personal Training, Online Dietary Consultations, Online Bio-Mechanically Corrected Bodybuilding and Weight Training Programs, Anti-aging Technology, Fitness, Health and Healing with Paul Burke, M.Ed."

Face it — no matter what your age, if you're a man you want to be as big and strong as you can. Regardless of whatever politically correct gender issue is current and regardless of your age, when it comes time to wear a bathing suit or confront a creep in front of your wife or girlfriend, you want some muscle. Show me a guy hiding behind a bathing suit who's making fun of another guy with a great physique and I'll show you a jealous person.

Physique building isn't (and never was) a fad. It is a necessity, and all guys know this. Whether or not you do something about it is entirely up to you and your ability to dedicate yourself to three principles: Hard work, proper diet and adequate rest. That said, as you age, you have to be very clever as to how you approach this endeavor. Building and maintaining your physique, especially as you age, takes artistic flair, scientific know-how and spiritual consciousness.

If you go to any gym in this country, you'll see hundreds of guys pumping up their muscles. Some are construction workers; others are computer salespeople, doctors or attorneys. Regardless of profession, men (and women) from all walks of life are building their physiques with great fervor. Most of these guys are between the ages of 20-50. Those over 40 who possess the most powerful and muscular bodies, are, however, few and far between. Why? There are three main reasons for this — each of which can be overcome.

First, there is a general misconception about adding muscle mass as one ages. The common theory holds that as you grow older, especially after 40, you can't create big muscles and have a great physique. In addition, it's thought that if you can do it, you must spend your life in the gym. This is total baloney. Building a great physique at 40 and over is not only possible, but can be done in less than five hours a week. There are, however, a few vital rules that one must follow in order to achieve the greatest results.

Recently, a reader wrote to my over-40 fitness section at the NB&F website ( and expressed concern that he had been unable to make any substantial improvements in building his physique even after years of training. After he discovered that his testosterone level was low (this gentleman is 60), he queried if this would have a significant role in his inability to make progress-building muscle. I responded, in part, by saying that even when testosterone levels are low in older men (which is normal), this doesn't inhibit one from developing muscle. I suggested he merely change his approach.

In truth, studies do indicate that levels of growth hormone and testosterone (two important hormones in the long chain of events in developing muscle fiber) fall off as we age. But with proper muscle stimulation, adhering to scientifically proven dietary guidelines and adequately resting muscles, one can build muscles at any age, even with low levels of testosterone. This is to say that if you learn how to stimulate your muscles with great efficiency (meaning intense, yet brief training - and not so often as you might assume is necessary), eat in such a way as to promote and maximize hormonal communication, plus make sure you don't work out too often and get adequate rest, you can grow new muscle at any age.

Unless your hormone levels are at or near zero (in which case not being able to build muscle would be the least of your worries), muscle building is essentially the same at 60 as it was at 20, save the need for a more scientific and artistic approach. With age should come wisdom, and since hormone levels are falling as we age, we must utilize our accumulated intelligence and our ability to pay attention to small details to compensate for our glands not functioning as optimally as they once did. Knowledge and focus are the greatest weapons against any foe, and certainly as we age, we recognize this more than we did when we weren't paying attention in high school.

Proper Muscle Stimultation
Most people I see over age 40 train like they're old men, I am not saying this about everyone over 40; however, I am saying that many people in this age category seem to think that since they're older, they shouldn't be doing multi-joint movements like squats, bench press, barbell rows, etc. And if they are doing them, they are "taking it easy on their joints" or "not pushing it" because they are older. Granted, if you have an injury, it is wise to work lightly around it, and you must be cautious about your overall state of conditioning. Yet if there is nothing wrong with your joints, and you feel like you can push a little, you should be doing all the major multi-joint exercises with at least a moderate amount of weight. Age is only a number, my friends. Doing these types of movements will not only stimulate the greatest number of muscle fibers, but they will also enhance GH and testosterone production greatly.

Some men over 40 with whom I came in contact with are not doing multi-joint movements at all. They seem to think they can do lots of isolated, one-arm movements in place of them. This is a bigger mistake, for not only doing these concentration exercises stimulate fewer muscle fibers; they also don't stimulate hormone production as greatly as multi-joint movements. I see many of these gents (and some younger guys) doing, say, six sets of light triceps kickbacks, yet in the next breath they are complaining that their triceps are small and they don't have the "horseshoe" shape. Well, it is ridiculous to think triceps size and shape will come from such an exercises for two basic reasons: First, the "shape" of any particular muscle is 90 percent genetic. You can no more shape your triceps muscle with kickbacks (or any exercise, for that matter) than you could turn a street stone into a finely cut diamond with the wave of a wand bought at a magic shop.

The triceps muscle's shape is fundamentally genetic insofar as it will grow (when stimulated properly), according to where each head of triceps attaches to the humerus, and how many fibers Mother Nature has given you at this particular muscle grouping. In other words, shape (with the possible exception of the biceps shape, because of the human ability to supinate the wrist) is pretty much predetermined according to biomechanical structure. Size, however, and the fulfillment of your genetic shape, comes from lifting consistently, heavily, rhythmically and intensely — stimulating as many fibers as possible within a very short period of time.

As a result, doing light exercises such as kickbacks cannot stimulate muscular hypertrophy in this fashion (unless your just beginning, for then almost any type of exercise will stimulate new fiber growth). But the only way to stimulate the fibers into growth at the intermediate or advanced level (and, therefore, make the appearance of the triceps heads, or any muscle group more evident), is to consider the following: You must engage the maximum amount of fibers, for as long as possible, within your anaerobic capacity. This is to say that maximum stimulation is directly correlated to maximum intensity and duration of that intensity within the individual's anaerobic parameters. Unless I've missed something over the years, there's nothing maximally intense about triceps kickbacks. The lesson is to stick to basic movements, with moderate weight, perfect form and few (but intense) sets.

As mentioned, muscle growth is relative to three fundamental phases: Growth stimulation, nutrition, and resting and growing phases. In the gym, there is one primary phase that we are concentrating on: Growth stimulation. If this is done properly, the second phase of nourishing the body to maximize its response to the stimulation will work synergistically with hormonal production and communication.

Dietary Calculations and Hormonal Communication
Although I know no one at the age of 40 who has the same GH or testosterone levels as they did at 20, the amount of hormones in the body is not the crucial factor. Instead, hormonal communication is most important. This includes organ to organ, such as hypothalamus to pituitary (paracine), pituitary to testes (endocrine) and cell to cell (autocrine). By studying this interaction, you will easily discover that certain eating habits either contribute to enhanced hormone production and absorption, or severely compromise these two hormonal dimensions. In other words, as you age, since it seems almost inevitable that growth factor hormones will drop off, it's of the utmost importance to maximize the level of communication and potential absorption through dietary means.

Let us look at some basic guidelines in order to keep hormonal production and communication at a maximum. One fundamental approach is to use your lean body mass as a baseline for protein intake. In effect, whatever your lean muscle mass in pounds, you'll convert this figure to total grams of protein that you will consume in a day. This does two things: 1.) It ensures a positive nitrogen balance, which helps in the rebuilding of microscopic tissue tears; and 2.) It will give you a calculated baseline in which to work from in an effort to keep the pancreatic axis (glucagon/insulin) in balance. This axis is perhaps the most important part of hormonal communicative control that you can influence.

This total number of grams of protein should be spread out, relatively equally over 4-5 meals throughout the day. To this figure, you must also want to add .25 grams more of low-glycemic carbohydrates and divide them up proportionately. For example, if you carry 175 lbs. of lean muscle mass, you should take in roughly 175 grams of protein over the course of a day, as well as approximately 218 grams of carbohydrates. This helps balance the glucagon/insulin axis, which ultimately sets up the most efficient hormonal communication further down the line (such as with GH and testosterone). Finally, to this equation, you want to add approximately 75 grams of (preferably monounsaturated) fat spread out over the 4-5 meals eaten throughout the day.

If you're over 40 and want to be stronger and more muscular, eating this way make you leaner and increase the absorption of GH and testosterone. This means more muscle mass and strength on the growth end of the cycle.

Finally, it is imperative to only train when you are thoroughly rested. The best way that I've found to gauge this internal mechanism is to only train when you feel strong, energetic and, perhaps most importantly, when all your muscles have recovered. That is to say, if you're sore anywhere on your body, regardless if your working that particular muscle that day or not, you shouldn't work out with weights at all. You need more rest. I recommend that people over 40 train only three times in a 7-9 day cycle — although each session should be very hard work.

Sleep is also imperative. An over-40-athlete should get at least eight hours of sleep each night. One reason is because if you study how our bodies evolved, you realize that melatonin (at least one identified chemical that helps put us to sleep) is very much influenced by light and darkness. The inventions of keeping time, eight (or more) hour workdays and electrical lights have not only altered our natural sleep cycles, but also shortened them. My advice to anyone wanting to develop their physique and maintain their health is to sleep at least 8-10 hours each night, preferably during dark hours.

Don't let age be an excuse for not being in tip-top physical condition. If you get smarter as you grow older, you'll be a successful bodybuilder your entire life!

- Taken from Exercise For Men Only (Paul Burke's Over-40 Fitness Column)