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
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.
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
a reader wrote to my over-40 fitness section at the NB&F
website (www.exercisegroup.com) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)