bob on November 17th, 2012

It’s been a long time since I wrote for this site. I have more or less been able to maintain my level of fitness despite life’s changes and challenges, although not nearly as much as I’d like.

So my challenges are probably a lot like a lot of people’s: the job is more sedentary, more time sitting at desks, more meetings, more conference calls, more traffic, more sitting absolutely still. Fitness slips away quickly.

Getting back in shape over 50

Over the summer I did adapt the six-week workout routine to adjust for a couple of factors:
Less muscle mass
Longer recovery times
My need to be energetic the day after a workout.

Also, I was considering entering a six-week challenge Vince DelMonte often runs. I am on his email list still, and learned he was going to do another one.

I have been active, but not exercising hard for results. I knew I would have to take it easy or I wouldn’t be able to move the next day.
Or the day after, or the day after that.

Also, I had hurt my shoulder with a repetitive stress injury a year ago. I burn wood (gotta love saving money and making it through the new North Eastern multi-day power outage cycles) and rented a splitter… I took on too much, split about 8 cords in a day (it was a REALLY long day) and my shoulder hasn’t been the same since… Ortho visits, physical therapy, the whole deal. I probably need arthroscopic surgery for a small tear, but until I can get my supraspinatus muscle to stop going into spasms and throwing my shoulder out of alignment, I think it will be premature.

So what did I do?

I did the six-week cycle and exercise routine Vince DelMonte published on his site, which I re-posted, but I focused on much lower weights, and I focused on speed through the workout.

In other words, I used even lighter weights than I thought would be effective, and pushed myself to rest ONLY 30 seconds or less between exercises of the superset, and ONLY 90 seconds max between supersets. Doing this made my workouts 40 minutes or less. And, I was able to function at work and home the next day, and work out two days later.

The amazing thing is that I still got great results. In retrospect, I didn’t get the mass gains I did the last time I really pushed it, which are the other results pics on this site. But I had more time then, and could endure feeling super tired the next day. That’s not the case now.

The other thing is that I kept it to six weeks. The other photos on earlier blog posts were from 10 weeks of progress. I hesitated submitting myself for the DelMonte six-week challenge, and missed the entry window. Oh well. I don’t know if I would have won, but for my new age group, I probably have good odds.

The thing that helped me most was a realistic mindset. I knew I had to start the process of getting back in shape with more patience so I didn’t sabotage my efforts. I didn’t start posting “before” and “progress” pictures anywhere on the site to put more pressure on myself that was necessary. In my case, I also knew I had to be really careful about my shoulder.

I have to say I know what worked for me. I am fairly certain these are universal lessons on getting back in shape, but get your doctor to approve of your starting exercise if you have been out of commission for a long time.

Here are “before” and “after” pics, for what it’s worth:

bodybuilding over 50

My “before” shot for the Vince Del Monte transformation contest I never entered.

Getting back in shape bodybuilding over 50 with Vince Del Monte tactics

Really me at a peak level of fitness July 2012 after doing a Vince Del Monte six week workout cycle with light weights. Bodybuilding over 50? You betcha!

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I’ve been writing from the perspective of bodybuilding over 40… heck, far too close to 50 for my comfort.  But, as time marches on, you can join the parade or be run over by it.  I choose to not be run over.  So, here I am, working out again, getting in the best shape of my life lifting weights, at 48 years old.

In my 30s, I lifted weights regularly, but apparently wasted a lot of time.  I did full body routines, and although I got some benefit, I can’t help but think, “what if I knew then what I know now?”  But I won’t dwell on that.  It’s not productive.  What I take away from that experience is that there’s a lot of new or recent research that doesn’t get a whole lot of coverage in most of the muscle magazines.  (Actually, I stopped reading them a looooonngg time ago, except while burning time in an airport newsstand waiting for a flight.)  Fortunately there are some guys who studied kinesiology and as a result, know the new material and are selling courses on the Internet.  It is from these courses I re-learned how the human body responds to physical demands placed on it.  Really.

I can vouch for the general theories because I tested them on myself.  I am somewhat surprised, honestly, that I am making the gains I am.   And, I have to admit, I regularly stack the deck against myself by not getting enough sleep, not eating six small, well planned meals a day at regular times, and not maintaining a regular enough workout schedule.   If I want to see how far I can take this, I have to work my schedule and commitments to address these “enemies” of progress.  But that’s more a “bodybuilding” goal than a commitment to being in shape.

Today, after writing the most recent bodybuilding over 40 post, I got to work out, starting at 6:30PM.   It was perhaps the latest start since I began this “experiment” in late May.  It was the second workout with weights that are perhaps too heavy for me for the five by five workout routine of compound exercises.  I had increased my weights in a fit of frustration of not sticking to a good schedule.  Since I had done a full workout with these weights, I didn’t want to “go backwards.”  Being late in the day, the weights all felt heavier than they were upon the initial lift.  I was hungry.  I was somewhat tired.  I didn’t want to wait until Monday for the next workout.  I’ve broken that tendency and habit, and don’t feel like going back there.

But, despite it all, I finished in under 90 minutes.  Not that I’m patting myself on the back, but it occurred to me that I am doing supersets of compound exercises now using weights that are very close to my old one set maximum weights.  However, I might be pushing too close to the edge of failure.  I’ll stick with these weights until I can complete this in 60 minutes.  I don’t want to hurt myself and wreck progress.  I do have the tendency of getting muscle knots in my right shoulder and trapezius, a leftover from breaking my collarbone umpteen years ago.  That, coupled with near failure on the last set, can lead to bad form, jerky motions, and torn cartilage.  No thanks. I might rethink the military press weight, though, as I reflect on that.

Since it’s mid-August, and I started about mid-May, I’ve been on this path for three months.  I did not have 20 or 40 or more pounds to lose when I started.  I had been living a somewhat sedentary lifestyle, though.  Getting my “wind” back was tough, but it came back.  I looked for any sign I was “packing on 40 pounds of lean muscle” on my scale, but have stayed in the 185 pound range.  Now I wish I had done a body mass analysis and learned what percentage fat I had.   The reason?  My post-workout pump today surprised me again.  Again, I looked larger than I’ve ever been.  I jumped on the scale…. about 185.  You’re kidding, right?  No.  So my percentage fat has to be dropping as I’ve obviously built muscle.

On one hand, it’s taken me perhaps two months to “get back in shape,” whatever that means.  At three months, I’m still going, improving my fitness level.   And, instead of just getting skinny, I’m getting stronger and more muscular.  One more oddity: after a year, my alopecia (big bald spots that “forced” me to shave my head) is fading.  The biggest bald spot had remained unchanged since two different dermatologists blasted it full of some steroid or another a little over a year ago.  My hair was thinning, and I’ll keep it short, but the biggest bald spot is easily less than half as large as it was before I started lifting weights.  Could this be a benefit of forcing my body to release its own growth hormone?  It very well could.

I know I can carry my three year old around without thinking twice about it.  That’s my motivation.  I can carry my five year old, or toss him in the air as he howls with laughter.  That’s my motivation, too.  I can undertake any repair, construction, or landscaping project without worrying about hurting myself because I haven’t lifted anything heavier than my laptop in years.  I don’t fear a heart attack from shoveling snow.  My commercial lawnmower weighs almost 500 pounds.  You get the point.

What does “back in shape” mean to each of us?  At 25 years old, it might have meant having a great body to attract and meet someone special.  At 35 or 45 it might mean just being able to walk the dog without getting winded.  It might just mean a healthy blood pressure.  One aspect of it has to include the strength of our heart muscles and avoiding diabetes.  If you could get into the best shape of your life now, no matter what age, why wouldn’t you?  Could it be fear of failure?  It would require effort….  Is that it?  It can’t be a fear of the time commitment.  I’m proving it doesn’t take much time for the basic mechanisms to work.  True, I didn’t start with an extra 40 pounds of fat to burn, but I am 48.  The biological mechanisms work.

I have read great workout routines that take even less time and still get you to hit the right intensity to build muscle and burn fat.  I signed up to a bazillion mailing lists and have been getting information from several other authors and trainers besides Vince DelMonte.  They all have been saying similar things about muscle building being far better than low-intensity “typical” cardio exercises like running for getting in shape, and most have degrees in kinesiology.  There are some interesting exercises and routines.  I’ll gather some routines for bodyweight routines for muscle gain and fat loss, and post them in the not-too distant future.

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bob on July 28th, 2009

It’s only been ten weeks since I started this?  Time both flies and stands still.

Yesterday, Monday, marked the beginning of the 11th week of lifting according to the workout routine I posted previously.  My first workout was May 18th.  Here I am ten weeks later… Am I back in shape?  Yeah….  That’s a bold statement… but it’s true.

Last week I started on Monday doing five sets of five with heavier weights.  When I got to the body weight exercises at the end, I pushed for 10 reps on dips and incline ab raises.  I had mentioned that doing 50 dips in day and living to tell about it was something I’d never imagined I’d be able to do.  Truth be told, the next day I suffered  knots in my right shoulder and trapezius that prevented me from lifting last Wednesday.  I could not get my shoulder loose enough to move through its range of motion without sudden twinges of pain.  When I tried my first set of bench presses, I lifted the bar off the rack, and felt dangerously close to a twinge that would force my arm to collapse.  I took the day off, but I was really annoyed.

I had broken my right collarbone somewhere around 1991.   As my collarbone healed, it wound up about an inch shorter than my left.  I think the slight difference leads to nearly perpetual knots in my trapezius muscles in my neck and under my right shoulder blade.  I stretched a lot and was flexible and mobile enough to work  out Thursday and Saturday.  You can actually see the difference between my collarbones in the pics below.

Because I was somewhat concerned about the spasms and knots, I did not push my weights higher at any point this past week. I did try to do Thursday’s and Saturday’s workouts in less time. I began Saturday’s session too late… 90 minutes before the time I had to be at a friend and neighbor’s house for dinner.  I had no choice.  I had to push myself on the time between exercises and sets.

It was the first time I completed any of these workouts in one hour.  And let me tell you, that was DIFFICULT.  It took me an hour to stop sweating. Even though I hadn’t increased my weights, I hit a new peak of intensity shortening the workout.

So enough of me talking about progress.  It’s time for pictures.

I’m stalling.  I’ve resisted….  It feels a bit weird and self-doubt creeps up… But, if anyone is ever going to believe me that Vince DelMonte KNOWS what he’s talking about, I have to bite the bullet and just get on with it.

It was late when these pics were taken by my now ex-wife. I had to manipulate lighting in Picassa so you can actually see me. I’ll update them with pics taken in daylight.

I took a vacation in January 2009 with family.  Pics from that trip will have to suffice:

Actually Me in Jan 2009

Actually Me in Jan 2009

Also me in not so great shape at 47 in Jan 09.

Also me in not so great shape at 47 in Jan 09.

Since I never really imagined I’d be posting pictures of myself… I didn’t take any “before” shots as I started the routine.  So, these are photos from January 09, when we were on a cruise vacation.  Since I didn’t do much in the way of physical activity between then and May 18th when I started, this is a good enough approximation for… well… me.

Ok, so the photographer admitted to being camera-challenged.  It was late at night.   I had wanted to take these pictures right after my workout Monday so I could be a little more “pumped up.”   How vain.  I know.

Have you ever putting pictures of yourself  on line?  Posing?  After only ten weeks trying to get back in shape?

Enough disclaimers.  Here goes nothing:

Some progress for 10 weeks of lifting.

Some progress for 10 weeks of lifting.

Why didn't the flash work? Who knows?

Why didn't the flash work? Who knows?

We’ll get better pics up soon.

And one more just because…..

After ten weeks of the "six week workout."

After ten weeks of the "six week workout."

Because the camera was taking literally 20 seconds when the flash was on, all the shots taken with the flash were blurry.  So, I resorted to Picassa and lightened up the non-flash pictures so I could see them.  I’ll replace these at some point soon.

I know I had to post pictures so I’d be the least bit credible.

If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you’d remember I did no big extra diet modifications, still eat pizza with my boys on Friday nights, and have indulged a few times since I started this “journey.”   Frankly, I’m amazed at how well DelMonte’s guidelines have proven out.

Sure, I don’t belong on bodybuilding dot com or “steroids R us” websites, but this is progress for ten weeks.  How big can I get?  I don’t know.  I’ve been skinny my entire life.  Some of my cousins are big.  Maybe I have more potential than I was ever able to understand.   After this week, I’ll take a week off, I think, and start up a new routine and use even more information contained in the full blown course.

Time to cook the boys dinner!  Enough for today!

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bob on July 4th, 2009

It turns out that I had forgotten a few details when I started this routine on May 18th. I had combined the content of two of DelMonte’s free videos to create a compound exercise full body routine.

What I had forgotten was the number of reps/set, rest, and number of supersets per week.

I think my inability to get through more than one superset during that first week threw me for a loop. My old habits included doing a set, and then waiting until I was good and ready to do another set.. of the same exercise. Blasting from one exercise to another with only 60 seconds rest was just something I hadn’t done. Ever. And, make no mistake, when you try it with compound exercises for the first time, you’ll find it’s tough too.

It took me about four weeks to catch on that the routine required changing the number of reps/exercise and supersets done every two weeks. I think there was also a promo around that time that consisted of a 12 week, transform-your-body-contest open to anyone purchasing the program. Since I thought this free video workout was a 12 week program at three supersets of 15 reps per exercise, I’d say I mixed them all up.

So, here’s what it’s supposed to be:
3 sets of 15 reps/exercise for two weeks
4 sets of 10 reps/exercise for two weeks
5 sets of 5 reps/exercise for two weeks

For the exercises… a couple of caveats first:
I work out in my basement, and I’m tall enough that I can not do a standing military press without hitting the ceiling. I also own a Hoist home gym that has a weight stack for pulldowns. I otherwise don’t have a good place for pullups/chinups.

Flat barbell bench press
Bent over row
Seated dumbbell military press
Plate Chopper
Pull downs
Reverse Incline Leg Raises

And this, dear readers, is a killer weight lifting routine.

At the end of the routine, I have more often than not added oblique crunches, two or three sets per side. I’ve also added one pass through a shoulder superset with really light weight a few times. My shoulders have always been a weak spot in my mind.

Check out proper form, and review the rest/repetition info in these free workout routine videos.

Again, if you’re just getting back in shape, be careful! Even with very light weights, you will be shocked at how hard you work to do a superset if you’ve never done one. Don’t give up if it takes a few weeks to get do three supersets of 15 reps per exercise. This workout routine will rapidly transform your body.

For those getting back in shape: I’d suggest getting to the point or fitness level where you can do three sets…. THEN consider yourself “starting” this workout routine, doing two weeks of sets of 15 reps, then going to 4 sets of 10, then 5 of 5.

Let me know how you do!

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bob on June 29th, 2009

Bodybuilding over 40…
I am sure glad I landed on Vince DelMonte’s info when I did. I recently did a few searches on “bodybuilding over 40″ and browsed a couple of “supplements are awesome” sights. The only bodybuilders over 40 I could find in my quick check of any discussion of age and bodybuilding had been bodybuilding since their early 20s. Granted, I found a few impressive guys, over 70 even, who were big and ripped… but had been doing it for 40 years, obviously with gifted genetics.

I did feel a bit self-conscious when I used the term “bodybuilding” to describe my efforts. After all, I don’t own a speedo and I’m not going to shave my chest or my legs… but I am working hard on building muscle. I’m not just toning. I’m lifting. I’m not just doing a few sets of bench presses and squats to maintain my current muscle mass. I’m going through a routine, increasing weight and intensity, to grow.

I guess it was a bit of a sanity check that led me out into the big, bad world of relentless nonsense on bodybuilding. One blog post written by some pro bodybuilder talked about weights to use if you are over 40 and going to start training again… I could swear I read “for the bench, pick a light weight, about 225lbs, to re-introduce yourself to training.”

I can’t even imagine trying lifting my old maximum workout weights… especially doing supersets of compound exercises. But I started light, and built up some endurance, and strength, and am making great progress. It’s not about “benching 200″ which was a high school taunt… (I can’t remember what my old max bench weight ever was, because I was doing inclines for the years I tried the Mentzer routine.) It’s not about the weight, or the reps, it’s about building muscle. If I can do it with a 10 pound dumbbell, doing the crazy shoulder superset at the end of my workout, that’s what it is.

If you’re thinking about getting back in shape yourself, go for it! Start with really light weights… maybe even “just the bar” so you can get your form down and ease into it so you don’t hurt yourself. There’d be not much worse than getting all psyched up to start building muscle again and have to stop because you hurt your shoulder, for example.

I’ve been healthy, not gaining much weight, no hypertension, etc, so it was a lot easier for me to get back in to a routine. Still, it took me four weeks to get to three times through DelMonte’s superset routine. So if you’ve not done any exercise lately, make sure your doctor clears you, and start fast walking or biking to get your heart used to beating hard. Then, I’d do the routine I started with, and go once through it. When you change your old training method from “waiting around until I recover as much as possible to do the next set of the same exercise” model to the superset model, your body will change quickly.

Tomorrow, if I don’t actually get the sore throat bug going through my family, I’ll start the second week of 4 by 10. Need some sleep too, so with that, I’m off for tonight.

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bob on June 9th, 2010

It has been a long time coming… I had not exercised for several months (life got in the way) and it was “high time” to get back in shape…

So, despite the progress I wrote about in other posts in this blog, a couple of months ago I found myself in the same boat as a lot of people starting a new weight lifting or exercise program: out of shape and dreading the effort to get back in shape.

Get In Shape Lifting Weights?

It worked a year ago, so as I approach… ugh… 49, I thought I should prove the point again that it is entirely possible… If it works for me, it can work for you. Now that it’s June, I’m going to be 49 this month… Where has the time gone? Well, rather than becoming one with my couch or comfy chair, and rationalizing an eventual 40 extra pounds hanging over my belt sometime in the future, I decided to prove a point… To whom, I’m not quite sure. At least to me.

I started lifting weights again in early to mid-April, using very light weights and starting with only one super-set of this free weightlifting routine Vince DelMonte emailed once. It took me until the last Friday in May to have the capacity to get through three super-sets. I did not increase weights on any exercise since I started, looking only to build the stamina and work capacity in my muscles without hurting myself.

Getting Back in Shape

Consistency is key. Lift weights that are too heavy, and you wind up too sore to even move for a week, let alone work out. Been there. Done that. I had to temper my enthusiasm for getting back in shape with realistic expectations of muscle recovery time.

Workout Schedule

I rationalized using the much lighter weights by absolutely sticking to Monday, Wednesday, Friday workouts. To begin, one super-set only requires 15 to 20 minutes. Surely, I can squeeze that in at some point each day…

One Super-Set still kicked my butt

I managed to stick with the schedule… The light weight, limiting my early workouts to one set of each exercise, all contributed to avoiding the feeling that there was no way I could muster the energy to do a workout. More than once I started a workout at 9PM, after putting my two little guys to bed. But, I knew I’d be done in 15 minutes… it was completely do-able. No, I don’t recommend working out at 9PM, but during this ramp-up, it was essential I stuck to the schedule.

Increasing Workout Intensity

With each workout, however “light,” I tried to ratchet the intensity up a notch. The first couple left me dragging the next day. I was sore, not too sore to move, just lacked energy and felt pretty tired.
When I noticed that I felt better going in to the next workout, knowing I was sticking with one set, I forced myself to minimize the time between exercises.

I felt like I was getting back in shape fairly quickly, so I added the second set gradually. How did I do that? To be honest, I dreaded the second set of squats especially… So to ease my apprehension, I again rationalized with myself that I wouldn’t push too, too hard and only did five reps for the second set instead of 15. I did that twice, for two workouts, and then dove into full second sets.

With each workout, I tried increasing the intensity just a little.

I did two sets for two weeks, and then added the third. I was going to continue the gradual ramp up, and only do 5 reps, but absent-mindedly did 15 deadlifts to start the third set… The gauntlet was thrown! So I gave it a shot, and surprised myself by finishing. yes, I felt pretty tired for a couple of days, but had done that on a Friday, and had two days off…

Can you build muscle with light weights?

Yes! Next question? lol
It’s all in the intensity. If there’s one thing I learned from all the Vince Del Monte material, it’s that our bodies respond to intense workouts by releasing growth hormone… I haven’t been building muscle as fast as I was last July, but intend to get there once again. Intensity is a function of the stress our bodies are used to, and the new stresses our bodies experience…

I’ve had to extend the time I’m taking to “ramp up” to high intensity. That is, I’m gradually increasing the stress I routinely experience. Even though it’s slower than I’d like, I am making progress every workout.

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bob on April 15th, 2010

I had some great success last spring and summer getting in shape with the workout routine I posted. As fall arrived, several things converged and completely knocked me off my weight lifting routine. Between little kid germs from kindergarten and nursery school and a few big free firewood opportunities that involved days of sawing and moving tons of wood, my workout schedule didn’t stand a chance.

So, now I’m in the same boat as a lot of guys and girls in their mid and late forties: demanding family life, jobs that require hours sitting at a computer or in a conference room chair, and an hour or more each day driving to and from the sedentary job…. with no regular exercise.

I do have an advantage, though…. I know that I eased back in to weightlifting with bodybuilding intensity only a year ago, and in a relatively short time, got some fantastic results.

I’m only three workouts into it. I’m a little jealous of guys who’ve been hitting the gym consistently all winter…
My endurance is way off. My left shoulder bugs me when I’m doing dumbbell presses. As lame as it sounds, I think I irritated my rotator cuff throwing snowballs with my boys. So, just like all of my readers who are wondering how to get back in shape without hurting themselves, I intend to be very careful rebuilding my work capacity.

How Many Sets? How Many Reps?

Based on my experience with the free routine Vince DelMonte either emailed or posted on his blog, I am going to build up to three sets of 15 reps using lighter weights before I increase weight and boost my workout intensity.

“Three sets of fifteen reps? That’ll kill me!”
-That makes two of us. When I said I was three workouts into my road back to high intensity exercise, it’s because one time through the routine with super light weights made walking and living really tough for at least three days after. I worked out one day two weeks ago, then recovered for a week. Last week, same deal but to a slightly lesser degree. I worked out today… and will report later this week how I fared. I do hope to be able to do the same workout Wednesday evening.

Isolate Muscles or Compound Exercise?

I am a huge fan of the full body compound exercise workout. It is extremely efficient. I need efficient.
It is also very difficult. This is not a “get fit without even breaking a sweat” nonsense routine. The premise behind the routine is this: place a brief (45 to 90 minutes), intense demand on your body, and it will react and adapt in preparation for the next similar demand.


Your body responds to the “shock” by building muscle. It does this by producing its own all-natural growth hormone. Do your glands secrete growth hormone if you do isolation exercises like bicep curls? It must. However, don’t you think your body would have a proportional response to the amount of strain it experiences? If every muscle in your body has been exercised and fatigued, it makes sense that in a proportional response, your body would make and secrete more growth hormone. I am going to have to research this assumption… It’s just that it worked so well for me last year…

Compound exercises are great because you have to use many muscles to stabilize or contribute to the motion you are executing. Take rows, for example. On a row machine at a gym, your back, abdominal, and leg muscles rest comfortably while you pull handles and your chest presses against a pad. With a bent-over row, your leg, back and abdominal muscles work very hard to keep you standing and in proper form while you raise and lower the weight. It’s a much more intense experience from your body’s perspective.

Same deal for squats vs. a leg press machine… All the minor muscles in your legs work very hard to maintain their position, and your arms hold the bar in place, and your back and abs work to keep your position so you don’t fall over… which would suck. On a leg press machine, you wouldn’t get nearly the same involvement outside your quads.

How Do I Start a New Weight Routine?

This is for all of you who haven’t worked out in ages:
First, make sure you are healthy enough to exercise… Ask your doctor. I’m trying to inspire you to get in shape, not kill yourself.
Be patient! This routine will work like magic if you get to the point you can start ratcheting up the intensity. You will have to build up your endurance in every muscle in your body.

Can you stand in a doorway and, holding on to the wall with both hands, do 15 squats? 15 push ups?
If not, don’t get down on yourself! You’re trying to figure out how to get back in shape… that is an amazing first step! Congratulate yourself and read on:

Here’s the basic routine:
In rapid succession, with as little rest between each exercise as possible:
Bench press or push up
Bent over row
the Clean
overhead press
Pull down
bent leg raises

If you’ve not exercised in 10 years, your barbell should be a broomstick at most. Your push up can be done off a set of stairs, so you’re not flat. To start doing squats, hang on a doorway to stabilize yourself for the squats. Your goal should be ramping up your repetitions using good form until you can do 15 of each.

Bent leg raises deserve special note: You are notgoing to raise your legs from the floor. Start lying on your back with your feet in the air, knees slightly bent. Slowly push your lower back into the floor to lift your hips. Maybe you can do this on the floor in front of a heavy couch or your bed, so you can hold on to it reaching backward, or you can put your hands under your butt or to your side. Drive your feet towards the ceiling, and slowly lower your hips to your starting point. As you get stronger, you can lower your feet a little, rotating your hips slightly to increase range of motion. Never lower them enough to force your back to arch.

The wood chopper: as you get stronger, it will be a barbell plate. To start, use a textbook. Check out the video of Vince DelMonte doing them with the plate. To build up for dips, sit on stairs, with your feet flat on the floor, legs bent, and put your hands on the stair higher than the one you’re sitting on. Press up to straight arms, lower yourself as far as you can as long as you can press yourself back up to straight arms.

For deadlifts and overhead presses: use dumbbells. If you don’t have dumbbells, use two plastic milk jugs filled with water. Get creative.

If it’s been that long: Do one repetition of every exercise. Get the motion down.

Do one of these “sets” Monday, again on Weds, and finally on Friday. Build up to 15 squats with a broomstick, 15 full pushups, etc. Remember, going from exercise to exercise to exercise doing a “superset” completely changes the nature of this workout! It amplifies the intensity by orders of magnitude. The goal should not be to be able to do 15 pushups and 5 dips. 15 of every exercise…

When you can do a full superset of 15 of each exercise in rapid succession, the next goal will be two supersets on each of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then three. Once you have three, you can add weight. Can you see how this routine can kick your butt?

And here’s something else to ponder: Growth hormone is the best-known metabolic agent that causes you to burn body fat. So, not only will you be building muscle, which burns more energy than fat, you will be introducing your own completely safe and natural growth hormone which causes your body to burn fat for energy.

To summarize:
Yes you can get in shape lifting weights! Supersets will fast-track your results.
Ramp up to three supersets. Once you’re at three supersets, you’ll be able to make a big difference in your body in six weeks if you’re willing to work at it.
Any questions?

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bob on November 2nd, 2009

Workout Routine Changes

As I’ve written previously, I wanted to change my routine to make it a little easier to get back in my bodybuilding over 40 groove. My first week I cut my weights and did two supersets of ten reps per exercise. I also substituted standing cable rows for the bent-over barbell row. My secondary goal included not hurting myself in the process.

The routine seemed a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. At first I thought it was due to those three weeks of relative inactivity when I was down with headcolds, and I’m sure that contributed, but that couldn’t have been all. I suspected the bike rides I started doing regularly sapped energy too. It turns out I was wrong.

Workout Intensity

I finally made it to my goal of four supersets of 10 reps on Friday, Oct. 16. The week after I only managed one workout on Tuesday (frustrating!). This past week I actually got three full workouts in on Monday, Weds, and Fri… I also worked progressively harder to get the four sets done more quickly.

Over this past summer, I had gone through a similar period where I spent weeks reducing the time to complete the five rep superset workout after I had increased the weight I used on all my exercises. It’s this approach I took with this phase of four sets, increasing intensity of each workout as I reduced the time from about an hour and twenty minutes to an hour and ten minutes.

Weightlifting Routine Comparison

I was trying to understand why I felt so wiped out after four supersets. I took a look at some numbers and was pleasantly surprised.

When I was doing five supersets of five reps, I was squatting 170. I reduced the weight approximately 25% to 130. Although I reduced the weight by 25%, when compared to my 5 supersets of 5 reps routine, four supersets of 10 reps is actually more “work.”

In physics, “work” is defined as being equal to force required to move a mass at a constant speed times the distance that mass is moved. In a vertical lift, it is, for the most part, equal to the weight of the object under study (mass x force of gravity).

Let’s look at my squats: In this example, everything can be simplified because I’m doing the squats the same. The vertical distance the weight moves in each rep is the same. In an effort to just see the impact of the weight change and the repetitions, we can call the distance moved “one Bob squat height.” That’s about 2 1/2 feet if you’re trying to be specific, but it’s not required. We’re just looking at the difference in energy required to move the weight in each workout scenario, with the weight as the only variable.

The formula is actually: W=FxD….
For one set at 170 pounds: W=170*1*5 (five repetitions = 5 times “one bob squat height”) =850
For one set at 130 pounds: W=130*1*10 (10 reps through the same distance) =1300

Looking back at the four supersets, and focusing just on my squats:
The difference of 450 between each set x 4 sets = 1800
That difference alone is a little more than the energy required for two 5 rep sets of squats! (2×850=1700).

(I’ll have to refer to my “ancient engineering texts” to brush up on the subject if anyone wants to know the exact units, but in metric units it would be Newtons, and in Standard units it might actually be a fraction of horsepower.)

So it turns out I’ve been doing more “work” in the four set workouts than I had in the 5 by 5 workouts given the weights I used and have been using most recently. That explains a lot! I had been down on myself because I had been struggling with my last set of dips. When I was doing the 5 by 5 workout, I did 10 reps of dips in each superset. I couldn’t understand why I felt so depleted at the 40th dip versus the 50th I had done in the other routines. I obviously exerted far more energy by the end of my fourth set of ten than I had by my fifth set of five.

I now have to look at the weights I used for each of the exercises, for a similar percentage comparison, but I’m confident I didn’t reduce any weight enough to just “break even.”

It looks to me like I’ve accomplished my goal of returning to my pre-break intensity and then some! Now I’m looking forward to results.

Re-starting Your Bodybuilding Over 40 Routine

In light of my experience, my “official recommendation” would be to ramp back up in a similar fashion if you’ve been forced to take a break.
-Reduce your weights by 25%
-Increase reps per exercise.
-Start with one or two supersets, depending on your fitness level, and work to complete them with 30 seconds rest max between exercises, 90 seconds between sets.
-Add the third and fourth superset as you are able.
-Cut yourself a little slack, but don’t make excuses for reduced intensity.

Remember, the higher the intensity, the greater your body’s response will be. That will be in the form of growth hormone production and metabolic rate increases. These will lead to more muscle mass and faster fat metabolism. Intensity is a function of many factors. Given a fixed number of repetitions and sets at certain weights, reducing the time to complete the routine amplifies intensity.

Of course, be careful, get a doctor’s approval if you haven’t exercised in a long time!

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bob on October 12th, 2009

Bodybuilding Obstacles Had Taken Their Toll

It has been a full three weeks since I worked out last. Back-to-school for the kids came with the requisite colds. I got one immediately and after a week, had a definite relapse. For two and a half weeks I did nothing. Last week, I started moving again riding my bike by myself. Then I took a couple of bike rides with the boys in the bike trailer Friday and Saturday, each time in a bit of a sprint. So I got my heart pumping and out of breath enough to clear out my lungs.

Weightlifting Routine Progress

My progress had been pretty good. Before the break, I got the five sets of five rep routine down to 50 to 55 minutes. In my post where I essentially whined about Bodybuilding Over 40 Obstacles I noted that I had raised all the weights for all the exercises out of frustration, and that the routine was taking a full hour and fifteen minutes as a result. It was tough… and I almost hurt myself.

I maintained the same weights for a few weeks and recorded the exact time I finished various sets. When I began recording the time, the first superset had taken just eight minutes, the second, ten or eleven, with the fifth taking nearly 20. Just before I got sick, I was finishing the second, third, and fourth sets exactly ten minutes after the end of the previous set, and twice did so for the fifth set as well. I had vastly improved my aerobic capacity as I tried to shorten the workout each time I did it. Pushing through five sets trying to keep to that schedule kept the intensity peaked. I ended each workout drenched in sweat and gasping for air.

Re-Starting a Bodybuilding Routine

Surely I’d be setting myself up for failure if I tried to do the exact routine in the same time as I had before the break. So I decided to ease back into the workout habit. I vacillated between starting a six-week cycle with two weeks of three supersets of 15 reps, and three or four sets of ten reps. I settled on three sets of 10, moderate intensity (lower weights, not freaking about the “schedule”). I got two done.

I’ve read a few accounts on one of the “steroids is great” web sites, and laughed cynically to myself when reading the “what’s your favorite exercise?” section. Mine? Sleep. There, I’m busted. Every single exercise in the superset hurt a little more than I expected it to. I didn’t feel like working out, but I pushed myself to do something. With perfect timing, one of the boys got hurt playing outside just as I finished my first set, and I had to play dad. I almost didn’t go back for my second…. it was dinner time. For some unknown reason, I decided to get through one more.

It turns out that two sets of ten at a moderate pace was enough to start back up. I guess I didn’t lower my weights all that much, and approached failure at the tenth rep most of the exercises… I feel every muscle now, and am thankful I didn’t push myself for the third because I would surely suffer tomorrow. Maybe I will anyway. I’ll let you know.

So, in conclusion, if you are forced into a break in your routine, I’d strongly recommend changing it up a little, like reducing weight and increasing reps, and plan to ramp back up to your previous intensity. Move through the supersets at a moderate pace.

Even though I wasn’t completely gung-ho about lifting today, I’m glad I did. It’s going to take a successful week or two before I set some ambitious goal for myself.

One other thing worth noting: I changed my bent-over row to a standing cable row exercise. I get a better squeeze on my lats, and less lower back strain. Doing the cable row while standing engages a lot of muscles to keep you standing without excessive stress in any one spot, like lower back.

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