11/02/2009 - bob
Rebuilding Workout Intensity
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.
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!