04/15/2010 - bob

Getting Back in Shape Lifting Weights over 40

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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Get In Shape Bodybuilding Over 40 / build muscle / dumbbell routine / Get In Shape / Getting Back In Shape / Getting In Shape / no-nonsense muscle building / Vince DelMonte / weight lifting / Workout Routine /


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  • Stan R. Rickard says:

    I enjoyed reading your comments on getting back in shape for us who are over 40. I use to be in excellent shape like most of us that were gym rats back in my 20’s. For the past 8 years I have been battling physical handicaps that have affected my life in nothing but negative results. I have had both hips replaced and I am just now starting to get back in the gym. Patients is my worst enemy so I am going to take your advice and do my very best to be patient. Doing squats is my main concern so I was wondering if you had any experience or knowledge of alternate exercises that are as beneficial?
    I am 6′-4″ and during my 20’s I was 305 lb. with a 62″ chest, 36″ waist, 19″neck, calves, and biceps. My quads were about 30″ at mid thigh and I was about 5% body fat. Now since I have been so inactive healing up from surgeries I am topping the scales at 350 and I look like a fat body blob and it is killing me. Any advice or encouragement would be appreciated. Thanks and have a great day. Stan

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