This is an
answer to a selection of questions familiar to all of us. A bodybuilding
friend who is near enough to the half-century marker to be slightly
confused posed them. The questions are real, valid and daunting.
They are particularly concerned with overtraining, training intensity
and efficiency, overload, aerobics and muscle mass as the years
pass and youth is replaced with middle age. Allow me to generalize,
guess and pretend to the best of my recollection. Accurately.
I press on
as always. Each day I find will take us to another threshold.
I don't embrace them; I beat them back. Overtraining is a predator
on the prowl that will get us if we step into its territory and
get us if we don't step close enough. I, therefore, hang on the
ragged edges. This is one of my all-time favorite, fingertip positions
where I sort of blow in the winds and gusts never knowing if I
will be torn away or gain new territory. I take my chances. I'm
not tough, cool, stupid, foolish (we're getting close) or desperate.
I simply cannot train without intensity if I can train at all.
I sound like
a madman this is not good. Let me clarify (I'm interested
in the clarification myself). I believe in maximizing the level
of muscle-under-tension within every workout, utilizing my intuition
and logic to determine the baffling red-line. This is not achieved
necessarily by the same method or pattern. That is, I don't use
high reps consistently, though this is popular with me. I sometimes
use near-max weight though far less often; I lately employ slow
tempo reps as joint problems are less aggravated and I've discovered
an appeal for them as the body grows older. Too, "static
holds" on later reps in different ranges of motion are gaining
my interest for the same reason. I find them highly muscle-intense,
satisfying and promising. A year ago I wouldn't let them in the
I've commented in half a dozen threadbare places that my training
is not unlike my training of years ago; mostly supersetting, pyramiding
to mix the reps, singles, doubles, triples staggered over three
week periods, three on-one off, two on-one off, training each
muscle group two times every week done at a moderate pace. The
alterations I am willing to make to the above semi-flexible parameters
are beginning to reveal themselves day by day. My workouts have
been fluid since I stepped out of competition thirty years ago;
no less intense, just less rigid. Therefore, in that sense my
training principles have not changed. I search each and every
workout for the exercises, the combination, the sets and reps,
the pace and tempo, the methodology that will allow me to optimize
may not be registered in every set, but it is in the overall workout.
High intensity is sought in every rep, yet adjustments are made
to accommodate joint overload, tendon inflammation and its prevention,
muscle tear potential and exhaustion of muscle energy stores.
I perceive the workout as the wringing out of a fresh sponge to
leave no moisture, yet applying care not to shred its composition.
Hence, my appreciation for cycles of volume mixed with heavy poundage
and the recent employment of slow tempo reps and static contractions.
How does this,
the outline of my focused training approach, help you to answer
the inscrutable questions related to overtraining and overload?
My Bomber 'attack technique' established early on has had me confronted
with the overtraining dilemma for years and has thusly prepared
me. You want to train like a horse; you've got to train like a
smart horse. No saddle, no bridle free. Each workout, with
positive thought and high hopes, you warm-up, assess your core
disposition and proceed toward your most likely target. Put instinct
and intuition on alert, feelers ready to approach the edge. Hit
safer and clearer prescriptions outlined by trainers, coaches
and technicians but none more personally efficient and appealing
than muscular finesse. What formulas of percentages prescribed
for the workout of the day are more accurate than your own knowing?
The development of this 'knowing' is to be part of our training;
diligent practice, attention, trial and error and an unfailing
trust in your achievement are the steps.
This is the
way to get where you're going if where you're going is the top.
Pull back appropriately to accommodate targets less ambitious
but no less significant. Getting in shape is a superlative goal
and should be approached with artful management.
a question of one more rep or one more set, check the insertions,
the duration of the concentric and eccentric motions, the pump
and the amount of invested work of the muscle, based on a quick
evaluation of sets x reps x weight. An approximation of this workout
input compared to your last workout input, plus considerations
of sleep, feeding and non-workout work loads should give you the
clue to how to move forward, stop or retreat. I'd say cut back
on the reps and finish the sets, hold back on the weight and complete
the sets with form and slower tempo. Get the prescribed sets and
slow the pace. Other options are available by the modification
of the variables. Your choice, Chief.
and shoulder-weary depression might require that you forego your
aerobic and mid-section activity. Aggressive, direct action without
delay will provide a psychological advantage and reserve energy
stores for the muscle work ahead. Set yourself squarely before
your taskmaster and apply yourself to the nudging of the weights.
This is a test, a sounding of the ground, the locating of the
wind as if by moistening your finger and holding it to the air.
The first set of a lightweight with a smile and slow reps with
a stretch often open the creaking doors to a wonderful workout;
a workout of grand proportions where inspiration plays host, and
personal records are sometimes set. If you discover resistance
persists and a change in course fails, gather your things and
head home for solace, food and rest. You're fine. You're growing.
has its place in conditioning, improving heart and respiratory
health, energizing, detoxifying and warm-up. A conditioned muscle
builder who participates in highly evolved volume training and
is no slug on the gym floor can wisely put the activity on the
shelf and reserve it for super conditioning or for those times
when weight training due to injury, overtraining or burn out is
not the practical scheme to follow. Extended aerobics, cross training
combined with mid-section and wind sprints are smart and tough
alternate training styles to develop for overall body ability,
flexibility, stamina and occasional variation.
specific questions require further information, conversation and
time to understand. Don't let anything surprise you or short-circuit
your plans. Of course, getting older is no one's favorite pastime
and adjusting to the compromises is not eagerly done. Recovery,
strength and flexibility do not sky rocket with age, yet, attitude
and disposition will make up where the above falter.
Did I mention
plenty of rest and good food?
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