Starting at Middle Age (Pt 2)

Create: 07/03/2010 - 01:15
A Few More Tips for the Beginning Master Lifter. By William Duncan When it comes to sets and reps, I’ve done it all – pyramids, drop sets, doubles, triples, sets of four, sets of five, even sets of ten. And what did I learn from all this? Anything works if you put in effort and everything works for a season. So I’ll throw some ideas your way and do with them what you will. There will be a broad range of training ideas and you’ll have to weigh the alternatives. OK, take Joe Pussgut (that is a monicker that a friend and training partner in Oregon used to describe out of shape middle-aged guys who would show up in the gym once a year). Well, Joe shows up one day while I’m squatting; kind of skulks around; and when I’m finished my set and out of breath, Joe asks the question, “Whose routine are you using?” Now that tells me that Joe has money and has been reading bodybuilding magazines, but it’s also a legitimate question. Joe goes on to say, “I’m new here. Do you know anyone I could lift with?” You may remember several weeks ago a video that got posted on about the powerlifter and the other guy. The annoying bot kept questioning the powerlifter to the point where the lifter would respond that “(so and so) is a p*ssy.” Well Joe is about to cross into that territory. Anyway, I look at Joe, take a few plates off the bar, and say, “Get under here and show me what you’ve got.” If Joe says something about squats being bad for your back or something about how much he pushes on the 45 leg press, the conversation’s over. On the other hand, if Joe actually gets under the bar and attempts to lift the weight – whether successfully or not – I will proceed. My perspective is that Joe (or you) needs to understand that you can’t always do everything at the same time (kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly); you can get in shape, build strength, or train for competition…but not all at the same time. If you’re just starting out with strength training and you’re in your 40s or 50s (or older), you probably want to sneak up on the weights. The biggest mistake I make (as in ‘I’ve done this more than once’), is go too heavy, too fast. Remember that I said I’m inconsistent in my training, so I’m always trying to “get into shape (wink, wink, nod, nod).” In an amusing, yet painful, attempt to combine my love of lifting with my need for cardiovascular conditioning, I’ve come up with something I call “CrossFat” (no, not CrossFit – don’t make that mistake). In old school terms, this is like a superset of high-rep/low weight squats, benches, and deadlifts for time. Even watching it is not for the squeamish. Bottom line – my advice (ugh, the word gives me cold chills) is to take a month (3 workouts a week for three weeks) and focus on light weight and getting good form developed. I think I mentioned a system called Compensatory Acceleration Training (C.A.T.). This system is based on the work of a guy named Prilepin, who suggested that there is an optimal range of reps, sets, and weights in training. I don’t read Russian and am suspicious of translations, so I don’t guarantee that I’m applying this “correctly,” but I think my suggestion is consistent with Prilepin’s idea that as training weight increases, the total number of repetitions will have to decrease in order to manage recuperation and avoid injury. If I were starting over (after a meet or after a layoff), I’d consider doing a month of two sets of 12 reps or three sets of 10 reps in each of the competition lifts – squat, bench press, and deadlift – not counting any warmup. Now, how much weight would I use for these sets/reps? I’d say no more than 50% of my previous (or calculated) one rep max (1RM). I’d do all three in one workout, and do other lifts – hip sled, leg extensions, leg curls, lat pulldowns, you know what I’m talking about – the other days I train. Remember, you asked for this (i.e. my opinion). If it’s me, for real, I’d probably just jump in with 8 sets of 3 or 12 sets of 2, but I don’t want anyone’s estate suing my tushy off after someone keels over in a gym with a printout of this article nearby (buyer beware – you get what you paid for). Since I tend to work in 12 or 16 week training cycles, after a month of “conditioning,” I’d start training for real. Please pay attention here (if you pay attention at all) – it takes longer for us to recuperate, so if you overtrain and end up with strains, pains, or tears, you’re screwed. If you are OCD and see numbers and shut your brain off, you’re also screwed. My guess is that you have not made it to middle age by being stupid, so don’t start now. Prilepin suggests a total of about 24 reps for the 55%-65% of 1RM range; about 18 total reps for the 70%-75% range; 15 for the the 80%-85% range; and under 10 total reps for the 90+% of 1 RM range. These are estimates, not legally binding. For me, I do a month of conditioning (below 70%), a month in the 70-80% range (normally 6 sets of 3 or 9 sets of 2); a month in the 80-90% range ( 5 sets of 3 or 6 sets of 2); and two weeks in the 90+% range (2 sets of 3, 3 sets of 2, or 4 singles). Those are my numbers. Now, when I start training for a meet, I tend to work squats and deadlifts once a week (or once every 10 days to 2 weeks for deadlifts), but upper body twice a week (my bench sucks, so I need the extra work). I will do one big lift per workout and add auxiliary work when I take the extra time (this largely depends on if and who I have as a workout partner). Since I currently work out in a shed in my back yard, I tend to get in and get out…squats Monday or Tuesday, benches Wednesday, and deadlifts on Saturday or Sunday. I don’t live in the gym (but I do live in a van down by the river – just kidding), so I do what I do and get out. For me, there’s a wife, three kids, two dogs, a mother, one or more jobs…you get the idea. I lift and leave. I also compete in spurts (excuse me, I mean seasons, starting in May and ending in October), so I actually use meets to train for meets.


Submitted by JeffM on
Bill, Is there any training difference between Raw/Geared,And would you use wraps{knees}for heavy raw maxes before a raw meet. jm=m3 Good Stuff.....

Submitted by Nicolai Stern on
I am now a master's lifter, and coach a number of master (read: old!) lifters, most of whom started in their middle 40s. Just want to add that recovery is everything for those of us a hair away from the walker. I can beat the snot out of a young person, and he or she can eat all kinds of crud, and they can still make some progress - not so for the more mature lifter. Food and rest are twice as important for us, so don't think you don't have to pay more attention to these factors than you did in school!

Submitted by BillDuncan on
Jeff, funny you should ask about raw vs. geared training as I just pulled out my old custom dual quad after a 4 year hiatus. In my opinion, the only reason to train geared is that you will compete in gear. The learning curve for squatting in a wrestling singlet or benching in a t-shirt is next to nothing, but supportive suits and squats are a totally different thing. Again, it's my opinion, but you train in gear to learn the gear, not to get stronger. I have trained raw since I got both knees scoped four years ago. I've lost 20-30 pound this summer working in a warehouse, so my suit is loose. Another reason for training in equipment, particularly a bench shirt, is to protect ball-and-socket joints (i.e. shoulders and hips). The more weight you lift, geared or raw, the more you have to pay attention to recuperation.