Thursday, March 29, 2012

Training Update 3.28.12: Forbidden Alchemy "Turning Lead to Gold" or "Replacing Fat with Muscle"

It has been some time since I last talked about training. But, fear not, I have not been idle!

So for any 40ker's not interested in supplementing their hobby with physical fitness...skip this post. For those interested in making their tournaments and long hobby days a little easier on the ol' back and legs (or those who also have an interest in weight training)..strap in for a bit of a ride.....

I, as I have often been told, have much to say and like to say it. However, for the purposes of this post I will attempt to keep it as brief as possible and not bog down the information with loads of big words and scientific/medical information. Anything I mention here can be googled or searched for those interested in either more technical information and/or validation. Also, don't take my word above that of your primary care physician. Use good judgement and follow medical advice before beginning any exercise or weight loss plan...right all parameters and legal junk accounted for...moving on.

I'd like to start off by providing you with an excellent resource for those wishing to begin weight training as well as the veterans out there. "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men" by James Villepigue and Hugo Rivera; Revised Edition, published by healthylivingbooks. Despite the precocious  title it really is a well thought out thoroughly detailed approach to weight training. It begins with sections related to your mind set, beginning routines, multiple good diagrams of different exercises. It also addresses nutrition, supplementation, and provides nutrition and work out logs to get you started. In addition it comes with a CD that thoroughly takes you through each exercise with a demonstration and dialogue on proper technique and safety. All this for about $25 US. Money well spent is my advice.

One of the more important approaches to weight training is also presented. This approach has been called many things over the years and is used by many strength and conditioning professionals, organization, sports teams,etc. It the principle of "Muscle Confusion." I will skip all the neurological and scientific principle involved here and skip to the layman's explanation.

Basically the human body is genetically designed to be as efficient as possible. The system, your body, attempts to adapt to the demands placed on it and burn or require the fewest number of calories or fuel possible. In other words your body will strive to lift the same weight with the same or less muscle necessary. Your body will only desire to maintain the muscle mass needed for you to survive. See in this way you need less calories and will not starve to death. This is your programming from 4.5 billion years of evolution and survival. Your genes have not caught up to the fact that there is  food almost always less than 100 feet away in many parts of the world.

With this in mind when you devise a work need to change it often. It takes the human body about two weeks to adapt to a new exercise or "load" for most people who have trained longer than 3 months. This is why you see a plateau in your progress. This also explains why a smaller guy can punch harder, or kick harder or even lift more....their body has adapted and they have become more to do more work with the same or less muscle mass...we call this "technique" or "experience" or "muscle memory" etc.

When you incorporate this principle in your training you make an effort to alter your routine every two weeks (approximately). This is really quite simple and I will take you through what I have been doing since the first of the year and the results I have experienced in just a moment.

I have also changed the way I look at my training to focus on body fat percentage versus body weight. Many of the body weight charts used in most doctor's offices were developed in the 50's and do not reflect changes to the population, individuals with larger bones, athletes with more muscle mass, etc. There is a very large difference between a man 5'8" 200lb (91kg) that has a 30% body fat and one that has a 6% body fat. The former is clinically obese, the later is built like a Greek god.

Here is a great resource to quickly estimate, with no cost and little work, what your body fat is : Using your age, gender, height to weight, and waist circumference you get a fairly accurate body fat, even body type. A note here your "Waist" is measured one inch below your navel...not around your hips (which on many men could be narrow...while your belly is quite rotund).

Since focusing on weight training the first quarter of 2012 and less on how much I weigh I have moved in a positive direction. I have increased by weight by about 10lbs (4.5kg); moving up from about 264lbs(120kg) to about 275lbs (125kg) while decreasing my waist by 1/4". This results in a decrease, though a minor one, in my body fat percentage.

But the increased in my work out weights have been significant. I am ending my second 8 week work out routine. They work like this, using the principle mentioned above. I will use only the first three exercises of day 1 to conserve space ( I can be contacted for my full work out schedule and plan for those interested that will list all the exercises, repetitions)

First a little lingo: Reps = Repetitions Sets= series of repetitions Barbell=long bar with weighted plates on either end  Dumbbell= a one handed weight with a fixed amount of weight attached

WK 1: Day 1 Chest, Back, Arms:
One Arm Dumbbell Rows for 12-15 reps followed by Barbell Bench Press for 12-15 reps 90 seconds of rest between each set.
12-15 weight assisted chin ups followed by 12-15 reps of Dumbbell Lying Chest press
and so on

WK 2: Same exercises but increase the weight and work for  10-12 reps and only rest 60 seconds between each set

WK 3: Same exercises but increase the weight and work for 8-10 reps and only 30 seconds of rest

WK 4: Same exercised but increase the weight and work for 6-8 reps and 0 rest

Adjust weights and maybe interchange a new exercise and repeat.

As mentioned I am completing my second 8 week routine and here is a sample of my progress on some lifts:

I begun in early January with 205lbs (93kg) Bench Presses for 15 reps. The second 8 week routine I completed 250lbs(113kg) for two sets of 15. I am currently able to do 280lbs (127kg) for sets of 10. Next week I will work on 295lb(134kg) for 6-8. When I begin my third 8 week routine the goal will be for 275lbs (125kg) for 2 sets of 15 reps...this is some solid progress.

Your Dumbbell weight increases will be less dramatic as they are one armed and use smaller muscle groups. But for comparison I started with 35lb(16kg) arm curls for sets of 15 and currently use 55lb(25kg) for sets of 9-10.

Another very important aspect of these routines is the generous application of Dumbbell work...this helps build the muscles that stabilize your joints and keeps both legs/arms better your strong or less injured side as the case my be ....from over compensating. This is especially important for me as I have had many, many broken bones and injuries.

Basically I have increased my weight and reduced my waist size indicating an increase in the amount of muscle I carry. This also evident as my clothes slowly begin to fit differently.

I have much, much more to share about my training...but this is getting quite long and I will finish with just one more comment on progress to date.

I, probably like most men, did a google search for "Strong old guy"  and ended up watching some YouTube videos of some pretty strong guys in their late forties and early fifties. I saw one gentleman bench 315lbs (143kg) 15 times and another 49 year old bench 225lb(102kg) 29 times. Well of course, I needed to see where I stacked up. But, I decided to add a bit of a twist. I generally will run (or run and walk) my 5k on my cardio day. However, immediately after my run I hope off the treadmill and go directly to the bench press and load 225lbs and perform repetitions to failure. I have been slowly improving and yesterday I had my best. I completed my 5k in 36minutes 20 seconds (still slow...but hey I weighed in at 274lbs!)...60 seconds later I managed 27 reps with 225lbs. My goal is 50 and we will see how long that takes, if ever, to achieve.

I want to finish with a few words about work out weights. I take my training effort seriously, I don't take myself too seriously. 225lb or 295lb may sound like a lot some some, or not...depending. But it needs a comparison to body weight. A standard push up is about 70% of your body, 70% of 275 is about 215...that makes 225lb bench from a guy my size quite a bit less impressive. Keep this in mind when setting your own weights and goals. I would be very impressed by a 175lbs guy benching 225lb for 20 reps versus me for 20 if you see my meaning.

Thanks for struggling through my wall of text,



  1. Good job on your 5K. I ran one over the past weekend and hadn't ran since I was in my 20's (in 40's now). I finished in a shade under 29 minutes which is a FAR cry from my heyday. I was really disappointed in myself, but I guess I need to consider myself fortunate that I can run 5K. I am going to try to see if I can incorporate some jogging into my weekly routine, I've found it uses muscles much differently than spinning/cycling.

  2. Thanks. My best time so far is about 34min 30 sec at about 255lbs.

    When younger and lighter (Age 25, 205lbs) I could run 7min miles all day...but those days are long gone.

    I find my legs get a solid work out running and my thighs are quite sore for a couple days after run/walking a 5k.

    As long as I remain over 250lbs I will be feeling pretty good if A..I can run non stop and B...finish under 30 minutes.

    I still have a goal of 24 minutes and continue to work towards it, but not at the sacrifice of strength and size.



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