We know as we get older our metabolism gets slower, our recovery gets slower too.
This doesn’t mean we stop exercising!
It doesn’t mean being weaker, it doesn’t mean you cannot build muscle or get stronger.
It is important to be fit and active, whether you are 20, 40 or 60 somethings years old.
How to Get Stronger
Getting stronger remains the same as it was when you were younger but there are a few principles that you need to follow.
- There is a right and a wrong way to do an exercise. This means you should have near perfect form for each exercise.
The correct way will go a long way to making you feel good after exercise, reduce aches and pains and help in building muscle.
The wrong way will likely put strain on your body possibly cause an injury. If in doubt about how to do a certain exercise get someone qualified to look over your form in the gym.
Failing that use your phone and take a video of yourself doing a lift so you can go back and review your form.
2. Respect your body. Your body has many built in mechanisms to protect you from potential harm. Your range of motion won’t be that of a 20 year old. Years of repetitive stress (think driving, sitting in the office) won’t have helped.
Therefore if you cannot get into a range of motion to do an exercise in the correct manner simply don’t do this exercise.
This is your brain telling your body it cannot perform this exercise.
It is not worth getting injured for the sake of an exercise.
Your range can be off for any reason, under nourished, dehydrated, stress etc.
Find an alternative exercise.
There have been many times back during my corporate days when I got to the gym and I’ve wanted to do a deadlift or a squat but had to abandon them due to my limitations in the range of motion required for that exercise.
3. Don’t neglect your mobility work
Mobility is your ability to reach a certain position or posture. It’s different than flexibility in that mobility necessitates stability within a range of motion, not just the range of motion of a joint (or series of joints). In other words, you need motor control to have motor control.
I know what you’re gonna say, you barely have time with busy family life and a full time job you struggle to get into the gym as it is.
Whilst I agree with you having been there myself, it is a case of we all have 24 hours in a day its what we choose to do with it. Being mobile doesn’t mean you have to do the splits!
If it’s important to you, you will find time for it.
Frequent exposure is key. 5-10 mins a day will help, 5-10 minutes multiple times a day will do wonders.
- Pick one or two drills based on your weak points. If you sit at a desk or drive for any length of time this will be hips and back.
- Break up long periods of prolonged immobility. Stand every 15 minutes and walk around for 2 mins, if you are driving take regular breaks out of the car.
See with the human body everything is kind of related. Think of the muscles as firefighters. When one fire breaks out all firefighters will be on the scene trying to put it out. If one muscle isn’t doing its job the other muscles have to “firefight” and help out.
Lets take your glutes as an example. They provide stability between the lower and upper body. If they don’t do their job because you are sitting for prolonged period of time guess which muscles will take the burden? The lower back and hips. The lower back isn’t a hypermobile muscle nor are the hips.
This is called compensation.
The more mobile you are the less compensation you will get and the less compensation you get the stronger you will because the muscles are working and doing their jobs properly and the less compensation you get the less chance you will have of getting injured and more chance you have of getting stronger.
Is strength training different than training to build muscle?
Training for strength is different to training for building muscle. To build absolute strength you need to train with low explosive reps.
The nervous system is what stimulates the muscle fibers. Strength is mainly an adaptation of the nervous system while hypertrophy is an adaptation of the muscles themselves adapting to microtrauma.
Here we are talking about relative strength.
What exercises will help me get stronger?
Exercises like the Deadlift, Squats, Rows, Presses are the ones you want to do to get stronger, IF you can get into the position to do them safely.
You should try to progressively increase the amount of load you use each week, but only do that if your form is optimal and you are able to contract against the weights on each and every rep otherwise you will just wreck your joints if you go heavier and you are not able to contract.
It is very easy to get into bad habits when the weights get heavier, think cranking your neck up when doing deadlifts or squats.
Trust me, I have been there and done that!
How many days a week should I train?
Three days up to a MAX of four days per week. We all have our stressers pulling us in different directions, family, job, social life.
All these factors will play a part in how well you recover. Remember you don’t build muscles or get stronger in the gym, you do that whilst you are resting!
Your nutrition, sleep and controlling stress will be key to how well you recover.
How much volume should I do per body part?
Each body part is different and everybody is different. Volume and intensity are related. You cannot go hard and long.
The best method to determine total volume is to use some form of periodization and take it from there. Total volume is the total number of exercises and the total work sets. Start with low volume for two weeks and measure how your body recovers.
Then add a bit more volume after that and again measure how your body recovers. If all is going to plan you can continue to increase the volume.
When it comes to increasing the volume you can either increase the total number of sets or exercises but just make sure you are doing either one or the other, change one thing at a time.
As far as body parts are concerned, the shoulders recover quicker than most other body parts as they are predominantly made up of slow twitch muscle fibers.
Ultimately it comes down to what your goal is. If you want to bring up a lagging body part then you need to dedicate more volume to that body part than the others.
Think of your body as a pie chart – it has to allocate its resources to every body part equally in order to recover. So if you wanted to grow your chest you will need to allocate more volume to that body part whilst taking away from others.