Perfect Age for Bodybuilding, People of all ages perform bodybuilding exercises for the increased strength, health and physically fit appearance they produce. These heavy-resistance exercises place a large amount stress on the body, which reacts in different ways at different ages. Changes to your body that affect how it reacts to bodybuilding occur after 18 years and after 50 years of age. The muscles and skeletons of children and teenagers are not fully grown, so bodybuilding might be best postponed until after age 18. Bodybuilding or strength-training with lighter weights for younger people -- is safest and most effective when you follow the proper form and workout guidelines for your age group.
Right Age to Start for BodybuildingThere are body building competitions for boys as young as 18 years old. Is this too young? Just like any just about any other issue, there are plenty of opinions on both sides. Some experts say that age 18 is too young to start a weight training regimen while other equally-qualified experts see no harm in it at all. What are the pros and cons of each side and at what age is it safe for a guy to start lifting weights?
- Lots of experts say that under proper supervision, when a child is old enough to begin participating in organized sports, he or she is old enough to start "strength training" by doing push-ups, sit-ups and similar exercises. For our purposes though, I want to focus on "weight training" using free weights and or machines, not the regular gym class stuff.
- Boys generally start taking an interest in improving their bodies about the time they hit puberty (18-20 years old). That shouldn't come as a surprise-that's when they start to develop masculine characteristics, their bodies begin to change and grow and they become interested in girls. Preadolescent boys (before puberty) lack the androgens-the body's natural steroid hormones such as testosterone or androsterone-that trigger and control the development of the masculine characteristics.
- Given the fact that in prepubescent boys production of natural steroid hormones has yet to ramp up, it would seem to make sense that boys who haven't entered puberty would not really benefit from weight training because their body lacks some of the basic building blocks necessary to gain lean muscle. However, several studies have indicated that even prepubescent boys can achieve gains in strength through weight/resistance training these gains are attributed to the nervous system and motor learning rather than hormones-in other words, they'll usually gain strength but muscle gains will be minimal.
- Some people say that adolescent boys (about 18 years old) should not be weight training because they believe the risk of injuries is too great and that it can even result in stunted growth. I researched this idea and didn't found any credible sources to validate it though. The research I've found indicates that provided the youth engages in a supervised, appropriate weight training program, there is no danger of stunted growth. Furthermore, experts say that the risk of injury from a properly supervised weight training program is no worse than that of participating in any ordinary sporting activity.
- An adolescent who is going to embark on a weight training program should not just jump into a water-down adult workout. The central nervous system in young athletes is still developing so their coordination and balance are not going to be as capable as in adults. So instead of focusing maximum weight or the number of lifts, the emphasis should be on executing proper form. Only once the proper form has been mastered should the weight or resistance be increased. A good rule of thumb is to underestimate their physical abilities rather than overestimate and risk injury.
- In general, teen weight lifters should avoid the Olympic-style weight lifting movements. Many of these require a great deal of skill and if done improperly, can result in lower back or even spinal injuries. Interestingly, some experts believe that adolescents should avoid machines in favor of free weights. They say that because machines are designed for adults, improper setup-even just a little-could result in injury.
- Similarly, the adolescent lifter should not be training five or six days a week-at least not initially. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine recommends that teens around the age of 18 should stick to about two to three 20-30 minute training sessions per week. Again, as their mastery and strength improves, the length and frequency of training can be increased.
- So overall the consensus seems to be that boys should hold off on embarking on a weight lifting program until they reach puberty at about the age of 18. But even then, certain considerations should be taken including: a medical evaluation should be performed first; proper adult supervision is essential; form needs to be emphasized over weight or reps; all major muscle groups should be addressed; and any sign of injury should be evaluated before continuing the training regimen.
Fifteen years ago I used to jump right into an intense workout and hoist hundreds of pounds without the slightest warm up. That's pretty dumb in your twenties but it's downright dangerous later in life. A proper warm up increases blood circulation to the muscles, elevates respiration to improve oxygen absorption, and improves viscosity in the joints.
Before you start your weight lifting workout do 10 to 20 minutes of brisk walking on the treadmill or use a stationary bike, stair stepper or other aerobic machine. Then before you perform each lift, do a few reps with about half of the weight you'll be shooting for that day. For example, if your goal is 8 reps with 250 pounds, warm up with 8 to 12 reps with 125 pounds. If you're doing static training and are shooting for a 5 second hold with 400 pounds, do your warm up reps for 5 seconds with 200 pounds or so.
One of the biggest mistakes you'll see in the gym is people who do many exercises for each muscle group. This is not necessary. Muscles grow though an adaptive response to the intensity at which they are forced to work. Intensity is measured by the amount of work done per unit of time. You will actually achieve better results in less time if you perform one very high intensity exercise per muscle group. For example, some people will work their chest by doing 3 sets of cable crossovers followed by 3 sets on the pec dec and finally 3 sets on the bench press. Our studies have shown that 90% of trainees will actually receive better results by performing one set of all-out, super high intensity bench presses of either 8 reps or 5 to 10 seconds of a static hold.
This is great news to everyone but it is particularly good for those of us who are over forty because performing multiple sets of multiple exercises is very depleting. Yet it is just not necessary.
The goal of every workout should be to increase the intensity of work done compared to your previous workout. As intensity increases your body needs more time to recover (especially as we get older!) so workouts have to be spaced further apart. This is more good news to everyone except the exercise addict.
The providing your body can fully recover with just one day off. But as you get stronger and start hoisting some really heavy iron, you will need more time to recover. So your third or fourth week might allow you to train on Mondays and Thursdays. Two weeks later you might only be able to see increases in intensity if you train one day per week. After a month of that you will need to train only once every ten or fifteen days. I work with advanced trainees who now lift weights once every six weeks and they see improvements in every exercise on every workout.
The truth is you can achieve your optimum muscularity by working out with precisely engineered workouts that contain clear goals about as frequently as you get a haircut. That's very welcome news to those of us who just want results and don't use the gym as a social gathering place.
About the exercises upon which I suggest you concentrate: These are the building blocks most used by champions and children alike. They are the simple movements that involve the body’s complicated system of muscles, bones and ligaments advantageously, safely and joyously. They are the basics. They work best. The rest is up to consistent, strategic and intense performance supported, naturally, by sound nutrition.
Here’s my list, The Top 20:
1) Bench press
2) Dumbbell press, flat and incline
3) Lateral raise, sidearm, front, bentover
4) Stiffarm dumbbell pullover
5) Cable crossover
7) Seated lat rows
8) Bentover row, one- and two-arm
9) Standing barbell curl
10) Dumbbell curls, standing, seated alternate, incline
11) Triceps pulley pushdown
12) Triceps extensions, lying and overhead
16) Leg extension
17) Leg curl
18) Calf raise, seated and standing
20) Midsection, crunches and leg raise
- The exercises listed above include 90 percent of the basics, though there are numerous more non-basic movements (thumbs-up curls, pullover and press, front squats) practiced to add variety and nuance. The truth is there are limitless movements when you consider grip and body-position variations, exercise finesse and the execution of personalized exercise grooves.
- Of the Top 20, you can extract six or eight major moves on which to concentrate to avoid excessive instruction time and learning time and, therefore, devote more intense quality training time in the near-future workouts. This will assure greater muscle and strength response and a more solid training and musclebuilding experience.
- Stick to the basic exercises that work the larger muscle groups completely and are responsible for fuller and more effective muscle growth. Exercise repetition is needed to gain the maximum an exercise has to offer. Changing exercises frequently for novelty is frivolous and defeats one’s purpose to grow in training understanding and muscle shape and muscle might. Isolated secondary exercises are important and are most beneficial at intermediate and advanced stages of training. They come just in time... later.
- Your last rep of each set should be 10 or 12 and feel just right; near-perfect form and concentrated muscular action as you recognize 'muscle burn'-the sting within the muscle being worked increasing with each successive rep, a good pain, which when endured allows greater muscle overload and subsequent increased muscle adaptation. Look for the 'pump,' the full muscular feeling that is evident in immediate muscle increase during exercise as blood and water fill the muscle cells under demand of systemic support.
Continued from Top 20 Exercises
Prefix each workout with a concentrated midsection warm-up composed of any combination of crunches and leg raises and lightweight stiff-leg deadlifts and hanging leg-raises. Mix n’ match, intensify and moderate.
- Once we're past the couple weeks of introductory exercises and we get the feel for the equipment, muscle resistance and our level of conditioning, we're ready to practice interesting exercise combinations that piece the workouts together. My favorite method: superset training, where two or more exercises that complement each other are performed one after another to enhance our output. This multi-set training not only condenses our workout time, but increases our productivity considerably.
- With no down-time between sets, you become more involved in your training. There's no time for daydreaming, wishing you were somewhere else or becoming bored. In fact, a most desirable attitude of training develops, one that we wrongly think is reserved for athletes on the fringe of competition. This attitude of training is a valuable tool of confidence and provides a very real psychological benefit.
- I’d alternate between two workouts, looking for consistency and time-plus-effort commitment channeled into four sessions a week. Considering these virtuous prerequisites, a Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday scheme works well, giving you Wednesday and the weekend off for rest and relaxation, balance and order.
- Aching joints causing a switch to lighter dumbbells? It is these things of the mind and body that make light weights perfectly heavy for muscle intensity (maximized tension within the muscle) and provoke muscle responses you’ve never experienced. Spared the mean, mind-numbing struggle demanded by the deliciously heavy weights, you can pinpoint your focus. The lighter weights allow you to create, discover and investigate the movements and the repetitions, move from set to meaningful set and exercise to purposeful exercise, providing vascular demand and pumping and burning and sweating without bounds.
- High rep deadlifts for a strong back - a classic favorite of hardcore lifters with a generous heart. This is an excellent addition to a mundane routine. Gives it guts and charm. Don't forget - warm up and stay warm. Fuel up with a protein shake, and lots of water. You'll perform far better, stronger, longer, inspired by an awesome pump and high spirits with less chance of injury.
- Plan for your free weight routines to have consistent framework, but vary from one workout to the next to accommodate overload, recovery, injury and mood.
- Dumbbells are a better and healthier exercises than the barbells in many ways because the hands can rotate to accommodate the needs of the overused and abused rotator cuff or shoulder girdle. With 360 degrees of direction in each hand there's a need for a lot of muscle stabilizing and coordination - more demand for muscular health and growth.
- Muscling your dumbbells in place is also a structure and skill building process. Don't drop them, don't clang or crack them at the top. Control them. Be nice.
- Use dumbbells whenever you have a choice. The bar in all its rigidness prevents you from rotating the hands just enough to engage the pecs correctly and more fully. Dumbbells offer this advantage. Further, the unyielding hand position forces the mechanics of this joint-like apparatus to remain fixed throughout the entire exercise. This control causes an unnatural tracking and a subsequent impingement of tissue and nerve. Injury eventually rears its ugly head as power and intensity are applied. Does this ring a bell, bombers?
- Another seldom reviewed benefit of dumbbell training is the powerful clean necessary to set the weights in place, and the fight to return them to the starting position and back in the rack upon exercise completion. This is called good old-fashioned work -- bull work -- that builds the body in functional and muscle and energy connected ways static exercise does not and cannot. Go for it.
- I prefer free weights for overall muscle building as they require total control exercised by the user only. Machines are useful, do build muscle and strength when you squeeze the life out of them and are particularly valuable when injury or other limitations prevent free-weight application (the press machine for a shoulder with lateral limitations, for example). The oft-heard comment, “machines don’t build muscle,” is false and is probably based on the fact that the muscle action is isolated and guided, thus demanding less lateral control of the user -- limited muscle engagement.
- I would be remise if I didn’t emphasize the need for heavy back work for thickness and density, as well as profuse lat work for width and dramatic taper. According to moods, urges and needs, I alternate between bentover barbell rows, dumbbell rows and seated lat rows for power and mass. I throw in widegrip pulldowns to the front as a secondary set to chest and shoulder pressing (supersetting).
Good nutrition, like good training, is simple - learn the basics and practice them consistently. A little knowledge and a lot more discipline is the secret. Apply yourself diligently - look ahead, don't look back and don't look for shortcuts. There simply aren't any.
Health and fitness has climbed to the top of America's popularity list and has become big business. As you've noticed, there's a gym on every corner and a glut of diet and bodybuilding formulas to pack on muscle and burn off fat. Competition is fierce, the promises are bizarre and we're all confused, suspicious and eventually numb. We have on our hands a zillion ways to diet, feed ourselves and live our lives for fitness. Let's clear the air and put some things in order.
Stay away from fats, excessive salt and simple sugars. This eliminates 99% of the fast foods, munchies and soft drinks. Who needs them? In a few short weeks, you won't want them, wonder why you ate them and feel sick if you do!
Eat a basic breakfast of complete carbohydrates and protein to set up your metabolism for the day and to provide fuel and muscle building ingredients. Basically, protein builds muscle and carbohydrate supplies fuel for energy. Breakfast can be an easy to prepare meal from a quality protein shake to a bowl of oatmeal, scoop of cottage cheese, fruit and coffee. Remember, if you don't feed yourself a small wholesome meal in the morning, your body will draw on your muscle tissue as a source of energy, putting you in a slump and in muscle deficit. Add a good vitamin and mineral formula each morning to put order and efficiency in your body chemistry.
With whatever effort it takes, feed yourself every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day - each meal consisting again of protein and carbohydrate. Any combination of the following is perfect: tuna/rice, lean meat/baked potato, cottage cheese and fruit, chicken/pasta, etc. (Vegetarians - take particular care in order to get plenty of protein in your diet.)
In simple English, to gain weight, eat more and eat more often. Be ready for solid bulk weight - lean muscle comes slowly but surely. To lose weight, eat less, still as often, consuming the majority of your calories early in the day.
I have always instinctively leaned toward a higher intake of protein over carbohydrate to build a lean body. Though contrary to popular opinion, many doctors and top bodybuilders I've conferred with agree. Emphasize protein.
Between meal snacking is okay if the snack is truly nutritious - no junk! Don't let them be a substitute for a meal or become a habit. Good snacks are fruits or vegetables, low fat muffins, protein energy bars, nonfat yogurt, whole wheat bagels, cottage cheese, etc.
Simple carbohydrates (sugar and honey) provide us with a quick pickup but let us down just a quickly. Excessive sugar plays havoc with our insulin metabolism and leads to fatigue and fat storage. Not good.
Fuel up before your workout. Eat a small easily digested meal 30-60 minutes before you train. With complex carbohydrates in your system, you'll train harder, longer and with more enthusiasm. You won't experience low blood sugar jitters or dizziness - you will experience a great muscle pump and probably get that last rep. After a long day's work, protein shakes and BCAAs are the kings. It's also a good time to restock your creatine stores.
Similarly, you need to eat a hearty protein meal with plenty of carbs within 60-90 minutes of completion of your workout. This is necessary to provide the muscle building materials to repair depleted tissue and begin the process of building new muscle. Hint - Bomber Blend protein drinks work great for this. Again, restore creatine levels.
The most important nutrient in your body is plain water. The quality of your tissues, their performance and their resistance to injury is absolutely dependent on the quality and quantity of the water you drink. Flood yourself throughout the day, especially during the workout.
Sleep, rest and relaxation are of prime importance. It's during periods of sound sleep that our bodies recuperate and build muscle tissue.
Muscle Equals Youth
Have you ever seen two people who were both 60 years old but one of them looks 70 and the other looks 45? Age can't be measured by the calendar alone. There are several well established "bio markers of aging" that are used to give more accuracy to the assessment of physical age. Guess what? The amount of muscle your body contains is one of the principle bio markers of aging. The more muscle you have, the younger you are. Another bio marker of aging is bone density. Guess what the number one method is of increasing bone density? Heavy, weight bearing exercise!
Those of us over forty years of age can greatly slow down (and in many cases reverse) aging processes by performing rational, efficient strength training that increases muscle mass and bone density. The really great news is that it can be done without hours of exercise performed week after week. Less wear and tear on the body, fewer workouts and increased youth!! It's great to finally be old and wise!!
Have a great workout!
A FEW IMPORTANT POINTERS
MOST OF THE FITNESS AND STRENGTH TRAINING INFORMATION OUT THERE DOES NOT APPLY TO YOU
Nearly all of the websites, magazines and books I have found about strength training are intended for younger people. Potential ability, hormone levels, lean body mass ratios, energy, and metabolism all peak before we reach middle age.
Younger trainees may be able to get away with the traditional bodybuilding foolishness that our culture promotes, but we can't. Our older joints and added years of neglect or abuse we have subjected our bodies too will not allow us the luxury of strength training abuses.
I have injured myself more than once trying to follow information that was actually intended for someone half my age. So be sure to qualify your source of information before you try to apply it to your own situation.
MOST OF THE NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION OUT THERE DOES NOT APPLY TO YOU
Stop and think about it for a minute. The nutrition and lifestyle/fitness magazines at the checkout in the grocery store are full of advice on losing weight and getting fit. They are intended to be bought and read by the vast majority of the population who are sedentary, overweight, undernourished, and not involved in athletic or strength training activities.
So even if by some miracle the information in the magazine ends up being true for it's intended audience, more than likely it does not apply to a strength trainer. The caloric, vitamin, mineral and other dietary requirements of a sedentary person differ greatly from that of an athlete.
Again, be sure to qualify your source of information before you try to apply it to your own situation.
STRENGTH TRAINING IS ONE COMPONENT OF BEING IN SHAPE
A healthy lifestyle is essential for meaningful and ongoing fitness and strength training results. For me, four essential components of a solid strength-training program are proper nutrition, proper hydration, proper rest, and proper exercise. If one of these is lacking, results will suffer.
Strength training exercise is the catalyst that animates the other components, and makes the whole program work correctly. I look at it like this; if I work out for an hour, I want to see an hour's worth of results. Would you be happy with 25% results? Or how about a half hour's results from each hour in the gym?
I don't think so. I'm not willing to waste the time or my body's resources on something that only works partway. If you want maximum results, pay attention to your overall lifestyle. But this article is about the strength training, so...
My experience is evidence that strength training is a dynamic process. The amount of weight you move, and the exercises used will vary from year to year, while the principles of safe training and good technique always remain as a constant.
The routines and exercises that I used two years ago have changed as my strength and overall fitness have increased. What worked for me when I started out no longer works for me. As your body adapts, your training methods must change as well.
YEAR 1: GREAT GAINS WITH FULL BODY ROUTINES
After my wake-up call at the emergency room, I began studying and reading up on fitness, and learned that strength training is important to achieve meaningful long-term fat-loss, add lean body mass, raise metabolism, and improve physique.
I read the muscle magazines, muscle websites, tried all sorts of workout machines, dozens of routines I saw others doing, and wound up straining my shoulders and elbows, back and knees. (Ever wonder why there is such a turnover in the fitness club memberships?
Because they don't get results! It is only a matter of time until poor training leads to getting hurt or discouraged, so most people quit within a few months.
After floundering around like this for months, I finally started having success when I applied the training suggestions from Ellington Darden's great book LIVING LONGER STRONGER, written specifically for out of shape middle-aged guys.
The exercises were the big multi joint free weight movements, squat, deadlift, chins, bench press, shoulder press, rows, pullovers, one set of 12 slow reps to failure, full-body routine Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Total time per workout of 30 minutes each session.
I did no other aerobics, and was strict with my calories and quality of food, drank a gallon of water daily, and slept 8-9 hours each night. During the first 16 weeks on this regimen, I dropped 35 pounds, and began adding muscle and filling out in the right places.
YEAR 2: OVERTRAINING WITH FULL BODY ROUTINES
I continued with the full body routine 3 times a week. I continued adding pounds of muscle, and pounds to the bar, but the amount of weight I was lifting began to tax my joints and recovery ability.
I began to notice that I was no longer able to progress as I had been doing, and wound up leveling off, stagnating, and not recovering fully. I was learning about overtraining.
My body had responded so well to these workouts for many months, and I had made such progress, but it was certainly not working for me now. Not seeing any further results, I figured that I must have reached my genetic potential, so I stopped strength training.
I was happy with my physique, was in great shape, and as a result had inspired and helped many friends and relatives to get into shape. During the next few months I jogged a couple of times a week, continued to watch calories, drank a gallon of water a day, and slept 8-9 hours each night.
Unfortunately, after dropping strength training for a few months, it became painfully obvious that I was not keeping my great shape and robust health. During those months, I lost the buff muscular look, my metabolism slowed down, I began to add fat pounds, and I just didn't feel nearly as good overall.
YEAR 3: THE SWITCH TO TRADITIONAL SPLIT ROUTINES
It became obvious that I would have to return to strength training in my fitness plan, so I slowly and carefully started over with very little weight, using the same 3 per week full body routines I had used before. My strength returned quickly, and all went well for a few months.
Then I began to recognize the returning symptoms of over training. But this didn't make sense to me. If I could train this way when I was weak and in poor shape, shouldn't I be better able to handle it now that I was much stronger and in better shape?
I went back through my training logs, and realized that my overall strength had tripled since I started training, which meant that my body was now having to deal with three times the stress and strain on my joints, on my recovery system, as well as my muscles.
At my present strength, three full body workouts a week were now too much for me. I would have to revise my training, so I began experimenting with split routines. I tried a number of different splits, all with way too many exercises, and made only small progress during the next year.
Switching routines every six weeks or so became necessary because of sore joints, or minimal progress.