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As you get older, is it important to avoid heavy lifts?


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What do the older guys on the forum think about this comment?


I am 41 and have been lifting and bodybuilding since I was 16 or 17. I have done some heavy bench pressing, overhead pressing, rows, you name it in my time, especially in my early 20s.


So, I was at the book store today reading the latest Muscle and Fitness mag. In the mag, there was an article talking about how older guys who have logged many hours in the gym need to take it easy and start concentrating on isolation movements and machines rather than heavy compound freeweight movements since their joints can no longer take the punishment.


Thoughts on this? I just know that I can't maintain serious size without heavy compound free weights.



Edited by boardn10
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guys who have logged many hours in the gym


I have a feeling it ain't the hours, it's the mileage. If people train stupid, they wreck their beautiful machines. Then, the machines break down and don't perform as well as they used to (translation: don't tolerate being treated like crap). Age is only incidental. There are bodies that break down in their twenties as well as their fifties, it just depends on how much crap they were put through. Think about professional athletes, especially WWF and football. Is it because they are 40 that they are retiring or is it because they've put their bodies through ten world wars since their teens? Even with the best trainers and coaches in the country, those guys don't get the rest they need to truly repair and rebalance. That's why they pop Demerol from a PEZ dispenser.


I've watched hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of men and women training in the most ludicrously dangerous ways over the years. I don't know what their reasoning was for this was but I'll bet it went something like "As long as I'm getting the results I want, this No Pain, No Gain philosophy is just fine right now." Sounds a lot like the women who starve themselves or smoke like coal factories to stay thin, frat boys who drink themselves into nightly blackouts in order to stay in the fraternity, stock brokers who do lines in the men's room in order to work 80 hour weeks, and lonely housewives who drop their panties for the weekly FedEx man. You can't keep it up forever. It's like paying for your life on credit. Sooner or later, the bills are gonna come and they are gonna huuuurt.


The human body is not designed to last forever but, believe it or not, it IS designed to remain fit and healthy right up until the end. There are a couple hard bodies in my gym in their mid 70s who could bend me and twelve of my friends in half. Some of them still run triathlons. All of them say the same thing--some days are better than others but the trick is knowing which days are which and rolling with it. Learn to listen and adjust without giving up. Case in point, I'm usually at the dumbbell rack today and all my friends are probably wondering what's happened to me but my body is burnt out and needs some variety. So, I'm going to detail the truck, do some yard work, and clean the hell out of the house. Then, when I go back in on Monday, I'll kick ass. I always do. And I'll be doing it when I'm 70, too.


Baby Herc


PS: As a bodybuilder, what does the size of the weights matter? If you can get bigger results with less weight and better form, what's stopping you? Nobody's gonna call you a sissy if your arms are bigger around than his head.

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I hear you baby Herc, but this seemed to be a welll written article by what seemed to be an intelligent bodybuilder. And I will say I to experienced a set back this summer with some strange clavicle or trapezius injury nobody can seem to solve.

So or course that is when the "I am getting to old for this thought pops into my head."

But if not for this right shoulder thing, I would be able to go head to head with anyone in my gym who is half my age. I am able to lift lighter weights but I have dropped a good 8-10 lbs of muscle in the process. It is not like I was huge to begin with. I was only 212 lbs at 6'2" over the summer.

Bottom line is that I find I can not maintain size nor look impressive unless I am throwing around big weights.

For example, I can't do bench press without pain in my right trap, so dumbell presses feel easier on my shoulders.

That said, I know I will not start to see the muscle back on my upper body untill I can get up to 100 lb DBs or heavier in the DB press. It doesn't matter how good my technique is with the light weights, I don't get the impressive appearance untill I start working with the heavy weights and mostly in the big compound free weight movements.


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You might be able to retain or build bulk with lighter weights. This study (in young men) found that weights of 30% of 1RM stimulated more muscle protein synthesis than weights of 90% of 1RM - when doing reps to failure. The full study is available. There are also studies which show that training with restricted blood flow (using elastic bandages round the muscles being exercised) result in hypertrophy and strength gains even with low intensity. One even found this in men who just did a walking exercise. I'm not sure I'd want to train with restricted blood flow, though.



PLoS One. 2010 Aug 9;5(8):e12033.


Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men.


Burd NA, West DW, Staples AW, Atherton PJ, Baker JM, Moore DR, Holwerda AM, Parise G, Rennie MJ, Baker SK, Phillips SM.

SourceExercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



BACKGROUND: We aimed to determine the effect of resistance exercise intensity (%1 repetition maximum-1RM) and volume on muscle protein synthesis, anabolic signaling, and myogenic gene expression.


METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Fifteen men (21+/-1 years; BMI=24.1+/-0.8 kg/m2) performed 4 sets of unilateral leg extension exercise at different exercise loads and/or volumes: 90% of repetition maximum (1RM) until volitional failure (90FAIL), 30% 1RM work-matched to 90%FAIL (30WM), or 30% 1RM performed until volitional failure (30FAIL). Infusion of [ring-13C6] phenylalanine with biopsies was used to measure rates of mixed (MIX), myofibrillar (MYO), and sarcoplasmic (SARC) protein synthesis at rest, and 4 h and 24 h after exercise. Exercise at 30WM induced a significant increase above rest in MIX (121%) and MYO (87%) protein synthesis at 4 h post-exercise and but at 24 h in the MIX only. The increase in the rate of protein synthesis in MIX and MYO at 4 h post-exercise with 90FAIL and 30FAIL was greater than 30WM, with no difference between these conditions; however, MYO remained elevated (199%) above rest at 24 h only in 30FAIL. There was a significant increase in AktSer473 at 24h in all conditions (P=0.023) and mTORSer2448 phosphorylation at 4 h post-exercise (P=0.025). Phosporylation of Erk1/2Tyr202/204, p70S6KThr389, and 4E-BP1Thr37/46 increased significantly (P<0.05) only in the 30FAIL condition at 4 h post-exercise, whereas, 4E-BP1Thr37/46 phosphorylation was greater 24 h after exercise than at rest in both 90FAIL (237%) and 30FAIL (312%) conditions. Pax7 mRNA expression increased at 24 h post-exercise (P=0.02) regardless of condition. The mRNA expression of MyoD and myogenin were consistently elevated in the 30FAIL condition.


CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These results suggest that low-load high volume resistance exercise is more effective in inducing acute muscle anabolism than high-load low volume or work matched resistance exercise modes.


PMID: 20711498

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Martin, then how come I have not seen light weights work for me? However I will say I have not tried to go super light....to failure.


So, what you are saying from this study...if one can 120 lb Dumbells for a one rep max in the DB bench press. 30% of that 1RM would be about 36 lbs. So lets say I did reps with 35 lb DBs or wanted to push it to 50 or 60 lb dumbells. If I go to failure, I might be able to build the same amount or more muscle??? I will have to read the study. How many sets were taken to failure in the study and did they go to failure every week???



I have always gotten bored doing really light weights so they have mostly been a warm up for me, plus I was never big on going to failure due to a fear of over training so I work within certain ranges.

I will look into it.

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They only measured muscle protein synthesis - myofibrilar, sarcoplasmic and mixed. They only did one bout of exercise with each load. Four sets each. With 30% they averaged 25 reps each set. With 90%, they averaged 5 reps. They didn't have a chance to measure strength or hypertrophy increases.


But, as an article I have read said, tennis players build extra strength and bone and muscle mass in their playing arms. They use a very light load - a tennis bat - with hundreds of repetitions a day.


I think it would be worth trying - even if it was just used for the muscles that give you most pain. You could even try it with just one arm or leg and use a heavier weight for the other one. You would see if there was any difference. When I say it could be worth trying, I don't mean using a tennis bat.

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I believe that the answer to your question really depends on your goal at this point. As we all know that heavy lifting is useful for bulking up but if you are just lifting weights for maintenance than even isolation and light moves will do the job for you. Our bones do deteriorate over time so I guess that it would be wise to ease up on poundage after the age of 40.

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I want to gain about 20 lbs. I am at 205 right now. So. I want to add lots of muslce! I got up to close to 215 last summer before I hurt my trap. I don't think I will ever let up on the big and heavy weights. IN 25 years, that has been my best formula. I will just learn to work through the pain if it persists. I want to get as big as possible before I have to get cut for my first competition. 240 lbs would be great! I am sure I will need to weigh at least 220 to be competitive.

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So, I was at the book store today reading the latest Muscle and Fitness mag.


there was an article talking about how older guys who have logged many hours in the gym need to take it easy and start concentrating on isolation movements and machines rather than heavy compound freeweight movements since their joints can no longer take the punishment.


2 of my coaches at 51 and 60 years old have been lifting since their teens. (at least powerlifting since early twenties, one of them done bodybuilding before that)


Arthur (51, 100kg BW) is still hitting personal bests. This year he squatted 295kg, benched 195kg and deadlifted 267.5kg. Recently won the drug free worlds.


Willie (60, 83kg BW) squatted 245kg (IPF world record), benched 165kg and deadlifted 232.5kg. All at international IPF competition, runner up. He's won the worlds/europeans multiple times in masters class.



No injuries at least since I started with them and I can tell you their joints are strong as fuck. They've been lifting heavy all their days. You can't put this down to coincidence. We're a small club with not many powerlifters and it's not like we live in a huge area.


They credit their longetivity down to percentage loading programs and consistency, and of course not using steroids.


One thing that has went with age is training volume. They stick to the main lifts and only do a few assistance exercises. And do note that Willie isn't lifting quite as heavy as he was 10 years ago. But he's lifting heavy as he can, relatively.



Someone else can't tell you to stop lifting, you can only do that yourself.

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Chewybaws, that is all good to hear man! I am on the same page as you and only look at age as a stinkin number, period. I hit new personal bests this past summer at 41 and I thought I was hitting the top when I was 21, LOL. I shold have years of successful lifting ahead of me. You have pretty much helped confirm what was in my gut. I am a huge Clarence Bass fan and I know he was still hitting bests in his 60s.


I have to stop believing garbage I read in mags. LOL.


I do agree about losing the volume training. I train 3-4 days a week, depending on program and typically 45-60 minutes a session. With work and family, that is my limit anyway.


Do you have more info on percentage loading programs?

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Do you have more info on percentage loading programs?
Basically I just mean peaking programs. The programs the guys do generally start at 80% effort and increase 2% leading upto competition (100%/1RM attempts).


As far as reps go they'll generally start anywhere from 5-8 reps and over the 10 weeks (or however long the cycle is) they'll gradually work down to a heavy double then a week off before a comp.


They take that for every 3% you take off your 1RM (100%) you should be able to do an extra rep (roughly).


100% - 1 reps

97% - 2 reps

94% - 3 reps

91% - 4 reps

88% - 5 reps



So say you're 1RM squat was 200kg.


Week 1-3 you want to do sets of 5. 88% of 200kg = 176. And first week we're only doing 80% effort. 80% of 176 is 140kg. So you'll warmup and work your way to your first work set at 140kg. Do it for 3-5 sets. If it's easy add 2.5kg, or do extra reps on the last set.


Week 2 - 82% effort - 145kg

Week 3 - 84% effort - 147.5kg


Week 4 - down to 4 reps (91% of 200 = 182, then 86% effort on this - 157.5kg)




It looks complicated but it's really quite simple and flexible. They only use this for the main powerlifts.



This is just one way of training, and there's a million variations of peaking programs - this is just the one that most folk in our club use. I'm sure there's loads of old timers using different methods.


The benefits are that after a competition (or peaking) you need some rest. There will always be a week off (or very light week) after it. And then you're only going back to 80% effort again. It allows a lot of time for recovery so you're not wearing yourself out.




Jim Wendler who wrote the famous 5/3/1 program said as he got older when he switched from training 4 days to 3 he had tremendous success and more energy. He just needed more time to recover.


Power (explosiveness, jumps, olympic lifts, sprints etc.) will go much quicker with age. Muscular endurance next. But pure strength you'll not peak till a much later age.



Keep in mind as well of course after the age that your peak for bone density and maintaining muscle mass will reduce. BUT exercise and resistance training (weights) has been proven to slow the rate of deteoration.

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All good points man! Since I don't play any sports now other than tennis and snowboarding, and not competitively, I am not so worries about explosiveness or quickness. When it comes to lifting or bodybuilding, I am more concerned with overall health, appearance, strength and endurance. I know Clarence Bass was measured in his early 60s to have the endurance or athletes intheir 30s, so that is encouraging.

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