The original title was, “How to Get Old and Still Make Gainz Without Waking up in a World of Hurt After Every Training Session When You Still Think You Can Do the Stupid Human Tricks You Did Twenty Years Ago Because You Don’t Have the Smarts to Say No to the Idiots You’ve Surrounded Yourself With.” I felt like that was too long, so I went with Aging and Keeping Pace. This article is for everyone past their athletic peak, but mostly for people who are now seeing the difference in decades, namely for the forty-plus crowd. This is inspired by the lessons I learned from recent training experiences. These lessons address issues that you will likely face in your 40s and beyond, hopefully not until beyond. These are merely recommendations of things I have adopted, more or less. I’m just putting them out there, so maybe you can find them useful.
Why is another article in the realm of injury prevention and performance improvement while aging relevant? For two reasons: the audience is growing, and every author has a different writing style. Every day a new aging (past their athletic peak) lifter enters the scene either by virtue of time or as a novice. In other words, the message gets repeated for the benefit of others who weren’t here or weren’t paying attention before. Honestly, how many hard-charging young dudes are looking at articles about how to train in their forties and beyond? I didn’t even know what that number meant when I was in my twenties. The second reason this article is relevant is that my wording and tone might be the thing that makes you say, “I get that. That happens to me.” You might hear or read this same content in a variety of places, and you understand it, but it just doesn’t have the greatest effect. It’s like when you’re in any training environment, and people repeatedly try to explain something to you but then there’s that one guy who says it in such a way using different phrasing and examples. I want to be that guy. I mean, I’m usually that guy in most circumstances anyway, you know, wearing the t-shirt of the band I’m going to see (that’s a PCU reference for everyone not part of the intended audience). Or a Winger shirt…
Let me state my assumptions about aging so that you understand where I am coming from:
- Recovery and healing slow down.
- Muscle loss is easier. Muscle gain is more difficult.
- Fat loss is more difficult. Fat gain is easier.
- Tendons, ligaments, and cartilage start to become less resilient.
- The nervous system slows down.
- Immune and protective systems become less effective.
- Max HR and VO2 max decrease.
In general, the following training recommendations are also general health recommendations. The message is to sustain performance (and health) by training above your baseline of daily physical activity (work and life) but below the difficult recovery threshold. For this article, here are my main points:
- Adopt new eating strategies.
- Improve aerobic conditioning.
- Take more time ramping up and recovering.
- Get the drugs.
- Increase frequency and decrease intensity.
- Don’t be so sagittal.
Adopt New Eating Strategies
After 40, people start dropping like flies from all kinds of stuff. We older people get fat and have terrible biomarker profiles, horrible body composition, metabolic disorders, and suffer early death because we never stopped eating like eighteen-year-old college freshmen at the free buffet. We can’t eat like that anymore. But before that kind of eating behavior kills people, that nonstop flow of high volume low-quality inflammatory food is going to hook them up with a bunch of metabolic disorders that will make them suffer, and their family suffers watching them suffer, and costs the healthcare system and them and you lots of money. Then they will die. Or maybe they’ll just croak in a shot, and everyone will say stupid nonsense like, “But he was so healthy, he was always at the gym.” Or they’ll die on a morning yog giving people stupid excuses like, “See? Even if you work out, you can still die young so do what you want." Even if you are a gym rat, you are still increasing your risk of metabolic disorders and death if you eat like a dumpster. You can’t out-train a bad diet. Yogging is futile.
As a side note, there is no such thing as, “He just died for no reason.” There is always a reason: a biomarker, an anatomical flaw, a genetic disorder. Something wasn’t right, but it was overlooked, untested, misinterpreted, or ignored. People don’t die for no reason.
In combination with your positive mindset, high sleep quality, and consistent physical activity, good food choices are powerful medicine. Creating a better diet is a matter of behavior management. Consider this: the reason why I don’t let my kids cram their loud facial openings with candy and soda isn’t that their systems can’t handle it. I know my kids can consume junk food like a burning garbage truck. The problem is that it turns into a habit and in the long term that means metabolic disorders. It’s because whatever we (not the mouse in my pocket we, but we meaning all humans) do now, sets a precedent for future behavior. Accepting bad behavior today reinforces it for tomorrow. Making bad decisions today makes it easier to make bad decisions tomorrow. My kids aren’t going to wake up one day and all of a sudden be ready to behave differently because it’s time to change their diet. I’m setting them up right now for healthy habits in the future. This is equally applicable to you starting healthy habits today. Start with winning small victories and adopting different strategies.
Here are some small victories (or ‘baby steps’ if you’re a Bill Murray fan):
- Drink more water. It depends on your body size and activity level, but in general, I think we can all start with a liter of water per day. I’ve gone up to a gallon a day but I live in high desert and train outdoors.
- Eat more greens. Before you have a meal eat a handful of arugula or some leafy green because a) it’s healthy and b) it will take up room and you’ll reach satiety quicker. During your meal, include a leafy green salad or a green vegetable portion.
Here are some diet strategies I’ve used to control eating. Some are overlapping but come from different perspectives:
- Calculate your calories and distribute them by week. Instead of trying to consume 2,500 calories per day, you get 17,500 calories per week. Don’t eat them all in one day and fast six, but you can split them into high, medium, and low-calorie days.
- A way to shape calorie management by week is to distribute your calories more heavily on recovery days. I currently alternate days of training so this is easy. But if I was training two days on/one day off, I’d eat lighter for the training days and then much heavier on the day off. You need to figure out how you would function best.
- Fast. It’s ok to not eat. You won’t die, I promise. In fact, fasting is proven to be healthy in many ways and this is not a new idea. Of course, this has to be tailored to your goals like every other strategy. Intermittent fasting has worked great for me to manage my focus and recovery. I don’t eat from 8 PM to 12 PM, or 2 PM (or later) if my body isn’t screaming for calories from a grueling session the day before. I made a recommendation in an earlier article and this is one manifestation of it—stay hungry.
- Put all three of these strategies together. Intermittent fast on training days, eat heavy all day on recovery days, eat lighter on training days, and stick to the calorie count. Find something that works for you. If you’re good at this then break down the calories by macros.
- Your diet requires as much effort as your programming does. What is critical is that you pick a reasonable eating strategy that you can sustain for the rest of your life. If you have yet to grasp the irresponsibility of a poor diet, consider this a max effort attempt at philosophical change. You can do it. I promise.
A note on fasting: the hunger subsides. If you aren’t used to eating healthy or fasting, then you’ll likely experience some serious hunger at first. But 1) you get used to it and 2) your blood sugar and hormones start to straighten out (assuming you’ve also fixed your dumpster-like food consumption) and thus the hunger becomes a minor background feeling and not a major distraction.
Improve Aerobic Conditioning
Does lifting develop your aerobic system? Yes. You can lift and not do any other activity and have some aerobic capacity. And it’s beneficial for your health to get additional conditioning work and build your aerobic capacity more. If you only have a barbell and refuse to do any training without it you can still build your conditioning across all energy systems.
Energy system performance is based on molecular, cellular, and anatomical mechanisms. For example:
- The rate at which your ATP replenishes (molecular)
- How many mitochondria your body creates as a training response (cellular)
- The volume of blood your heart ejects with each contraction (anatomical)
Training each energy system (aerobic, anaerobic lactic, anaerobic alactic) produces specific effects on each level and these effects overlap with other energy systems. Some of the effects derived from aerobic training methods include increased cardiac output, use of sugar as a primary energy substrate (eventually leading to fat burning), increased vascularization, increased mitochondrial density (increases energy production and a debatable link to longevity), and increased VO2 max. On a gross level, what you will see is the ability to recover inside and between training sessions and to get less taxed irrespective of activity. Aerobic training can be regarded as training to train— it is part of your base.
I advocate for more aerobic training for three reasons:
- Improves recovery capability (forces blood and oxygen into ‘cold’ spots)
- Is low impact (depending on your choice of training method)
- Great for metabolism (insulin sensitivity, body composition, oxygenation, etc.)
I prefer the one hour time domain low-intensity aerobic methods and fit them in when I’m feeling lazy or on a rest day as a recovery method. The great thing about conditioning is that you can use it as a small or large filler between stuff you already like to do and create conditioning training methods that you enjoy. For example, taking an empty Prowler® for a long walk or practicing technique and footwork in a relaxed slow manner on a double end bag. The goal is to reach a light sweat, a constant work pace, and heart rate anywhere from 120-150. I know that’s a big range, but it depends on the day and the purpose. If I’m torn up, I’ll take it easy and just stay moving. If I want a stronger effect and dedicate the session to increasing aerobic conditioning, I’ll go a bit harder. If this isn’t enough stress for you, increase the work, and throw in some rests. If you already get this work from your regular program and want more, consider adding time and intensity to additional conditioning. When you are seeking recovery and not attempting a drastic change in body composition, then yogging is not futile. Remember, long slow distance has been the staple of fighters for decades. Roadwork still works!
There are more intense aerobic training methods, and I highly recommend you check out Joel Jamieson’s book, Ultimate MMA Conditioning. He describes the physiological mechanisms of conditioning, discusses their effects, and outlines many methods for aerobic, anaerobic lactic, and anaerobic alactic conditioning. He assumes that you have a baseline of conditioning, are developing specific energy systems and skills, and aren’t just getting up off the couch for the first time in five years. This book is worth every penny, though it is descriptive and not prescriptive. You’ll have to create protocols and check them against your needs and the constraints of the method.
For example, the method I outlined above aligns with the cardiac output method. A more intense aerobic training protocol than the cardiac output method is the explosive repeat method. This method uses an explosive exercise for a few seconds, followed by a minute rest for six to ten sets. Two rounds are separated by an eight to ten-minute rest. This is repeated with two more exercises. The progression increases the length of work by a few seconds over weeks and decreases rest from sixty to thirty seconds over weeks. This is recommended once or twice a week. He also includes an anaerobic lactic version of this method. It consists of longer work sets and shorter rest periods. Check out the book for more details. With Jamieson’s templates and explanations, you will see those conditioning methods and effects are multi-faceted.
What I want to stress is that the aerobic training domain is worth looking into for its most desirable health effects and benefits for lifting. Higher intensity methods have gained a lot of attention for their efficiency, effect, and novelty but they don’t do everything for everyone.
Take More Time Ramping Up
Your warm-up should make you perform better: faster and stronger. If you’ve never tried a more extensive warm-up besides just the lift of the day, you could possibly be leaving untapped speed and strength on the table. Two things to consider are CNS drive and blood circulation. A warm-up should get your nerves, brain, and muscles fired up for speed and strength. A warm-up should also get blood into those cobwebby corners of your joints and connective tissue. Try to get into the warm-up sweet spot :
- Heart rate elevated (something like 60 percent max HR right after warm-up)
- Light sweat (feeling warm)
- Movement patterns rehearsed (motor skills grooved and speed is up)
- Acceptable ROM (enough for the lift plus a tiny bit extra)
- Positive mental state (fired up, laziness and couch momentum vanquished)
I have used the phrase training to train. Here’s another: warming up to warm up. I no longer walk into the gym and immediately start training. For me to get into that sweet spot, some days I have to mobilize and move around a bit for several minutes before I go to the gym. Then I can get to the programmed warm-up of the session.
As you get older, consider giving your activity ramp up more time and care. Most importantly, use the warm-up to put the brakes on your couch velocity. Those suckers move fast and jumping off can be dangerous. When I do these warming up to warm-up warm-ups before training, my programmed fifteen-minute training session warm-up is much more effective, which means my main training event will be awesome. I always program a fifteen-minute circuit of exercises involving some mix of throwing, carrying, jumping, sprinting, agility, and lifting as my warm-up. So between the warming up to warm warm-up and the programmed warm-up, I move from general to specific movements and blast that sweet spot. It’s fun and gets me fired up physically and mentally for the main event.
I found three different philosophies about warming up, but I found these leave a deficit in performance and increase risk of injury for me. Here’s what I have found on the interwebs, been told by someone in a gym, or heard in a conversation...
- “Lions don’t warm up, so you don’t have to warm up.” Yes, people actually say this to each other, out loud, verbally with their mouths and a straight face. This is silly because lions have a vastly different lifestyle than I do, and more critically, they are different on cellular, systemic, and anatomical scales. Trust me when I say that if I could sleep all day and eat gazelles all night I would…but my smoker probably won’t fit a gazelle and my wife and kids won’t let me get away with sleeping all day.
- “You need to be ready for action and won’t have time to warm up when you need to act.” While true, that just means I need a higher baseline of mobility and conditioning, which is why I train to begin with. I will default to my baseline. This is just a silly remark because it's like saying you won’t be strong unless you lift weights. Right. By definition… (shaking my head, other people’s kids…)
- “You only need to do warm-up lifts to warm up for lifting.” It’s true. I could do it this way and be just fine. I do this when I’m feeling lazy, but when I do it this way I leave reps, speed, and mobility on the table. I don’t get nearly as good a session as if I had a more thorough warm-up. And over time this practice left me with serious deficits in my range of motion outside of the sagittal plane. Again, just because I could, I shouldn’t have.
Here are the two warm-up strategies, relative to only lifting to warm up. I recommend them if you want to do a little better with your warm-up.
- Little change: Use smaller jumps if you are only using the lift as the warm-up. For example, use five percent jumps instead of ten percent jumps. Also, maybe throw in a variation during the ramp.
- Big change: Find a bunch of exercises you like and rotate them through your warm up. For example, find ten exercises you like that are also effective and select three different ones to warm up with every time you train.
What works best for me is the big change. When I warm up using a progression of general to specific movements, my performance during the main session is far better, my recovery is faster and easier, and I don’t get injured. For example, if I’m putting in the effort on a squat day, I’ll do some mix of hip mobility, high knee skips, sprinting (low intensity), and pull-ups for about ten minutes, and then start ramping up weights. While I’m ramping up the weights, I’ll mix in a couple speed sets and jump squats to make sure the movement is solid and I’m ready to move heavier weight. By the time I get close to working weight, I won’t have any tight spots, hot spots, or movement problems. You might not need to do all that, but I do. If your main complaints about warm-ups are masking the real reason you are tired by the end of that kind of warm-up, you need to work on your conditioning (train to train).
And, of course, the caveat: find that sweet spot. Should you ramp up with excessive volume and intensity, use competing means, and take too long to your main event, you won’t gain nearly as much as if you’ve warmed up in that sweet spot. Also, if you don’t warm up enough, you won’t gain any performance advantage. The point of a warm-up is to invest the correct amount of time and effort (the sweet spot) to improve performance and decrease the risk of injury.
Get The Drugs
I’ll just come out and say it. I haven’t seen many articles promoting this, so I’ll do it. Get the drugs. You’re old, you aren’t participating in any sanctioned sports (meaning you don’t have to pee in a cup or need a Therapeutic Use Exemption—whatever WADA calls it these days), it’s doctor-supervised, it’s legal, and aging doesn’t stop. So get the drugs. Go to an anti-aging doctor and get a testosterone prescription aka HOT (hormone optimization therapy), aka TRT (testosterone replacement therapy), aka HRT (hormone replacement therapy), aka TOT (testosterone optimization therapy, or whatever the cool kids decide to call it next).
What does testosterone do? It helps you recover. It has a bunch of great benefits to general health, but it’s number one job is to help you recover. It helps you heal, grow, and accumulate training effects. Testosterone is a recovery aid. What specifically would cause you to want T? I never recommend T to lazy people who can’t manage their diet, sleep, training, and stress. If your lifestyle is managed, which is the first solution to a lot of problems, then I recommend T to help with focus, that background fatigue or brain cloud (Joe vs. The Volcano anyone?), that little bit of fat you just can’t lose, that little bit of muscle you just can’t gain, and all-around awesomeness.
That shit is the fountain of youth. Ponce De Leon was looking for the fountain of youth, but he missed it because he stepped over it in the jungle. It was a syringe filled with testosterone cypionate hiding under a pile of leaves, not even surrounded by booby traps. TRT will make you feel younger, like twenty years younger. You’ll recover faster, maintain strength and body composition much easier, and be more focused—as well as a host of other wonderful health benefits that the deniers refuse to see. Minus actual contraindications like existing cancers or endocrine disorders, the arguments against TRT are debatable and based on interpretation. Don’t talk to your primary care physician about it. Go to a specialist who understands the protocols and biology and can legally prescribe. The guy in the locker room probably is an expert, lots of gear users are, but beware the bro science and keep it legal. Do some research and get the drugs legally.
You need to find a doctor that knows about these things. So far, the majority of endocrinologists and primary care doctors aren’t keen on TRT and/or their practices are ridiculous, like making you visit the office and giving you one tiny injection every two weeks. A legit anti-aging clinic will raise your T towards the high end of physiological levels. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get supra physiological doses? It would, but then our legit clinics would give the protocol a bad name and become known as performance enhancement clinics. That would lead to fear mongers and the perennially uninformed legislators (one and the same) closing down the industry.
Here’s an example of what it would be like at one medical practice (they all operate a little differently)... You will talk to a doctor for an initial consultation after submitting blood for lab analysis. They look at your hormone levels to rule out or possibly diagnose an underlying problem other than your testosterone levels. Suppose you’ve got a medical problem beyond something they can handle, you’ll end up elsewhere, like maybe at an endocrinologist. Then they prescribe a dosing regimen of testosterone cypionate, which you will self administer once or twice a week as a subcutaneous injection into your belly fat. Intramuscular is old school, but for whatever reason, the subq method and it’s greater effectiveness plus prolonged bolus, and less painful injection has not caught on universally. Some meatheads are still stabbing themselves in the ass, neck, and tree stump. The doc will make all kinds of neat stuff available: HCG if you’re trying to get your wife pregnant or don’t want your nuts to shrink, sermorelin if growth hormone can help you, aromatase inhibitors if your doc still subscribes to this idea that it’s healthy and necessary to stop conversion of test to est (in some cases it might be, but you need estrogen), clomiphene which has similar effects to HCG, metformin for insulin sensitivity, and a variety of vitamin shots. You can try it all, but you don’t need it. Accept a reasonable dose of testosterone and you’ll be golden. It might cost you nothing for the T script (depending on insurance), or maybe $80 for a 10mL vial, which will last two to four months, depending on your dose.
There are some things you need to do to make TRT work better. The force multipliers are:
- Sleep seven to eight hours a night.
- Program intelligently and follow the plan.
- Recover and mobilize (take care of your joints).
- Condition (the TRT responds to this like Popeye to spinach).
- Eat healthy. Eat low healthy carbs, lots of meat and veggies.
- Don’t drink, don’t smoke: (muh vices, muh freedoms, everything in moderation, blah blah blah). DON’T DRINK and DON’T SMOKE.
The caveat! Be forewarned: you will feel twenty years younger, but you are not. Your ligaments, tendons, and cartilage are still old, so don’t go overboard lifting. Heed the age-old adage before attempting stupid human tricks. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. You’re still old; you just feel good.
What about all the other options available to raise T? It’s beating around the bush. We used to have conversations in one of my old gyms about this sort of thing. All of us had different experiences with different supplements and training ideas. What we finally and always arrived at with these conversations is, “The only thing that raises T is T." You can try other solutions if you have apprehension towards the T, and some stuff might do something for some people for some time, and it’s your choice if you want to dance around the direct and obvious solution that is proven. Like I tell my kids, “You can do it the hard way or you can do it the easy way.” (Not about raising their T but about other things).
I have lots of opinions about lots of things, and I am flexible with the vast majority of them. However, every single point I made in this section of this article I believe in 100 percent. If there is a product and practice that will change the world it is TRT.
Increase Frequency And Decrease Intensity
I found that as I get older I need to maintain my frequency of work and I need to hold it at submaximal. This is for two reasons. First, I lose my baseline of fitness a lot faster than I used to. Second, mostly because of the first reason, I cannot randomly do high volume or intensity without taxing myself excessively because I haven’t worked at a certain level for a long time. I found that I can always increase any attribute or work capacity over time but it doesn’t require near death experiences to do it, just more consistency and a little less abuse. The most effective training rhythm for me is to train as often as possible but to adjust the intensity for the volume and vice versa. Startling conclusion, I know, that’s like one of the basic tenets of training.
For now, being quarantined during the TP apocalypse means I’m not going to the boxing gym four days in a row every week. This gives me the opportunity to work on more strength and conditioning methods in my home gym. Since I’ve incorporated more intensity under load, I adjusted my schedule to allow for recovery and to keep me hungry (see my now ancient Guidelines articles about staying hungry). Here is my current home boxing template (one-hour sessions every other day) with sample exercises I use to moderate my recovery and intensity:
A. Strength Day: Pull-ups, high handle trap bar deadlift, squat (clusters)
B. Recovery and Light Conditioning Day: One-hour Prowler® walk (pulling, pushing, unilateral, and bilateral with twisting and punching)
C. Boxing Day: Jump rope, double end bag, heavy bag (three-minute rounds)
D. Strength Endurance Day: Loaded Prowler® sprints, sandbag carries, sandbag wrestling, push-ups, pull-ups, and kettlebell ground exercises (circuit)
Anything more than two days of recovery becomes a vacation. Don’t take too many days off. Get in a filler session with conditioning or another sport. Just keep moving. I like every other day on and off because my compliance is 100 percent. I can easily keep this training rhythm, whereas a Monday to Thursday boxing or a Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday lifting schedule I am more likely to deviate from. When you get older, you have more self-awareness and know what you can and cannot do to what effect. Use your wisdom and find your best schedule that optimizes compliance, time constraints, recovery, and goal achievement.
As far as intensity, you can still hit training hard but if you aren’t used to it or it is starting to grind you down, you need to figure out how to schedule high intensity sessions in your program, how intense to get, and how to recover better. You don’t need to make sweat angels and fall over panting with vomit coming out of your nose to get an effective training session. That sort of thing can be counterproductive. It can be productive for someone, but is it productive for you? And is that a program you will remain compliant with?
A good rule of thumb is to limit the intensity to whatever still allows you to fight after you leave the gym. Pat McNamara, author of the Combat Strength Training program, makes this recommendation when discussing gym training. You aren’t any good to yourself or to others if you can’t handle a situation because you wasted yourself in the gym. Let me direct you to MMA coach Firas Zahabi, who goes a step further and says you shouldn’t wake up sore from training—an interesting and debatable perspective. He explains it in-depth in his interview with Joe Rogan. Also, listen to his Q&A streams on the TriStar Gym YouTube channel. Another source that discusses the issue of training volume and intensity is Juggernaut Training Systems. They use several volume landmarks to manage adaptation and recovery in their programming. You need to experiment to figure out your volume and intensity ranges to determine the tradeoffs and recovery requirements. This is always an issue no matter how old you are, and it makes all the difference in how you feel and perform in the future.
Don’t Be So Sagittal
Lifting weights is great! Famous coaches said all I have to do is squat, pull, and press, and I’m good to go... until I have to move in a different plane quickly. One thing I hear from older guys about tweaking their backs is "all I was doing was leaning over to pick up a (name an object that weighs less than ten pounds)." For me, all it takes is one fast unexpected rotation or movement at an odd angle, and I know I was missing something in training. I think barbell training provides a great basis for strength and motor skills. I place it in the category of training to train, though. It’s a means, not the end, for me. You should maintain a barbell program, and I am recommending augmenting it with other types of training. The barbell is useful because it can be loaded heavily and is best suited for sagittal plane movements like squatting, pushing, and pulling. But, mix it up!
My objective is to injury-proof myself by maintaining strength and stability in motor patterns in other planes besides up and down. Let me tell you about phantom (figment of the imagination) strength. I like to think of my phantom strength like this: before I did pull-ups regularly, I would get weak between sessions because it was too infrequent. When I would think ahead about doing pull-ups, I could still do ten easily in my mind. Then I would try to do pull-ups, and it was the hardest three of my life! It’s when we think we can, but we can’t. Imagine this same effect, but for your lower back and knees, loaded, moving quickly. In your mind, you are still twenty steaming down the gridiron with a football tucked under your arm. But now you’re fifty carrying a giant toolbox on your chest up the driveway covered in wet leaves. How will this end? How can you train better for life hazards (besides making better decisions than carrying a heavy object on poor footing)? What are your phantom strengths? What do you think you can do, but you can’t? Chances are you’re good in the sagittal plane, but when that one ski kicks out from under you because of a darned snow snake, can you recover, or are you flailing like an octopus hooked up to a car battery? And then how do your joints feel the next morning?
My solution is odd object lifting, kettlebells, boxing, or some other activity where you move and apply power in multiple planes, controlled in a training setting, not on poor footing in a surprise situation. These activities will have your joints expressing and absorbing force at unusual angles. You don’t need to load yourself up heavy for effective training. A 40-pound kettlebell and a variety of ground-based and standing movements can provide a strong dose to start, and of course, regression and progression apply. I don’t know. Maybe 40 pounds will snap you up.
Check out Pavel Tsatsouline’s Simple and Sinister or any of his other kettlebell programs. Manual labor-based movements are also effective. For example, move bags of concrete, dig a hole, or chop and stack firewood (get on that honey-do list). If you already have a manual labor job, you likely need to push your conditioning just a bit more than what you do every day, above your baseline (all of these articles are about gaining fitness safely by training above and raising your baseline of fitness).
Another great option is Pat McNamara’s CST program. That’ll have you building power, strength, speed, and hypertrophy each week with a wide variety of movements and skills in all planes. I rank boxing as my favorite supplement to barbell training. It can serve as conditioning, speed, agility, and power training in multiple planes, plus it’s a life skill. It requires bending, squatting, and twisting, not just standing in front of a bag and extending my arms.
As a side note, if you want a skill that could save your life, learn to fall. If you fall when you’re older and end up with surgery, a serious decline in health could start because of immobility. Learning to fall is a good skill for sports and life, but the process of training regularly is critical. If you take a judo class, you’ll find yourself applying and taking force in all kinds of directions. As you age, you need to take that abuse effectively, even if you have those reflexes and motions ingrained deeply. In general, the right martial arts club can provide you with the abuse necessary to maintain fitness and injury proofing. If you’re into it, look for full contact stick fighting (with rattan, not padded sticks, to elicit a different response), any kind of grappling, the striking arts of Muay Thai, and western boxing. Lethwei is also a great option. You know... because kickboxing with bare knuckles, head butts, knees, and elbows are what every masters lifter and senior citizen would benefit from. Stick fighting, incorporating grappling and empty hand striking, is especially good at instilling the need for fitness and multiplanar movement (this point, I am not kidding). I suppose this is counterintuitive that for injury prevention and health benefits, I recommend getting beaten up and strangled by someone with a weapon. I promise you that this experience will provide you with the absolute greatest incentive to develop more physical attributes than just sagittal strength.
That’s it. I’m all out of suggestions for now, until I gather some new experiences and new injuries. Here’s a recap of suggestions to help you age like wine and not a parking lot milkshake:
- Adopt new eating strategies. Try a new approach to eating.
- Improve aerobic conditioning. Build your base before all things.
- Take more time ramping up and recovering. Warm up, then warm up again.
- Get the drugs. Tune your hormones using legal PED protocols.
- Increase frequency and decrease intensity. Train more but lighter.
- Don’t be so sagittal. Use multiplanar variable loading movement schemes.
- Or stop getting old. Whatever works for you…
Cain Morano has daughters enrolled in MMA and didn’t want to be one of the spectator parents sitting and not doing stuff while other people were. So he began boxing, which he soon found out was mostly conditioning-based training. It turns out that the ability to remain standing is a skill even without getting hit in the face. And if you were wondering, boxing has far more carryover into alpine skiing than strictly strength training.