Seniors Beware…

Seniors beware – there’s a lot of bad advice out there… People telling you you need to take everything easy now “at your age”, people, even doctors, advising you your loss of strength is just a “normal part of aging”, etc. etc. etc. Decades-old ideas don’t cut it in today’s healthy aging world!

I have even heard younger personal trainers, trying to be helpful, advising that older people need to start lifting lighter than they have been for years when they were “younger” and, worst of all, lumping all seniors into one group when it comes to health and fitness. It’s not surprising – it’s the same mindset that has companies retiring you at 65, right at the peak of your knowledge and experience, and based entirely on the notion that you’re suddenly somehow less because of that 65th birthday.

So what IS the truth about health and wellness for those 50 and over? The truth is that everyone is different, and each of us has spent the first half-century differently. We’ve faced different emergencies, different nutrition, different career paths, different family lives and differing levels of fitness and activity. We can assume very few if any ever tried to be unhealthy, but with few exceptions we’ve all only been flirting with fitness so far in our lives (hence the name of this site 😉 ).

There are, though, certain commonalities that we CAN all benefit from to help us delay or avoid a lot of the health issues people equate with the ‘normal aging process’. So let’s take a look at just what most can do to vastly improve their quality of life compared to the common view…

All too often nutrition becomes lower priority to people as they age – maybe they aren’t as hungry, maybe they can’t be bothered, or maybe they’ve just built up bad eating habits over the years and continue to consume fast-foods as a major part of their diet. And don’t kid yourself into thinking you can’t afford to eat right – eggs are still one of the healthiest and least expensive foods we can consume.

How is YOUR food intake currently? Are you getting enough protein to protect your muscles, or even maybe help them grow? Are you consuming the right amount of food for your desired weight? Being at a healthy weight helps in a lot of ways, and to make a point, have you ever seen an obese person in their 90’s?

Just like earlier in your life, proper exercise goes hand-in-hand with nutrition to help keep you healthier and happier. For many, if not most seniors, physical activity nosedives once we retire. We’re not up and about the same, we’re not walking as much going to or at work, and our general overall activity level drops more and more as time goes on.

Think about it for a minute – we’re not getting weaker with less energy because we’re getting older, we’re losing muscle and energy because we’re less active and not fueling our bodies properly!

Cardiovascular health can usually be maintained, or at least kept to an improved level, by walking daily – a 30-minute walk once or twice a day can have a major benefit for you. If you can’t walk for 30 minutes, walk to the corner and back today. Tomorrow, walk half a block past that corner and back. The day after walk 2 blocks and back. Increasing your capability in tiny increments over time WILL get you there.

Strength training is just as important, both for your strength and for your bone density. If you’re already in reasonable shape or better, either join a local gym or start building your home gym. If weight-training is new to you, start small and build from there. If you’ve been weightlifting for years, there’s no need to start slacking off – keep going and continue to increase the weights from time to time to continue your progress.

If you feel you’re currently too weak for that, visit your local sporting goods store, WalMart, etc, and look for their freeweights section. Can you do 10 curls with the 2-pound (1KG) dumbbell? If so, how about the 5-pound (2.3KG)? When you find the weight you can do a couple or more with but can’t get 9 or 10 – BUY THAT DUMBBELL! You just found your perfect weight to start with. Once you’re able to use it easily to get your 3 or 4 sets of 10, it’s time for the next one up!

Once you progress to being able to do the bigger exercise like say deadlifts or goblet squats, going heavier over time also helps to restore and protect bone density, a major issue particularly to post-menopausal women but affecting men too as we age. Reducing falls and having less probability of broken bones can greatly enhance your daily life!

Another negative health situation faced by many seniors is insufficient sleep. Perhaps it’s caused by the lack of exercise and not being tired by the end of the day, perhaps emotional or situational worries are keeping you up at night. Remember – no one ever solved their problems by laying awake worrying about them!

You need your 7-9 hours of sleep each night – not only to help fuel the next day, but because the body uses that period to repair and build your system. Great workouts with too little sleep won’t help you as much as average workouts with a full night’s sleep. If you’re having issues with your sleep, not being able to sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time, use afternoon naps to help bridge the gap until your new exercise patterns make it easier to fall into a deep sleep each night.

There’s a lot more to say on each of these areas, and some other factors that come into the healthy aging equation as well, but I’ll leave all that for future posts. For now, understand that you DO NOT want to jump out of bed tomorrow and tackle all this head-on. You could end up disillusioned, hurt yourself or worse – the exact opposite of what we want. You’re an intelligent, dignified person so proceed in exactly that manner. While you should start now, start slowly and build from there as you see how your body and system react.

Don’t worry – you still have plenty of time to ramp up your efforts along your healthy aging path – after all there are more than 10,000 people in today’s world still living at home who are already over 100 years old – and more and more join the centenarian team each year. When someone tells you they don’t want to live to 90 or 100, it’s because they picture unhappy, unhealthy years. Let’s all show them the error in that attitude by becoming sterling examples of healthy aging ourselves!


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Staying Strong At 60 – What The Magazines Aren’t Telling You…

Staying strong at 60 and beyond is a very important component in your quest to enjoy your current lifestyle and set yourself up for an enjoyable and active retirement. Yet fitness magazines and most personal trainers will give you the impression that building bigger muscles should be your prime objective in the gym.

Flirting With Fitness publisher Doug Champigny placed 3rd in the Super Grandmaster category at a UFE bodybuilding competition at age 61, and is now in training as a competitive powerlifter.

When it comes to weightlifting, most routines can be broken into one of three main categories: bodybuilding, powerbuilding and powerlifting.

Bodybuilding focuses on building muscle size while powerlifting focuses on building strength. As you may have guessed, powerbuilding is a combination of the two, with no true focus on either one. Most amateurs in your local gym fall into that category whether they know it or not.

Obviously, there’s some crossover between bodybuilding and powerlifting results, often the results of an athlete’s unique genetics. Some bodybuilders build strength easily within their workouts, while some powerlifters end up with bulging muscles without training for size. But in both cases, this is the exception, not the rule.

That you should evolve from size to strength training as you mature is evident in basic human physiology. All else being equal, your body reaches its greatest potential for building muscle size at 24 years of age – it reaches your maximum stage for building strength at 40. Does this mean you can’t get strong at 60 or 70? Of course not – research has shown even those over 100 still benefit from weight training. But it does indicate that your body feels strength is more important than being physically attractive during your second half-century.

So how do you stay strong at 60? Or get strong at 60 or beyond? Assuming you’ve checked with your licensed medical professional and have their approval to start lifting weights, start by learning proper form for performing the big compound movements (a compound exercise is one that involves 2 or more joints during the lift).

The competitive sport of powerlifting focuses on just three exercises: squats, bench press and deadlifts. Between the three they involve every major muscle group in the body so they comprise an excellent measure of overall strength. But for ongoing strength training purposes you want a few more exercises thrown into your mix.

Bent rows and the overhead press, standing or seated, are both great compound exercises to add to your mix. Those 5 compound exercises should be the mainstay of your workout focus, then you can add some shoulder mobility exercises and some isolation exercises for arms, abs, hamstrings and calves as your time and energy allow. Don’t overdo it on those, though, as you don’t want them keeping you from recovering fully between workouts.

And that’s another key to staying strong at 60 and beyond: keep the workout intensity as high as you safely and prudently can, but allow more time between workouts to allow for full recovery. Try to hit each bodypart twice a week, either through a training split or using full-body workouts twice a week. And it should go without saying you need proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep each night to fuel and support your recovery between workouts.

As to the workouts themselves, experiment and see what works best for you. Keep your sets between 3 and 5 sets per exercise, and don’t go over 6 nor under 3 reps per set. Try to avoid the temptation to train to your 1-rep max – for the most part that’s setting you up for injury and is far too hard on your central nervous system (CNS).

Even most competitive powerlifters only test their 1-rep max at competitions, keeping their training to 60% – 90% of their 1-rep max. Focus instead on increasing your 5-rep or 3-rep max. Rest assured that if your strength is building your 3-rep or 5-rep strength, your 1-rep max is increasing too!

As a final tip, every 5th or 6th week cut the weights back to about 50% for that week. That gives your body and your CNS a chance to recover fully – you’ll usually find you can up the weights from your previous lifts by 5 or 10 pounds when you go back to the gym the following week.

At first it’s an effort to get started and keep going regularly, but before long you’ll find it’s just another part of your new healthier, stronger and more active lifestyle – and you’ll love how you feel each day! Staying strong at 60 and beyond really can help you enjoy every aspect of your life more and more on an ongoing basis!


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Weightlifting And Exercise: No Brain, No Gain!

Weightlifting, bodybuilding and powerlifting have all come a long way since they were first popularized in the 1970’s. The gyms were hardcore – almost exclusively barbells, dumbbells and benches. Workouts were 3 – 4 hours long, and everyone was trying different techniques, different exercises, different tempos and varying rep ranges. And in the offseason, most were on a ‘See Food’ diet – if they saw food they ate it!

Weightlifting & Exercise: No Brain, No Gain!

“No Pain, No Gain” was their battle cry, and they were no strangers to pain. The pain of overworked and over-stretched muscles was joined by pain from failed exercise variations, nutritional mistakes, lack of sleep, lack of sufficient rest & recuperation – but they learned to work through it if they were motivated enough. Every gym goer from back in the day has comical horror stories about the aches and pains they worked through and the toll those days took on their health. And, now in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, many lament what those workouts did to their knees, hips, backs, shoulders and spines. But they’ll also tell you that given the chance to do it all again, they sure would.

But while No Pain, No Gain was an apt slogan for the 1970’s, today’s reality is “No Brain, No Gain”. So much research has been done in the past 40 years on every aspect of weightlifting and exercise, and anecdotal empirical evidence now exists from those who stayed with it through the various evolutions of the sport. Huge strides have been made in the fields of biology and kinesiology, nutrition (and especially sports nutrition), progressive resistance, hypertrophy and even exercise equipment itself.

Walk into the typical commercial gym today and, once you get past the recumbent bikes, stair machines, treadmills, ellipticals and other cardio devices, you’ll probably see twice as much gym floorspace dedicated to exercise machines as to the venerated old free weights. And while macho gym rats will forever mock the machines, it’s possible to put together an entire full-body workout for new members using just those machines, to provide the initial results they’re after in a safer, controlled and graduated environment.

We now know that gains in the gym can be tapered to your goals – greater strength for powerlifters, bigger muscles for bodybuilders, enhanced cardiovascular abilities for runners and endurance athletes and programs to aid in fat loss or lean weight gain, as you prefer. Still nothing that will do the workouts for you, but an amazing array of aids to ensure you’re on the right path for YOU.

Pro athletes, weekend warriors and regular gym goers have also learned a lot more about nutrition and healthy eating. The traditional dinner of meat, corn and potatoes is now likely to be replaced by chicken or fish paired with sweet potatoes and broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Breakfast might be oatmeal and egg whites instead of sugary cereal straight from the box. And while their nutrition may be based on meal plans, paleo, IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) or vegan choices, they all share one main goal – to make sure your protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats ratio is in balance with your goals and that your total caloric intake level fits your plan to lose fat or gain muscle.

Yes, today’s workouts have changed, most definitely for the better. Knowledge of progressive resistance and workout periodization have let us remove most of the unnecessary pain from being regularly active in the gym, and the advances in kinesiology have taught us better ways to move the iron to avoid the repetitive stress injuries and better protect the soft tissue and joints that keep our bodies functioning properly. Far from ending up muscle bound, most weightlifters today have a better range of pain-free motion in their joints than the general public will ever have.

And for advanced intermediate lifters and experienced old pros there are advances too – but if you’re reasonably new to the art of weightlifting, leave the bands, chains, over-reaching and supercompensation for a few more years down the road. Don’t compare yourself to those who have been doing this for years. There’s a reason it took them years to get there. Instead, take ‘before’ photos when you’re ready to start, and compare them to new pictures every 3 – 6 months. The truest tests are how your clothes fit, how you feel when you wake up each day, how much energy you have and how deeply you sleep each night.

The best news? Most of the new knowledge you need to get to your goals is in your local library and even in your home, thanks to the Internet. These days it’s easy to be able to walk into a gym for the first time already knowing enough to get started – safely. If you can afford a good personal trainer and have access to one, that can get you started even better – but be careful. Don’t just blindly hire the biggest lifter in the gym, or you may end up with someone whose drug use masks poor knowledge, experience or technique. Ask around at your gym and see who others there recommend.

And above all, never stop learning. New weightlifting research surfaces daily and while there’s too much to stay on top of it all, pick a few experts and follow them on their blogs and in social media – you’ll learn a lot more that way than buying a lot of magazines filled with articles tailored to selling you supplements. A strong, healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint – and carry the “No Brain, No Gain” motto with you proudly!

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4 Reasons To Buy Your Bodybuilding Supplements From Your Local Independent Supplements Store

Bodybuilding supplements aren’t just for bodybuilders — they’re also designed to help powerlifters and anyone participating in sports, running, biking and swimming along with anyone lifting weights. But where should you be shopping for your bodybuilding supplements?

Buy Your Bodybuilding Supplements From Your Local Independent Supplements Store

Generally speaking, as long as you live in a larger town or a city, you’ll have the choice of department stores, drug stores, chain stores and independent bodybuilding supplement stores. In almost every case, your best bet is to patronize your local independent supplier, and here’s why…

1) More Knowledgeable Specialist Staff – In drug stores, department stores and the like, supplements are one small area of their business. As a result, there’s no pressure for their staff to be experts in fitness, exercise or nutrition, and there’s no strong motivation for them to stay up on the latest research. You’ll usually fare better in a supplements chain store, but they have to hire a lot more staff to cover all their stores and like most retail operations it’s hit and miss as to whether you’ll get a dedicated athlete or a general retail employee serving you.

By contrast, usually only someone dedicated to lifting weights, be they a powerlifter, powerbuilder or bodybuilder, will open a bodybuilding supplements store. Often they’ll be a former or current fitness competitor themselves, or just love the sport. And since few employees are needed to run a single retail operation, they can usually staff it with just their friends whom they know are also into fitness. They each may or may not be certified personal trainers or nutrition specialists, but at least they’ll have a fairly well-rounded knowledge of the purposes and uses of each of the supplements plus usually some anecdotal results from their own nutritional regime experiments and those of their friends.

2) They Only Carry The Best Brands — Department stores and drug stores get by selling a range of products and only need a small percentage of their profits to come from their supplements. A chain store can survive off of sales of other stores – if 95% of their corporate stores are showing a profit, they can either close the other 5% or keep them going because the chain is making a net profit overall. But your locally-owned independent store has to make their money from just that one location, making every single customer a more vital piece of their net profit picture. And in the world of retail supplements, that means the products they sell have to WORK – it’s the only way to ensure customer retention. So while the others can afford to offer so-so products, your local store HAS to ensure they sell only first-quality bodybuilding supplements.

3) They Carry A Wider Selection Of Supplements — This one is a no-brainer: compare the size of your local store to the shelf space allotted to supplements in your local drug store or department store. No comparison, right? The popular supplement chain store will often have as big an area, but in most cases they’re only allowed to order the products approved of by head office, which can often lead to bigger stocks of fewer products. Your local independent, however, can stock whatever they like and will usually carry everything they get much demand for, leading to a wider selection both of brands and of the myriad of bodybuilding supplements on the market today. As an example, they won’t just offer whey protein but also whey protein isolate, casein protein, vegan proteins, etc. Or check out how many different pre-workout supplements they offer compared to your local department or drug store.

4) You’re Helping To Support Your Local Economy — This is true no matter what you purchase, so it’s not just limited to bodybuilding supplements – when you shop with local independent retailers the profits stay in your community. In this age of global corporations and free trade, every little bit helps when you choose to support your local businesses.

Bonus Tip For Competitive Athletes — If you hope to rise to the top of your sport over time, you already know the value of sponsorship. I can come in the form of free or discounted products, apparel, even cash to help defray the costs of traveling to competitions, etc. Getting sponsors isn’t easy, but at least when you’ve built a relationship with a local supplements store you have a better chance of getting help than you would when competing with athletes nationally or world-wide for those few spots. True, the level of sponsorship may be lower due to the economies of scale, but we all have to start somewhere, right? Try asking your local department store or retail store about how many athletes they sponsor, and ask your local supplements chain store how many athletes they sponsor in YOUR community – it won’t take long for you to see your best opportunities will come from your local independent bodybuilding supplements store!


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Building Muscle – Quick Triceps Workouts

Due to the popularity of our Quick Biceps Workout post, today let’s look at how to do a quick triceps workout as well…

Triceps, when properly weight-trained, make up two-thirds of your upper arm’s overall size. As such, it’s better to do a quick triceps workout than to skip it when your gym time is tight. If it’s absolutely necessary to skip a bodypart when training arms, better you should skip biceps than triceps if you’re looking to develop upper arm muscle mass.

Quick Triceps Workout - lying triceps extension

Your triceps brachii muscles have 3 heads – the long head, medial head and lateral head. They run down the back of your upper arm, from shoulder to elbow, and are mostly involved in extending your elbow to straighten your arm. The concentric portion of each rep contracts your triceps and fully straightens your arms, while the eccentric portion lowers the weight by allowing the elbow to bend to 90 degrees or more.

While twice the size of your biceps, the triceps are still one of the smaller bodyparts and can recover more quickly that larger muscle groups like legs, back and chest. This means you can work your triceps 2 – 3 times per week on non-consecutive days, but be careful not to use heavier weights than you can manage with proper form to prevent damaging your elbow ligaments or joint.

If you’re training time is limited during a workout, use these three exercises to work the triceps, doing 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps each. Don’t rush the reps – use a cadence of 1 second up and 3 seconds down with no pause or rest at the top or bottom of each movement.

Lying Triceps Extensions
Also known as ‘skullcrushers’, lying triceps extensions start with you lying flat on the bench with your arms straight up above you, perpendicular to your body. The exercise can be done with dumbbells, a straight bar, a cambered (EZ curl) bar or the specialized triceps bar. Start by slowly lowering the weight to your forehead then return it back to the top position at a faster speed. At the end of each set, go immediately into the next exercise with no break.

Narrow-Grip Bench Press
The second half of this triceps superset is the narrow-grip bench press. If you’re using a triceps bar then you’ll automatically have a narrow grip already, but if not then be sure your grip is about shoulder width or a touch narrower. Going any narrower than that places too much strain on the wrists at the bottom of the movement, so if you find your wrists getting sore widen your grip slightly. Since you’re already lying on the bench in the proper position, lower the weights to your chest while keeping your elbows tucked close to your body, then raise the weight directly up by extending your arms. Do not let your elbows drift out to the sides as this involves the pectoral muscles of the chest more than you want it to – keep the tension on your triceps as the weight moves up and down.

Because you’re supersetting this press with the extensions the weight won’t be as heavy as you could do otherwise, so you can compensate by either doing a few more reps per set or slowing each rep down, especially on the eccentric (lowering) portion of each rep. At the end of your set rest for about a minute, then go back to the lying extensions to begin your next set. Perform the full cycle 3 – 4 times before moving on to the third exercise.

Overhead Triceps Extensions
Sit up on your bench with your feet flat on the floor and a neutral or slightly-arched lower back. Using two hands, suspend a dumbbell overhead so that it rests perpendicular to the floor – your thumbs and forefingers should be wrapped around the handle while your palms and other fingers are pressed against the underside of the top bell to support the weight. Keeping your elbows facing forward and tucked close to the sides of your head, bend your elbows and slowly lower the weight as far down as you can behind your head, then return the weight back up to directly overhead. Your upper arms should not move during the exercise but instead stay upright and close to your head.

Other Triceps Exercises
The three exercises above will give you quick triceps workouts that are effective in building more muscle, but if you need to replace any of them due to injury or other physical issues, replace the necessary exercise with dumbbell kickbacks. Kickbacks have been shown to stimulate all 3 heads during each rep, so it’s your best replacement exercise. Other triceps exercises like triceps pushdowns, rope pushdowns, overhead cable extensions and triceps dips are good too, but save them for your workouts where time isn’t limited and you can fit one or more of them in with these three.


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