(Mostly) good article about strength training for adults

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

We have a very adult gym. That is, we don't have lots of bros high-fiving and yelling during the workouts. We have folks who really care about their health and are taking an intelligent approach to getting fitter. I know I'm often ranting about how "you people need to lift more" as you age, and those of you who are listening to me don't look like you should be getting their AARP cards in the mail (you know who you are).

Here's another article that backs up my rants. I wish that it wasn't written in a dumb mainstream fitness blog because the exercises and stock photos are worthless, but the points are spot on. I won't be offended if you skip the article and just read my summary.

Here's the main points in the article and my take on them:

The older you are, the more important it is to lift. Muscle mass is the most protective attribute you can have as you age. People who get sick recover better when they have more muscle, they get out of the hospital quicker, and they stay out of the hospital more. I have a longer series of articles about strength and how it improves your life coming up. Just keep this in mind: the more muscle you have the better your life will be.

No matter your age, the goal of strength training is to train something. There's a difference between exercising and training. Exercising is going through the motions, getting hot and sweaty, but not actually ever getting better. Training is focused, planned progressions that make you better at something. Strength training is getting stronger. The only way to put on more muscle is to get stronger, so you need a well designed-strength training program to do that, not just an exercise class.

"Working harder" doesn't mean beating yourself up every time. To get stronger, to progress you need to be able to train. If you beat yourself up so that you can't train the next day you'll never progress. It's all about working smarter, not harder. In fact, as you get stronger and can lift more weight (and put more stress on your body), you actually need to start dialing down the volume. It feels weird, like you're not doing much. I'm pretty strong (not compared to strong people, but compared to average people), and I'm getting older, so I actually need some serious recovery time between lifts. I only squat and deadlift once a week now - but my weights are still going up. I just need that extended time to recover now.

Kids are stupid. Don't train like one. All over social media you see the kids doing some silly unfocused beat down. Don't get swayed by that. One, it's survivorship bias because you're not seeing all the ones who get hurt. Two, the ones that do get better are gifted genetically and they're getting better in spite of the stupid workouts, not because of them.

Heavy weights won't make you huge, but they can make you lean. Don't waste time on low-weight high-rep stuff to "tone". I hate the word tone. You don't tone. No one tones. Lifting heavy weights will not make you huge, but it will make you strong and lean. That's the look that all the people who "tone" want anyway.

Muscle needs to be fed. You can't grow muscle without feeding it properly. I know you guys tease me about my strict paleo approach to nutrition, but diet is the most important thing (well, number two: sleep, diet, training - in that order). If you're not focused on eating good food, you won't make much progress getting stronger. Come talk to me about diet if you're serious, I'll talk ad naseum about it.

A perfect workout should include five basic movement patterns. The linked article says to be sure to include squatting, pushing, pulling, hinging, and lunging. They're almost right. It's squat, push, pull, hinge, carry - and real deadlifts count as a hinge, not some silly dumbbell work (seriously, don't look at the stock photos, it will just poison you). If you pay attention to our workouts, usually within one week, but definitely within two weeks, you'll have hit all 5 of those basic movements. They are critical to getting strong and fit. You don't need to do them all in the same workout, but you do need to hit them all regularly.

You need to consistently train. Okay, I added one that wasn't in the article, but it's important. You need to show up and do some work frequently. If you're lifting so much that you need lots of recovery time, then you have been lifting long enough to know that and you can get away with a 2-day/week plan. If not, you need to be here often. I design our program so that you could do 5 days a week without getting beat down. The more often you can make it the better - you can't really improve if you're not here.

Michael Deskevich