Tuesday, March 18, 2008

High Intensity Training and the Older Trainee (June '03)

At the time of this article I’m 57 years old. I have been training with weights for over 40 years. I have been involved in the competition and sporting aspect of the strength world, as well as other sports, mostly “contact” in nature. Over the course of my activity I have picked up a few injuries here and there. Some have to be taken in consideration as I go through a workout now. It wasn’t always so. I did in the past push myself without a thought about holding anything back. I still use “to Failure” training. Just not on every exercise. For instance squats. I still think squats are the best single exercise you can do. IF YOU CAN DO THEM.

I had gotten to a point where I could no longer do free weight squats, because of my low back. Most of the squatting machines were worse. I changed things around and started using leg presses instead of squats. It’s just not worth the possible problems. I also Leg press before I squat most of the time. Leg Press is worked to failure. Most of my other exercises are to failure also. Unless I’m working around a sore joint, then I take it to the point I still think I’m safe.
I get an average of 2-3 workouts in a week. I never train without a day in between to rest from the weights. Read “weights.” I might Bike, walk, swim, or hang up the heavy bag on those days. I’m not quite ready for the rocker full time yet. My overall volume is on the low side. I might use 10 exercises on a full body day. Sometimes I do two hard sets. At that time, usually less than 10 exercises are used. If I have a real tough workout it may take me two days to feel like working the weights again. That varies. It doesn’t bother me at all to take time off from training now. It used to make me crazy to miss! I still use mostly compound movements and I mix in some single joint stuff. I know it’s been said that High Intensity Training should be so hard that it’s not something to enjoy doing. I don’t agree. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t do it. Most people are that way, I think?

I do thrive on pushing myself but have learned to do it in a more thoughtful way. If I’m hurt because of my training, it just doesn’t make sense. So I back off now and then. Does that make the training no longer High Intensity? I don’t think so. I’m still aware of my last performance in the gym and I don’t let many workouts go by without increasing that performance. I still keep daily records. How can you know where your at if you don’t? I change the exercises on a regular basis to hold off boredom. After 40 years it is needed.

To sum things up: I still think the Older Trainee can use a High Intensity framework for his or her training. It may take more thought to plan workouts than it used to but safety should never be overlooked. Train to failure on the things that you can. Even if it is only on one or two exercises or none on some days. Use the pre- exhaust technique. Don’t be afraid to rest a little longer if needed. You may be using a lower volume of exercises that you did in the past. That’s probably a smart thing. When it’s all said and done, look forward to working out again. Training can become a good friend. - Jim Bryan