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Since 3 Dec. '02

Body Building for the Older Man
By Dennis B. Weis

To begin with when I speak of the older bodybuilder throughout this article, I am not necessarily discussing chronological age. An older bodybuilder would be one who has lost some of the attributes and qualities associated with that of a younger body builder. These qualities include normal digestion and elimination, good reflexes, speed and flexibility as well proper skin and muscle tone just to name a few. Theoretically as we become older, many of the previously mentioned qualities begin to decline. In addition to this muscle tissue can diminish by two-thirds of what we had earlier in our body building career. As well maximum VO2 uptakes, which is the amount or volume of oxygen used per kilogram of body weight per minute, decline at the rate of 1% a year in the non athletic person. Also Elastin which keeps the blood vessels elastic breaks down with advancing age and the result is hardening of the arteries.

The late Mike Mentzer, a former Mr. Universe, has often said that "choosing the right parents" is the surest way to bodybuilding success. The genetic influence is not all it appears to because some bodybuilders may age much sooner that another who is the same chronological age and is not seemingly blessed with good genetics. Why? Because they have violated or made nutritional errors in their daily diet over a number of years. The need for proper eating to insure bodybuilding success and help slow down the aging process is obvious.

Within the two books I have written, MASS!, and RAW MUSCLE! (Contemporary Books Inc., Chicago, Illinois), I wrote detailed chapters "The Nutrient Factor" and "Nutrition For The Natural Bodybuilders" (nearly books themselves) where I discussed they "whys" and avoiding too much fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugars and sodium etc. To further increase you nutritional integrity there are SIX items which I personally feel are the major enemies MAJOR ENEMIES or MUSCLE WRECKERS of a bodybuilders success and here they: Coffee, Tea, Colas, Chocolate, Alcoholic Beverages and Cigarettes.

These six items contain drugs and if eliminated will invariably provide noticeable improvement to your physical well being. Let's take a brief but careful look at each of these individual items.

COFFEE -- Many bodybuilders drink a cup or two of coffee a 1/2 hour before a workout in an effort to increase muscular strength and endurance capabilities. Coffee contains caffeine which is some cases can cause a person to become physiologically dependent upon it. It is because of this potent drug that coffee can cause or aggravate anxiety. This in turn causes the release of certain stress hormones in the body which increase the blood pressure and resting heart rate.

TEA -- Tea contains caffeine and theobromine. It is interesting to note that under the most ideal nutritional conditions the mineral iron is poorly absorbed into the body and when we way poorly absorbed we are talking about only a one-tenth absorption rate into the bloodstream. A recent study shows that just one cup of tea can reduce the absorption rate of the mineral iron from a hamburger by a whopping 64 percent.

COLAS -- Various soft drinks contain caffeine and sugar (unless stated on the as being caffeine and sugar-free) and could be appropriately labeled "Liquid Uppers". The soft drink Jolt heads the list for the most milligrams of caffeine per 20-oz serving at 71.2 milligrams while Diet Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi Light, and R.C. Cola have 36.0 milligrams of caffeine per 12-oz serving. I used to wonder why my children would literally be ricocheting off the walls after drinking 2 or 3 cans of Coca-Cola Classic which for each 12-oz serving contains 46.0 milligrams of caffeine and 8-10 teaspoons of sugar.

CHOCOLATE -- This food item is America's favorite treat even more so now in 2008 than it was 30 years ago. Today the average person eats 11 pounds per year of this "food of the gods" as opposed to 1980 when only 8 pounds per person per year was eaten. Fat and sugar are the main ingredients in chocolate. Caffeine is also present at 25 milligrams per 1.5 ounces of chocolate. You'd have to consume 1/2-pound of dark or 1-pound plus of light chocolate to equal the caffeine in two cups of coffee. Actually this is not hard to do if you have a box of Sees Chocolate candies sitting in front of you. The triple combination of fats, sugars and caffeine and the amounts which consumed (approximately one pound per month) are what makes this rather delightful confection an item to avoid. Carob which resembles chocolate but becomes from a different source can in most cases be a healthy replacement. Sometimes the manufacturer of carob will include "extra" ingredients such as sugar and saturated fats (palm or coconut oil). If this is the case the carob may not be healthy. IT IS IMPORTANT TO READ THE PRODUCT LABELS ON FOOD ITEMS BEFORE PURCHASING THEM.

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES -- Alcohol has no real nutritional value and in fact interferes with absorption of several key B vitamins. Furthermore, alcohol can cause liver and heart damage, disrupt lifestyle, relationships, sleep and exercise patterns. There have been some case studies done which have shown alcohol to raise the level of high density lipto-proteins "The good cholesterol" in the blood. A very major problem with this procedure is that a person must take 4 1/2-ounces (three jiggers) of 80 proof liquor or 4 glasses of wine or 3 beers daily. Then you become vulnerable to developing alcoholism and other serious health problems.

CIGARETTE SMOKING -- Cigarette smoking decreases the circulation process to deliver oxygen when working out by increasing the levels of carbon monoxide binds with the red blood cells so that it can't carry oxygen. The heart then has to pump more to provide the same amount of oxygen and with a decrease in oxygen carrying capacity the heart becomes "oxygen starved" which in turn causes irregular electrical activity which prevents the heart from contracting effectively.

Cigarette smoking is a contributor of coronary heart disease. One-third of all cancer deaths in males are caused by lung cancer and 90% of these deaths are attributed to cigarette smoking. The tar and nicotine (another chemical dependent drug) are not the cause but it is when the nicotine is converted to tobacco specific N-nitrosamine a strong cancer causing substance.

Angel Spassov the "Techno Guru" of Bulgarian Strength Athletes recently shared findings of Bulgarian research into the correlation of Aging, Testosterone Production and Volume of Training. During one of his first ever seminars held here in the United States he said that between the ages of ten and fifteen years the testosterone levels in males increases twenty-two times higher than at birth and between the gave of fifteen and through to twenty-five years there is another 60% increase. Normally after the age of 25 the production of testosterone in the body begins to decline. Mr. Spassov went on to say that blood testosterone levels peak during the first 20 to 50 minutes of high intensity training after this critical 50 minute time factor it begins to decline but it is still elevated above resting testosterone levels prior to a brutally hard workout and for up to 2 hours.

Bill Pearl and the late Vince Gironda, two unparalleled experts in the iron game have said for years that an honest workout should take no longer than 1 1/2 hours to complete because when a workout goes beyond the critical time factor of 45 minutes it will have a draining effect on blood glucose (sugar). The blood glucose demand at this point is at least 20 times what it is in a resting state. Low blood sugar slows down insulin production and it is insulin which is the primary transport mechanism for amino acid absorption into the muscle tissue after a high intensity workout.

If this transport mechanism fails, muscle restoration and vital growth will be stopped. It would then appear that blood testosterone and glucose act in concert with each other during a brutally hard workout. Angel Spassov continued his seminar by saying that rest pauses between sets of an exercise is dictated when the exercise pulse or heart rate drops down to 102-108 beats (17-18 bests per 6 seconds). For optimal workout efficiency the ideal rest time between sets is 60-90 seconds, at least from the Bulgarian point of view.

There are a number of adjustments you can make in your training procedures which will delay the loss of physiologic properties due to the onset of aging.

First you must consider your previous training abilities and adjust them accordingly. If you have been bodybuilding on a regular basis since your teens or early 20's you have more than likely traumatized your joints quite a bit (shoulders, lower back, knees etc.) so you have to be careful in your future training sessions. One of the best ways to do this is to never exceed 88% of your current one rep maximum effort stress or weight load in your 'hard work sets'/ As a matter of fact I would advise you go with stress or work loads in the 75-80 and 84% of maximum effort range, utilizing more isolationary exercise movements in your exercise program rather than compound exercises.

Secondly it is important to face up to the fact that any former 2-3 hour workouts are the thing of the past. You simply don't have the same recuperative powers you had earlier in your bodybuilding career. You will get far more benefit from a training session in which the accumulated work and rest time goes from 45 minutes not more than 1 1/2 hours. For most of us who have been training for many years maximum size and strength has been our primary consideration. Even with the passing of time we can continue to train for maximum size and strength but now it is more important than ever to use wisdom in planning your training. The by-product of such training should be cardio/reparatory stimulation. It is very important to develop a strong heart and lungs not only from the health standpoint but it are going to be beneficial to your bodybuilding efforts as well. Your best muscle contractions are those which take place in the presence of a super concentration of oxygen rich blood. How important is this?

First a muscle that is completely fatigued in the absence of oxygen has lactate (acid) accumulation increases of 25 times its normal level. Not only that but a muscle can only generate 1/10th of the energy of a muscle which is rich in blood oxygen. Oxygen is brought to the muscles in one way only, and that is through circulation capacity of blood via the heart and lungs.

There are a number of methods by which to accomplish this. You can alternate your multiple set pumping workouts with training sessions which are aerobic in nature. America College of Sports Medicine research speaks loudly about the required training necessary to develop and cardiovascular and lung busting respiratory oxygen acquisition fitness and body accomplish this and they are as followed:

Frequency - 3 to 5 days per week.

Intensity - 50 to 85% of your maximum VO2 oxygen uptake or maximum heart rate.

Steady, Non stop

Duration - 12 minute minimum to 60 minutes maximum

Mode of Activity - Aerobic in nature, Biking, Power Walking etc.

The P.H.A. System

The P.H.A. (Peripheral Heart Action) system of training was popularized by former 1966 AAU Mr. America Bob Gajda as a means of combining circulatory fitness with muscle developing effects of weight training. This unique style of training is regaining in popularity in many of the top gyms in southern California as the preferred method by which to maximum optimum health and physical conditioning. I am going to outline some sample programs which incorporate the P.H.A. system of training. Remember these are just the outlines only and it is up to you to eventually formulate your own program which is unique to your personal wants and needs. You must first determine your present category of physical condition when making the decision of which sample program must use.

Beginners P.H.A. Course
1-2 Sets of 10 Repetitions
3 Workouts per Week

Sequence #1
Standing Military Press (Deltoids)
1/4 Crunch or Frog Sit Ups (Abdominals)
Standing One-Leg Heel Raise (Calves)
Standing Barbell Curl (Bicep Belly)

Sequence #2
Barbell Bench Press (Mid Chest)
Lying Leg Raises (Lower Abdominals)
Barbell Bent Over Rowing (Mid Back Thickness)
Standing One-Leg Heel Raise (Calves)

Sequence #3
Barbell Olympic Style Back Squats (Thigh Quads)
Seated Pull-Ins (Abdominals)
Light Barbell Straight Arm Pullovers (Ribcage and Serratus)
Standing Barbell Triceps Extensions (Outer & Long Triceps Heads)

Sequence #4
Bent Knee Deadlifts (Lower Back)
Barbell Upright Rowing (Deltoids)
Gironda Concemetric- Double Ups (Upper/Lower Abdominals)
Palms Up Barbell Wrist Curls (Forearm Flexors)

Novice P.H.A. Course
1-2 Sets of 10 Repetitions
3 Workouts per Week

Sequence #1
Standing One-Leg Heel Raise (Calves)
Seated Press behind the Neck (Deltoids)
Lying Leg Raise (Lower Abdominals)
Supine Bench Press (Mid Chest)
Wide Grip Pull-ups (Outer Latisimus)
Standing Barbell Curl (Bicep Belly)

Sequence #2
Donkey Heel Raises (Calves)
Dumbbell Lateral Raises (Side Deltoids)
1/4 Crunch or Frog Sit Ups (Abdominals)
Vertical Dips on Parallel Bars (Deltoid/Triceps/Chest)
Lat Machine Pull Dows (Outer Latisimus)
Barbell Front Squats (Thigh Quads)

Sequence #3
Seated Calve Raise with Barbell across Knees (Soleus of Calf)
Seated Dumbbell Press (Front/Side Deltoids)
Seated Twists with a broomstick behind neck (Obliques)
Thigh Bicep Curls (Hamstrings)
Seated Barbell Triceps Extensions (Outer & Long Triceps Heads)
Bent Knee Deadlifts (Lower Back)

Intermediate To Advanced P.H.A. Course
3-4 Sets of 8-10 Repetitions
3 Workouts per Week

Sequence #1
Seated Dumbbell Press (Front/Side Deltoids)
Dumbbell Concentration Curls (Upper Bicep)
Donkey Calf Raise (Calves)
1/4 Crunch or Frog Sit Ups (Abdominals)
Prone Hyper Extensions (Spinae Erectors)
Barbell Reverse Curl (Forearm Extensors)

Sequence #2
Barbell Olympic Style Back Squats (Thigh Quads)
Light Barbell Straight Arm Pullovers (Ribcage and Serratus)
Wide Grip Pull-ups (Outer Latisimus)
Palms up Barbell Wrist Curls (Forearm Flexors)
Standing One-Leg Heel Raise (Calves)
Seated Twists with broomstick behind neck (Oblique)

Sequence #3
Dumbbell Upright Rowing (Front/Side Deltoids)
Flat Bench Dumbbell Flye (Outer Chest)
Sissy Squats (Upper Thighs)
Close Grip Chin Ups (Bicep Belly)
Head Strap (Neck)
Seated Knee Pull-Ins (Abdominals)

Sequence #4
Barbell Incline [35°] Bench Press (Upper Chest)
Dumbbell Laterals (Side/Lateral Deltoids)
Wrist Roller (Belly of Forearm)
Thigh Bicep Curls (Hamstrings)
Single Dumbbell Triceps Extensions (Outer/Lateral Triceps Head)

When Bob Gajda was training for the 1966 AAU Mr. America he used a really advanced P.H.A. program on a daily basis. Specialization emphasis was on Thighs, Deltoids, Calves and Waist. On exercises each for between 6-10 sets each with the repetition scheme going from a minimum of 10 to ask high as 25-30. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday he would perform only 4 sequences of 5 exercises each for a total of 6-10 sets and 10 to 15 repetitions per set.

As you might have noticed from the outlined P.H.A. courses the sequences are a grouping of exercises usually consisting of 4 to 6 exercises, each one for a different muscle group of the body. You do not exercise the same muscle twice in succession, but go on immediately [without rest what-so-ever] to another muscle or body part. For example in sequence #1 of the Intermediate to Advanced P.H.A. course you would begin by doing one set of the Seated D.B. Press, then IMMEDIATELY do one set of D.B. Concentration Curl, then onto the Donkey Calf Raise for one set and so on till you finish the remaining 3 exercises in this particular sequence. This would then be one of each exercise. Now without resting start the sequence over again. This would be the second set of each of the 6 exercises. Go through this sequence a total of 4 times, before advancing to sequence two, three, and four as the case may be.

Because there is literally no rest pauses between exercises in a sequence many of you bodybuilders may have quite a problem with labored breathing. When you plan out your own unique P.H.A. course, be sure that an exercise such as Squats, Bench Presses or Dead lifts which can cause labored breathing is then followed by an isolationary type exercise [for example Barbell Olympic Style Back Squats might be followed by the Light Barbell Straight Arm Pullovers] which will do much to space your breathing out in a controlled manner.

This way your poundage’s an exercise style won't suffer. You will notice that there is never more than one exercise per particular muscle group in a sequence. For example you wouldn't structure two bicep exercises within a sequence because this would interfere with the continuous circulation of blood through the body that you are striving for. Likewise don't place two types of pressing movements in the same sequence. In other words, if you are blasting the deltoids and chest in the same sequence, you might want to do some type of pressing movement for the chest and for the delts it might be a good idea to do the Barbell Upright Raises. Perhaps another sequence will again have deltoids and chest structured in it. If this is the case reverse the procedure and perform some type of pressing movement for the deltoids and bomb the chest with some fly’s or crusher type movements.

Most concentrated forearm building exercises should be structured in the last two sequences of P.H.A. course because the forearms assist in the gripping power of the various exercises in the other sequences and you may lose maximum training efficiency if your grip is fatigued, especially in exercises like Barbell Curls, Barbell Over Rows and Bent Knee Dead lifts etc. Please understand the P.H.A. training calls for both HEAVY and LIGHT days. This means that on your light day’s se no more than 80% of the poundage’s used on your heavy work days. In other words Monday could be LIGHT training day while Wednesday could be HEAVY and Friday again LIGHT. Specific warm up procedures are an important protocol of the P.H.A. system of training. Usually the first set that you perform for each exercise in a sequence should be considered as the warm-up set. Use approximately 75% of the poundage you'd normally do for a 10-rep maximum before going on you absolute 10 rep maximum poundage for the remaining sets in the sequence.

The method behind the revolutionary P.H.A. or SEQUENCE SYSTEM OF TRAINING as developed by Bob Gajda is to involve an exercise for a muscle group far removed from each other. This practice is designed to avoid the onset of undue fatigue in any given muscle so that there are enough phosphate buffers [these are actually hemoglobin, plasma-proteins, bicarbonates and celphosphates] substances in the blood which will neutralize any and all lactates [acids] and in doing so will keep the pH chemical of the blood at a stable 7.35.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to be in an area of the country where is a Golds, Power House, Power Shack or World Gym then you can structure P.H.A. training courses with some of the state-of-the-art training equipment. For those of us who are less fortunate I have opted to structure the courses around a few basic pieces of training equipment.

For those of you older "keep-fit" bodybuilders with limited training time of perhaps ONLY TWENTY MINUTES! Here is a training program especially for you. You will need a multi phase bench which includes a squat rack attachment, a barbell of a weight which you can curl five times in good form and two dumbbells of which the total weight is about half of the barbell. Since this program is designed for fitness, the weight does not have to be extremely heavy. The route to results will be performance - the exercises themselves are well known, simple ones that all of you have probably done at one time or another in your bodybuilding career.

The concept behind this exercise program is to work steadily through each exercise for only one set and WITHOUT A REST BETWEEN EXERCISES. Perform each of the exercises in good form without cheating, don't hurry through them and, in fact, exaggerate the ones that seem too easy with some super slow-motion reps. Slow-motion means lifting the weight in 10 seconds in positive or concentric phase and reversing the direction smoothly at the top or lockout position, lowering the weight in five seconds in the negative or eccentric phase, reversing the direction at the bottom and lifting again in 10 seconds. This procedure is called "turnarounds" by Ken Hutchins, the author of The Ultimate Exercise Protocol: Super Slow. Here are the exercises and repetitions in order:

BB CURL for 5 repetitions.
DB LATERAL RAISES for 10 reps.
BB CURL (again) for 5 reps.
BB PRESS STANDING for 10 reps.
NECK STRAP WORK for 10 reps.
BB ROWING BENT OVER for 10 reps.
DB SIDE BEND (dumbbell held in one hand only), 20 reps each side.
DB ALTERNATE FRONT RAISE for 10 reps each.
BB FRONT LUNGES (described in my book RAW MUSCLE!) for 20 reps each.
NECK STRAP WORK for 10 reps.
1/4 CRUNCH SIT UPS (with barbell plate behind the head) for 20 reps.
BB FULL SQUATS (parallel only if your knees are bad) for 15 reps.
DB STRAIGHT ARM PULLOVERS (lying flat on floor) for 15 reps.
LYING LEG RAISES (with knees slightly bent) for 20 reps.
BB BENCH PRESS for 12 reps.
DB FLAT FLYS (slight bend at elbow joint) for 10 reps.
BB CALF RAISE (stand on a secured wooden calf block 8" in height) for 20 reps.

If the above 19 exercises are performed without resting, they will be completed in LESS than twenty minutes. By working steadily, those exercises that might be too easy with one weight now become more difficult. Working in this manner creates demands on the heart and lungs, which leads to fitness. I think you'll also find that the muscular system will be thoroughly covered through you won't of course, build larger muscles. My friend and trainer, Donne Hale of Miami, Florida developed this 20 minute training program for older bodybuilders who needed a solution for maintaining a fit condition.

Throughout this article I have purposely avoided defining chronological age barriers. As the late multi Mr. Universe Reg Park once said "Age is mans measurement of time". There are a lot of seemingly ageless bodybuilders in the iron game who stay mentally and physically young.

The late John Carl Grimek at age 80 could still do squats with well over 400 pounds and was still lithe as a cat. Who can forget Bill Pearl, who at age 60 looked like he would have no problem at all placing in the top three of the IFBB Mr. Olympia.

A couple of other individuals in the iron game who come mind are Roy Mason and Haywood "Hank" Henry Jr. Granted these names may not be known worldwide but I am here to tell you that I have met them both and they have left an impression on my mind that I will never forget. At a bodyweight of 165 pounds and 72 years of age Roy would.....perform deadlifts with 515-575 pounds just about anytime he wanted to. Haywood Henry Jr. a 64 year old senior had the body type of Rich Gaspari and spent his retirement winning many of the top natural physique contests across the country in the master division.

In conclusion I personally find the subject of ageless bodybuilders a rather fascinating topic. Richard A. Winett, Ph.D. wrote a 239 page book on this very subject. It is titled AGELESS ATHLETES [Contemporary Books, Chicago, Illinois].