For my first attempt in 40 years at weight training and getting stronger, I asked an expert. While he happens to be my son, a chiropractor, he also follows the research on fitness far more than I do/could/interested in doing. He hooked me up with this book and theory.
Body By Science
So let me set the stage for you. The book Body By Science describes a program that anyone, from the active athlete to the oldest senior would find useful. Note this form of weight training may not be recommended for very young athletes – that’s a topic for another day and out of my research areas).
What’s clear however is that weight training benefits are positively correlated with a significant number of senior, health-related problems and treatments.
The list is extensive and covers just about all of the primary health issues (blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, poor balance etc)
In other words, strength training just doesn’t make you stronger, it also makes you healthier.
The Basic Premise
The basic premise is that the muscle has to be exhausted to reap positive benefits in strength. In other words, if the muscle isn’t put into a negative energy state, it won’t grow. That’s similar to almost all different training regimes.
Where Body By Science differs is in two major areas. The first is in how much weight and how much work is done. The second is how much of a recovery time is used.
The science showed that using 70% of the maximum weight able to be moved by the muscle group (e.g. legs) was the right place to start. And doing the exercise as slowly and regularly as possible for a maximum of 90 seconds set the number of repetitions and time.
Note: This is a critically important thing. Once you moved a weight – let’s say 100 pounds at the same rhythm for 90 seconds, you “graduated” to a higher weight (let’s say 120 pounds) so you couldn’t exercise right to 90 seconds.
You worked the weight until your muscles failed before 90 seconds. I note this is failure as in serious pain and not being able to move the weight at all.
You only increase the weight when you hit 90 seconds of successful work.
Keeping the lifting and relaxing speed the same, (I used a 6-slow count up and down) meant the only two variables were weight and time.
And yes, this process is the same for men and women, young and old. You lift what you can until you can’t lift any further and your muscles fail.
Here Are My Results
You’ll see I made significant gains on my legs and not so much on my chest muscles and triceps. My legs were always a strong muscle given I was jumping etc several hours a day.
But there’s no question I’m stronger now than I was 8 weeks ago. There’s also no question this is great exercise for moving and building with rocks.
And this all happened with a single set of lifting, one day a week for 12-15 minutes
But There’s A Problem
I had a trainer (and he was great!) but I really didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I was wrecked when I got home after a workout and it took me several days to recover. I quickly learned to avoid stairs for the first 48 hours as my legs might/might not respond well to going down (they seemed fine with going up).
Having one’s knee buckle with fatigue on the way down the stairs leads to an amazingly poor walking experience.
Under this regime, I’d make good strength gains but I’d lose several days in recovery. And this wouldn’t stop as long as I continued gaining strength and pushing my muscles to “more”.
Yes, I got stronger.
No, I didn’t enjoy it if for no other reason than the sense of complete body shock I felt at the end of every workout for several days. It was 3-4 days of body shock and 3-4 days of feeling normal.
Given this feeling won’t likely change as long as I’m pushing my body to total fatigue, I’ve decided this system isn’t for me.
While I was willing to give strength training a chance, I’m once again on the hunt for a form of exercise with strength and health benefits.
I can’t afford to give up my work to get stronger, but I can’t afford to fall down stairs either.
I’ll get back to you. BTW- here’s where I’m reporting on all my fitness for seniors challenges and adventures.
You can read other fitness for baby boomer articles here.