How I stay in shape over 50: A new Spring Jump Start

So spring is here, in my world in my small town in New England we are looking at mid 70’s today. It will be back in the 50’s this weekend which is par for the course but spring is here. So during the pandemic I got myself in very good shape, dropped nearly 30 pounds and refocused my training back to strength.

I’ve learned a few lessons along the way and one of the most important things I have learned in my now near 40 year fitness journey is changing workouts regularly is highly beneficial for making progress. Some say you never do the same work out twice, I don’t subscribe to that but I do stagger workouts. Meaning I will do a routine for 6-8 weeks then shift to something else. It’s worked well for me.

Now for many, spring is a time when you kick start your workouts. Some people walk more, some start taking yoga classes, work in the yard etc. If you want a quick jump-start to your fitness journey this spring I have a quick and easy plan for you to achieve it. You should continue to do more low impact movement (get your steps in) but the jump-start is every 48 hours do squats for the next 6 weeks.

Don’t Skip Leg Day !

Start with a lightweight and do 5 sets of 5 reps. If you complete the 25 reps, you increase the weight 10 pounds. Do this every 48 hours, if you are too sore one of the days skip that 48-hour cycle but you only get 2 of these so pick wisely. So you do this for 2 weeks and on the next 48 hour cycle you are too sore, sick whatever, you act as if you did the squats so you don’t work out again for another 48 hours. This gives you a 96 hour (4 day) recovery window should you need it.

Do this for six weeks, and do not start with a silly super lightweight either. Pick something you know you can handle but will be a moderate challenge. In 6 weeks, you should see some decent results. Your cardio should be better, your legs should look better and your confidence should be higher.

Squats when done with a moderate to heavy weight engage several of your “systems” and inspire great anabolic effects. Keep eating the best food you can and getting as much sleep as your lifestyle will allow. If you start this now you should be done by Memorial Day and you should feel great!

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How I stay in shape over 50: Spring Jump Start

So March is here. March is an interesting month here in the U.S. I live in the North East and in March, you can have blizzards or 60 degrees and everything in between. Now for me staying in shape over 50 requires nuance, you have to do a little more. For me that means steps. I supplement my training with simple walking. Walking is probably the simplest easiest way to burn calories.

Spring is coming to the west and that means more opportunities to capitalize on warm days. In the spring, I get outside as much as I can. Now “taking steps” does not mean you have to go on formal walks. Go into your yard look at the plants, check out the trees, and see if you can find a 4-leaf clover. All of those things mean steps taken and that is the point here. Winter for many of us is a time where we pull back and do less. “Hibernation” as my kids call it and to a degree that is true. I stay in much more, ya I go to the gym but I do MUCH less activity, probably just like you.

Get out there !

So spring is coming, get out and walk more. I know many of my readers are in the throes of severe anxiety and depression. Winter is a brutal time for many, seasonal disorder is real and many people suffer greatly. For you just go outside, the sunshine alone is going to help. For the fitness people reading, spring is an opportunity to get more active and to increase your motion.

Motion is key when you are over 50. “Motion is Lotion” a trainer once told me. Get out and walk, pick up debris in the yard, start planning a garden. More motion = better metabolic outcomes. The more you move the more calories you will burn, the better you will feel. For me, I live near a very old cemetery. I go for a walk there often, a full loop around the roads is about 2500 steps. Not a lot but it is something, get out there, spring is coming and you can jump-start your fitness.

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How I stay in shape over 50 – inflammation

So the older you get the more aches and pains you have. That seems to be the general consensus of course there are exceptions. One of the trainers at my gym has a saying “Motion is Lotion” in context what she means is the more you move the better your body creates natural lubricants to keep you limber and you get less pain. Now a lot of the pain that comes as you age is from inflammation, I am no expert in this but I have a general understanding.

Inflammation happens when your immune system things something this wrong and sends resources to the problem area. There are many reasons for inflammation but the more injuries you sustain in an area the more likely you are to get it. Now injury doesn’t mean a high profile break or a wound it can very well be a pain in your shoulder you have had for years. It might not have been something serious, just a pull. Now 15-25 years later it hurts all the time.

Inflammation can also come via arthritis and auto immune disorders like lupus. I am not a doctor so if you have inflammation (consistent pain in your joints) go to a doctor and get a diagnosis. The sooner you do this the sooner you can begin to fight back the right way. The issue then becomes “How do I fight back exactly?”. Again I am not a doctor and I am not a nutrtionalist so your fight might be different then mine.

Does time really heal all wounds?

There are lots of studies on Zinc, Turmeric Vitamin D (as examples) that show a small to moderate impact on inflammation. Many of those studies are done on average people, not people who train or workout regularly but the concepts should still apply. If you increase your zinc and vitamin d supplementation (as an example) you should see some improvement in your inflammation issues. Like most health problems many solutions are found in dietary choices.

Let’s face it, if you aren’t eating well you are likely not feeling well. Over 50 you really need to start focusing on your consumption. This is the decade where small issues of health manifest into larger issues that change long term outcomes. Really look deep into what you eat daily, weekly, monthly and find “clean up” spots in your diet. Maybe it’s time to start drinking coffee black instead of with all that cream and sugar.

Inflammation is hard to deal with, I have it in my shoulder and my lower back. I actively engage it via heating pads, massage, better diet, stretching and target motion movements (trunk twists and shoulder stretches). I used to take fish oil every day, now I take it 3 times a week and eat fish 2-3 times a week. The older you get the more Inflammation is likely to be a factor for you. Your fitness journey ideally continues on well into your 80’s. Your 50’s are a pivotal decade, the more work you do now on diet the less inflammation you will have long term.

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Over 50 Fitness: One exercise workout

So as someone who has been pursuing fitness for decades I have, for the most part achieved it. I am pretty lean, good cardio and fairly flexible. I am not a pro athlete, not even an amateur one but for my age 52 I’m doing pretty good. Now this has taken a lot of dedication from me to achieve and sustain. You can find several posts on my blog pertaining to my fitness journey For example So I am at the point now where the hardest work is done, I now need to maintain what I have accomplished and work on future goals.

Part of what I am working on now is maximizing gym efficiency. One of the ways you can get a great work out is, timed workouts. You don’t do less you do it faster. So instead of staring at your phone for 5 minutes between sets you take shorter breaks and get the same work out done faster.

Now the title of the blog post is “one exercise workout” so the other thing I am working on is what is one exercise I can do that will hit all the areas I want? To be blunt it doesn’t exist but there are a couple that hit several, we call those compound exercises. Now there is another category of exercises that combine several compound exercises into one, those are Olympic lifts.

Yes, these are the lifts done in the traditional Olympics. There is one exercise the combines, a deadlift, squat and military press it’s called “The Clean and Jerk”. This is an advanced movement and it is one of the staples moves of the CrossFit community. Here is a video that shows you how to do the lift properly.

Pressing a weight over your head is empowering

Note the motion of pulling the weight to the chest and squatting. This is an extreme movement and you should approach this with high caution. This is a power move, you are pulling and squatting within seconds of one another. This movement in of itself is a high injury risk movement. You should not be doing this as a beginner and when you do attempt it, you should do so with an extremely light weight to ensure you have the form correct.

The pressing over the head is also an advanced movement because you have to thrust to push this up and that force comes from either your hips glutes or exclusive deltoids until your triceps are engaged. The whole movement itself is seconds, you don’t spend a lot of time with the bar on your chest here. You also have to disengage from the movement in a controlled manner to get the bar back on the ground.

Now watch the video a few times, this is a lot of movement. The only body part not completely engaged here is your pectoral muscle group (chest) but it does participate in the upward press movement albeit minimally. This exercise really engages your core as you have to stabilize this weight and CONTROL it throughout the movement. This is the secret of the clean and jerk and why you can use this one exercise to get a great work out.

The work out? Simple:

  1. Your warm up – Stretches, treadmill etc. You want to come into this exercise warm with beads of sweat almost ready to begin. Blood should be flowing here, you should have engaged your cardio system to increase your heart rate. I stretch then get on the treadmill and do a few wind sprints (I run as fast as I can for 30 seconds) with walking in between sprints. So 3 30 second wind sprints with a 3 min walk between sprints. Adjust according to your fitness level.
  2. The clean and jerk – I put on a weight that allows me to do 8-10 reps the final 3 should be challenging. I do 5 sets of this with a reasonable break in between. Your done after the 5th set. Count your reps here. If you hit 50 reps total go up in weight 5-10 pounds.

Now this exercise if done with a moderate weight is going to ramp up your cardio. This is no joke, it takes your entire body force to rip that weight off the ground, squat it, then press it over your head. You rarely (if ever) see people in gyms doing this exercise, unless you are a cross fitter. Cross fitters do this because their goal is train efficiently and quickly. I personally can’t recommend CrossFit for those over 50, its extremely taxing.

That said, if you want a one exercise workout? Trying the Clean and Jerk. When I do this workout cycle I do it Tuesdays and Saturdays and Thursdays I do some chest work and treadmill. I change my workouts every 60 days and I have about 8 workout programs I do now. This one I dislike the most, but is the one I normally get the best results from.

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Over 50 Fitness: 90 days – 90 reps every 48 hours

So if you frequent my blog you know that I dedicate a portion of my writing to my personal fitness journey. This in a lot of ways is a huge NO NO for blogging as every advice article I read says “you have to create a niche to write about”. I am all over the place of course but its authentic. Like most people I have multiple facets of my life so I write about most of them here. The fitness aspect is one that I take very seriously and honestly more people should be passionate about fitness. The positive effects are astounding.

So what is the “90 days – 90 reps every 48 hours” thing? I normally do this in the winter when many people who train do a “bulk” cycle. I don’t want to get into the semantics of training jargon but to be clear, this isn’t a cutting phase (fat reduction) its overall foundation building and readjustment. When you are over 50 you have to reset your body often, particularly if you lift weights. Weight training, with moderate to heavy loads creates a lot of impact on the body.

You have to cycle out of this after 50 from time to time otherwise you will be inflamed, injured and run down. So I do the following workouts, usually Dec – Feb:

Lifting Heavy over 50 requires breaks to let your body recover

Warm up: 20-30 min walk on the treadmill – This just gets my hips and lower back engaged and begins to cardio process. You can stretch here if you want, but stretching isn’t absolutely necessary here, this is not a high impact work out.

Air squats: You’re doing your normal squat set up here, no bar no weight. You can use a bar if you want but no more than that. Start your squats, ideally you can do 30 in a row no break. These are “quick” they are normal squats no weight. If you need to stop fine, but the goal is 30 air squats in a row, that’s the set.

Pushups: You finished the squats you should be sweating, if you aren’t you are in better shape than I am. Pushups next, you use whatever hand placement you want. Same deal, 30 reps.

Pull ups: Last but not least pull ups. Ideally a wide grip but you adjust the grip as you need to but keep and OVERHAND grip, underhand puts a lot of pressure on the biceps. These will be hard, use assistance here. Bands, or pull up machines are fine. If you can’t do pull ups, do lat pull downs but you want to eventually get to pull-ups.

Do the 90 reps quickly without sacrificing form, for the cardio effect. Now you have just completed a full body work out that should have minimal impact on your joints. Are you sweating? Are you exhausted? Yes? Great do it again in 48 hours. If that was a breeze increase the reps to 50. If it’s still not enough for you add in “dips” after pull ups. This is a very basic workout, some might say to simple. Believe me it works.

IF you are out of shape and looking to get into shape quickly do this for 90 days. I guarantee you will see good results. This work out engages your entire muscular system you should make very good gains here. If you are already training (not working out, training) then this workout might not be great for you, it actually might be your warm up (lol) for the vast majority this will hit all the right areas and is simple and efficient. Give it a shot let me know how it goes.

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Dressing to feel good !

How I stay in shape over 50 – “Warm Up Day”

Working out = putting stress on your body. There is no way around this no matter what you are doing you are exposing your body to stress. Now stress by way of exercise can produce higher calorie burns, increased muscle mass and generally good health. What about when you get older? As I have said before on my blog, I lift weights, moderately heavy weights. This is important for men over 50 to maintain testosterone levels but this has the negative impact of really putting stress on joints.

Warm ups are important. If you have been in any form of an exercise program you have heard of the concept. Simply put, you are warming your body up so that it is prepared for a stress movement. You don’t warm up for a walk, but you do for squats, you get the idea. The older you get the more important it is to “warm up”. Its more than just getting your heart rate elevated to increase blood flow, that’s an important part of it.

The more important part is to target the areas in the warm up you plan to work in that training session. If your squatting today, you need to stretch your hamstrings and release your hips. If you benching pressing you need to target your shoulders for stretches. The key is being very aware of the muscle group you are working that day, and plan your warm up accordingly. Now the over 50 part. What I do at 52 and what I recommend everyone over 50 do is have one day a week as a “warm up day”

Stretch your body and your mind

What does that mean? That means you are exclusively using light exercise and stretching one day a week outside of your normal workout routines. Now maybe you aren’t here yet in your training. Maybe you go to the gym, do the treadmill leave. That’s cool you do you, this advice is really meant for people engaged in a moderate to mid-level training routine and are over 50. For those people, your recovery is more important as you do not have youth on your side. This “warm up day” is part of your recovery cycle.

What a “warm up day” looks like for me

  1. 30 min walk on the treadmill: I use the track which is flat and just do 30 min at about 3.0 speed. This loosens up my hips, gets blood moving, and helps me identify pain points. If it hurts when you are walking, you need to address it.
  2. Hamstring stretches: I put time in here, this is a pain point for me. My hamstrings are extremely tight. There are a few good stretches you can do, find one that works for you.
  3. Unlocking my hips: I sit Japanese style first, then flare out the bottom of my legs (calf area) and try and rest my butt on the floor in the gap. This will stretch your hips a lot. There are a lot of hip stretches out there, this one works for me.
  4. Snake pose & Planks: Snake pose is with two hands on the ground and push up locking your lower body on the ground. This stretches your lower back. Plank is a plank, lol they suck.
  5. I then stand and get a light bar and do trunk twists
  6. Next shoulders: I cross my right arm in front of my body and pull it at the elbow with my left, then switch sides.
  7. I then find an upright bar/machine and stretch my chest, then my back.

Now I realize I am not getting into great detail and posting pictures etc. You can find stretches online and or are doing something similar. For me this “warm up day” is about an hour (I rarely spend more than an hour in the gym per session). As I am leaving, I am aware of what “spot” has pain.

This is the benefit of the warm up day, you are hitting everything with a stretch nothing can escape. You will know if something isn’t right and or what needs to be rested going forward. Or in my case, what area needs icy hot (or for all my Gen X Friends out there, some bengay, lol). Remember to warm up before each work out with targeted stretches and start incorporating a “warm up day” into your routine, your 50+ year old self will thank you.

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How I stay in shape over 50: The importance and illusion of the forearm

If you have been working out for a while you’ve likely heard about the illusion of the V taper. Basically the broader your shoulders are, the smaller your waist will appear. This creates the illusion of you being thinner then you actually are. This actually works, but there is a subtler, yet potent illusion men can use to increase attraction. The Forearm.

To be clear, this post is meant for heterosexual men attempting to attract women. I don’t know if this works for other sexualities, you would have to tell me. Now your forearms are the director connector to your hands which many people watch while engaged. Hands are used in communication all the time, people watch your hands, so do women. There is plenty of psychology around this, I’m not going to post a bunch of links here but I would ask you to consider this: Why do women get their nails done and make sure their hands are smooth?

Back to Men…. So hands are important, for men this extends to the forearms. A muscled and cut (you can see the veins) forearm creates the illusion (in some cases its true) that the rest of the body is as defined. Most men are covered head to toe. Often the only thing exposed is the head, neck and arms. If you have sleeves on your jacket or shirt even your arms aren’t exposed. Females like flesh too. Don’t be fooled by this, this might not be their sole motivation for engaging with you but we have to be real here, women evaluate men sexually too. Attraction may be different for them (meaning the fact you can fix the car might be “Hot” to them) but they also enjoy a man who looks good physically.

What ever you say Popeye

This isn’t absolute, there are always exceptions to the rule. Your forearms set off one of the few socially acceptable “flesh points” for men. If you are having your nails polished, nvm… if you aren’t, then a vascular well-muscled forearm will get you attention most of the time. The issue then becomes training. Your forearms are engaged in nearly every exercise you do in the gym so hitting them exclusively has to be done carefully.

Forearms should be worked at the end of a workout so you do not pre exhaust them and prohibit other lifts. Reverse curls, and wrist curls are two simple exercises you can do that will beef up your forearms. Start working these into your routine a few times week. Your forearms will grow quickly, you use them all the time so be very aware of how they feel and where you are at with them.  Strong forearms set off an entire look. You can be wearing a suit and you roll up your sleeves…. Your forearms will take center stage. You might lift something for someone, and the veins pop, and their eyes widen.

Don’t neglect your forearms, the illusion they can create is potent.

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3 simple commitments to your health that will help you lose weight

So my personal health journey has been a long running aside to this blog. I post on it from time to time but the blog itself isn’t specifically a health blog. Since the pandemic started I have lost and kept off roughly 30 pounds (this fluctuates believe me). Now I was never obese but as I turned 50 a few years ago I really took stock of how I was feeling. When I was in my 20’s I was actually in great shape, yes I had abs you could see.

Here I am 3 decades later and that wasn’t the case. I had a “great” dad bod. Meaning I worked out I have a good amount of muscle but I carried a spare tire. Now I am down to approx. 215 my highest weight if I recall correctly was 247 or 254 I can’t remember. For context at 23 I was 187. You can’t see my abs now, I still have fat but I feel much better. So how I have kept it off is making small commitments to my health.

Maybe instead of Coffee with cream & sugar its time for Tea?

I have found “resolutions” or huge life changes are often recipes for failure. It’s the small changes that really add up and over time help you keep weight off which is the hardest trick to pull off in the weight loss journey. So what are 3 simple commitments? Let’s take a look.

  1. Consistent Sleep schedule: Sleep is critical for so many health outcomes we can’t possibly do it justice here. The simple commitment? Go to bed at the same time every night. I don’t care if its 9PM or 1AM, its creating a consistent schedule that your body wants. Now if you can go to bed earlier great but THE SAME TIME every night is the goal here.
  2. Less sugar: Sugar is hastening your bodies demise. I can’t be any more blunt than that, and yes that includes all sweeteners. Let’s be clear here, some sugar is okay. Sugar in everything is not. Sweeteners in food are artificial most of the time and have a dramatic impact on the base components of the food and how your body processes what you have eaten. I don’t care where you find it, but in your food consumption right now there is hidden sugars, start cutting some of it out.
  3. Your face: caring for your face is critical to physical health. When you look in the mirror if you don’t like what you see you will be unhappy and food is a great place to find imagined happiness. Keep your teeth clean, use moisturizer, keep your beard trimmed, eyebrows neat, be honest about the amount of makeup you use. If you are happy with your face you will generally be happier and that leads to many positive outcomes.

Notice I didn’t mention exercise here. This is a given, you have to do it. I’m not going to preach to you about exercise at length, but I will say that if you aren’t exercising regularly the 3 tips above will not be as potent.

You have to take care of yourself. I am 52 and I am looking back at all of you 40,30 and 20 somethings and telling you it gets harder. Start your work now, it’s like planting a garden. The seeds you sow now means you will reap a harvest later.

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A simple weight loss tip – Timing.

If you have frequented this blog you know that over the last few years, I have dropped over 30 pounds and kept it off. I was not obese, I was overweight. Like many out there I had “20 pounds to lose” and I did it during a raging pandemic. I am not super athlete, I don’t train every day, I eat normal food. In my journey I have picked up a few helpful tricks.

One of the main things I have done to keep the weight off is to be more active. Yes, that means going to the gym, but it also means taking more stairs, walking more and just generally being as active as I can. Every motion burns calories and it’s a critical part of anyone’s weight loss journey. So is food, and no matter how many diet programs you try the bottom line is if you want to lose weight you have to be in a caloric deficit.

This particular blog post isn’t about that it is just another simple weight loss tip. Basically this tip is to help trick your mind into thinking it’s getting more food than it actually is. It is simply, to eat slower. I know it’s not the magic trick you were thinking. There has to be some special diet or workout that the super fit use to be in shape always. There isn’t. There is one thing that the super fit does have that many of us don’t and that is the ability to muster self-discipline.

The faster you eat, the more you want.

So how do you slow down the pace in which you eat your food? You have to start timing yourself. Literally, when you start eating time how long it takes you from start to finish. Everything you put in your mouth and chew should be timed and recorded in a journal. Do this for a week and look at the results. Obviously the time it takes to eat a candy bar will be shorter than a 3 course meal but from here you will see patterns.

  1. What you are eating.
  2. How often you eat the same foods.
  3. How long you eat for.

You will be amazed at how fast you eat, particularly if you binge eat. Get your phone out, put on the stop watch and see how fast you consume calories. If you can slow this down, even 10% it gives your brain time to “digest” what you are consuming and signals to you when you have had enough. This isn’t full proof of course but you are going to see patterns here and you will see just how fast you eat.

It’s like getting on a scale; you can’t hide the number. You can’t hide how fast you are consuming your food either. By timing yourself you are actively changing the way you eat your food and how long it takes you. This by default will change your relationship with food and that is really the hardest part of the weight loss journey. Try it, let me know how it goes.

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How I stay in shape over 50 – Squats (in detail)

In 2021 I lost a lot of weight and to be blunt most of it was fat and water. My muscle tone improved dramatically, obviously from losing weight but because I also increased my muscle mass. I am by no means a diet guru, this isn’t a fitness blog but I’ve done it. I lost nearly 30 pounds and kept it off. Sure there are no photos to prove this, I mean you are going to believe what you want any way. How do I keep it off though? Perhaps more importantly how do I train to maintain muscle mass.

To be blunt I do very little. I train, hard but I am in the gym only 3 times a week and each session is intense for perhaps 30 min. Now outside of the gym I stay active. I shovel snow, I walk, I rake leaves, I take the stairs, I mow the lawn. I find ways to move which = calories burned. But how do I stay in shape? I do squats. I employ the same strategy to my upper body as well but that is another post for another day.

So Squats – In detail……

Squats are a compound exercise engaging multiple muscle groups in one motion. Get familiar with the concept of “Compound Exercises” if you are a man over 50 it’s the fountain of youth if you can pull them off. Squats are considered by many the “king of exercises” because of how much of your body and systems are engaged in the operation. Simply put, you bend at the knee lowering down, ideally touching your but to the ground (no one can do this, but go deep and low) and then rise up. Feet placement can vary but as a general rule you want your feet shoulder length apart, slight wider is fine, your toes should be straight ahead or outward. This largely depends on your hip flexibility, do a few air squats and then look at your feet, your body tells you where they belong.

What I do:

3 Months I do a basic 5×5 split. So what does that mean?

  1. 3 Months start date: Any day you want, but its 3 months so say 1/1/22 – 3/31/22.
  2. 3 workouts per week: Mon-Wed-Fri or Tues-Thurs-Sat

There are only 2 workouts. Workout A is the squat day. Warm up stretch and then get to the free weight squat rack. You start with the bar, if that is to heavy you start with a 25-pound weight. You do 5 sets of 5 reps. That’s the workout. Your next workout day (48 hours later) you do workout B, then next workout you are back to work out A.

Over time you will make gains

The catch here is every workout you make the 5×5 (25 total reps) you increase the weight for the next workout by 10% or for simplicity 10 pounds. Additionally, you want to start with a weight that is challenging. Most free-weight bars are 45 pounds. I would encourage you to start there, for me I start with 90 pounds (the bar with a 25-pound plate on each side). So in a 3 month span you would have 36 workouts, 18 of which would be squat days. If you started with 100 pounds and were able to hit the 25 rep each workout, by your last workout you would be squatting 260 pounds for 5 sets 5 reps. Again it really depends on what weight you start at but somewhere in the middle is when things should get very hard, and you should be failing. There will be workouts you can’t get 3 full sets of 5. That’s okay, you come back the next work out and use that same weight UNTIL you get the 5 sets and 5 reps.

This becomes a gut busting sweaty mess, but it’s the kick in the ass any man over 50 needs. Its increasing your strength, your endocrine system, your cardio system it really is hard work. I do a very similar workout for my upper body as well but that is for another time. I don’t run, I diet, I don’t skip desert but when I go to the gym, I go intense.

If you do this, you will lose weight and keep it off. Try it, let me know how you do.

Disclaimer: Please make sure you are physically and medically able to work out before trying. If you exercise regularly you are probably fine but if you don’t consult your physician.

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