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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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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How I stay in shape over 50 – Reality

So I dedicate a portion of my blog to my fitness journey. This started with my post here on how I lost weight during covid etc. I have maintained that weight loss and am now in the midst of obtaining higher fitness levels. To be less semantic, I am attempting to move into a space where I can actually be athletic. Meaning running races, playing in a basketball league etc.

The reality of being over 50 is injuries have accumulated over the years. If you are over 50 you know what I mean. If you aren’t, say you are 28, that wrist injury you had a few months ago (or something else) maybe you get another one in 5 years, well those start to accumulate into a propensity to be injury susceptible for that specific region. Lower backs, Knees, elbows, shoulders it happens.

This is the reality of staying in shape over 50, you have to tailor your training to accommodate the accumulated effects of your injuries. I have two myself, my left anterior deltoid (top shoulder) and my right ring finger (I have broken it twice, sprained it a dozen times). So for me this effects upper body work specifically bench press. I can no longer go as heavy as I used to and so I find myself altering my upper body work a lot.

As you age and you enter your 5th decade you will come face to face with these realities as well based on your history. It goes without saying stretching, hydration and proper recovery are paramount along with good nutrition. At some point you may experience (like I have) long term damage to one area, prohibiting your progress. So what do you do?

Shoulder injuries suck

For me on my chest days I have changes the methodology on how I train. In prior posts I put forth the concept of bigger loads, lower reps = higher metabolic outcomes and that is factually true. The heavier you lift the more of your endocrine system you engage. Now I am working on volume training. So I will get on the bench and put on 2 45 pound plates, + the bar = 135 pounds. I will do 50 reps as fast as I can. Now I can’t do 50 in a row but the speed in which you do it is important because you are creating a DIFFERENT anabolic effect through the cardio application.

I am still getting as sore and I am not losing mass. I am not gaining muscle either WHICH IS POSSIBLE for men over 50, yes you can still gain muscle. The point of all of this is dealing with reality, over 50. I don’t know where you are in your health journey, I hope it’s a good spot. Be mindful of what hurts, be mindful of when it hurts and be mindful of how long it hurts. Its highly likely as you age you are going to have issues in that area and you have to be prepared to alter your approach to continue positive outcomes.

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