Sunday, December 1, 2019

Exercise for Seniors - John C. Grimek (1988)

But first . . . very, very highly recommended: 

 Click to ENLARGE below

by John C. Grimek (1988)

From his column "Yesterday & Today"

The author in his late 50's
showing incredible mass for a senior. 

Because of the recent influx of letters lately, coming mostly from men concerned over their impending status of becoming "senior citizens," i take the liberty to deviate this month from the Old-Timers series and devote space to this "younger than older" group who appear to be avid readers of IM magazine. Most of them, I find, are concerned about the training routines they are following and anxious to know if their training programs might be too strenuous. 

Classifying these letter-writers, I came up with 18 men and one woman. Most of the men ranged in ages from their early 40s up to their mid-50s. The next group was between 54 and 67. Two of them were in their 70s: one just passed his 72nd birthday, the other was approaching his 75th. 

Note: Be wary of the way you place stress on your spoken words. 
Happy B-Day can easily be heard as Happy Bidet. But hey, it could be a brand name gift, eh.

Strange as it may seem, the latter two men only recently had joined a health spa, though neither seemed happy with the attention they were getting. They liked the facilities but wanted more advice, hence the letters. 

The woman who wrote in was 45 and had joined a commercial health club to lose weight in her lower body. She complained that she's been attending classes for the past 10 months and is not satisfied with the total results, although she admits her thighs have become firmer in appearance. She laments that she tires quickly and easily gets out of breath. When she questioned the instructor, he vaguely suggested that she ease up or stop and rest before continuing her routine. She feels that in 10 months, such a condition should have improved, but it hasn't. 

Anyone who has any kind of medical problem and those who have not been active along this line but are now eager to begin, should check with a physician and have a thorough evaluation made of their physical condition. Those who were never very active but are now contemplating an exercise program should undergo a complete physical to be on the safe side.

On the other hand, most of those who wrote in have trained in the past and have remained in fairly sound condition. They might want to make some adjustments, particularly if they find themselves lacking energy after their workouts. Should this be the case, it's better to reduce the number of sets of an exercise and/or use less weight. Then check to see how you react. Most of the time, just cutting back on your exercises and using less weight overcomes such tiredness, but if not, further reduction in reps and poundages might be required. But usually doing less in any or all of that should make a difference and a big difference to some. 

So, experiment a bit. 

But those who are unaware of any physical changes should continue to train as before without making unusual demands on the body, unless, of course, there is some reason, such as an emergency.

Some of you might remember about the great Sandow who was in his late 50s when he pushed his car out of a ditch, a seemingly necessary feat which contributed to his demise at the age of 59. Most have heard that Sandow died of a stroke or heart attack from this effort. Actually his death resulted from a ruptured aneurysm, which had been present in his system, but the unusual strain he made by lifting the car out of the ditch caused it to burst. 

Most of us never think of the consequences of doing strenuous things because we still feel strong and fairly agile and think we're still as good as ever. We might feel this way in our minds but does our body know this?   

This is where sensible training comes in. Nor is this the time to prove anything. Your past accomplishments are enough. You don't have to prove anything now. Relax and enjoy the fruits of your past efforts. You deserve it. 

Too many older men like to prove to their contemporaries that they are as good as ever. That's why these men have torn their biceps, pulled their triceps and muscles in their legs, strained their backs and ripped their pectorals and shoulders from trying something they weren't prepared to do. Many succeed but many more nurse the injuries they suffered. 

Ole [Earle] Leiderman, during his late 60s, ripped his biceps by trying some chinning on a bet. Almost every time he wrote or I talked with him, he lamented the stupidity of it and how utterly silly it was for him to try it. And it can happen to anyone. So think before you try something you haven't done in years. Stick to things you can do relatively easily and without strain. And when you do, make sure your muscles are fully warmed up so they can function at maximum capacity. The risk is low and you'll feel good.  

Truth is, many men haven't actively trained hard for years but think they can do something they did when they were in the gym always. Such an ego is folly. 

As you age, your muscles may be stronger than those who haven't trained at all, but your muscles might not be as strong as they were when you were training vigorously regardless of your age. 

And for older men who don't exercise as much, strength dissipates even faster. That's why after laying off for a couple of months, most men, especially older fellows, will find the weights feel "heavy" when they begin training again, making it necessary to start with lighter poundages and gradually work up to where they left off.

I have known a few individuals who got so hyped about training when they first started they could not resist training to near capacity every day. Normally, the body cannot tolerate that much exercise in the early stages. Most people who try such an approach lose interest and quit. Occasionally a dynamic person does appear on the scene and shows gains right away. Such progress makes him more determined to train even harder and his drive is truly amazing. Then it happens, and even I experienced such a reaction myself during those early years: the slump from overtraining. 

You not only lose interest but most of all the gains you've made. You are enveloped with a cloak of tiredness and lethargy and you can't explain why. In my case, I was ready to sell my weights to the junkman. I could not train and actually hated the very thought of it. But after laying off for a time, I felt my ambition returning. Reluctantly, I made a feeble attempt to do some exercise. I used very light weights and did each movement slowly as if it hurt to do it, but I continued. I remember feeling better after that brief workout. Even my muscles tingled. 

Two days later I tried it again. I was beginning to regain my enthusiasm. By the end of two weeks, I was back to my usual self, especially after I checked my girths and found they had all returned to their former size. Some muscles even gained a quarter of an inch. There is no way I can explain the feeling of exhilaration, only to say "it was just was I needed" to restore my interest. 

I never again experienced that depression again, probably because I followed a more meaningful approach. In later years, I did train harder, in fact, every day; by then, my muscles were able to stand the physical stress and thrive on it. But when this happened earlier I was a beginner and my muscles were not seasoned to tolerate it. That made a difference.

Note: He explains his early overworking here:

One must coax the muscles along in certain stages and accustom them to each ordeal. That takes a little time - like a few years. 

I mention this only because I have learned through the years that muscle size which is forced in the early months of training is rarely long-lasting. 

The physique that is developed slowly endures longer. 

The younger, more enthusiastic men usually take the more vigorous approach and when they fail to make the kind of gains they expected, they fall into a depressed state. Older men usually tire out long before they reach the depression point. 

I remember such an individual: a 53-year-old businessman who joined Sig Klein's gym back in the '30s. That was Arthur Leslie. He was somewhat overweight and joined the club to reduce and improve his shape. Klein outlined a special course for him. After a few days of very light exercises, mostly free hand movements, or with only a 12-pound bar, he improved so much that other gym members bestowed a lot of praise on him. As he continued, it appeared that his ego was developing faster than either his strength or his muscles. He began attempting things that were best left to the more experienced. Klein had to watch him all the time. He didn't want the man to have a heart attack from some of the stunts he tried and Klein even threatened to suspend his membership. 

Yet every change he got, Leslie would do something that caused Klein's hair to turn grey. Finally when he stopped coming to the gym, Klein was determined not to sign up anyone who would not follow the rules of his gym.

I saw Leslie only twice and must admit he had a boastful attitude. Yet I had to admire the man for the determination to get stronger, especially since he was in his 50s. After all, there weren't that many men during the '20s and '30s who were past mid-age and into training. So this man did command some attention even though some of it was foolhardy. Then one day I asked Klein why I hadn't seen Leslie in the gym any more. I thought Klein had suspended his membership. But Klein merely shrugged his shoulders and admitted he didn't know but thought the man may have had a slight stroke and that his doctor forbid him to undergo such foolish demonstrations. Now as I think back, he was the best example of a senior citizen's ego gone awry. 

So exercise should be done for the benefits that one might get from such activity, but certainly not to the point of overtaxing your heart or to put uncalled for stress upon the other organs and glands in the body. That's not sensible training. 

I recall that after I had passed my half-century mark, my age was mentioned in a magazine. I began getting numerous letters asking me how I was training and what changes I had made since reaching my 50th. Until then, I never had given my age a fleeting thought and because of this, I never made any training changes and continued what I had been doing. 

But I do remember always including some leg training, mostly high-rep squats which I always followed with some chest expanding exercises such as pullovers or flat bench flyes. But I never used anything heavier than 25- or 35-pound dumbbells for these movements. I found that when heavier weights are used for these exercises they involve more muscles in this area and restrict full mobility of the rib cage.

If you want to work the muscles around the chest, wait until after the chest expanding movements have been completed. Using heavier weights for actual muscle building at a later time is more effective. The purpose of employing lighter weights for chest expansion is recommended because you want to supplement the depleted oxygen created by the high repetition squats, which often results in a fairly breathless condition. Thus, by using light weights during a chest exercise, the lungs inflate more fully and you expand the rib cage. I have always been in favor of this leg/chest combination and believe it can work for anyone who practices it.

I don't think, however, that many people 60 and over are capable of working that hard in the squat. But it's wise to remember that it is not the weight that counts but how the exercise is done to effectively speed up heart and lung action. That's more important than the poundage you employ. As so far as reps are concerned, some may find 10 to 12 a high number. For others, 20 to 25 is more appropriate, but the choice is yours. 

Only you know your capabilities. 
Follow them. 

Those unable to train two or three times weekly should settle for once a week. On alternate days try fast walking, slow jogging, swimming or some chins and pushups or riding a stationary bicycle. Nothing strenuous, but enough to get your blood moving around more rapidly. 

However, avoid going to extremes. That could result in nervous anxiety, which happens to older people. When it does, stand up straight and raise the arms to above the shoulders, breathing deeply as you do. Lower and repeat. This deep inhalation exerts a relaxing influence. Or take a brisk walk while breathing deeply. The symptoms of nervousness will, indeed, diminish. 

Just remember, your body does not recover from any kind of stress as readily if you are older because your functions are much slower . . . so stay relaxed. You'll feel great.    

I'd like to mention another incident that parallels those demonstrations of Mr. Leslie, the businessman who trained at Klein's gym. It's about the strongman Warren Lincoln Travis, who when he was in his 60s went to extremes, which I feel hastened his death. 

There's more on Travis here:

In his day, Travis was quite powerful on all his favorite strength stunts. But at the time he planned the exhibition I'm referring to, he hadn't been training regularly and wasn't in prime shape. Yet, he chose to demonstrate his ability one Sunday in 1940 that proved eventually fatal. The things he did were performed very fast and in rather high counts. He just didn't allow himself enough time to fully rest, and this put a strain on his heart. He did a lot of his pet stunts, but I'm inclined to think the ultimate was the hip lift that he performed with rather a heavy poundage and in high repetitions and very fast. He, like so many others, thought he was as good as he was 30, 40 and even more years ago, forgetting that the organs and glands do not react as fast.

Travis at one time was very powerful. The stunts he performed at Coney Island were always very impressive. Those who saw him perform knew that, but didn't expect that he might push himself too far. He was in his 60s during this time and though his last performance was impressive, it's too bad it had to be his last. 

I still insist . . . there is no need for anyone to attempt something that he or she has done two or three decades earlier. Yes, you should exercise if you can, but now is your time to enjoy the fruits of your past efforts. There are so many things you can do that are not associated with physical or mental stress. Choose those. 

And what changes should you make in your training schedule? 

None, if you continue to feel good after training.   

But, when you find yourself feeling tired and lacking ambition after training, that does indicate a change . . . a change towards less intensity. Ease up and cut down on your exercise. Later you will regain your drive and then you can do more. 

But as long as you feel depleted after training, especially when you get up the next day, this is a positive sign you are overdoing it. Just do less but keep active. Don't sit around watching TV or just dozing. That won't help but can make things only worse . . . so get up and move - anywhere or anyway - and that lethargic feeling will disappear. 

Remember, it's not what exercises you do, but how much and how heavy they are that knocks you out and whether your system can cope with whatever you are doing. 

Be more methodical and get every bit of action from every movement you do and don't forget to breathe deeply. 

It will surprise you how your attitude and feelings can change without changing your program! 

Note: I made an error when transcribing that poem above.
It's one letter. It's in there, and to me it's huge in sonic importance.
Just for fun, try and find it.

Or not. 

And here's two films I really got blown away by: 


I read the book, "I Heard You Paint Houses" by Frank Sheeran a while back, and this film takes and creates the essence of each character and event perfectly. 

If you like this film, or that book, enjoy this book:

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