Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Strength Building in the Later Years - Doug Hepburn (1992)

Article series originally published in International Olympic Lifter
and courtesy of Bob Wildes. 

Upon examining the results of the Senior Master's Olympic and Powerlifting meets I was surprised to note the sharp drop in overall lifting efficiency in the over 65 years category. As this writer has attained the age of 65 myself, an opportunity has been presented to investigate this problem with the intention of discovering the cause of, and solution to, this specific problem of later years.

I am of the opinion that in order to overcome such a problem additional information is essential. One may surmise that if such knowledge was presently available, it undoubtedly would have been utilized by senior lifters, and consequently the "sharp drop" noted above would have been virtually non-existent. 

I have been and am presently involved in various systems of heavy training coupled with a certain application of mental attitude and diet. This lengthy period of trial and error has culminated in, what this writer believes to be a positive approach to the problem resulting in a continued progress in strength building after the age of 65. 

There are three fundamental factors involved in the implementation of a regimen that will ensure the continuance of physical strength throughout life. They are as follows: 

1) Mental attitude
2) Structure of the regimen of training
3) Nutrition

Mental Attitude 

There is ample evidence to illustrate the effect of mind on body with regard to physical strength. A state of trauma induced by fear and, at least, double the strength of an ordinary person.

In order to act, we must first think. Hence the structuring of your training regimen is created by your mind. Mind precedes all physical action. One would be wise to give particularly careful consideration to the preparation of their exercise program. Unfortunately we sometimes, perhaps unconsciously, minimize as a relatively simple procedure, the arrangement of our strength building routine. 

This rationale could apply to a good percentage of strength athletes presently engaged in heavy training. 

During my frequent visits to the various local gymnasiums here in Vancouver, I generally devote a portion of my time to conversing with trainees during their workout session. I always make a point of asking them the arrangement of their sets and repetitions, as well as the poundage increase. It seems, in many instances, the addition or gain of completed repetitions in the various exercises is not a strict procedure; additional reps are added in accordance with "how they feel" on a given day. 

I am sure the majority of such individuals would be pleasantly surprised to know that by applying a simple projection involving their haphazard addition of reps and related poundages to 24, 36, and 48 months would culminate with some interesting maximum lifts -- in some instances a 900 lb. bench press, 1800 lb. squat, and a 1600 lb. deadlift! 

It is clear that the structure of sets and reps, coupled with variance in the frequency and intensity of resistance, represents the keystone to successful strength training. 

My next article in IOL will address the preparation of a strength building routine designed to promote continued progress throughout life.

Preparing to Train

 A lack of sufficient incentive represents a major hindrance to those individuals in their later years who would attempt to undergo a prolonged period of intensive and heavy weight training with the expectation of establishing personal or competitive records.

It is, therefore, essential that all such obstructions be surmounted prior to the onset of the actual regimen of training. Otherwise, regardless of all other associated factors so involved in the said regimen that are correctly implemented the desired progress will be minimal, or at worst, nil.

It is imperative that the highest degree of confidence in the efficacy of all aspects of the program to be implemented and even though such a program may be regarded by many, especially those of a later age, to be foolhardy. 

This writer holds only the highest esteem for that singular and heroic breed of strength athlete, this modern pioneer, who with selfless dedication in his quest for strength gives his all to that ideal, and thereby shall endure as a monument to he who would follow the emblazoned path set by those who passed before in the search for the "Ultimate Thule" and the constancy of human strength.

A noncompliance with certain fundamental aspects of one's lifestyle constitutes a further hindrance to the full realization of the strength athlete's goal. An integrity of thought and action is of vital importance in order to effect a harmonious relationship between oneself and those forces that motivate the universe. 

Adverse thoughts and actions incur a detraction in progress even to the extent that ultimate desires, strength-wise will not be attained even though the individual effected possesses the physical potential to succeed. 


The process of aging represents a progressive enervation of the entirety of the bodily function. Fortunately, there remains a major factor regarding the above that will to some extent prove advantageous to those strength-building at a later age.

This writer has found that though there exists a considerable depreciation in muscle function as one ages the strength of the tendons is retained to a greater degree above that of the musculature and may be strengthened to a very late age in life. 

It is therefore of paramount importance that the seniors' strength-building programs involve the incorporation of medium to high sets of triple and single repetitions. 

Fundamentally, sets of high repetitions tend to promote muscular bulk, but from the standpoint of overall bodily strength the tendons remain the primary activator of a super level of muscle power.

Secondly, I am opined that when undergoing sets of heavier repetitions the intensity of, let us say, a mind muscle relationship is enhanced and in the majority of instances in this regard the reestablishment of a pattern developed in one's earlier prime years is reasserted or as the case my be, reexperienced. 

A further obstacle when strength-building in later years involves the retardation of the recuperative function of the body. In order to surmount this problem it is essential to curtail the overall energy expended during the workout session directing such energy with a maximum degree of concentration. This is accomplished via the implementation of single and triple repetitions. This concentrative procedure helps to reduce the overall work load and minimizes enervation and associated deterring. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 



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