Friday, July 23, 2021

Getting Older and Stronger - By Jim Duggan

"Strength training should always be fun, but more so as one gets older." These words were written by Dr. Ken Leistner in the June 1992 issue of Hardgainer magazine. He was responding to a reader's question in his "Asking Dr. Ken" column, which was one of the first things I would read when the latest issue of Hardgainer would arrive in the mail. I felt then that he was one of the most prolific writers and authorities in the Iron Game, and I have not wavered in that opinion, even though that particular article was written nearly thirty years ago. The subject of the reader's question back then concerned the training of older athletes. Back in 1992, I was twenty-eight years old, and I was not particularly interested in how an athlete in his/her fifties should be training. Just as I'm sure younger readers will not be overly excited about what I'm about to discuss. But, in life as in lifting, things change. Three days ago, I turned 57 years old. I'm two years older than the reader who wrote to Dr. Ken back in 1992. To put it another way, I am now the same age as John McCallum's famous "Uncle Harry" from his "Keys To Progress" series of articles which appeared in Strength and Health magazine back in the 1960s. 

Back in the day, Uncle Harry was always in search of ways to find the "fountain of youth," and while such a thing might not exist, there is absolutely no reason - or excuse- for not working out as one gets older. Each year, I try to complete a "Birthday Challenge" as a way to set a goal and work to achieve what I set out to do. Last year, the biggest challenge was the 100 degree heat and oppressive humidity. This year, it was a torrential rainstorm accompanied by thunder and lightning which forced me to experience a "rain delay" about thirty minutes into my workout. But I was not going to let the weather- or anything else- stop me. 

This year, as in past years, I was going to start with my 180 Lb. Atlas Stone. Lifting it from the ground to the shoulder is one of my favorite exercises. Talk about a compound movement. It hits almost every muscle of the body. For high reps, it will leave you feeling beat up, and sore all over. The hardest part of doing this was the fact that the heavy rains thoroughly soaked the lawn, making it extremely difficult to grip and hold the stone. I literally had to dry my hands and chalk my fingers every two reps or so.
Naturally, this slowed down my pace a bit, but I was just happy that the rain stopped and that I was able to complete all 58 reps ( one rep for each year, plus an extra rep for good luck). My second movement, and one of my favorites, is the One-Arm Dumbbell Press with my Sorinex Bosco Bell. This thick-handled dumbbell can be loaded with steel shot, sand, BBs, etc. in order to adjust the poundage. For the last couple of years, I've added a pound of steel shot on my birthday to bring the weight up to equal my birthday. Naturally, this year's version of my "Birthday Bell" weighed in at 57 pounds, and once again my goal was 58 reps. Incidentally, I'm fully aware that as I get older, I will eventually run out of steel shot, or it may simply become too heavy, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it! Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy this excellent exercise for as long as I can. 

 The last two movements of the day were performed with my 100 Lb. Anvil. Over the years, I've accumulated a total of nine anvils ranging in weight from 50-205 Lbs.. They really are an excellent exercise modality, and can be used for a variety of movements. The two movements I used are the Anvil Curl, and then Neck Extensions with my headstrap. The anvil curls were done in rather strict form. In the past, I've used a heavier anvil, but with larger anvils, the thickness of the horn and heel make it difficult to grip. And, with wet conditions, I did not want to take a chance dropping it on my foot. I can say this from personal experience, having an anvil fall on your foot is something you want to avoid. Ouch! After the Anvil Curls, I took out my Ironmind Headstrap and did 58 reps over spaced over two sets. I was pretty much torched by this point, but I wanted to end on a positive note, and strengthening your neck is something that will have positive benefits for any athlete in any field of endeavor.

Unfortunately, many strength athletes neglect neck work. Don't make that mistake. A small amount of time devoted to neck work is an excellent investment in your overall health and well-being. At the conclusion of this year's challenge, I felt as though I had been run over and dragged by a truck. But the satisfaction in achieving a goal makes up for the soreness. Afterall, we've all experienced soreness, and we all know that no matter how sore you are after a workout, it always goes away. Eventually. There is one more quote from Dr. Ken that I would like to conclude with: "The enjoyment and satisfaction that comes with training is in great part due to the results one gets from that training, and the results come from the basic, multi-joint movements. Train consistently, and enjoyably, and productively."
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