Fitness Over 40

Why You Should HIIT if You’re Over 40

I will discuss HIIT in a bit (hey, that rhymes!), but it stands for High Intensity Interval Training.  HIIT should never be intitiated if one is under medical supervision or would consider themselves a beginner or novice in regards to an exercise program.  There are methods that can be implemented to help a beginner become more experienced, which will be covered later.  Will cover all that in just a bit.

Accomplishing the hurdle of reaching the age 40 is no small task, and for that, I am grateful.  It is quite easy to see why the average life expectancy of a male over 40 several hundred years ago was of really no benefit to sustaining life for his family.  Those genetics create an unfortunate series of events that make living life over 40 in a healthy and productive manner, a little more challenging.  However, challenge accepted!

  1. Testosterone levels begin to decrease by about 2% each year after the age of 35.  This hormone is responsible for the maintaining(and hopefully increasing) muscle tissue.  Since muscle on average, burns approximately 50 calories per day, per pound of muscle, versus fat that burns about 5 calories, you can see how having more muscle is the corner stone of us maintaining an elevated metabolism.  Once our metabolism slows down, fat begins to accumulate easier on the body, and our energy levels take a dramatic spike.
  2. Tendons begin to become less “Visco-elastic” which is how the fibers that connect the muscle to the bone are described.  “Visco” which means a sticky and pliable substance, when heated, becomes more pliable.  As we age, this begins to lose its visco properties becoming more brittle.  This occurrence sets up our bodies to begin to find more difficulty in every day movement of the body.

hiit exerciseA proven scientific manner that has been to shown to increase natural testosterone levels, is through the efforts of pushing your muscular and cardio-respiratory levels beyond their normal limits.  This is when the laws of human nature kick in, resulting in “fight-or-flight’ response allowing us to escape the death jaws of ferocious lion and running for our lives.  When this happens, our bodies shut down other vital components of living, and produce elevated levels of testosterone to enhance muscle performance.  Fortunately, we don’t have to escape lions or tigers, but we can fool the body into believing we are by pushing its levels beyond their normal capacity.  Once we reach over the age of 35, and especially 40, 50 and as long as you wish to maintain good strength and health, exercising in a manner that pushes us past our limits will help produce those “youth” hormones.

Personal Story:

When I look at pictures over the span of my life, it almost saddens me to see how much my weight fluctuates from time to time. Once I became fully grown in my junior year of high school, I was hitting the weights pretty consistently, and seemed to plateau at 205lbs on average.   I stayed at this weight mostly through college, and that weight is what seems to be my set point, in regards to when I can find myself staying around that level.  It seems when I go under and lose a bunch of weight as I did when I turned 40 and went Vegan for a year and a half, I was down around 185lbs.  I felt and looked awesome, but my diet became so strict that I was virtually becoming a little crazy.  Once I relaxed my diet, I ballooned quickly back up and past the 205 mark.   When I begin to pack it on, the waist bands tighten up and I just begin to feel lazy, I know its time to shed some weight.

Several years back, I found myself hitting the 230lb mark, and honestly felt terrible about myself.  I have always been into weight training and trying to stay active, but definitely hit the bottom of laziness and indulging in whatever food I found myself at the time wanting.  Now, I am the first to say that my career has always revolved around fitness in some capacity, so I, more than others, have little to no excuse to not find the time to exercise.  Unfortunately, it’s like the saying that those in a specific profession, become great at their work, yet spend so little time on their own self improvement.  I know that since my boys hit school, my “free time” is between the hours of 4am and 6am.  I do have the opportunity after 9pm, but my entire life I have been the early riser and a pumpkin after 9pm.  So when I would get into a fitness program, I knew I had to carve out those two hours to get it done.  I may be an early riser, but 4am is still no easy task, especially to get up and start exercising.

My first dedication to HIIT began in the summer of 2017 after we got back from vacation, I and I looked how much excess weight I was carrying.  I have always enjoyed “lifting heavy” to put on muscle mass, but I know myself enough that when I train this way, it drastically increases my appetite as well.  Through my experience, I learned the benefits of HIIT so this was going to become my new program that i would adapt.  Honestly, I didn’t expect the results to be as good as they were, especially since I had just turned 46 and I know how testosterone levels are greatly decreased.  So 6 months later, I was under the 200lb mark and feeling awesome!   #HIIT40 is going to be exactly what I did to get myself in probably the best shape of my life.  Even better than a teenager, since back then, all I cared about was getting big muscles, and cardio was just something for the people in my gym that were doing a bodybuilding show.  These HIIT workouts typically center around 3 exercises, one being a 200-250 meter row as fast as I can, followed by a functional exercise that I alternate back and forth until I complete 10 rounds total.  5 rounds for each of the two functional exercises, and 10 rounds of a 200 meter row.  I only rest as long as I need to get my breathing more stable than a heavy almost gasping state.    It is intense, but the results are amazing.

So what happened?  Life got the better of me about 8-9 months later.  My oldest was going to college, so I had to work a lot more to make sure the financial obligations were met.  I took on projects to maximize my earning potential, and those hours of 4-6am that were there for exercising, became work(if I even got up at that time!)  I found that since I was gaining fat, I was feeling more tired, and waking up became so much more difficult.  So as I write this, even though I just started, I have “started” multiple times over the last few months, and fell on my face.  Hopefully, I know myself pretty well, to know that I seem to do this before really buckling down and getting serious.  Once I saw the scale at 223lbs, it just lit a fire within me to get moving.

#HIIT40?

I thought that the number 40 was a great representation of this type of program.  First off, each workout for me typically takes about 30 minutes with warm up and stretching, so the ability to get an awesome workout under 40 minutes is perfect for me and my schedule.  I would only assume that most adults with family and jobs would find this equally the same.  And of course, for those of us over the age of 40, HIIT is by far the best solution for increasing natural testosterone levels, which is responsible for maintaining or building muscle mass, and reducing body fat.  So here we are #HIIT40 is born and ready!

Principles of training over the age of 40:
  1. Compound exercises:  this means that the body exerts force against a resistance by utilizing 2 or more joint locations.  An isolated exercise would allow for only a single joint movement, such as a bicep curl, leg extension, or the like.  Isolated exercises can be beneficial for developing an under active or weakened muscle, to create a more synergistic movement pattern, however, in regards to maintaining or increasing strength for everyday life, compound exercises are the requirement.  Here are some:
    1. Bench Press
    2. Squat
    3. Shoulder press
    4. deadlift
    5. Barbell rows
  2. Functional exercises:  the term functional, relates to the body moving through multiple planes of motion.  Our body operates on different planes, which are Sagittal, Frontal, or Transverse.  If you think about it, our body rarely operates in an isolated manner, simply meaning that we typically aren’t just sitting around and we flex the elbow.  Of course, this does happen when we are sitting at a table and we bring a beverage or food to our mouths, but I can’t imagine that you exert much force and require heavy duty training to accomplish this task.  When we think about times we require strength, it would be an activity such as lifting something off the ground and placing onto a elevated surface.  This single activity would create multiple planes of motion, from squatting down and standing back up (squat) that would equate to moving in the sagittal plane (explain in just a bit), to raising the arms up towards the chest, flexing the elbows (sagittal as well, but also frontal), then possibly having to twist our torso to place the object on the surface (transverse).  This reason alone is why exercising by completing functional style movements allows the body to become stronger as a unit, not as individual joint locations.  If you are just wanting to look better, than I don’t judge, we all do, this is educating on how to get the most from our workouts and achieve results at a much faster rate.  Let’s look at the individual planes:
    1. Sagittal Plane:
      1. Flexion is the decrease of angle at a joint location.  Elbow flexion like a bicep curl, knee flexion in a hamstring curl are examples of this
      2. Extension is the increase of an angle at a joint location.  Tricep extensions or leg extensions are a typical example of this
      3. Dorsiflexion is the ankle joint pointing the foot up towards you
      4. Plantar Flexion is the ankle joint pointing the toes away from you
    2. Frontal Plane:
      1. Abduction is moving a joint away from the body.  If we raised our arms to the side, this would be abduction, such as a side dumbbell lateral raise.
      2. Adduction is moving a joint towards the midline of the body, so returning the arms down towards the side against resistance would be an example of adduction.
      3. Elevation is just as it states, and the only thing we are able to elevate on the body, is our scapula (shoulder blades). So a shrug would be a good example of elevation
      4. Depression is just the opposite, and again, the only joint location we can depress is the scapula
    3. Transverse:
      1. Rotation is the big one, which just as it sounds, rotating around an axis of location.  Typically, rotating the torso while the inferior portion of our body (lower half) remains still).
      2. Horizontal Adduction is if we had our arms out to the side at 90 degrees, then brought them towards the midline of the body.  An example would be when we perform a dumbbell fly lying back on a bench.
      3. Horizontal Abduction is taking the 90 degree arm, and going away from the midline, so reverse flyes would be our example of an exercise

There are other physiological movements that determine our plane of motion, however, for the sake of this information, I wanted to discuss the ones that are of most important to us.  And to maximize each exercise, we must determine how to incorporate as many planes of motion into a given exercise to optimize muscle recruitment and create a synergistic movement pattern that allows for as many muscles working together to create a defined movement.

Once we reach that phase of our life, and our testosterone levels have taken a dramatic decline, engaging in bicep curls will definitely help those arms look better busting out of a sleeve, but you will probably notice that its not doing much for that belly that too is busting out of that shirt.  Our focus in maximal muscle recruitment, maximal spike in testosterone production, and maximal energy expenditure (calories).  This is accomplished through the use of functional exercises.  You will see from the posts that highlight the workouts, what exercises accomplish this task.

If you are a beginner and are interested in implementing a HIIT program into your program, read this great article by the American Council on Sports Medicine.high-intensity-interval-training

Good luck and keep following along as I will complete and post a new HIIT workout most days of the week.

Be healthy!

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