1) The compound movement does not have to come first.
I have trained like this around so many injuries and just an honest lack of mobility in the past.
Let’s say it’s an upper-body push session. Train your core, rear delts and side delts first. Use a pull as the first main movement. Throw in direct bicep work before your main horizontal pushing movement. Then finish with triceps. You can still work the strength component, in the same manner, using whatever progression you like. But your joints and CNS will thank you for backing off from the load, especially at the beginning!
Run several waves of training back to front. When the client’s weak points and mobility issues are under control, try going back to basics and watch the numbers fly.
2) Overhead Press (OHP) – Risks and Rewards?
Can your client perform a split stance bottoms-up press? Pressing the kettlebell up and down on the same side as the knee that is in contact with the ground?
Do they have healthy levels of T-spine flexion and extension?
If the answer is no… Don’t get them to press overhead in a purely vertical manner.
Use the many safe variations of lateral work, and landmine press variations, that don’t work in a direct vertical.
Many clients just will not have enough space in between the glenohumeral head and the AC joint to allow for proper ranges of motion overhead. So this is a perfect case to put any overhead compound work in last… When your client is warm, slightly exhausted, joints moving at the right angle and injury-free.
It takes months to gain the levels of mobility needed for healthy overhead work.
An example of a simple progression
- Split stance landmine press.
- Tall kneeling landmine press.
- Split stance bottoms-up KB press.
- Standing bottoms-up KB press.
- Standing KB press from a single rack.
You can add in carries and as many extra progressions/regressions as you need. Just remember, nobody needs to do any exercise that causes damage under load.
If you or your client can press overhead safely, don’t totally exhaust the rear delts/external rotators prior to doing so. They are so important in stabilisation overhead. Work thoracic flexion, extension and decompression (think hanging from a bar) to warm up the area… Not smashing the upper back, you can do that straight after. Remember the upper back and glutes are not going to be over-trained, especially by those who spent most of their life not using them.
3) Cardio does not just rob you of muscle!
And with older clients, this is even more prevalent. Anti-glycolytic, HIIT, LISS, hell even moderate intensity (dare I say it) – none of these methods will make you look like Mo Farah if your diet and resistance training are on point.
The most important muscle is your heart. If it isn’t getting a pump… Then I wouldn’t worry about the size of your arms, or how much your glutes fill your jeans.
The 2 pathways that are activated by Cardiovascular and Resistance Training are distinctly different but interconnected. One is AMPK and the other is mTOR. AMPK is the master sensor for energy status in the body, so is more related to cardiovascular exercise. Both build muscle, but mTOR is the dominant muscle builder. When AMPK is at work it decreases mTOR activity. Hence why the science says that cardiovascular exercise limits the effects of muscle building.
Now, this isn’t strictly so. Think of the calves on a football player, or the quads of an elite cyclist. Now I know that they strength train, but their CV output is far greater and they still have some serious muscle mass. The difference between them and you isn’t just genetics. Its proper programming and enough calories to recover.
Now the most efficient way of programming is to have space between the 2. Rather than going into training twice a day, which is just not going to be possible for the average mid 40’s working woman or man, we need to program smartly.
So this is where you can program easy LISS on off days. And possibly more anaerobic conditioning as a finisher, EMOM work or similar, for mainly resistance based sessions.
The takeaway is reduce resting heart rates, improve heart rate variability, get the calories right then muscle will stay and fat will be doing the moonwalk.
4) Moderate intensity cardio, is it an angel or a demon?
What you would like to call running is really jogging. This form of cardio can create a solid dose of wear and tear on your frame, especially as you age. In addition to this, it is not the most efficient burner of fat and devours muscle in a less-than-optimal caloric state.
Before we randomly program this form of exercise, let’s stop and think. Are they strong enough? Mobile enough? Lean enough? Do you have the right fuel in the tank? Are their joints up to the impact?
If you’re ticking the boxes, it will offset an awful lot of the detrimental side effects. When we have dialled all this in, we can do so much more.
I never used to like running. But I understand why people do it… More now than I once did. It can get you to flow state, the moments where time doesn’t matter and the pace is no concern.
Is it for all your clients? No. But if you get them strong and mobile enough… Then it really is just another tool in the box.
It might not be optimal for fat loss or increased HRV. But have you ever considered that they might love doing it? The takeaway here is simply this – get in shape to run, not the other way around. That’s the oldest saying in the book. But an awful lot of people in the industry never got the memo.
5) Intensity must be dialled back to make way for frequency. Frequency must be dialled back to make way for intensity or load.
Some people need to train, daily… Life’s best therapist? So cut them a deal if they want to walk the frequency route and they can’t stay away from the gym.
Trim the duration and volume back from more frequent workouts. Go with a high-low approach to the CNS intensive work, the big compound lifts, and explosive work.
If day 1 was a heavy upper-body push then the next could be a much lower intensity lower body focus day. Or even just body weight ‘recovery days’.
Then the opposite is true of a load. The stronger you get the more rest you will need… And the more you need to de-load. Now make this even more prevalent for clients who are in their 40’s and beyond.
As for intensity?
I don’t think you can batter the body close to failure without more-than-optimal recovery and great genetics – oh yeah, and youth. This is where most girls and guys get it wrong in the gym. They reach a point where they are strong and keep pushing. But the wall the body creates is stronger than you are. The trick? There isn’t one. Sometimes you just need to pull back to move forward. That’s a tough call when you’re in love with the process! Being able to back off is where clients go wrong.. You must be the limiter.
If you are over 40, I hope these tips help you – even if you aren’t, if you are a trainer who works with clients of all ages, think about these considerations with your clients. You are only young once, and as it gets a little harder to keep up you need to push smarter, not just push back harder.
For the second half of these tips, check back lat.er in the week. Numbers 6 to 10 will follow shortly…
Author - Fletcher Dalrymple - Personal Trainer & Mentor
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