Starting Strength After 40

from Strong At 40

I am an athlete.  I’ve been competing in organized sports since I was 4 years old.  For the past 20 years, I competed as an Olympic hopeful and, eventually, 3 time Olympian winning the silver and gold medal in 2000 and 2004.  Most recently I made my SIXTH Olympic Trials finishing 7th in my event at the age of 40 (I turned 41 six days after my competition).  My experiences as a world class athlete for 20 years in a power sport forced me to learn the science of strength and conditioning, applying this knowledge to build consistent results even though Father Time constantly changed the training paradigm in ways that forced innovation.  The secret to my long-term success is becoming more efficient with my movement patterns.

Proper movement requires a basic understanding of biomechanics.  Let me stress “BASIC.” I am not a biomechanist, but everyone should understand the fundamentals of movement and the role of healthy joints – at least of the load bearing joints:  the ankles, knees, hips, lumbar spine, and thoracic spine.  To overly simplify:  If your joints lack range of motion or stability, the rest of your body will kill itself compensating for the issue.   Ankles are mobilizers.  They adjust to the different surfaces of the ground allowing our bodies to apply force downward.  Knees are stabilizers.  The knee does have great range of motion on one plane, but all the soft tissue surrounding it is made to provide lateral stability.  Hips are a mobilizing joint. Jim Malone - Head Strength Coach, St. Louis Cardinals Dan John - Author and Strength Professional Adam Nelson - Founder, Strongat40 The lumbar spine is a stabilizer and the thoracic (or shoulders) is a mobilizer.  Understanding and facilitating the primary roles of the joints is the secret to long-term strength and performance as it directs the primary focus of your training.  As my friends Dan John says “Mobilize what needs mobilizing and stabilize what needs stabilizing.”

Unfortunately, nearly everything we do in our professional, adult lives works against our bodies.  It’s not enough to go for jog or hit an exercise class.  If you have poor mechanics, all you’re doing is improving your aerobic capacity at the cost of accelerating your structural decline.  So you have to ask yourself:  Do you want to run a marathon today or play with grand kids when your 80?  The good news is if you embrace proper movement training today, you might be able to do both.

Coaching at SPARCIn 2012 I began sharing my approach to training with clients at a  sports performance facility I started with a group of orthopedic surgeons in Athens, GA.  We approached every client the same way – assess, teach, train, and monitor. Our assessments focused on movement first.  When we lose our ability to move properly we begin to accelerate the degradation of our bodies.  Activity is no longer the path towards sound quality of life, but in fact leads us to become more dependent on procedures, pills, and physical therapy to continue our normal lives.  The path to a healthier, higher performing body starts slow.  It’s not predicated on your fitness.  It starts by addressing your movement.  Correcting movement takes a lot of time, especially if you’ve been moving improperly for over 40 years.  During this period of your training, the primary emphasis isn’t on losing weight or performance.  It’s on improving your movement – or mobility and stability.  Notice I didn’t say flexibility and core.

Flexibility is defined as the ability to cover a range of motion.  There’s no element of control.  I see this all the time with squat pattern in the elderly population.  This group can usually sit in a low squat position.  However, when I ask them to stand up from the position or sit down into the low squat position, they require assistance.  They lack the functional strength to control their bodies over the range of motion.  It’s this lack of functional strength that significantly contributes to the “aging” process.

Core training used to be sit ups and leg raises.  However, core as my former coach Charles Poliquin use to say “is the power transducer”, meaning a strong core allowed you to efficiently transfer power from the ground through the entire body.  What we’ve learned over the last twenty years is that the “core” is the primary stabilizer allowing us to resist external forces.  We train the core through stabilization and anti-rotational resistance training.  When done properly, new strength in the core will add significant strength through the whole body.  Seriously, want to get faster.  Train the core properly.  Want to get strong.  Train the core properly.

So there you have it.  You’re over the age of forty.  Your friends tell you “getting old ain’t for the weak.”  They’re right.  It’s not.  Get strong by learning movement patterns.  The body will reward consistent effort over long periods of time.  Unfortunately, it punishes anything new in the short-term.  Once you’ve eliminated the poor movements or at least identified someone who can coach you as you go, then you can progress to the P90 Cross Fight Pro Cycling 30 Day Fit Class.

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