May Your Adventure Be Rich

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The Christmas shopping countdown began weeks ago with Santa's first Ho-ho TV jingle in late October... diamonds for her, plasma screen for him and iPods and videos games for the kids.

Of course, time, the world's greatest magician, has done its notorious disappearing act -- presto, change-o, here one day, gone the next. I prefer the ole' bunny and top-hat trick myself.

Alas, we are in the critical days, those days when the season's cool and laughter have been replaced by sweat and tears. Be of good cheer, there's always hope. I hear malls will be open 24/7 for the desperate. Remember: Wear shoulder pads.

As an elaborate gesture of my Christmas Season givingness, I agreed to answer some muscle and fitness questions that have puzzled our online companions for a long, long time. I'll keep it short as we all have merry and jolly and holy things to do.

Q) I've been lifting a little over 10 years, twice weekly, full body, approximately one hour sessions. I do other stuff like stretches, crunches and pushups every day, but do the iron only twice a week. I squat with an empty 45-pound bar because I'm fearful of knee damage. I'm sculpted, but need mass.

In a recent newsletter you mention liking "moderate weight." To get to the question here, what do you think a 145-pound, 69-year-old guy might reasonably be pushin' and pullin'? I like 45s and 50s when incline pressing. I realize you can't really tell me anything definitive, but I'd like your thoughts anyway.

A) Reducing the weight one uses in a workout doesn't necessarily mean lessening intensity or letting up and letting go. Great workouts, healthy and muscle demanding, can and do emerge from less weight and more focus, form and control.

You sound like you're being appropriately cautious. Always warm up slowly and focus on each rep, the groove and the muscle engagement. The light-to-moderate weights allow a savvy lifter to crawl into the movement and appreciate all its good work. You can direct the bar or dumbbell or handle where you want for affect and to avoid injury or pain without being bullied by a heavier weight. The 45- and 50-pound dumbbells are plenty heavy to provide the joy and exertion you and your muscles need.

Heavier weights are, obviously, fantastic for muscle mass and strength building, but not so much for form articulation and concentrating on muscle engagement. Have you ever noticed there's a sort of explosive chaos in chasing the heavier reps? Ba-Boom! The bar goes up and down, or not, without a clear and complete understanding of how. Urgency and desperation and sometimes blood rule the action. Injury and overload become incidental to achieving the goal. Muscleheads are slightly nuts, you know.

Where once I used 120- to 150-pound dumbbells on bench presses, for years I've joyfully, gratefully, used 45s and 50s. Naturally, I cuss under my breath and in the dark recesses of my egocentric mind.

Sorry, I can't help you estimate your pulling effort because we pull differently (body-thrust, bar and handle variations) and at the ends of different cable equipment with differing advantages and resistance. Work between 6 and 12 reps with 75% output -- room for another rep with no body contortion or sacrifice of worthwhile groove.

Walking is good for everyone, especially those who might be considering hearing aids, glasses, cutesy hairpieces and pacemakers. Who'd a thunk it? Go to the hills and the stairs for tough, more valuable leg and cardiovascular workouts.

Be sure your non-iron-lifting workouts accommodate your weight lifting workouts -- overload and recuperation are your concerns. Here's where your commonsense and instincts need sharpness and confident application.

Mass- and might-building may not be the smartest goals in the world, whereas solid muscle maintenance and general health certainly are. Eat smartly throughout the day: valuable protein, fats and carbs only and lots of fresh, nutrient-dense living foods.

Drink water freely. Get plenty of rest. Be productive. Don't worry about anything. Never give up.

Q) I've been doing hyperextensions for my lower back, but it has been sore ever since I started. I wish to keep my back muscles in good condition. Should I keep up this exercise, and will this discomfort ever stop?

A) Perhaps you perform too great a range of motion, especially the upward range (contraction too tight), or too many sets or too many reps or too many workouts a week. If so, moderate... go for stimulation every 4 or 5 days, or, maybe… chuck them.

Be sure your abdominals and torso are being regularly and smartly exercised. Balance is essential. Try your hand and body at light dumbbell deadlifts, seated lat rows with a thoughtful and fluid range of motion... think lower back. Try light one-arm dumbbell overhead cleans for torso strength and health.

Look into the joint mobility exercises for the hip and pelvic regions as encouraged by Laree in the newsletters in the past months and, I believe, in today's blog post. These are of major importance to we who walk and play and lift.

May your adventure be rich. Seek and learn much, lift and grow strong, smile and be happy.

Done. You're free to go to find what's lost, fix what's broke, tighten what's loose, mend what's torn, eat what's left over and do what you didn't do and undo what you did.

And then we thank God.



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