By Brian Klepacki, MS, CSCS, CISSN, FMS
Mud Runs and Adventure races have become the next fitness epidemic in the United States and for a good reason.
But if you think you are ‘fit’ enough to tackle one of these races, think again. These races are not for your average weekend gym rat. These are serious and will separate the men from the boys (or women from the girls ☺).
So even before we get into the gnarly 6-week program that I mapped out for you, let’s look at the history of these so-called mud/obstacle runs and adventure racing.
While they could be called the grandfather of all obstacle races, adventure races are some of the most intense, physically challenging endurance events in the world. Most of these events will require the use of various modes of transportation such as horseback, kayak, bike, arms, legs, etc.
In other words, you use whatever means necessary to get you from point A to point B in the fastest amount of time. The term “Adventure Race” was coined by journalist Martin Dugard when describing the passion and challenges conquered by athletes in events such as the Eco-Challenge.
The Eco-Challenge, created by Mark Burnett of the TV show Survivor, was the world’s first adventure race and is considered by many to have put the sport on the map for all athletes looking for something extreme and adventurous to compete in.
Over the course of a decade in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Eco-Challenge was reformatted in an attempt to make events more difficult and more exciting. In this process was the addition of the entirely self-encompassing sport of adventure racing through a mix of multiple different disciplines.
Today, you will find all different races throughout the year in all states and in remote countries around the world. Races like a local charity 5k obstacle course, The Tough Mudder, a 10-12 mile team-oriented obstacle course, to the 4 Deserts Race, a 7 day, 250km foot race across the most extreme terrains on the planet.
Whatever types of race interests you, there are requirements: physical fitness and mental toughness.
No matter the distance or degree of difficulty presented, you will need to follow a training program that will enable you to not only finish the race but to also look darn good in the photographs dominating the course.
There’s a strong possibility that if you are reading this, you’re already interested in adventure racing. And that’s great! Adventure racing is an experience that you’ll never forget and I guarantee that once you do your first race you will be hooked!
I don’t know about you but I am a competitor. I love to compete. Even if the race isn’t timed or there is no winner, I will still set my watch and run down anyone in front of me just because that’s what I’m driven to do. I know that’s the athlete in me but it’s also a primal instinct of our human design. We hate losing and rightfully so.
Whatever your situation is you will still want to performance at your absolute best. Or maybe you’re a veteran racer and you’ve hit a plateau and just can’t figure out a way to get stronger and faster. Or maybe you just completed a race but had to bail out half way through because you’re training sucked. Regardless of how fit you think you are you will have something to gain from this program.
‘And remember, everyone responds differently to exercise but the main focus is following a set program to achieve your goals. Without goals you are running around in the dark wasting time. Modifications can be done to this program to accommodate your needs. Again, this program is a template for you to use in preparation for an adventure / obstacle race and in no way are we guaranteeing a first place finish or for you to walk away from your training / race without an injury. Adventure race training places great risks of injury on the body simply because that’s what these races are intended for: to push your body and your mind to the extreme and then cover it in dirt and blood. Mother Nature is not forgiving.’
Selecting Your Race:
Like I mentioned above, there are thousands of races to choose from but obviously you would want to start local. Do a quick internet search for ‘adventure race in (your city or state)’, ‘mud run’, or ‘obstacle course’ and go from there and select a race that appeals to you and go from there. Depending on where you live, I’m sure there is a least one race within a 1-2 hour drive from you and there’s a good chance it’s a sprint race.
A Sprint Race lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. These races are by far the most popular type of adventure race and also the most beginner oriented. The typical distance for a sprint will be between 3 – 6 miles on foot. Now throughout the course you will be faced with numerous obstacles, some man-made: running through tires, cargo nets, slip and slides, rope swings, vertical climbing walls, etc.
and some will be natural: swimming, mud pits, rocky terrain, rock climbing, etc. Because the races are shorter, teams are closer together and there is a ton of camaraderie and interaction with other racers during the race, I recommend this race to all first-timers to get a feel for the sport.
Many racers, after doing a few sprint races, long for an even greater challenge. The next stage of racing would be a Middle-Distance Race that would last anywhere from 2-6 hours. There are some important differences to know between a 3-mile race and a 13-mile race. Though the disciplines will be similar, the race itself will be much longer (7 – 15 miles) and much more challenging due to the number of obstacles.
The longer the race, the more obstacles you will have to battle and you might even have to use items or objects to finish the race: log carry, team canoes, zip-lines, and maybe even your own bicycle. These races will require your training to be geared more towards endurance simply because you are covering a greater distance. Now within this endurance event, strength is required so neglecting to do any type of strength training will limit you big time on the course.
The third type of race would be an Advanced or Extreme Adventure Race. This type of race isn’t for beginners or even those who classify themselves as fit. These advanced races will not be for everyone. These races will be at a minimum of 13 miles of running and that’s on the very low end. Some advanced racers would laugh at the 13 miles just because there are adventure races out there that cover 100+ miles of insane terrain.
Now in order to accomplish a race of this magnitude, man-made obstacles are very few. This is a no-brainer. Could you imagine a 50-mile race having 500 obstacles?! As fun as that would be, it’s nearly impossible for someone to finish that, let alone create that type of race. These extreme races will require you to run, bike, climb/trek, swim and paddle.
Since the more advanced races demand a much more personalized and thought out program, the two types of racing that we will focusing on in this program are the Sprint and Middle-Distance events. These races don’t necessary require you to go out and train 20-30 hours a week in preparation for your race. In reality, your week will look something like this if you stick to this program: 2-3 sessions per metabolic conditioning (a.k.a. metcon); 2-3 strength / power sessions; and 1-2 endurance-based sessions.
Having this format will allow you to successfully train all the systems of your body to properly prepare you for your race. Here are two sample weeks that would be for A) first-timer with little exercise background training for a 3-mile mud run and B) very active individual preparing for a 7-mile obstacle course with extensive exercise background:
As you can see that the work load is much greater in column B simply because that individual is coming from a much different background and the race that this athlete is training for is more than double the distance and obstacles. Again, this is a template that you can use to incorporate into your workout in order to fit your needs. The main focus is hitting all of the energy systems in the body but allowing the body to properly recover. Notice that each day there is a different focus for the novice athlete but for the advanced athlete you will see 2 sessions brought together. (i.e. strength in the morning, endurance or cardio in the evening). This is because strength can’t make you an endurance athlete and cardio can’t make you a strength athlete.
“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” — Confucius
In this 6-week program I can guarantee TWO things will happen. First, you will thoroughly enjoy the mixture of complex and supplemental movements to attack every system and every muscle in your body. Second, YOU WILL GET STRONGER AND FASTER! This plan is based on big, functional movements that are not boring and definitely not found in most corporate settings.
By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
1. Chris Wilson: Ben Tatar AKA, Tatar Monster, you have been to every Arnold Sports Festival Event. Of ALL the Arnold Sport Festivals you’ve been to, name the THREE best years of the event and why?
BEN TATAR: Wow, so many have been amazing and the best in their own way. It’s hard to pick a favorite because, in a greater sense, they all become one, all part of a bigger journey. However, I will pick three Arnold Sports Festival Events which I feel were special:
3rd place: The 2007 Arnold Sports Festival! 2007 ASF gets 3rd place because it was before the whole world knew about it through social media which made it more personal. The WPO was in full blast on the main stage; they had incredible celebrities, and I have so many memories with old friends.
2nd place: The 2009 Arnold Sports Festival! I set some records and did the first ever human barbell. I picked the booth girls for booths. The expo and parties were just hotter than ever, and the magazine industry was still really booming. It was just an incredible ASF trip from start to finish.
1st place: The 2011 Arnold Sports Festival! This was the peak. Everyone I knew from multiple periods of time attended. The stars were at an all time high. The event had a hardcore edge, and most of the Critical Bench crew was even there. It was just the perfect Arnold.
I would say the 2016 Arnold was probably one of the biggest Arnold events along with last year’s Arnold. The event had more events, greater attendance with more booths than past Arnolds. I really liked some of the Arnold’s new features like the NFL Hall of Fame.
There were so many things happening, from the Kids Expo to the WWE experience. The event just expands. This was also an amazing year for me as I met so many great people at the Hyatt, Phil Heath Autism Charity Event Party and reunited with old friends. This year’s event reminded me that the opportunities at the Arnold never run out; the friendships are forever.
The 2016 Arnold also had many big name celebrities. Some of the celebrities at the 2016 Arnold included: 50 Cent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jon Bones Jones, Royce Gracie, Larry Fitzgerald, Phil Heath, Jay Cutler, the Ohio State Buckeyes, HHH, Kai Greene, Kurt Angle, Orlando Pace, Andre Reed, Apolo Ohno (from the Olympics,) Randy Couture, Justin Timberlake, the World’s strongest man competitors, the WWE locker room and most booths had a sponsored champion or athlete.
On top of the celebrities, the 2016 Arnold had a huge list of freaks, thousands of female models, mascots and the event was loaded every aisle you walked. The event also had more events and booths than ever.
People from over 80 different countries and people from everywhere were there. I feel like every Arnold event has been a world victory for me that goes beyond setting world records.
At this years Arnold, I set a record for benching a 235-lbs bandbell bamboo bar 36 times (more than anyone else my size.)I also set a world record at the 2014 Arnold for doing 40 pull-ups while wearing a 50-lbs vest. This achievement made my Iron Man Magazine bio and is featured on the walls of restaurants from around the globe.
The victory of each Arnold surpasses breaking records as each Arnold breaks many different personal records to me in so many different ways. That’s another reason why there must be many favorites.
The Arnold is always a huge victory as a reporter and as a reporter I feel like I’m setting a new personal record at all times in new ways! When I pick the 2011 Arnold as the best ever it’s like me saying “This championship win is my favorite championship win!”
The details of the 2011 event wins like the crazy after parties, the hotel parties, stars at the top, the more personal/yet more hardcore vibe of the fitness culture, behind the scenes stuff and the crazy details which you actually would have to experience in person to really understand.
I am proud of my perfect Arnold streak and I look at every Arnold I have ever attended as an incredible victory & movie. I feel like it continues on during the off season in the hearts with other friends.
2. CW: What’s new and cool at the Arnold, and what’s old and dull?
BT: Lots of things were new at the Arnold. Some include: Baton Twirling, Indoor Cycling Charity Ride, Indoor Triathlon, Tae kwon do, the Arnold Wheel Chair bodybuilding contest and the NFL Hall of Fame. Other events that returned for the second straight year were the Kids’ Expo, Soccer and the WWE Experience. Another cool addition to this year’s Arnold was having 900 booths.
This is a big jump because in 2012 the Expo had 750 booths. There were some negative aspects in regards to the 2016 Arnold. For example, they didn’t have a Bodybuilding dot com booth, BEAST booth or GNC booth.
What is old and dull? Well, I use my creativity to prevent that from happening. I always find ways to create my own fun. It’s not just about the Arnold, but it’s what you bring to the Arnold.
For kicks and giggles, when I survey people about what gets old, they occasionally tell me that they watch a competition to see which girl can get her breasts out the most without showing her nipple. They complain about having to stand in an hour line for one sample or being stuck shoulder to shoulder in a huge crowd.
Others think that it gets old how the Arnold keeps adding sports that have little to do with lifting.
They are like, “what’s next Guinea pig racing?” Then at the same time, the Arnold is doing a great job at putting outside of the box events in other venues. For what does and doesn’t get old is really a perspective thing.
I would say what gets old is the fact that many people are attending these events almost every single month on a smaller scale.
It’s not like ten years back when there was just the Arnold and the Olympia. Today you have an Arnold sports festival event right after the Los Angeles fit expo or less than two weeks before the Arnold Australia. There seems to be a fitness event each month, but the Arnold USA event is the Grand Daddy of them all.
Every time I step on to that expo floor, there is a huge energy that I feel, and it gets bigger each year. I feel satori, metanoia and numinous eudaemonia! I know that each Arnold Sports Festival Event will always be unique because it has the best of the best in everything! The Arnold is an extravaganza which in its own way is bigger than the Olympics. History is made here.
3. CW: Name the 3 Hottest Women you saw in person at this year’s event and the 3 Most Impressive Guys you saw in person?
BT: Who were the three hottest booth babes? I will have to let the fans vote on that one! In a generic sense I don’t think the fitness models are in their prime overall because before the models were competing for magazines as today it’s more about selling oneself on social media.
On the other hand, there are more types of models today than the past. The good news is, there will always be nines and tens in the fitness culture. There were way more models at the 2016 Arnold than most Arnolds because there were a lot more booths!
The 2016 Arnold did a great job of using models from everywhere! The 2016 Arnold had everything from small town girls from the mountains in the middle of no where to city girls on the beach!
One of the biggest bodybuilders I saw this weekend was definitely Paulo Almeida. This guy is just a true genetic freak from 5%ers. Another choice of mine is Jon Bones Jones because I think he is the most dominate UFC fighter. We actually have developed a friendship over the years. Another incredible person was Orlando Pace from the NFL Hall of Fame. It’s hard to come up with just three because there are so many.
4. CW: Who gets this year’s FREAK award and who is the ALL-TIME Freakiest Guy ever at the Arnold Sports Festival?
BT: Well, there are two freak award winners this year. The biggest freak at the 2016 Arnold was Glenn Ross. Glenn is the biggest strongman competitor of all time. He weighs 578-lbs and placed third at the 2005 Arnold Strongman contest.
He has a 881-lbs deadlift, 881-lbs squat and a 650-lbs raw bench press. Glenn also has done crazy strongman feats before. He is the most massive strongman/freak in the history of Arnold events.
The other freak award this year goes to Brandon Lilly. I put a shirt on him that you gave me that says “Body Weight Beast Champ,” with the Critical Bench Logo on the back. He is not only enormous, but super strong with a 2204 power lifting total which is getting bigger by the minute.
Obviously, for greatest freaks ever…… I’m going to say that in the massive monster category there has been nobody like ED RUSS! Unlike, Glenn Ross, Big Ed has less body fat and has much more muscle mass in his arms. Anytime people see old pictures of us, they can’t help but laugh or have an OMG reaction!
Whenever I’m with Ed Russ, I feel like I’m in a movie like no other, meaning you’re like on another planet. Everywhere fans just line up for pictures! I give a big shout out to Ed Russ because I know he is reading this.
For bodybuilders–My all time King of Freaks king goes to Kenny Gipson from back in 2006. Kenny was just a breed of his own beast. He was like Zeus from the movie “No Holds Barred,” but way freakier, thicker and more ripped. He was Zeus personified.
5. CW: Has the Arnold become TOO big….does the event feel overwhelming like you just can’t get to everything?
BT: I could see where someone could think that. From a person to person perspective no, but from being able to watch every single event perspective, yes. The Arnold has over 70 events which is more than the Summer Olympics with people from over 80 different Countries competing. As the Arnold has grown, the events have gone to many different locations.
For example, if you want to attend the Arnold swimming event, you would have to travel in traffic to get to the Courtyard by Marriott in New Albany Ohio. That is over an hour drive. If you want to attend soccer, you would have to travel to Stars Indoor Sports in Columbus, OH. If you wanted to attend the Pro Boxing, you would have to go to the L.C. PAVILION.
The Arnold Sports Festival weekend has become so big that they now even have a separate Expo for kids! As you can see, just having me list the different locations makes it seem overwhelming, and you’re right that it has gotten physically impossible to get everywhere. They do give you maps and have made an effort to help people navigate.
I must admit there have been times when I wish the Arnold Sports Festival was two weeks long like the Olympics and didn’t just go from Thursday to Sunday. This would allow me to actually compete or attend and cover everything. However, at this point it doesn’t matter because I know where I should be during every single Arnold event and if there is anything I miss, I can see what happened later!
The event has just gotten so huge, and there is actually something for everyone! It doesn’t matter if you’re a nine year old boy singing in a “Kids Got Talent Show,” or playing chess or if you’re a beast competing in the MAS wrestling event.
6. CW: It appears that Arnold himself truly loves this event…he’s always present and the first one to congratulate the winners. Does his celebrity and enthusiasm for his own event make it that much bigger and better for those in attendance? Is Arnold himself the driving force behind the events monster success?
BT: Excellent question, but I feel there are so many other factors to the success of the event than just having Arnold there. For example, where else can you find friends from around the world all located under one roof at the biggest iron extravaganza? Think of the booth models! Where else will a guy enter one venue with thousands of booth models who have something in common with himself?
Think of the other celebrities, whether it is UFC fighters, WWE wrestlers, NBA players or movie stars? Fans who aren’t bodybuilders appreciate this. There are so many big bodybuilders, strongmen and Olympic athletes who are in their prime, and fans like engaging with them.
It’s in our blood to compete, and people will compete even though most know they won’t be going out for lunch with Arnold during Arnold weekend. I think the event now has so many different driving forces behind its success that goes well beyond Arnold.
At one time, I do think Arnold was a huge factor for the success of the event! Arnold got the ball rolling but once he did, the success just grew off of everything else!
7. CW: We’ve talked about this before but who cares…if you could choose an ALL-ACCESS pass for either the Arnold or Olympia, what would you pick and why?
BT: The Arnold because it has four times the amount of people and seven times the amount of events. The Arnold has 190,000 fans and the Olympia has 45,000 fans. The Arnold and the Olympia are such different monsters.
If you have an ALL-ACCESS pass to the Arnold, it’s far more beneficial because your media credentials can help a greater range of people. You’re there for the people in anything and everything you want! This means you can be there for people in the 5k run and pump or the Powerlifting competitions.
You’re there for the families….. You’re a whole support to the whole entire Arnold Sports Festival Nation and not just the bodybuilding nation. I think the ALL-ACCESS pass to the Arnold runs a lot broader and a lot deeper.
The Arnold and the Olympia bring in different types of people. The Arnold brings in true iron fans and the Olympia brings in more socialites or social climbers. One of the Arnold Booth workers said “The Arnold fans are more impressed with everyone they engage with and feel like they are in for something special.
The Olympia fans are more competitive social types and even if they didn’t have a pass they would tell people who have passes that they are more famous than or successful than them. It’s just a different mentality.”
I think the pass is more relevant during Arnold Weekend. I think the Olympia has more bodybuilding freaks, maybe hotter booth models and bigger name celebrities than the Arnold. The Arnold has way more energy and intensity because you have the World’s Strongest Man contest going on the main stage, loud music, The WWE experience on another side of the expo, way more people and the intensity of the Arnold just destroys that of the Olympia!
The Arnold also has more random freaks and a higher powerlifter-strongman culture than the Olympia. The Arnold also has way more NFL players and Olympic Athletes than the Olympia. The pass at the Arnold mostly is more important than a pass at the Olympia because the lines at the Arnold are way worse!
The Arnold pass is also instant access to the after parties and at the Olympia you don’t need a press pass to go into any of the Vegas parties. For the Vegas parties…you just need to get tickets early to avoid the lines.
8. CW: Will the new attention paid to the “Men’s Physique” division help events like the Arnold and Olympia going forward?BT: We live in a changing society which I will discuss in my future article, “The metamorphosis of the fitness industry.” I don’t want to just comment on “Men’s Physique,” but as a whole you see changes in philosophy when it comes to physique.
Ten years ago the mentality was “Bigger is better and if it’s easy, it has no value.” Back then there would be big lines for the freaks and the 6’1 160-lbs fit lifters would be labeled as peons.Today you have 5’9 300-lbs bodybuilders with only about eight people in their lines.
There are fitness models who are almost 6 inches taller and over 100-lbs lighter with very-very long lines! Some old school bodybuilders have expressed anger because they had to get known before social media existed and they aren’t getting the attention today. Some people feel the new motto of the industry is “if it’s easy, more people will do it and more people are doing it.”
This statement is in reference to being cut, fit, aesthetic and not super big or strong. Fitness models and fans at the booths often take pictures, use hash tags, and post on social media. That’s huge publicity!Perhaps this is healthy because it promotes health, gives mainstream people hope and keeps people connected.
So, the answer to your question is that it’s subjective. Part of the reason the industry is growing is that it’s open to more types of people who possess different fitness interest.
9. CW: Who’s the NEXT big star in the world of Bodybuilding? Who’s the new, young hopeful emerging?
BT: All the winners were people who I have heard of before. Most of the freaks at this year’s Arnold were freaks who I already knew from past events. Akim Williams from the Muscle Meds booth could possibly be the next Kai Greene or a true bodybuilding freak of the future. There are a number of people who are emerging in different fields of fitness.
10. CW: Name your three favorite events at this year’s Arnold Sports Festival?
BT: I enjoyed way more than three events and it’s hard for me to compare events that are so different and that are a part of me in very unique ways.Three of my many favorites are: The NFL Hall of Fame – I just loved the athletic skill competitions, the question & answers with NFL Hall of Famers. I felt that it was a new feature that really added to the event.
The Arnold strongman contest – In my eyes, this is always unique because the events are creative, world records are set, and it’s more based on brute strength than the WSM you see on TV. They did a great job even giving Eddie Hall who placed last in the strongman competition a chance to break a record and Brian Shaw a chance to break a record by creating fan interested events!
The WWE Experience – The reason I choose this one is because it really helps the event grow. Many kids would like to be the next big WWE star; here is their chance. I love all the events. Even when I’m 80, I will probably be playing pickleball at the Arnold. Maybe I will be setting a world record as an 80 year old man and competing in multiple sports as well as covering the event!
11. CW: As we wrap up this interview, is there anything else you would like to say?
BT: I would like to say that I’m impressed with how much stronger everyone keeps getting. At every Arnold, it seems like a New World Record keeps getting broken. The top powerlifters keep getting stronger! I feel that the present isn’t just competing with the present but also with the past. It’s also always an amazing adventure each year that brings in powerful memories that you can’t get from anywhere else.
In closing I would like to thank Mike Westerdal & Chris Wilson “Coach Chris,” from Critical Bench for the press pass. I have to thank Rob Jones from the GLC2000 booth and New Age Performance Booth who I shot some past and future stars with. Rob introduced me to so many incredible people all weekend.
I would like to thank Grace Grimes for the hook up at the Phil Heath Makeitfit Autism charity event who was a big factor in regards to why the Arnold weekend was so special. I give thanks to Lindsey and Janice McLaughlin who are incredible people and for helping me with some of the transportation!
Special thanks to everyone I partied with at the Hyatt, you know who you all are! There are just so many great people in the industry. There is more that happens at these events than I can possibly write. I had quite the agenda. On Thursday I did shoots with old stars and stars of the future.I also partied with many booths and I bar hopped downtown. On Friday after the Expo, I went to the Phil Heath Make it Fit Charity party for Autism and then partied with the stars at the Hyatt. On Saturday I went to the Party with the Pros event and it was a spectacular event.
There wasn’t a dull moment at the expo and at the Hyatt Hotel it all just continues without the fans there! The whole weekend was incredible.With all that said, I know that my next ASF USA event will be even better! Why you ask? Ed Russ will be back, the King of Freaks!
I will see most of you again and the moments, experiences and all will just expand with history included and beyond. Critical Chris, thank you so much for the great interview questions.
By Chris Wilson, RKC, CPT, CSN
Getting old(er) is a fact of life and for many people, a truth that is very tough to accept. I just turned 40 myself making this concept all too real.
I’d love to tell you that I’m just as awesome as I was in my early 20’s…but I won’t lie.
My body IS 40 years old regardless of what the voice in my head wants to shout when I walk through the gym doors. It has been lifting weights, running, jumping, twisting (and sitting) for over 25 years.
I will not ever stop working out…that I know. But if I don’t want to be in pain and on the brink of injury, I do need to change HOW I workout.
Every day we get older and our physical health slowly diminishes. Men’s testosterone levels drop with every passing year and not only do our bodies begin to break down, most people find that they cannot make the time for activity like they once did, including me.
And time is the one thing we can never get back.
Sure, there are plenty of fit, physically active guys with gray hair but in reality only a small percentage of the population. Just look around anywhere you go. Heavy set men having difficulty moving their bodies and it seems to get worse every year.
This trend is the result of two things:
Consumption of Calorie Rich Processed Foods & Lack of Movement Every Day.
The GOOD NEWS is that we can change them both and quickly.
As far as the super high calorie overly processed foods we find on every shelf in most stores across this country, the solution is simple. Minimize consumption and find alternatives.
It can’t hurt you if you’re barely eating it. Limit yourself to only 100-200 calories per day of crappy food or reward yourself with healthier alternatives that taste good and won’t hurt you.
Secondly, working out consistently may come easy to some but carving out time for yourself only gets harder as you age with family life, full-time careers, household chores and other responsibilities.
You cannot force something to work in your life and expect it to last. Exercise needs to be habit; it needs to be a part of who you are and how you go about your days.
Most workout routines have you lifting weights, doing body weight movements or doing cardiovascular exercise all the time independent of each other. These programs get results and typically work in the short term.
But as with most things “forced” in our lives, they eventually stop working because people are creatures of habit. We like to feel comfortable and usually that involves some form of laziness.
Building muscle at 40 and beyond is about you doing what you love to do when it comes to activity. Here is one great example of a workout specifically designed to work the entire body and is amazing for guys 40 or more.
- Play in a Basketball League
- Martial Arts
- Run 5 & 10Ks
- Compete in Powerlifting
- Bodyweight Calisthenics and more.
The key is to choose different ways to be physically active and like what you’re doing for exercise. This will help with longevity and give you the long-term results you want.
Because if you truly like something, it will be very hard to stop doing it.
I always like going back to children when it comes to explaining exercise and being active. Most of the children in this world have one thing in common; they like to play. Playing is exercise. Kids run, jump, twist, climb and move their bodies with tremendous power, strength and agility.
As we age, we lose that ability. Not because we got older but because we stopped moving like that every day and this point is missed by many experts in the field of strength and health.
Add recess back into your life and have that time everyday where you get to play in different ways. In doing that you will regain energy, muscle, mobility, confidence and your life will be forever changed.
By Chris Wilson, RKC, CPT, CSN
Could a guy on a deserted island get buff? Is that even possible without weights?
Most powerlifters and bodybuilders would argue that ONLY free weights can deliver ultimate muscle mass and strength. Frankly, it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.
However, contrary to that opinion, there are several factors that indicate that muscles can come from body weight movements alone without the need for heavy equipment.
One thing to always remember is that muscles respond to external forces much the same way. Muscles do not know if you’re bench pressing a heavy bar or you’re explosively doing plyo push-ups. The key is to provide a stimulus requiring the muscles to respond and the more muscle fibers (more about those later) you can recruit at once, the better it is for muscle growth.
While attaining a monster 1RM is a remarkable measure of overall strength and muscularity, we must also remember that men hundreds of years ago developed large, powerful muscles without stepping foot into the gym. They did so by living a life of survival. A life that required them to be strong in many different ways in order to hunt, build shelter and defend themselves from animals (or other people).
That’s not to say free weights aren’t awesome and highly encouraged. Bang those plates around gentlemen and spend plenty of time doing compound exercises that work the entire muscular system.
But remember that the body can be its own BEST free weight. And sometimes that kind of resistance training can provide all the stimulus we need to gain muscle mass, burn calories, lose body fat and do so without as much concern for injury and tissue damage.
Take for example the Pull-up. It not only works nearly every muscle in the upper body but it provides maximal response due to the nature of the exercise. The body is completely suspended forcing the laws of physics to work their magic against you.
The pull-up can mesmerize people and for that reason, you see plenty of guys NOT doing them. For men who are lean and have a low body weight, they are capable of astonishing things on a pull-up bar. This is precisely why the military uses it as one of their most important measures of strength and conditioning. Even if you’re big and strong, you may only get 3 or 4 reps due to your body weight.
For the guy on the deserted island, doing pull-ups in order to survive may be a daily requirement. By the way, this imaginary island came equipped with many coconut palm trees for him to climb. His need to be not only good but great at climbing and pulling his body up could be a life or death situation. A guy like this would have very large back muscles along with superior strength in his arms and that’s just one exercise.
3 Key Concepts that Make Body Weight Training so Effective
#1 Manipulation of Time under Tension
#3 Body Position and Placement
Now, there are other variables that can determine the “intensity” and thoroughness of your training but let’s focus on these three common ones.
Key #1: Time under Tension or (TUT)
Time under Tension or (TUT) is simply the amount of time you load your muscles during an exercise. A body weight squat can take 3 seconds to complete or 10 seconds depending on how slowly you perform a repetition.
Something as simple as pausing at the bottom of the exercise for 5 seconds can make a set of 10 reps significantly harder and much more effective. This principle can be implemented in so many capacities and there are so many examples that could be mentioned to demonstrate how valuable a tool this is but for now we will stick to the squat example.
Key #2: Speed
The Speed in which we perform our body weight exercises also determines quite a bit about our body’s response to the exercise. When we do a push-up slow and controlled, we recruit a certain amount of muscle tissue (fibers) to help us move through the exercise. However, if we go from doing a standard push-up to something a bit more explosive like a clap push-up, the response is different.
The clap push-up is one of many variations of the household gem that has measured a man’s strength for generations. When performing a clap push-up, the body must accelerate and decelerate along with providing enough explosive force to lift the body high enough to allow for the hands to come together and then go back into the original push-up position. Because of that additional element, we have forced ourselves to do the exercise faster which recruited more muscle fibers to get the job done.
The stimulus or message to the muscles was so strong and so intense that the body reacted with greater force to get the job done.
It’s no different than if you had to build a house in 3 months or in 3 weeks. The ONLY thing that would change would be the number of people helping to complete the task. A group of 10 men with the right skill level may be able to complete a home in 3 months-time whereas a workforce of 30 men may be able to complete the same task in only 3 weeks. You RECRUITED more people to get the job done faster.
The body is no different and this concept goes for any exercise done faster and more explosively. The element of speed is a very powerful strength tool.
Key #3: Body Position and Placement
Lastly, Body Position and Placement can also provide effective ways of building muscle and strength. Let’s look at the basic crunch exercise for the abdominals as one example. The standard crunching motion is simply flexing the spine and demanding the abdominal wall to contract raising the upper body (shoulder blades) off the floor.
Taking that same exercise and adding in a twist as you near the top of the movement can make a basic exercise more challenging. Why? Because you’ve added a dimension of rotation which requires more muscle to be stimulated which equals more work for the body. This goes back to muscle recruitment.
The more muscle we recruit at one time, the more effective and powerful we become. This also helps to fatigue our bodies faster which often times is the intended goal with a workout program.
Here is one more example to help with the placement element. When doing a plank exercise in a prone position with arms extended (like the start of a push-up) we must fire several muscle groups to maintain good posture. The level of muscle contraction for this would be considered low to medium for such an exercise. But, if you removed one point of contact with the floor, the level of intensity would drastically increase causing the body to respond differently.
With the right arm now extended straight out overhead (as if to shake hands with someone) you have now forced the legs, abs, planted arm, chest, back and shoulder muscles to work a lot harder. The once easy to hold 4-point plank has now become a 3-point plank causing the muscles to react with stronger, tighter contractions and the overall workload to improve considerably.
Implementing more body weight training into your workout program can pay off and be a well-deserved break from all of that free weight training. By manipulating the 3 variables mentioned, you can go from having a light high rep therapeutic workout to something far more intense demanding the body to work significantly harder. The choice is yours.