From ages 17 to 35, I trained exclusively with weights as well as doing some low intensity, long duration running to maintain cardiovascular efficiency.
Sound familiar??? I enjoyed working out with weights. Unfortunately my joints and muscles did not feel the same way.
At age 35, after shoulder, low back and elbow issues it was obvious I was not getting better. I was just getting beat up. In fact, my joints and muscles felt like I was aging faster. After about a year of fighting against change I decided to begin exercising differently. The goal was to create a more athletic body that would allow me to move better, feel better and not just look like I did.
Throughout the years of training with this mindset, I began to notice many of my iron lifting partners, that refused to change, slowly being forced to stop working out due to injury. During the past 19 years of training with a movement first, muscle second mindset, it has allowed me to enjoy all activities I did at age 35, now at 56. No, I don’t play or train at the same level of intensity I once did. However, I am still playing the game, doing what I enjoy and feeling great doing it.
In this article I want to share with you the 10 workout secrets I have discovered over the past 21 years of training myself, my athletes and my adult fitness clients. These workout secrets have allowed me to sustain what I call a “Game Day Ready” body. I will also share with you how I incorporate these 10 workout secrets into a weekly workout routine.
10 Workout Secrets
1. Building in a “Margin of Error” through regular flexibility and mobility training
I think this is the biggest key to an active aging body staying athletic. As we age our joints are going to lose mobility and get stiffer. This means our training programs must emphasize training flexibility and mobility. In order to keep workout time reasonable, some of the actual workout time will be taken up with mobility training.
Unfortunately what I see, especially in guys in the gym, is just the opposite. I see less warm-up, no soft-tissue work, no flexibility training, no mobility training and over-training with higher set volumes.
Dave’s Workout Secret #1 – Every single workout begins with a band flexibility and dynamic mobility training session for a minimum of 15 minutes. This is followed by a band activation session (primer workout) which prepares the key muscles for the upcoming interval strength or cardio vascular workout.
Here is how to get started with your band flexibility program
2. Know when to HIIT IT…and when not to HIIT IT
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is important for the active aging body for a lot of reasons. Most importantly it helps slow down the aging process both functionally and cosmetically while helping maintain lean muscle mass. The key is monitoring the frequency of this type of training closely to avoid over-training.
Knowing the body will take longer to recover, it is important to take full advantage of every HIIT workout by creating good quality vs. quantity.
Dave’s Workout Secret #2 – I do short band HIIT workouts using auxiliary type movements for 10 to 15 minutes during a 60 minute workout vs. trying to go hard throughout the entire workout. Then I add slower strength building primary movements throughout the rest of the workout. This allows the body to stay responsive to HIIT workouts without having to risk injury due to overloading aging muscles and joints too frequently or too long.
3. Don’t get stuck in a rut – rotate exercises often
The body is an adapter. Workout exercises should be rotated frequently as the body moves into its active aging years. As a long-term fitness enthusiast who has performed 10’s of thousands of reps, it is no longer necessary to do 10 to 12 sets of one exercise. As a result, changing up exercises that hit similar muscles will decrease overuse potential while still significantly impacting the muscle’s strength and definition.
Dave’s Workout Secret #3 – Be innovative with your workouts. Don’t become overly concerned with performing the exact same exercises, especially during auxiliary or circuit type workouts. By training with resistance bands, I am able to change up any movement by modifying speed, direction or resistance, on the fly.
4. Avoid following the same path all the time
The body is a 3-dimensional machine. Keep that in mind when training. Let the body move through different patterns of movement during a workout. In turn, by changing direction the load can decrease without sacrificing the challenge.
Resistance bands allow you to train in multiple planes. Using an accommodating resistance you can change speed and resistance on the fly.
Dave’s Workout Secret #4 – With every strength training workout I try to take my body through all 3 planes of motion, especially rotation. Rotation is the first plane of motion lost in most joints as we age. By changing up planes, I am forced to also decrease resistance which takes compression and shear forces off my joints.
5. Use speed vs. resistance as a training variable
I know that when I bring up rep speed, I lose people because very few individuals feel they can do them. However, that is because they are looking at the advanced levels and not the beginner levels. Doing a simple chest press with increased speed and less resistance is easily done at any age. This is especially true when training with resistance bands.
Dave’s Workout Secret #5 – I work on faster reps throughout the week using a low band resistance. The goal is to be able to perform the accelerated or concentric phase of movement with good quality. As my body has aged, I have continued to implement faster rep training with low band resistance to keep my reflexes and reaction as quick a possible.
6. Recovery is OK
Recovery is OK and needs to be planned into weekly workout routines. Active recovery allows your body to use low level exercises to help muscles and joints get the nutrition needed for recovery while not causing joint or muscle exercise induced trauma.
Dave’s Workout Secret #6 – I look forward to active recovery days where I can go on a long walk to think about work, family and friends versus having to work intensely. It’s important to make recovery fun by allowing other aspects of your life to be part of your workout. Taking walks by myself, with my wife, children or friends is my go to.
7. Lifting weights is not the only option
As the body ages it needs to stay strong but lifting weights is not the only way to achieve this. Muscles are dumb. They do not know the difference between band resistance and dumbbell resistance. Using an ascending band resistance vs. a constant gravity dominated free-weight resistance from a dumbbell or kettlebell can keep the body strong using a joint-friendly training tool.
By decreasing the frequency of free weight training and substituting in resistance band strength training it decreases joint exercise induced trauma. This in turn will improve recovery, keep joints feeling good and allow you to train intensely without all the exercise induced joint pain. This also means being able to burn more calories.
Dave’s Workout Secret #7 – I focus on strength training 4 times per week, but I avoid working out with free weight resistance only. Band resistance is part of every single strength training workout and at least 1 time per week I do only strength workouts.
READ MORE: 50 Facts About Band Versatility
8. Consistency is a must
As the body ages it is difficult to take long 4 or 5 day breaks from exercising. This causes the body greater trauma upon your return. It also increases the potential for injury by decreasing muscle response time and tendon exercise tolerance.
Staying on a consistent workout routine, regardless of the level of intensity, is important to keeping the active aging body “game day ready”.
Dave’s Workout Secret #8 – Bands allow me to train anywhere, anytime at any intensity doing any movement. As a result, I never have to worry about going to a gym or having the right equipment. Resistance bands are without a doubt the most convenient and versatile piece of training equipment that allows me to never miss a workout.
Train anywhere with workouts like this
9. Perform traditional training in moderation
I strongly believe that traditional workouts are not created with fitness longevity in mind. Too much movement with traditional workouts is performed in the sagittal plane, especially when free weights are the primary training tool. As a result, following a traditional strength training program that is dominated with free weights or weight machines, is not the best way to achieve fitness longevity much less a “game day ready” body.
The perfect examples of this are sit-ups and crunches. Both are staple exercises in traditional workouts, yet these exercises have been proven to be harmful to the disk structures of the low back when done frequently. A more none traditional trunk stabilization exercise is standing or prone plank variations where the body is in weight-bearing postures.
Dave’s Workout Secret #9 – I simply do not follow traditional exercise programs. This is easy to accomplish training with Quantum Bands. The key is to trust resistance band training and continue to implement it more and more into your workouts. After 4 weeks you will see the difference in how you feel and move throughout the day.
Why bands don’t beat my joints up
10. Develop a “Game Day Ready” mindset
Training to be athletic does not mean you have to play on Sunday or do dangerous exercises. To me being athletic is working on the things that make an athlete an athlete — things like flexibility, balance, coordination, quickness, reaction, core stability, power, metabolic conditioning and of course strength.
As we age there is too much emphasis placed on free weight strength training, which overtime breaks down an active aging body. Developing a “game day ready” mindset means working out with the goal being to move with good range of motion, age related strength, age related speed, balance and agility while keeping joints feeling good.
Dave’s Workout Secret #10 – I don’t focus on how much weight I can lift. I focus on effort and speed of movement while being able to perform unlimited types of exercises and making sure every workout is just a little different.
Want More? Here is a 28 Day “Game Day Ready” Training Program designed to safely help active aging bodies stay looking, feeling, and moving athletically.