BodyWorks: Just Get Fit.

Some people say that you can use the power of the mind to lose weight. Is this possible?

I guess that it might be smarter than some people think, anyway

Of course it is.

As long as that power of thought is shrewdly accompanied by action (exercise, altering diet and modifying other lifestyle choices), I think that thinking that one can loose weight by using the power of mind is a reasonable proposition.

However, if your intention is to sit crossed-legged and focus the secret fat burning mechanisms of your mind to produce all-powerful, laser like, fat-burning vibes directed at fat cells that are subsequently expected to magically vanish or melt away like hot candle wax, well…

You may be a little disappointed.

Just like I often am…

…whenever I try firing up those amazing psychic abilities of mine with the aim of launching myself into outer space and floating quickly and blissfully over to Alpha Centauri for the weekend.

Do heavy weights with low reps build as much muscle as lower weights with higher reps?

What is the truth and why is it often so hard to find?

The answer is that it depends.

The problem is that no one wants to hear that it depends.

Because it depends is not an answer that the average person is looking for; it is a type of answer that is commonly referred to as a non sequitur. A non sequitur may be a non sequitur because it doesn’t appear to make much sense, this is the standard case. But it may also be that the answer (or perhaps even the nature of the question itself) has been misapprehended, is not actually a non sequitur at all, only appears to be one.

If the above statement seems a little muddled or confusing, Knowing Yourself will come in very handy here. By knowing ourselves, all things will become crystal. This sort of knowledge tends to calm things down, making crooked paths more straightforward and thus this sort of answer easier for us to handle.

Mirror, mirror on the wall what are genetics, after all?

And for our purposes, here today, knowing yourself means the following:

  1. Being familiar with your genetics, perhaps through some good quality genetic testing in the past.
  2. Having spent some quality time in the gym and owning a relatively long and/or intense history of lifting weights, you have a reasonably solid feel for what works and what doesn’t.
  3. Both of the above.

As you are here on Quora asking this question, we may assume that nothing in this list applies to you.

He sounds like an expert, let’s ask him!

Let us imagine that we have recently been on the Internet. We have found that on the .Net people are in the habit of saying all sorts of silly, unbelievable, idiotic and less often, reasonable and sensible things.

Sometimes these things turn out to be true, but more often they turn out not to be, even if they should appear at first blush sensible and reasonable.

Let us imagine further that we have come across two guys arguing in a forum and decide to listen in an attempt to get the sense of it:

.Net Expert Guru (A) is telling us one thing, while .Net Expert Guru (B) says that (A)’s idiotic method won’t work at all. (A) gets upset, doesn’t know WTF (B) is talking about, is a complete dolt and that the opposite is obviously true.

Who’s full of sh*t and who are we to believe?

  • Maybe neither
  • Maybe (A)
  • Maybe (B)
  • Maybe both.

Let’s go a bit further and suppose both (A) & (B) are are sincere in their belief that each is right and their counterpart is dead wrong. Let us assume additionally that in fact both have strong expertise and deep knowledge on the topic which interests us and that both are being as honest as they know how to be and are telling us, at least what they believe, to be true.

Here is what (A) says:

High volume training works! For large muscle groups you do 20 sets minimum, 20 reps minimum per set. Smaller muscle groups get less sets, while still maintaining a high rep scheme.. Train with a fast training tempo, little rest between sets. You want beef? This is where you find it!

Here’s (B)’s POV:

Just lift heavy, man! Heavy works! Lifting slow & heavy, you get strong and the stronger you get, the heavier you can lift. You need a good rest between sets, so you are ready for the next one! The more weight you lift, the bigger you get! Any fool can get that!

Different individuals contain different genes. These genes code for various proteins and these proteins allow, help or hinder our sometimes multifaceted responses to stimuli.

Here is a simple example. The stimuli are identified here as dumbbells and barbells, in other cases we may use different stimuli as our tools:

  • The First Group: Some of us will lift heavy weights, 4–8 reps and get big and strong.
  • The Second Group: Others will try to lift heavy weights and they won’t get either big or strong. If these unfortunates are very unlucky, they may also get injured;
  • The Third Group: this group will lift lighter weights more intensely, not so heavy, but in a high volume scenario. They will get nice and muscular, maybe not get as strong as the first group, but appreciably stronger than the second group…

The above example is ridiculously simple, perhaps a little too simple. I could go on and on without shedding any more light on this question, but the idea that I am attempting to get across hopefully shines through.

What it all comes down to basically what it has always come down to:

One man’s meat, is another man’s poison.

The right way to train? It’s the way that works, the one that produces the best results.

In order to determine what works, you need to find out, one way or another, by trial & error, by hook or by crook, by design or chance or luck…

…what actually does, ipso facto, work.

So, you learn it as man has always learned it:

The hard way.

Sometimes figuring out just how to get muscle is as difficult as turning lead into gold.

Can you get fit and muscular at 45?

Ok, ok you’re kidding, right?

No wait! You really can’t be serious, can you?

I am just going to assume that this question is being asked by someone who is for real, has not spent much time in a gym or had much previous athletic experience …of any sort and is asking this question from a position of genuine doubt.

The reason that I am assuming this is logical, a person who has spent any appreciable time in a gym would have seen a lot of guys (and gals) over 45 years old. Some way, way over, sporting plenty of musculature.

Yes, perhaps for someone who has not spent much time around gyms and older athletes, the answer to the question would not seem so obvious.

So, allow me to me to kneel down, raise my right hand toward the heavens, do some testifying and rephrase this question in a more relevant form:

Is it possible to build muscle when you are 45 years old, even if you have never touched a weight or found yourself within shouting distance of a gym?

Yes, sure. Of course it is. Don’t be silly.

However, it’s a bit like learning any other skill when you are 45+y; there will be a great deal of reaching outside your comfort zone, hard work and perhaps a little humiliation involved.

Don’t whinge, whine, moan or bitch about this. Just put these discomforts down to the cost of doing business and get on with it.

I’ve recently answered a fairly similar question here not long ago. It was asked by someone who was 60+y and worried about getting fit. Listen to me, doing so at 45 is going to be a damn site easier (let me tell you). It will present less of a problem and be less of a of an issue than it will 15 years hence, believe you me.

I am going to include some of the same photos in this blog that were used in the previous one. I’ve also perused my backlog questions. And you know what? Training, age and being fit seem to be on a lot of people’s minds these days. Good. They should be.

My answer may at first appear a little harsh and more blunt than it was with the other related question. It is meant to be. Come on! You are 15 (or more) years younger!

Greece 2013. Age 55y.

2014. In my office at BodyWorks. Age 56y.

2015 Morro Bay. Age 57.

…and so on and so forth. And all this from a guy who has a lot of spare hardware installed in various key-locations of his anatomy (I won’t bore you with ugly photos of these items, unless there is a call for it).

2016. Explaining the benefits of LandMine Squats for people with back injuries at BodyWorks, my gym in Guernsey. Age 58y.

If we take a sharper blade and slice a little deeper, we can do a bit more damage to this question, as it is an important one. Simple questions often are.

Should I be swayed by other people’s and society-at-large’s opinion of when the right time is to throw up my hands, say I quit and forever become a skinny, pencil-necked non-person with no future prospects, with a chance estimate for any further progress and happiness in life being between nil and none, until such a time as I shall pass away without even so much as a squeak?

Why let someone else throw you away?

Why waste limited and precious time asking pathetic questions like these of anyone other than yourself?

Do you really need my or anyone else’s permission? Our unvetted and untested advice on a matter of such import concerning your own flesh and your everlasting soul? Why entrust your fate to the careless hands of strangers? Why are you worth so little and their opinion so much?

Why indulge yourself in the dubious luxuries of timidity and self doubt in the face of two stubbornly malicious adversaries like Age & Decay?

Undoubtably, one day they will get you. Creep up on you and wham! But as long as you are vigilant, it won’t be today and probably not tomorrow and when they do come, they’ll have to be cunning, sly and ambush you from behind.

A warrior’s prime duty is to ensure his spirit remains unbroken.

Just go out, train hard and get some muscles.

And that, brothers & sisters, is what I’m sayin’.

Ojai, 2014. Age 56y

*NOTE*

As has been pointed out, the assumption here was that we are starting with a novice. The more interesting and difficult problem of getting more muscle onto an already healthy, fit and experienced individual would be an entirely different question.

What type of insect will be best (easiest to raise and most nutritious) to boost my protein intake.

Hmm, erm, well…let’s see. I am going to have to check on that for you, as to be honest, I’ve always preferred whey protein, myself.

However, the beautiful thing about this job is that I get to investigate and report back on all manner of interesting health and fitness related topics.

It appears that cockroaches are going to be your creature of choice.

ROACHES: THE FACTS

SizeMoisture
(%)
Protein
(%)
Fat
(%)
Ash
(%)
Fiber
(%)
Calcium
(mg/kg)
Phosphorus
(mg/kg)
Small71.521.46.11.32.67002600
XL65.623.47.21.22.98002600
Yes, I said cockroaches…remember, you asked.

Cockroach farming is actually a booming industry in many far eastern countries, especially China.

Personally, I always seek out local open air markets when I travel. It’s part of the fun.

The health and taste aspects of this particular food source are dependent on your cultivation techniques and the relevant hygiene measures practiced.

So, although it may be convenient, you don’t want to hunt down and capture those nasty little buggers living in the cracks around the toilet bowl or scurrying away down the drainpipes of your sink when you switch on the light in the kitchen on your way to midnight snack time.

Good things come in little packages?

Apparently, the little brown critters are very tender & delicious, as long as you raise them properly. Ensure that you wean them on organic vegetarian cuisine-fruits, nuts, veggies and the like. They are, as we all know, what they eat.

Cockroach milk is delicious, nutritious and rather thirst quenching on those long, hot summer days when you tire of the same old peach iced-lattes.

Here’s a handy little info-video, should your curiosity be sparked and the motivation now be present to give it a try yourself.

How to prepare a cockroach

Anyone fancy a roach kebab after the pub?

I’m 60+. People my age are already checking into old age homes. Can I still be fit? How fit?

Outside the gym. Trying to show a tractor tyre who’s boss.
Guernsey circa 2012 (54y)

It all depends. What’s your pleasure? Are you the leader of yourself, or will you be of the majority who will be led?

Nature wants to write you off. On the other hand,  you may have alternate plans.

Personally, I do. Being a rather stubborn individual, I don’t hold myself responsible for the years piling up. After all, I didn’t make the rules…I just do my best to dodge ’em & survive.

Santorini 2013 (55y)

I include photos here, not because I think that they’re anything special. Not because I am a particularly self-obsessed and selfish individual, although I probably am. But because they may offer a reasonable answer to your question. They also give a kind of chronological testament to my battle with Decrepitude & Time.

People look at me, listen to me and inevitably come back with it’s just a number. Yeah, I agree. It is. Too bad 61 is such a bloody big number.

A couple of weeks into Keto. (56y)
A few more weeks into keto, about 6 weeks in total. (56y)

4 or 5 years ago I got interested in Ketogenic dieting, wondered to myself whether I still had it…and if not, could I get it back?

So, I took a bet.

Drop down to 10% BF.

I won that bet and dropped it to 8.1% (DEXA SCAN, see the story elsewhere in my content, if interested).

Morro Bay. Late June 2014. (56y)
Just a week now back on Carbohydrates. Body Fat 8.1%.

No, I don’t dye my hair, I just shave my head. No facelifts for me, if you’re going to be ugly. Be butt ugly. I don’t indulge myself in mid-life crises, it’s too late. No, I don’t feel like I’m 20. I feel like I’m something else, entirely.

Ojai 2015 (57y).
Boy, that ’64 T-Bird had class.

I’m giving it another try now. About a week into ketosis. I’ve got a big surgery coming up in a month or so. It’s going to be quite a cut and I’ll be out flat on back back for a while. I won’t like that much.

Universal Studios, LA 2016 (58y)

I’m kinda curious and want to see what I can do before the chop job.

I’ll get back to you when I find out.

Back in the office. BodyWorks 2017 (59y)
Training like it matters.
Bodyworks 2018 (60y)

What are some tips to safely increase weight when you lift (without risk of injury)?

Just think of it as a little like physiological zen.

Outwardly:

  • Always be aware of yourself, your position in your surroundings and how your body is interacting with those surroundings.
  • Injury, his name is Murphy and has a law named after him, is always lurking about in the shadows, awaiting an opportunity. No matter how much the other guy on the bench press next to you is lifting, no matter how good an ass that girl on the stepper has…distractions may not often kill in the gym, but they certainly put you out of action for a while.
  • If you actively seek to integrate the required discipline into your training and patiently push yourself toward your goal, sometimes in small incremental increases, sometimes in surprisingly big jumps, you’ll get it.

Inwardly:

  • Fear and hunger always heighten one’s perceptions. Cultivate the fear of being injured and train hungry.
  • Focus. Do not allow distractions. Mobile technology, no matter how sophisticated and cool, never helped anyone lift a damned thing. Messages from a loved one or your smoking hot Tinder date can wait.
  • Practice neuromuscular conditioning, it sharpens your training to a knife-like edge. Feel the movement in all its variegated aspects, in all its tortuous detail. If you ain’t feelin’ it, you ain’t gettin’ it.
  • Always keep the short (the work at hand) and the long (your ultimate goals) of your training close and do not let the ups & downs of existence, the negativity all around you, shake your intention.

Discipline is doing it when you are not feeling it until you feel it and then taking it to the point that if you do one more rep, you don’t feel it, you lose it.

Don’t lose it, do not loosen the grip of your intention, keep that goal in tight, tight focus.

People who have discipline, require it.

End of Sermon from the Pulpit of the Church of the Pumping Iron.

Why does pre-workout make my face itch?

Well, first of all, the manufacturers want to ensure that you feel their product so as to assume that your money has been well spent.

That tingling sensation, often along with itchy skin and a little stuffiness, kicks off a minor immune system alert. Its pro-inflammatory. Similar to getting stung by a bee, having a pint-sized allergic reaction of any sort, drinking some sake, taking a stiff shot of unadulterated wheatgrass juice, or in my case, taking a walk through a field of ragweed.

This histamine reaction is brought about by a few of the ingredients that most manufacturers will often include in their products:

  • Niacin (not niacinamide)
  • Beta-Alanine
  • Cayenne
  • Nitrate
  • and possibly a few others.

While in small, measured amounts histamine reactions can be energising, even pleasurable…less is usually more.

Too much of a good thing might not really be what you’re looking for.

Back In The Day: 1975 Mr. O. Arnold vs. Louie vs. Serge Nubret. Was Arnold the best?

The 1975 Mr. O & Pumping Iron

Well, Arnold thought so.

He had the knack to make quite a few people believe it, too.

Who are we to argue?

But, as far as pure bodybuilding aesthetics go, was he the best?

No, or at least, not exclusively.

He was just the best known.

Then, neither was he the best actor, or even a very good one. Nor the best governor, he didn’t have to be. Because he was the best and most popular bodybuilder/actor/writer/governor out there.

The only other one of this breed that I can think of who even comes close is Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

Arnold said it first, he wasn’t a writer, he was an author. He wasn’t an actor…he was a star. And he was right.

But see, the enigmatic and world consuming Arnold was also a highly skilled magician and always, always had this incredible ability to disarm, charm, beguile, manipulate and hoodwink in such a captivating way that even though you were aware of all of this, it didn’t matter. You just wanted to be on his side, ride in his posse.

I’ve always marvelled at this incredible ability. Perhaps it is not too over the top to speculate that Alexander The Great, Caesar, Napoleon & Gengis Khan probably had something along these lines.

For some reason, I find his gifts relevant to a chilling feeling I got once while listening to a fighter interviewed after he’d been knocked out in the 1st round in a fight with Mike Tyson.

It went something like this:

I been hit before, been hit lots of times, never rocked. Never rocked like that before, never hit like that man hit…and after the count and I woke up, I wasn’t unhappy.

I thought that if I was gonna get beat, to get beat like that.

———————————————————————————————————

Arnold’s prediction was that the whole world would be on a first name basis with him one day. Damned, if we aren’t. Nobody can say I told you so” as well as the man himself can.

But look, he certainly wasn’t the same world renown power broker and cultural icon way back in the day that we all are so familiar with today. He certainly could be considered first amongst peers, but not necessarily the best.

To most of the general public, he has always been Arnold the Great. Arnold THE WINNER. There is a relatively simple reason that nobody remembers Arnold when he wasn’t great, most of the general public is under 40 years old.

Arnold had achieved some notoriety in the Bodybuilding world, made some money, owned a few prime pieces of Santa Monica Real Estate, but at the time, in fact, for quite a period of time, Pee Wee Herman was more famous. Even after the release of Pumping Iron, a movie that convinced the non-bodybuilding public that “Arnold was king” in the court of bodybuilding, Arnold was far from the arc of his present star status.

Arnold actually hadn’t done much more in Hollywood yet than bang a few hot starlets. He hadn’t yet even landed his first cringeworthy Streets of SF role, playing a rather unbelievable psycho-bodybuilding-killer muscle creep that you will be rather hard put to find anywhere on the net today (let alone the I Love Lucy episode, where Arnold the masseur-dreamboat makes his first house call on a fumbling, sex-starved, incredulous,, middle-aged redhead.

How about Hercules In New York? Anyone who has managed to sit through this thing and ‘enjoy‘ it unstoned can tell you, the key to Arnold’s later skyrocket-to-stardom is not immediately to be found anywhere nearby. Undoubtably, it is there, somewhere…but seems to have been lost, deep within the celluloid of this truly astonishing work of cinematic silliness.

way back then, nobody on earth had even a minutest clue then that Arnold, by the time that his success as a bodybuilder had taken a back seat to everything else that has since made him a public figure, was to become one of the most well known stars in Hollywood history? Except perhaps arnold. I didn’t. And even then, I was an Arnold No. 1 fanboy.

In 1975, the thought of Arnold Swartzennegger’s position on the world stage next to Mohamed Ali, Jesus, The Beatles and Donald Trump would’ve flabbergasted and made any Hollywood talent agent roll over laughing. The Vegas Bookies would have given it 300-to-1 long-shot against it.

Geez, no one could even pronounce the guy’s last name (he did go around for awhile as Arnold Strong , but only used this nom de plume for a short while before figuring out it was likely to have an even more ridiculous flavour than the original), let alone consider the likeliness that he would now be president, if only he had been born in the USA.

Nothing succeeds like success and Arnold certainly proves this rule, better than it has been proved by anybody else in history.

Now, let us continue with the Arnold back then, the charismatic, young, not-very-famous, thick-Austrian-accented muscle-head.

The deal with Arnold for Pumping Ironwas that he, and only he, was going to be the chief protagonist and Hero Of The Day. Louie Ferrigno could be nothing more threatening than a dim, hardworking, but ultimately dull, not very bright, shadow of The King; a dark introvert, doomed-to-failure as his nemesis. Big Lou never had a chance against the older, more experienced, more charismatic and extroverted Arnold. He was just there for one reason only: to serve as the great man’s foil.

But Serge Nubret was a deep threat to the Austrian Oak’s early & easy dominance. The film was carefully edited to give minimum space & publicity to this obvious and fundamental fact. Pumping Iron had been carefully, so very carefully tailored to be a platform for Arnold to launch himself towards the stars with.

Arnold was, even then, master of his political game and Nubret?

Nubret just wasn’t. Not even let out of the starting gate when Arnold was already around the first lap. Too bad. Pumping Iron was good, but it could have been better and much more interesting.

All he was, this mysterious Parisian bodybuilder, was this great big, elegantly cut, hard-as-nails, classy French speaking rival whose nom de guerre was “The Black Panther” because he always moved with the stealthy grace and power of a big cat.

There was just no way this ripped and debonair black bodybuilder was going to be allowed to steal The Austrian Oak’s lampshade!

As a skinny young gym geek, just starting out in bodybuilding, I can still recall briefly having met this man at Gold’s circa 1976. Nubret had an enormous amount of personal presence and charisma; more than anyone else that I have come across before or since. So much so, that still, after more than 40 years, I can vividly recall this effect and write it down here.

But then, I was never fortunate enough to meet Arnold personally and can’t do a real comparison from personal experience, can I?

So, I suppose that the point is going to remain a moot one.

And I, like you, am just going to have to be satisfied with a myth.

Back in the day. (L to R) Franco, Serge, Sergio, Arnold, Zane. Sorry, but Nubret gets my vote for numero uno on this roster.

Why does a super hot bath make my heart race?

If this baby can’t take the heat. It should just get out of the bath.

You know what?

I’ve never been asked this question before, but I’ll do my best to try to answer it. Hopefully, this answer will be what you’re looking for.

The physiological term Homeostasis applies here. This same concept also applies to stepping into a bath filled with ice water (but most of the actions and effects would then be in the opposite direction).

Lots of interesting things happen when you slide into that piping hot tub. For our purposes, the relevant effects are:

  1. Core temperature rises and the body has to do something about that. It expands blood vessels and pushes more blood close to the skin to dissipate heat. Your heart rate goes up in order to pump more blood to get rid of the extra heat.
  2. Peripheral vasodilatation reduces the pressure of the vascular system because the “pipes” are increasing in diameter, blood pressure drops. The heart attempts to pump more blood in order to maintain an adequate blood pressure.
  3. Pain stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Scalding hotness causes most people at least some discomfort. Pain signals the hypothalamus and pituitary to release adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) which stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenalin with subsequent elevation of your pulse rate.
Making your bath either as hot or cold as you can stand it holds some healthy benefits…but turning the temp too high or low may lead to surprisingly dire consequences .

I want to train mainly for strength and power. But I also want to increase the size of my arms, forearms, calves & neck. Is this possible?

The answer to this question is a ‘yes’, but a canny ‘yes’. It can certainly be done and a few good and talented bodybuilders have pulled it off very successfully.

Although, it may be a little more difficult and require a little more tinkering about with than just prioritising either goal alone. The combination never worked particularly well for me, my genetics were less useful in strength activities, I kept getting injured whenever I went very heavy. My genes were geared up a little better as far as bodybuilding was concerned.

Here’s one of the guy’s who combined powerlifting and bodybuilding pretty successfully.

How well it can be done by a particular individual will rely heavily on number of factors & characteristics that vary with each (genetics, lifestyle, experience, age, health status, nutrition, training strategy, sleep cycles, etc., etc.).

The extremity muscle groups that you have indicated as of interest should lend themselves to a relatively straight forward approach for your projected goals.

Big Ron was strong and had pretty good muscular extremities to boot!

If this were my project (or one of my client’s) I would tend to aim a controlled high volume training strategy at the aforementioned muscle groups while keeping to a heavier weight, lower volume strategy to work towards my strength requirements.