Dan John is a legendary old-school coach, has brought up many famous athletes, wrote many useful books, and in his youth set the US record for power pentathlon. In this heartfelt article, the 63-year-old author passes on his accumulated wisdom to future generations.
I started lifting weights in 1965. I suppose I have the right to talk about training in junior and high school, college, first division and even small fitness stars, since I have worked and accumulated experience at all these levels.
But although I have trained and studied all my life, there is one thing that this did not prepare me for. What to do when you turn 59? Or 49? Or 39 – the specific number does not matter. Now I understand everything much better than before, when I was just a youngster, say, at 55 years old.
So how do you train as you get older?
I will say the most commonplace thing in the world: training should be age appropriate . We must work on things that increase both quality and longevity . Both are important.
One day, Dick Notmeyer , my weightlifting coach at the Pacifica Barbell Club , asked me a question. Moreover, as he often did, he did not expect an answer at all. He already had his own answer. “ What influences life expectancy the most – as a percentage? “
And he immediately began to explain that the ability to live to a hundred years is 50% determined by genetics. Everyone has probably heard of 105-year-old people smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskers . Some families simply pass it on. 40% is a way of life, exactly what we ourselves can improve. Or ditch.
And the remaining 10% is just luck. If you came out a minute later, you could get into an accident or become a millionth customer and win a prize. This is life. There is no way to pump up luck (except for the Felix Felicis potion that Harry Potter used).
The Secret to Long Life – ” Don’t Die “
Very simple advice that is difficult to understand. If to decipher, I will offer the following subparagraphs:
– Do not smoke.
– Wear a seat belt and, when appropriate, wear a helmet.
– Learn to fall and rise correctly.
– Never say, “Hold my beer” (so you can do something moronic).
Since I stopped commuting to work, the most dangerous part of my day is statistically the shower. After 55 it’s not ice cream that is more dangerous, but falling.
Of course, if your kid gets used to eating pizza and drinking beer at 20, it will affect his health at 50. But if you somehow made it to 55, now the magic of avoiding fractures is much cooler than any superfood or supplement. Do not crash in the shower, walk on the ice without falling, look twice in both directions when crossing the street – more useful than any vitamins.
So … Start fasting (well, according to your circumstances). Start walking. He also notes that coffee and red wine contribute to longevity, as well as several supplements and a couple of medications.
As always, the devil is in the details. Let’s talk about the specifics of training at different ages.
I borrowed the following age categories from Nick Ryans of FitRanx :
Group 1: 16-35 ,
Group 2: 36-55 years old,
Group 3: 56+
And here is my basic principle for training: basic human movements, performed in the right repetition range, in the right number of sets and with the right load, are the basis for maintaining and improving human performance in all areas.
What are the main movement patterns?
– carrying loads,
– the sixth – everything else: crawling, somersaulting, climbing a mountain and everything that unites you with the “world around you”.
When I train adults, I break the exercises into three categories:
Libido – to look better, to feel better (guess where this leads to?) In the gym, these are exercises for hypertrophy, different presses, deadlifts, squats that improve your figure and launch that wonderful hormonal cascade that fills you with energy. And reversing the aging process. Bodybuilding simply transforms the lives of the elderly ( As it is – a full report with reference to 60+ research looking at Zozhnike : ” Scientific review: strength training against heart disease, diabetes, cancer ” ).
I divide survival into 2 parts. Firstly, these are all sorts of movements that can stupidly save lives, for example, the ability to roll, fall and rise correctly. If, God forbid, you find yourself in an extreme situation, the ability to climb a rope can save you. Or at least hang on it for a while.
Secondly, I advise you to learn how to do the following (and be able to repeat it for as many years as you can): -
stand on one leg for 10 seconds,
– hang on the bar for 30 seconds,
– jump in length at the distance of your height (yes, in length, not in height!),
– sit down, sit for 30 seconds and get up,
– a farmer’s walk with his own weight for at least some distance,
– sit (backwards) on the ground and be able to rise, leaning on only one hand (or none!)
Prosperity – bends and different options for carrying weights. The farmer’s swing and walk work wonders in terms of developing the power and performance of the whole body. Athletes simply need them, everyone else would also be useful.
Stuart McGill , a Canadian back specialist, has excellently described how elite athletes hit, push, or hammer on the ground (or opponent): like a hammer!
Machs, weightlifting, deadlifts, jumping and uphill sprints give you just such a hammer!
But Stu also recalls another key element: stone!
If something jelly-like remains in some part of the body, then the energy will flow away in all directions. You need to completely become a Stone! Sometimes I call this the anaconda muscles, it is they who hold the body together, as a whole.
Such a Rock is built by carrying heavy sandbags, farm walks, lifting exercises, deadlifts, and something like the bicep curl at the bottom of the goblet squat.
What makes kettlebell swing so good is an exercise that combines Hammer and Stone!
Suitable workouts by age group
Group 1: 16-35 years old – mostly Prosperity.
If you are an athlete, then weightlifting, deadlift, and all kinds of carrying loads you can imagine are especially useful.
If you need to get bigger, work on “Libido” hypertrophy, if not, then just a little of this category of exercises to support basic muscle groups and mobility.
Survival? Well, you already know: do not smoke, buckle up, be able to fall correctly, DO NOT DO STUFF .
By the way, one of the nonsense is fixation on ” libidinal ” movements. No, they are also needed, but too much leads to what is called “look like Tarzan , compete like Jane.”
I would also add that it is at this age that the financial base should be laid.
Here is a list from my next book Now what ? (Did you also notice that Dan loves lists? – Zozhnika’s note ):
– Avoid loans,
– Create and maintain a reserve fund sufficient to solve minor problems,
– Save a small amount every month,
– Spend money on quality goods and services,
– Take care of your health by taking proper care of yourself and having regular medical and dental check-ups,
– Choose wisely when it comes to matters of the heart,
– Invest in education and career development (yourself and your spouses).
In the June / July 2016 issue of Alan Aragon’s newsletter, finance wizard Warren Buffett said the same:
– Leave enough money for emergencies … and opportunities,
– Buy and save,
– Fall in love with boring things (great advice for coaching too!)
– Stick to what you know well (also a base for coaches!)
Group 2. Something starts to reach you, young 35-55-year-old devils …
I looked at ice cream in the store and got fat! Yes, dry weight is starting to shrink, so both professional athletes and home athletes at this age need to pay more attention to Libido . It’s time for good old bodybuilding. Finally!
Take care of your finances. If you’re still competing, do more on Hammer and Stone.
Group 3 (55+), Survival first.
I recommend more exercises in which you lie on the floor and get up, any movements that you perform technically, as well as laugh more, reflect and enjoy companionship.
As important as musculature is for the second age group, now it is becoming a matter of life and death. Muscles are the source of eternal youth!
Make new acquaintances and strengthen existing relationships. Try new sports and new activities. Try the sport you were supposed to discover in your youth!