Want to keep kicking ass in your 40’s and beyond? Then you have to add this training modality to your workouts right now!
After 40, Just Give Up!
After a man turns 40, his muscles begin to atrophy, his strength wanes and weakens, and his belly grows to resemble a tortoise shell. And women over 40, well, they just wilt like old banana peels. They even have to start buying "one piece mommy swimsuits" at JC Penny, complete with butt-hiding ruffles.
At least that's what a lot of people seem to think.
As a hard-line fan do-it-yourself and of Fail, Rense, Repeat, you already know those people are full of shit. Heck, with all we know now about training, nutrition, and supplementation, your 40’s and 50’s might just be your best years.
But there is something that takes a Kamikaze dive in your middle years. After the age of 40 or so, even physically fit men and women start to lose their ability to produce power. And power, not strength, may be a strong catalyst and key to longevity.
What is Power Exactly?
Power is your ability to produce force and velocity. Moving weight fast – be that a barbell or your own bodyweight – recruits a lot of motor units. While strength and power overlap in many ways, power is the rebar in the concrete foundation of athleticism.
In the gym, you can get more powerful by doing Olympic-lifting variations; torpedo'ing medicine balls; performing jump squats, power skips, or depth jumps; and swinging a kettlebell like you're mad at it.
Generally, you use lower loads, but try to move those loads with speed and ferocity. Acceleration is key.
Outside the gym, sprinting up a set of stairs relies more on power than strength. "Functional strength" is all the rage, but functional power may be even more important.
When it comes to launching people who are already ridiculously strong into a higher stratosphere of performance, Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell is the master. And his masterpiece is the Conjugate Training Method—also commonly referred to as the Westside Barbell Method or just "Westside." No matter what you call it, it's the benchmark for everyone in the business of making people powerful and strong.
Louie Simmons’s take on the relationships between force and velocity and the basic strength-training methods that generate high levels of speed and explosiveness:
I'm a speed/strength expert. It's all about speed. If you're fast, I can make you strong. I believe in working within the relationships between force and velocity, and you have to train at 60% of your one-rep maximum to do that. If you work heavier than 60%, the bar will move too slowly to build maximum force. We do not use any machines because they don't accommodate resistance correctly. We also include stretch bands and chains attached to the bars.
So what does power have to do with living longer? Let's ask Mr. Science.
Researchers gathered up 3,878 men and women between 41 and 85. This age range was chosen because power starts to diminish after 40. All the participants took a power test, this one involving the upright row. (Maybe not the best exercise choice, but easy enough for non-meatheads to learn.)
Then the scientists just sat around for several years. They caught up on Grey's Anatomy and did some fly fishing. After seven years, they tracked down the study participants to see who died, which must've been awkward.
In a nutshell, those folks who displayed above-average muscle power in the original test outlived those with below-average muscle power.
But those study participants who scored a little below average on the power test were up to five times more likely to suffer an early death. Those who scored WAY BELOW average on the power test were 10-13 times more likely to be chilling out in a coffin or a lovely urn.
Researchers concluded that power is strongly related to all-cause mortality.
How to Use This Info
No, you don't have to give up your strength or hypertrophy training and become an Olympic weightlifter, a full-time crossfitter, or a plyo-obsessed skinny guy.
The researchers noted that becoming super-duper powerful doesn't seem to extend your life any further than simply becoming more powerful than the average Joe or Jane. Just shoot for above-average or mediocre powerful.
In the gym, add some power training to what you're already doing. Try power dominant movements like heavy squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and power cleans (I like the easy-to-learn box squat advocated by Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell), or center training around strongman style press, pull, push, pull, lift and load variations (e.g., log, axle, sled, farmer’s handles, sandbag, stone, etc.). Throw some medballs or tire throws, try to accelerate a lighter bar quickly using the core lifts, and toss in some plyometric training that incorporates push-ups, dips, jumps, skips, and sprints.
Then tell those people that think life is over after 40 to suck it.
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