Learning from Masters-Level Bodybuilders
Resistance training – the use of free weights and other resistance equipment – provides the single best and most important form of exercise for just about anyone. No other activity will provide the overall benefit of dramatically improved muscle size, muscle strength, tendon strength, joint strength and stability, and the additional benefit of increased bone density (stronger bones less susceptible to breaks, fractures, and osteoporosis). So who knows the most about this? Traditional bodybuilders, that’s who.
An unfortunate aspect of resistance training is that an incredibly small minority chooses to use illegal steroids as an artificial means to get ahead in competitive bodybuilding, and it’s just as unfortunate that these people get a majority of the sport’s publicity, it shouldn’t be that way but it is. Don’t let that taint you toward lifting in any way, shape, or form. Resistance training and proper diet provides your path toward a better life, and it’s especially important for women to understand that instead of “looking like that”, you can in fact achieve the most beautifully feminine physique of your life, even after 50!
So what do we have to learn from masters-level bodybuilders? A lot, but the following are key takeaways of most importance to us:
1) Proper form
2) Mixing in heavy lifting
3) Muscle rest and recovery
4) Proper diet and nutrition
So let’s talk a little bit about each one.
Two key aspects of proper form to grab hold of: 1) muscle and muscle group targeting, and 2) injury prevention.
Lifting in its simplest form is a systematic means to target and to develop our muscles. As we touched on earlier in the book, proper muscle balance is important to our overall functionality, so we use proper form to ensure we deliberately target, hit, and develop specific muscles and muscle groups. This is important, because over many decades bodybuilders have helped us to understand what exercises, when done properly, will best develop certain muscular areas. So if we do the prescribed exercises and do them correctly, we’re assured of developing a balanced muscular system.
Mixing in Heavy Lifting
Our bodies respond the environment they’re placed in. Bodybuilders have proven over time, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that in order to make our muscles grow we have to regularly increase the load they’re placed under. But relax; this comes in time after several months of lighter loads that prepare your muscular system for more strenuous stuff. You’ll tend to know when your body’s ready for this. And to be sure, most lifting routines call for oscillating back and forth between lighter loads with high repetitions and heavier loads with lower repetitions to provide rest and variety. But know this: ya gotta do the heavier stuff to grow and to get stronger.
Muscle Rest and Recovery
Here’s an important concept that masters bodybuilders have taught us: our muscles grow after the workout, not during the workout. I’ve known people who got all gung-ho about working out and thought the more hours they put into the gym the better off they’d be. Totally not true. Our bodies and our muscular systems do best when they have a ample amount of rest between workouts. These folks would hit the gym 6-7 days a week for two hours a day, and while I’ve got to commend them for getting after it, this is in fact counter-productive for two key reasons.
First, our muscles go through a repair and rebuilding process after a solid workout, and this can take 2-4 days to fully complete. Second, the whole idea is to come back to each workout stronger than before so we can push to higher levels than before. If we hit a muscle or muscle group before it’s had ample time to rest and repair, we can’t push as hard and will just kind of plateau. Then frustration sets in because gains become almost impossible. By letting the target muscles rest for several days, they can fully repair, rebuild, and refresh and come to the next workout charged and ready to get after it. More rest is better, remember that.
Proper Diet and Nutrition
Although we cover this more later, it’s important to acknowledge what the bodybuilding community has done in helping us understand proper diet and nutrition. If you haven’t been exposed much to the bodybuilding community this may seem a bit counter intuitive, right? The natural assumption is that, to gain muscle mass bodybuilders just eat everything in sight. This couldn’t be further from reality. Fact is, bodybuilders have for a long time been on the leading edge of understanding, developing, and practicing the very best dietary regimens of any athletic community.
It may come as a surprise, but “bodybuilding” is about half what you do in the gym and about half what you do with your diet. Bodybuilders have a saying “great bodies are made in the kitchen” and it’s absolutely true. As a masters athlete, f you want to look and feel your best, the gym alone won’t get it done, you’ve got to change your entire approach to what you put into your body, so thank masters bodybuilders for laying the trail!