40-year-old Gym Vet, and I'm Totally Lost

Hey guys,

I’d just like to thank you all in advance for any help/advice you could give. This is my first post, so I apologize if this is in the wrong forum. If it is, let me know and I will post it in the correct place.

I’m a 40 year-old guy that’s been regularly going to the gym since I was 15, and while you might think that’s plenty of time to get all of this sorted out, it seems like the more I read or try to learn, the more confused I get. Over the years I’ve been through just about every physique type, from very lean to very strong for my size (I’m 5’6, 160 currently), and I remember the days when I was playing with the dumbbells that stayed in the exact same place I left them last. I was an ox, but those days are long gone. Just like drinking, I can’t do it like I used to.

Since the beginning, I used the bro split for many years; back, chest, legs, arms, & shoulders all got their own days with roughly 4 sets of 4 exercises per bodypart, and virtually every set was taken to near absolute failure, which is what I ignorantly thought you were supposed to do. These days that would kill me, so now I try to apply 1-2 RIR on every set in what is an asynchronous PPL split that looks something like this:

Monday: Pull
Tuesday: Push
Wednesday: Legs
Thursday: Rest
Wash, rinse, repeat.

Pull days: 3 sets of one pull up/down movement, 3 sets of one vertical pulling movement, 2 sets DB pullover or straight-arm lat pulldown movement, 2 sets trap exercise variant, 2 sets rear delt movement, 2 exercises @ 3 sets each for biceps (typically a hammer/neutral grip variant along with regular grip)

Push days: Same principle; one exercise for upper chest @ 3 sets, one for mid/lower chest @ 3 sets, 2 shoulder exercises @ 3 sets each (vertical press or front delt movement, then a lateral delt movement), followed by 2 tricep exercises @ 3 sets each (overhead movement, then either a pressdown or close-grip pressing movement).

Legs: 3 sets squats/leg press, 3 sets lunge movement, 3 sets hamstring movement, 3 sets standing calf movement, 3 sets sitting calf movement.

I’ve recently added a hex bar to my home gym, and I was looking to incorporating some deadlifts, farmer carries, etc into my workouts, but I have no idea on how to incorporate these awesome lifts into my routine. For some reason, I have this idea that there is a very fine line (or sweet spot) between overtraining and undertraining, and I was hoping some of you might have a little advice. For example, what, if anything, should be eliminated from my routine by incorporating these lifts? Sure, I could just add them to my routine (say, back day?), but I’m worried that it might just destroy my ability to recover. Just FYI, I’m not talking about going super heavy on the deadlifts…something in the 8-12 rep range. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated!

Any time a question like this comes up, the first thing that needs to be answered is “what is your training goal?” Without that, there’s no way to determine the path.


^^ 100%

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Your Pull day has Pull Up, Vertical Pulls and Pullovers. Those are mostly the same. Basically, redundant vertical pulling, 3 lifts where you pull your elbows to your ribs, or “triple lats.”

Cut out 2 of those and add deadlifts to your pull day and see how it goes.


In addition to the advice above:

For what it’s worth, if you haven’t I would recommend getting blood panels done to see where your hormone levels are at.

While addressing hormone issues doesn’t make you invincible, it can restore feelings and quality of life that may have crept away without you noticing.

I continue to run into people who find and fix hormone issues, which ends up changing their lives dramatically. Yours truly included.

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Thanks, man! My goals are for size and definition…not necessarily trying to win the Mr. Olympia, but trying to maximize my gains.

Where are you now? Not enough size, not lean enough, etc? What’s not trending the right way? How do you feel?

Those are very much opposing goals. The pursuit of leanness is a pursuit of getting smaller, whereas size is…well, getting bigger.

For THIS training block: what is your goal?

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Appreciate the feedback, man…I’ve always tried to go by the principle of trying to balance exercises for back width (pull-ups, pull-downs, pull-overs, etc.) with exercises for back thickness (vertical rows, etc). One pull-down (or pull-up), one row, with a couple sets of pull-overs sprinkled on top. I guess my problem is not really knowing to what extent deadlifts work the lats/rear delts, or if it’s sufficient enough to eliminate two back isolation exercises. If it is, I’m definitely down to try.

Thanks again!

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Physique-wise, I’m in a fairly decent place right now, but I definitely want more size. I made decent progress with Christian Thibaudeau’s “Best Damn Workout For Natty Lifters”, but that was very short-lived. It was push-pull for the whole body with 1 rest day/week, and I burned out so hard I felt like I had the flu all the time. Ate like a horse and slept like a rock, but I think my intensity was way too high for such an aggressive split.

For the last 4 months I’ve been on my earlier-mentioned PPL split and have made good progress, but I don’t feel that it’s as good as it can get. I’ve added a few pounds of lean weight, but my problem is that being lean is my baseline, so gaining size is exceptionally tough…not saying it’s easy for anyone else, but I’ve always struggled with it. Diet is solid, with at least 1g/lb protein/day, adequate carbs & fats, and good supplementation.

I’ve always neglected deadlifts, but the wiser I’ve become, I’ve started to appreciate its value. At the same time I know it is an INCREDIBLY demanding exercise, so I want to make sure I don’t burn out again. Make sense?

You’ve just gotten some of the best lifters on this site to reply. Though not in that category, I’ll reply as well. You know your way around a gym. Work every body part 2 times a week, go for volume over excessively heavy weights, and watch your diet. If your blood tests indicate “low t” start testosterone replacement theraphy. That will change your outlook as well as your body, just not overnight.


Thanks man, I realized after I posted that they are indeed contradictory concepts. I’m looking to increase size.

Thanks, dude! I know these guys are legit, and their feedback (and yours) is very much appreciated. Like I said, I thought I knew my way around a gym, but the more I read, the more confused I make myself. I just want to make sure that I make the most of my time hitting the weights.

Thanks again, and I’ll apply what you and everyone here has recommended!

Knowing this, I’d consider employing an “events day” on one of your rest days each cycle, and use this as an opportunity to do the deadlifts and farmer’s walks. Jim Wendler had a “viking day” idea that worked like this


Dude, that is an absolutely badass idea…I will definitely incorporate this into my split!
And thank you again for taking the time to help me out!

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Hmmm… there value varies depending on what variation you implemented plus
General goals plus one’s general body structure.

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Thanks man, and I agree. This would be a hex bar deadlift (lower back issues from wrestling for 10+ years). Moving mountains of weight isn’t necessarily a priority for me these days, but I’ll happily take any strength gains I can get through progressive overload.

General goals are increasing size/overall fitness, and current body structure is 5’6" @ at a fairly muscular and lean 160 lbs…I’d be thrilled to gain another 10-15 lbs of lean mass, but I just can’t do it like I used to at an earlier age. At 24 years old, I was a 195 lb pitbull that, looking back now, was almost certainly chronically-overtrained. My goal is to reclaim as much of that glory as 40-year-old me is capable of, only training smarter than I used to.

Not to be super anti-climactic, but I’d be really hesitant to change anything if I was making progress at 40. It’s not just you, we all think the other option to some progress is better progress… but it’s usually no progress.

That said, 4 months is plenty long enough to do anything, so some change may well be in order.

If you’re not gaining size, the answer will always be to eat more. Apparently that’s difficult for some of you (jerks), which will always be insane to me! I prefer adding carbs. Do you know your total macro/ calorie counts now? I’m happy to pontificate on this, and we have an actual dietician on the site as well @QuadQueen.

I actually don’t love the deadlift for pure size goals. I do like rack pulls. Hex pulls might be awesome, but I haven’t used them enough to really say.

If what @T3hPwnisher linked seems awesome enough to answer for deads and carries, and keep you amused for now, I’ll just leave the training piece alone there! I also liked @FlatsFarmer’s point about your back volume - nothing makes me feel worse than too much back volume, so cutting back on redundancy there could go a really long way. I’d cut wayyyy back if adding Viking day in there.


Dude, thank you so much for this response. I know there’s a lot of room for improvement, which is why I came here…this site looks like the best source for information that I’ve ever come across, so I know I’ve come to the right place.

Thanks again!!

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Whatever you decide to do, take a picture of your back before you start.

That way, in a couple months you can check back and see what pieces of your back grew or shrank, and make better decision on volume moving forward.