T Nation

Accessing Muscle Memory

I�??m a 59-year-old male and a body builder for most of my life.  At my best, I weighed about 185 pounds, at 5�??5�??, with a 320 bench and 425 squat. This was when I was around 18.  I abandoned training for a number of years and, when in my 30�??s, or mid-to late 20�??s, I started training again.  Unfortunately, my size and strength remain stuck and have not moved appreciably in about 30 years.  I have never used steroids and will not do so.

Although I regained a bit, I have not been able to go beyond 155-to 165-body weight, and my poundage�??s remain stuck also. I have altered training and supplements to no avail. Around my mid-fifties I had my hormones tested for general health and they were found low. I received bio-identical hormones (in a topical cream, by prescription) from the doc for several years. But there was no difference in gains.

Recently I have been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. The counselor wants me to see if I can receive information as to whether or not that may be having an effect on my lack of gains, perhaps due to high cortisol levels. I had my cortisol level checked and the doc said they were only slightly elevated and he didn�??t think it was anything to worry about. Still, perhaps there is some effect. The lack of gains started before I ever heard of post-traumatic stress disorder or consciously experienced any effects of it. But still, perhaps it was affecting me anyway.

My own view on my �??stuckness�?? is that due to a serious training injury during my comeback, my subconscious mind is not letting me become bigger or stronger in order to keep me safe.

In any event, I am interested to see if anyone can offer any ideas on my lack of progress. If you have any thoughts of what I might be able to do in order to go forward in my training, I would really appreciate it.


Your sub concious is not letting you become bigger or stronger, to protect you?

Never heard that before. Im hopeing you didnt pay to have someone tell you that...

Just decide your going to lift more, pick squats or deadlifts because they go up fast. Put weight on those lifts weekly and you should have the confidence to know that you can get stronger in everything else.

EDIT: on I see what your saying, no that shouldnt keep you from makeing progress.


Being a shrink, I have worked with tons of PTSD patients, from abused little girls to tortured Viet Nam vets. The diagnosis gets made too frequently to anybody who has had a "traumatic experience" in life. But who hasn't? True PTSD, if you have it, causes a complete neuro-endocrine dysfunction, with severe symptoms of nightmares, flashbacks, abnormal fluctuations in temperature and pulse, hypervigilance (a paranoid sense something bad is going to happen and you need to always be "on guard"), anxiety, depression, and more.

The physiological states associated with it include hypercortisolism with excessive adrenalin, leading in time to adrenal burnout, low thyroid, low testosterone and sometimes low GH. If you've got all this, you sure are going to have a hard time putting on pure mass. PTSD is far more than a "subconscious thing", its a dysregulation of mental and physical systems. It can be helped dramatically with various forms of therapy (EMDR, tapping, group therapy for vets) and some meds (beta blockers, GABA drugs, Zoloft).

Now, HRT interestingly, if done right (read KSman posts), can actually reverse many of these physiological effects without all the shrink work. At almost 51 I am making very nice gains every month and the more I train, the more conditioning I recover, and then the harder I can train. The intensity is what really drives the progress. Looking back, I didn't train with true intensity for the past 15 years, and just kind of floated along, sort of being a quasi-strong guy.

Find the love of training you once had...that will do wonders. And Uber N3wb is RIGHT-train the squats and deadlifts hard-I had totally bought the bullshit that my doctor friends all preach..."You're too old for those and they'll ruin your joints." Hah! They are HELPING my joint problems, the strength gains in my lumbar erectors have DECREASED the pain I have from bad discs. Doc


There's no magic here. You already have all the pieces of the puzzle, the problem is deciding what picture they make.

Naturally, there is a limit to how big and strong you can be. The real question is if you've hit your natural limits or if you've merely hit the limits of your training and nutrition programs.

Since new science is emerging every month in both areas, it's pretty easy to assume that your nutrition and training probably could use some dialing in.

I think the real question is if you really are at your natural limits then what are you going to do about that?

Don't forget that as we age, what's natural is to wither away and die, so I'm not a big fan of natural, but we each have to find our own way.

I think it really boils down to quality of life and there is no question that regular training will help you maintain the best possible quality of life either with or without medical intervention.

If getting bigger and stronger is necessary for your personal quality of life, you still have choices to make. Supplements can help a little. Research chems can help more (Anastrozole lowers E even if you're not on TRT) and full blown TRT can help the most. Do what feels best for you.