T Nation

Fat and Weak

I joined a gym recently, and lifted for the first time in a few years on Friday morning. I turned 40 in the Fall, and I’ve had a couple of serious injuries in the last three years, including a knee injury that had me limping for months. The last couple of years have been a bit hectic for me for other reasons I won’t bore you with, but I’ve kind of been taking stock of things lately, and realizing that I’m not really who I’d hoped to be at 40, and that I had to do something about that.

Part of that is that I’m really out of shape. I’ve lifted a bit in the past, but never seriously over a long period of time. I was naturally kind of lean and strong for someone who didn’t train when I was younger, and I kind of regret not having put in some hard work back when I was young enough for it to benefit me the most.

So I decided to join a gym and start on Rippetoe’s basic Starting Strength routine, and not mess around with it. I found the place that I’m pretty sure is the best commercial gym for weights around here. It’s still mostly machines and aerobics, but it is where the local powerlifters train. There’s a bucket of chalk in the weight room, and they have a power rack.

I’ve never lifted seriously for a long time, but I have lifted a bit in the past, so I thought I had a pretty good idea of where I ought to start out in terms of weight. So I went in on Friday morning, and started with the squat. I did a set of 5 with the bar, a set of 5 at 95, and added another 50 pounds, figuring that my last warm-up set would be at 145 and then I would do my work-sets at 155 or 165, in order to take it a bit easy in the first workout. But when I got done with the first set I realized that not only was I going to be doing my work-sets at 145, I wasn’t taking it easy. I finished 3x5 at 145, but by the last rep I knew I was going to be pretty sore the next day.

So I moved on to the bench, and made exactly the same mistake. I did a set with the bar, one at 65, and one at 85. 85 felt a lot heavier than I thought it should have, so I figured I would be conservative and do my work-sets at 95. And I couldn’t even get the last rep of the first set at 95. I had to roll the bar off myself. So I figured, OK, back off to 85 and do one more set. And I missed the last rep there too, though I did manage to get the bar onto a lower set of pins at least.

Well, I’m dumb, but at least I wasn’t dumb enough to do the same thing with the deads. I swallowed my pride and did one work-set at 115, as I was pretty tired by this point. That, at least, wasn’t so bad, though I didn’t like how low the bar was with 35s on it (I did my warm-up sets off the squat rack, as no one there at 8 in the morning looked like they were going to go near it, and I was quick about it.)

So I wobbled into the locker room to take a shower, and got on a scale for the first time in a couple of years. I knew I’d gained a bit of weight over the last year, but I didn’t realize how much. I thought I might be 190, maybe even 195, but I’m 200 pounds, which is way too much for me right now.

To add injury to insult I realized later in the day that I had pulled something toward the bottom of my ribcage on the right side. I was actually pretty worried about it then and yesterday. My quads have been sore as hell since Friday afternoon, but I expected that. This isn’t soreness- it is a sharp pain when I make certain movements. But it feels a lot better today, so I figure it isn’t very serious.

The thing that worries me about it is that I had absolutely no idea it was happening when it happened. There was no pain there at all until 5 or 6 hours after I left the gym. I’m feeling a bit humiliated by how fat and weak I’ve gotten (I knew I was fatter and weaker than I wanted to be, but I had no idea how weak I was, and was maybe lying to myself a bit about the fat part.) I guess I really am 40…

When I was younger and did some lifting I was able to up the pounds pretty fast, from a significantly higher baseline than I’m starting from now. So my instinct is to increase the weight I’m lifting pretty aggressively- I think even at 40 I’m likely to get stronger pretty fast at first, just because I am starting from such a low point. But if I hurt myself it’s just going to slow things down, as well as being unpleasant. I guess I’m trying to figure out how to tell when I am pushing harder than I should be.

The other thing I’m trying to figure out is what I should be eating. Right now I care more about getting stronger than I care about getting leaner- I’m fatter than I want to be, but I’m not obese- I still wear size 34 jeans, though I’m afraid my belly overtops them a bit. I don’t want to gain much more fat though, and ideally I’d like to lose some pretty soon. I’ve been taking pretty bad care of myself for a while, and that has included getting way too many of my calories from beer. I stopped drinking so much a little while ago, and I’m hoping that just that will help with the waistline.

But I’m not sure how I should eat. I’m not a skinny kid who wants to gain 50 pounds of muscle in two years. And I’m not a really fat guy who wants to drop 50 pounds of fat. I’m not happy with how much fat I’m carrying at the moment, but I am even more unhappy with how weak I am. Ideally I’d like to be a lot stronger than I am now, and weigh about the same, with about 25 pounds less fat and about 25 lbs more muscle. It’s a lot easier to lose fat than it is to gain muscle, so I’d be happy enough if a year from now I’d gained ten pounds of muscle and weighed 185, particularly if I had gotten strong enough to squat and deadlift something in the neghborhood of 300. Are these realistic and compatible goals at my age?

So I’m thinking that right now I ought to be eating a slight excess of calories in order to get stronger and push the weights I’m using as fast as I can without hurting myself, but maybe start eating less in 3-4 months in order to lose some fat. Of course I am going to think pretty hard about the composition of those calories. Does this make any sense?

Thanks, and sorry if this post is a bit long.

TL;DR

I think your Cliffs are : A) Want to lose some unwanted fat B) You want to get strong C) Muscle would be nice

Stick with the basics, they are time-proven over and over again to have been the best at crafting bodies, or making the foundations of champions. I have usen it myself and the results are amazing to say the least.

Follow the program,train HARD 3 days a week; your ENTIRE BODY. Find out your Basic Metabolic Rate, and don’t go over your BMR. You will lose weight, drop fat, get strong as hell, and get muscle at the same time, you can’t go wrong.

He’s already doing starting strength he said, which is fine.

Just stick with it for sure. Don’t worry about how weak you are right now, because you can change that big time. Some of the weakness at first is just having zero muscle memory of any of the exercises.

As far as injuries go, usually if you hurt something, you know immediately. Anything that manifests itself the next day is probably just related to soreness.

Can’t help you with nutrition really. I’m sure you know it’s important to eat “enough” protein and get your vegetables and try not to eat too much sweets.

And sorry but, since you’re 40 I have to ask: Have you ever had your T levels checked? All I’m saying is that in your situation, I would feel better knowing that I was in a normal range so that I could train and not worry about my progress being held back by insufficient hormones.

Happy lifting!

[quote]Ethan7X wrote:
TL;DR

I think your Cliffs are : A) Want to lose some unwanted fat B) You want to get strong C) Muscle would be nice

[/quote]

Sorry it was so long. I think the Cliff’s are more like A) Want to get stronger, and maybe eventually strong, B) Don’t want to hurt myself, C) Want to lose some fat, and D) would like to gain some mass over and above what is required for A.

[quote]Ethan7X wrote:


[/quote]

Thanks for the link. I’m not too worried about my routine. I’m about as de-conditioned as they come, so I’m guessing that the SS 3x5 program and Reg Parke’s 5x5 are going to be about the same for me.

[quote]Ethan7X wrote:
Stick with the basics, they are time-proven over and over again to have been the best at crafting bodies, or making the foundations of champions. I have usen it myself and the results are amazing to say the least.

Follow the program,train HARD 3 days a week; your ENTIRE BODY. Find out your Basic Metabolic Rate, and don’t go over your BMR. You will lose weight, drop fat, get strong as hell, and get muscle at the same time, you can’t go wrong.
[/quote]

Well, that’s what I am trying to do. Friday was 3x5 squats, 3x5 Bench, and 1x5 Deads. And nothing else, aside from warmup sets. That’s about as basic as it gets. If my ribs are OK tomorrow I will do squats, presses and some movement that I am going to call a power clean for lack of a better word (I really hope no one puts a video of me trying to do power cleans on YouTube under the heading “Gym Idiots.”)

My problem isn’t that I don’t work hard enough. My problem is that I can’t properly judge when working hard crosses the line into working too hard. I’m weak, fat, and old and, until now, unaware of those facts ;). I try to lift like a 25-year old beginner ought to and fuck myself up.

Personally, I would dial back the weights until you can be sure that you’re lifting with at least reasonable form (if you haven’t lifted in a long while then your form may have deteriorated), then work up gradually.

But then again, I’m also fat and weak :slight_smile:

Reg Parks 5x5 > Starting Strength for your goals.

Just saying… they’re actually pretty different after the first 3 months. Only the first 3 months are slightly or even remotely similar.

[quote]Grumpig Hunt wrote:
Personally, I would dial back the weights until you can be sure that you’re lifting with at least reasonable form (if you haven’t lifted in a long while then your form may have deteriorated), then work up gradually.

But then again, I’m also fat and weak :)[/quote]

I think you have a point here. I won’t claim to have great form, even with just the bar, but I have, I hope, acceptable form with just the bar. But when I start getting tired my form breaks down. I’ll see how my little pull from the other day is feeling in the morning, but if I am still tender I guess I will go to the gym and run through my workout with just the bar, concentrating on form. Gonna be a bit embarrassing, but I’ve been embarrassed before.

[quote]Ethan7X wrote:
Reg Parks 5x5 > Starting Strength for your goals.

Just saying… they’re actually pretty different after the first 3 months. Only the first 3 months are slightly or even remotely similar.[/quote]
LOL yeah. SS is a tad lame.

^

repped

[quote]spar4tee wrote:
LOL yeah. SS is a tad lame.[/quote]

Yeah, I’m sure it is if you’re in decent shape. I’m not in any sort of shape, so I figure anything that revolves around squats and deadlifts will work for me right now. I’m old, fat, and weak ;). When I can squat bodyweight for 3x5 (which I hope to be able to do in a few weeks) I’ll come back and think about the differences between routines. Right now I think I need to just pick something and stick to it until I start feeling like I’m at least a bit stronger than the average 14 year-old girl. I appreciate the help though.

[quote]Baldanders wrote:

[quote]spar4tee wrote:
LOL yeah. SS is a tad lame.[/quote]

Yeah, I’m sure it is if you’re in decent shape. I’m not in any sort of shape, so I figure anything that revolves around squats and deadlifts will work for me right now. I’m old, fat, and weak ;). When I can squat bodyweight for 3x5 (which I hope to be able to do in a few weeks) I’ll come back and think about the differences between routines. Right now I think I need to just pick something and stick to it until I start feeling like I’m at least a bit stronger than the average 14 year-old girl. I appreciate the help though.
[/quote]
LOL yeah. You just need to focus on lifting weights. Go forth and bask in gainz.

brother, your going to be adding 15lb a week to your squat, 15 lb every two weeks to your presses, and 30 lb to you dead every week, don’t be ashamed to start with the bar and throw your nickle or dime on. personally i do a nickle. I’m 35 and I figure, if I’m smart and patient, I’ve got ten years I can add to the bar. you maybe 5 years. still thats 750 workouts, and thats enough to get 200/300/400 by a long shot

as for what you should eat,(I started SS a little while back, with the siimilar concerns), I weigh 225 and am 6’2"… i’ve been shooting for 3000 cal a day and at least 1gm protein per lb of me (so 225 gm prot) the rest of the cals come however. I try to use good fats etc…3000 hasn’t been enogh though and recently I’ve been hungry to much of the day. so i’ve upped that amount by 500…in addition I weighing myself every day… to make sure that I am staying tight to that 225. I’ll let it wander if itlets me hit my numerical goal, but my joints are happy where I am… also I measure with a tape weekly… this is a good habit and very rewarding to be able to give yourself the high 5 or whatever

[quote]mlupica wrote:
brother, your going to be adding 15lb a week to your squat, 15 lb every two weeks to your presses, and 30 lb to you dead every week, don’t be ashamed to start with the bar and throw your nickle or dime on. personally i do a nickle. I’m 35 and I figure, if I’m smart and patient, I’ve got ten years I can add to the bar. you maybe 5 years. still thats 450 workouts, and thats enough to get 200/300/400 by a long shot[/quote]

Hi mlupica,

I’m curious about your assertion regarding how many years you and the OP have to make gains. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you – and if so I apologize – but I don’t quite follow why you posit an upper limit on a person’s ability to make strength gains based on age. Not trying to start an argument or to challenge you. Just want to understand what you mean.

Thanks.

you’ve got way more than 5 years of gains ahead of you , if you stick with it .

My friend’s father started coming to the gym with us. He is doing ‘starting strength’ – except leg press instead of squats and no deadlifts due to concerns of injury. He is 60, and started benching using similar weights as you. He is up to 155x5 now after 3 months or so. He never lifted before. (No idea what other weights he’ using on exercises; I only know what he benches since I spot him regularly)

Keep going!

No I think your completly in the right to challenge this assertion. 45 is really an arbitrary number. What I have noticed with older guys that I have been reading, like Dan john and brooks kubic,is that there are drastic changes to the way that they train as 45+. I sincerly hope that strength increases can occur later than this point(in fact Brooks has a book on this called grey hair black iron where he gives alot of suggestions);however I can’t imagine that there isn’t some sort of upper limit. The point I was trying to make though, is i think still valid. That there are 140-150 workouts in a year there is plenty of time to meet any goal that you have set out

Try going over to the 35 over forums, there are several people that have had similar issues as you.

Ditch starting strength. I have done it. It is a shit program that will build imbalances, which will demotivate you. Just my advice. Take it fwiw.