T Nation

Older trainer: frequency vs. intensity

I am 41 and I notice that my recuperation is not what it used to be. I have a hard time training 2 days in a row nowadays.

I started training in the 70s when everyone was “bombing” and “blitzing” bodyparts LOL. Mike Mentzer was telling everybody to go all out, on just a few sets. My point is that I have always tried to train to failure, and flog myself in the gym. That doesn’t seem to work for me anymore.

A typical training split was previously Pushing/Pulling/Legs, with either a 2 days on, 1 day off schedule, or sometimes 3 days on, 1 or 2 days off. Now I have a hard time training 2 days in a row. I’m wondering if I should moderate my daily volume or cycle my intensity, in order to be able to make it to the gym every day? That is counter-intuitive to everything I grew up on (“train hard on every set”). However, I do realize that I can always learn “new tricks”. (For example I started doing a velocity-oriented “back-off” set for my bench, which seems to work well. Something I would have never considered doing, previously.)

Is it more important to be in the gym often, or work at a high level when you are there?

As far as my training goals, size strength or conditioning, the answer is “yes please” LOL all of the above. With perhaps a slight bias towards size, if I could have my druthers.

I’m not looking for an exact training program, just some philosophies that I can incorporate, and use to write my own program. Any feedback would be great.

  1. Quality over quantity, in all things, always. Particularly with your work in the gym.

  2. If you haven’t, read everything Ian King has written here. He talks about how older lifters respond better to more ‘neural’ work. That is, decreasing rep ranges.

Hi Lumpy,

Yes, I have more than noticed that it gets harder to maintain high intensity workouts as I have gotten older.

I not longer work until failure. Just until wobble. That is when that last rep shakes like crazy as you push the bar upward, the set is done.

Best of Luck.

That’s the way I trained for decades Lumpy and all I was doing was maintaining and getting tired. I started HST in September and the gains returned. I think it is particularly effective when you have been training high volume/high intensity for a while. I do 3 whole body workouts three times per week 8 week cycles and am getting good results and spending less time training! The hardest part is the strategic deconditioning. However, if you don’t do it, you will plateau and stop gaining. good Luck.

Thanks for the suggestions, guys.


I am not a doctor (nor do I play one on T.V) but what is your supp regime? Could this be the weak link?

Sounds like you are getting enough iron but…

I’d like to second what Avoids said:

HST is a good sound workout program.
I feel great, my joints feel great again and I’m setting new PR’s.
I’m lifting “intensity” however not going to failure.
(I do have to swap squats and DL everyother WO
my lower back couldn’t take both 3 times a week)

Here’s a couple of links and there’s a FAQ on his site:

Lumpy - I’m 40 and have trained for over 22 yrs. I also cannot work back to back days full body. My current workout is a 4 day split, working each body part one day per week. Higher volume, lower weight. I alternate this every twelve weeks with an HST program.

I think the name of the game is to switch it up. I do it every three months and that seems to work for me.

As for Supps. ZMA and Tribex are my friends. I have done a few cycles of Mag-10 and 4-ad-ec. Let me tell you when you take them, especially the Mag-10 you don’t have to worry about recovery or intensity. You just blast thru!

Good Luck.


Hey Lumpy,

You might try lifting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with something like HIIT Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

You could hit your upper body on Mondays and Fridays, and legs on Wednesday, and then maybe alternate the following week and hit the legs M and F with upper body W.

That way you can bomb the shit out of your muscles, and have plenty of time for recovery.

Of course, something like this may be more suitable for someone even older who is on the road to getting back in shape, but it’s just something else to toss into the mix.


I have the same issue, but for slightly different reasons (I’m only 35)–what works best for me is a modified HST

I do a full body workout 3 days a week (MWF)–hit each muscle group once per workout with a different exercise each workout, and stay in the low rep range on most sets (4-6), 3-5 sets per lift [3-5 lifts, plus abs, each workout]

I gain strength, some size (especially w/ massive eating), and recover quicker–a light week every 8 weeks helps, as well


I’ll say it again…

Check your diet!

Frequency + intensity = strength + results

My diet is pretty good. I get enough protein and everything is in order. If anything, I get some extra carbs I don’t always need. My diet is not lacking.

I started 4AD-EC about 2 weeks ago and I am responding well.

The biggest problem seems to be that my nervous system can’t keep up. I am trashed on my off days, and training seems counter-productive in that state.

A second smaller problem is the overlap of doing lower back and shoulder work on consectutive days. (Example: bent rows one day, squats the next). I can’t swing those workouts back to back, anymore.

By the way, even though I am responding well to 4AD-EC, I still can’t work out on consecutive days. At least not yet.

I will check out HST, thanks guys.