Frank Wilhelmi is a Retired/consultant electronic engineer researches and reports practical strategies for optimizing health and fitness into advanced age. “I have a passion for living life to the fullest, and helping others to do the same.” A rapidly growing body of knowledge now enables us to extend our health and fitness decades beyond popular expectations.
The science of optimal aging is complex and shifting, but some simple principles stand out. Primarily, diet, exercise and sleep control gene expression. We may be born with genes that favor longer or shorter lives, but a nutrient-rich diet, exercise that builds strength and endurance, and a high-quality sleep pattern promotes gene expression that fosters enduring health and longevity. What we put in our mouths, how we move our bodies and the quality of our sleep has a massive impact on our health or the lack of it.
On the other side of the coin, some habits like smoking, recreational drugs, excessive alcohol intake and overeating always promote gene activation that shortens our years and fills them with ongoing pain. Stupidity or ignorance in youth leaves scars, but at any point we can change the course of our health by fixing the basics. Much damage can be reversed and new or renewed health can be acquired. Strength can improved at every age, joints rebuilt, mobility enhanced, energy revitalized. Nutritional and hormonal supplements can be used to compensate for metabolic changes that come with age.
We all age, and the changes are inevitable; we all (so far) get to die. “In my thinking, later is better, and being pain-free, mobile and energetic for as long as possible is well worth the research, time, energy and money invested. Now, at 74, I thoroughly enjoy the fruits of my research”.
Frank's Fitness Log
For the past year and a half I have been rebuilding SeniorFitness.com at greater expense than I will ever justify, so I can continue this mission of reporting practical science and strategies for Optimal Aging. I’ve set up a new email system to bring my readers a much improved Senior Fitness Update newsletter to keep you up-to-date with what works to allow us to age without disability and pain. I just turned 78 on 9/11, and so far, I’m still doing quite well staying fit and disease-free.
Wow: It has been a year since I updated this log. A number of things have gone wrong with this aging body in the meantime. I lost some more cartilage off my left humerus, and encountered some binding against outward rotation of the shoulder joint. That happened back in September ’13 I think, but a visit to my Orthopedist (who did my shoulder surgery back in 06) led to 4 weeks of physical therapy, with some improvement and a half-hearted discharge with a poor prognosis. I have been working with it since, and it gets quite sore and annoyed with me after most upper body workouts. It does seem to be improving with time. Like always, I’m using Michael’s W-Zymes and Serrapeptase to help heal and remodel the injured tissues, and seeing some improvement
I began having symptoms of heart distress like I felt before my 2001 quad bypass operation, and conclude that I am clogging up again. I’ve decided that I will try to fix it by using pomegranate extract at 2500 mg/day in spread doses. In the 2 months since I started I have seen significant improvement in exercise tolerance and reduction of symptoms after big meals, so I think I am gaining on it. I will keep posting improvements or the lack thereof. See Frank’s Column of 11/13/13
I also set a new personal best in the inclined leg press; 9 plates/side or 810 lbs on the sled for 6 reps last week, and the knees are no worse for wear. I plan to upload a video of making 5 reps with that load 6 weeks ago.
Synergy Performance Health, the Fitness chain I invested in has failed and the last facility sold for scrap – my investment is now a tax write off big time loss! I have no place to continue any video work, except sneaking brief cell phone clips when no one is looking at 24 Hour Fitness, and they have warned me once already. After my spinal Fracture last year I took a bunch of time off to heal, and of course, we lose strength fairly rapidly when we do that. Plus, with my project to get friend Sal to drop a couple of hundred pounds, I changed up the workout to meet his needs over the last year as well. So I’m doing a sort of hybrid routine that is a mix between selected Static Contraction Training (SCT) moves and my 3-day split (Pulling, Pushing, Legs on three different days). But. we are only working out 2 days/week, on Monday (or Tuesday) And Thursday (or Friday), so that routine takes a week and a half to work the whole body. This is a very good frequency for anyone over 50, and allows for adequate exercise with full recovery
Every other Pushing day I throw in the SCT Bench Press, every other Pulling day I do the SCT Dead Lift and every other Leg day I do the SCT Leg Press. This puts 21 days between the SCT moves, which is 7 days less than before my fracture, but plenty of time for advancement in absolute strength. SCT involves a single rep, though a reduced range of motion (the strongest range, avoiding joint damage) with a 5 second hold. If you can hold for more than 5 seconds, then the weight needs to be increased until that’s all you can do. Every workout the weight should be increased over the last one, and a record of the weight is kept to MEASURE real progress. If we couldn’t do more on the following workout, then either the weight increase was too much or there was too little time between workouts. Below is a short video of my last attempt at 295 lb. I did 285 lb 21 days before, so here I added 10 lb and just barely got it off the pegs. Next time I will add only 5 lb for 300 lb and I bet I make it. I had reached 315 lb last year before the back gave up, so I’m on the way back to that target, and then to whatever I can do beyond that.
If we can dramatically increase strength at will when we are in our 70s, it is just mind blowing to me – and I have been doing just that. My last Dead Lift was two weeks ago and I did 365 lb – a long way from the 525 lb when my back broke, and I will probably stop around 400 lb with that. My last Leg Press was 11 plates/side or 1045 lb plus the sled. Since that is all the machine will hold, I held the lift for 50 seconds before I failed (I pushed it off the stops, brought it back to 1/4 inch off the stops and then held until it drove me back to the stops. My guess is that I could probably do about 14 plates per side at this point, if the machine could be loaded with more plates. At some point there will be a limit for any body; the tricky part is deciding when to stop, because the limit might be catastrophic in nature like my back. A certain prudence is required. But if you want to get measurably and progressively stronger (and bigger) SCT is the best strategy I have found.
After yet another run up in SCT deadlift, I got to 525 lb and had trouble balancing with that much weight; fell forward once , backward right after and decided to come back in a month and try again. I was also having trouble holding the grip, even with straps, and had ordered a set of lifting hooks, which hadn’t arrived yet. So when the time came I worked up to the designated weight, but got the bright idea to use a reverse grip on one hand to help with hanging on to the weight. I had a crowd watching as I tossed the last two 10 lb plates on and got ready to pull the weight. As I started the lift, the reversed shoulder on the right felt weird, my upper back got behind the timing and I know I was too rounded in the thoracic area, but fought it valiantly, believing I could pull it straight, until I felt/heard that really big POP in the middle of my back. POP – an ugly sound and I knew I hurt something bad. I put the weight down went home and headed for my chiropractor thinking I had popped a rib out of place. Later I had an X-ray that showed a compression fracture of my T-12 vertebra. So, I found my limit and resolved (promised the wife) that I wouldn’t go within 100 lb of that ever again. Still I wonder how far I could have gone with a symmetrical grip or the lifting hooks – oh well, I promised so I will never know.
I did one more deadlift session on 1/21/10 and lifted 505 lb without injury. I was so stoked! Then something crazy happened: my wife suggested that I should set up one of my G-scale trains (Garden Railroad stuff I inherited from my father) for the granddaughter. This stuff had been in my attic for almost 10 years, and when I hauled it out I got the bug to do a real layout in a raised planter area of the back yard we were planning to renovate. Before you know it I was on a full blown project – one of those youthful dreams we say we will get to when we retire – and the gym was not seen for almost 4 months. The track is laid, the wiring is in, I’ve run trains on the main loop and I’m half way through building the control panel to run the turnouts and power the siding track segments. In early June I started back at the Static Contraction workouts and right away got in trouble – wisdom is hard to come by and sometimes fleeting.
I reasoned that I had not lost much strength, so lowered all the first workout weights by 20%, and set the spacing of workouts at 5 days. I started with workout B which includes the deadlift and used 405 lb. Five days later I did the shrug with 385 and felt a slight sting on the right side of my trapezius at the T1 vertebra. Thinking nothing of it, I did the next workout 5 days later and used 415 for the deadlift but this time it really smarted; stung like hell and stayed that way. My chyropractor affirmed that I had a tear of the ligament at the T1, and should let it heal for at least 2 months. I waited and used all the healing strategies I know and I’m now back up to 445lb for the deadlift and climbing, but I put the spacing between workouts back to 10 days right from the start – too much weight, too close together is the invitation to injury. The rule for starting over should be: review your record sheets and use the workout spacing associated with the proposed restart weight, and add a day for safety. Now I’m taking another break, training a friend to help him beat middle age obesity once and for all.
Now three months past the 70 year mark, I have retired from the missile business, working full time on making Seniorfitness.com the best it can be. The contest I was to enter never happened because of injuries, and after some research into why we beak more easily as we age, I changed my workout approach. I had seen information on Static Contraction Training (SCT) – an approach to building muscle that was outside the norm for your standard workout addict – but in July 09 I finally decided to buy the e-book and try it out. To my amazement, it solves many of the injury problems experienced by aging athletes, and it builds strength and muscle at an astounding rate, with a whole lot less effort.
SCT was developed by Pete Sisco and is the result of several decades of experimentation aimed at optimizing the growth of muscle versus the effort spent in the gym. Bottom line – push/pull/lift the biggest weight you can hold for 5 seconds for one rep, in the strongest range of motion and then set it down – next exercise! He bills it as “25 seconds of work to gain all the muscle you want – guaranteed!” He alternates two workouts of 5 exercises each, with enough separation between days to insure complete recovery and regrowth. The one criteria for workout frequency – if you couldn’t lift more on the next workout you didn’t wait long enough. I started the routine on July 10, 09 by calibrating what I could hold for the 5 seconds, and a 4-day separation between workouts.
As the weights increased with every workout, I would run into a failure to lift more and add another day of separation. Next time around I could lift more, just like Pete taught. For the dead lift, I calibrated with 315 lb on the first day, and every workout I up’d it 20 pounds until I got to 425lb. This got a bit scary, so I started increasing by only 10 pounds for the next workout. Below is a clip of my dead lift on New Years day 2010 when I finally got to 495 (10 plates on the bar – reasonably impressive for this 162 lb, 70-yr-old). I was so stoked by the milestone that I grabbed a guy in the gym to record it for posterity. At this point, my workouts are 10 days apart, so it is 20 days between dead lift attempts. The popular thinking is that a gap between workouts of this length would negate any growth stimulus – it’s not the case! Every time I go I’m stronger and bigger! You run into a lot of false information in this game, and the three-days-a-week for everyone is a classic example.
I don’t know when I will find a limit at this, but I haven’t hit it yet. I plan to listen carefully to my body and proceed with caution. Note that this is completely separate from my aerobic training, and is strictly for maintaining strength and size. But with 10 days between strength workouts, there is plenty of time for other forms of aerobic exercise. Pete Sisco really has this technology figured out! SCT is as good as it gets for piling muscle on an aging body. He has clients far older than I that are still getting stronger as they age.
I’m a 68 year-old working Aerospace Engineer (with an eye toward retiring to specialize in the senior health field). I have been in the missile business since joining the Navy in 1957, but first started exercising and becoming interested in health and physiology at the age of thirty. I married my only and still wife Jo at 25, who thankfully puts up with my varied interests and ventures, have two terrific grown children and one granddaughter to date.
I’m an investor in the Synergy Performance Health and Fitness chain, in the process of developing a set of seminars to teach the principles of life-long health to Synergy clients and prospective clients. I work a 36 hour week at Alliant Techsystems (aka ATK) and spend much of my free time working on this website. The balance I spend with family or teaching Christ and His Church to those wishing to become Catholic, which I came to in 1975, and have been an instrument of that process since. I’m an avid reader, especially the sciences and medical material, with a love for theology tossed in. I do woodwork for fun and am truly a home-body, love architecture and decorating – if I could afford a 12,000 square foot house, I would have one in a heartbeat.
I work out generally three days/week, usually at lunchtime, and limit my workouts to under an hour. I cycle my workouts, changing up about every 8 – 10 weeks to start light and escalate the poundages and intensity for one of the multi-joint power lifts to try to get to a new personal best in some variation of squats, deadlifts or bench press. Some would consider that insane, but it seems like the natural thing to try for me. Within the last two years I have done some of my heaviest ever reps, and also picked up some pulled muscles that surprised the heck out of me.
The theme of this bio is to highlight that I am at a crossroads; I am taking my future in a new direction as an advocate and spokesman for lifetime health and fitness. One way to demonstrate that commitment is to prepare for and enter a bodybuilding contest, to show how even a near-70 year-old body can be improved in a short time with existing technology, without illegal drugs. To that end I hired a trainer skilled at bodybuilding competition to lead me through the preparation and presentation skills. We are working toward a contest on July 19th in Culver City CA. Video clips of the preparation and the contest will be posted below as they unfold – I hope you find them at least a little inspiring.
On March 5th, 08, we video’d most of the Chest & Back day to chronicle the process of preparing for the competition on 7/19/08. Below are some of the shorter clips unedited. I plan to make sequential movie out of the clips and edit out the dumb stuff so the viewer can see the progress from month to month.