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Growing Muscle, Getting Stronger in Our Senior Years

October 20, 2009

Good Morning Healthy Seniors – and those who want to be later in life:

Exercise Recovery Time is the key to becoming progressively stronger!

I have been using the Static Contraction Training method now since 7/10/09, and I am stunned by how effective it is at growing muscle in a relatively short time for this senior body. It seems I had been wasting my time in the gym for years, and I had to change my whole understanding of the science of bodybuilding. Static Contraction Training is the creation of Pete Sisco, and the result of 20 years of research and experimentation with how to optimally grow muscle (with the least amount of time in the gym).

In the version I am using, there are 2 sets of 5 exercises performed on alternate days. Set one is done on day 1, and set 2 is done on the next workout day. The recommended starting interval was 4 days apart, which is what I did. The very simple rule for setting the interval is this: If you couldn’t improve the weight on the next same-set workout, you didn’t wait long enough. There is a bit of trial and error involved, but trust me – it works really well. My interval is now out to 7 days between workouts (workouts happen on the 8th day after the last one).

The first set/workout is largely focused on upper body, but stresses the entire muscle structure, while the second set is primarily focused on lower body. That means that right now, for me, there is about 16 days for the muscle/tendon/bone/nervous system to recover fully before taking on a bigger load. The old idea is that you lose all the gains by waiting that long – I can vouch for that not being the truth; I just keep getting bigger and stronger! For a 70 year old body, not taking any steroids, this is really good news.

The exercises are all done in the strong range of the move. For example; bench press is done by setting the bar on the top pegs, loading it with the desired weight, then pushing it off the pegs by a half inch or so and holding for 5 seconds. Pete has researched the hold-time over the years and arrived at 5 seconds as optimum. If you could hold it for more than 5 seconds, you need to up the weight and do it again, until you can barely make the 5 seconds. Results are written down to chart progress, and set up the next workout. Here are my results in the roughly 3 months, 18 workouts:

  • Wide-grip bench: 215 lb improved to 305 lb
  • Dead lift: 315 lb to 455 lb
  • Lat pulldown: 180 lb to 255 lb
  • Toe press: 410lb to 900lb
  • Leg press: 630lb to 1260lb

These are some ridiculous numbers, but they are real increases in strength, and although I have not been using a tape to measure size, the results are obvious in the mirror. On the inclined leg press, I ran out of room for plates on the machine, and continued using one leg at a time with half the weight; the numbers above are for the equivalent two-leg weight if the machine would hold it.

The primary critical variable is the recovery time between workouts:

A bigger absolute stress requires longer to fully rebuild from – to be able to completely recover to greater absolute strength than last time. I found this amazing to experience; as I spaced the sessions further apart, I got stronger and stronger – measurably: not in perception; a limit that couldn’t be exceeded last, next time became possible!

I’m convinced that this could be the best form of resistance training for seniors and geriatric patients. The real limit comes from fear that something will break at some point, but I haven’t reached that point yet. When I do, I’ll just limit myself to the same weight I felt OK with last, until I get nervous about that. At some point, we all will fall apart and wind down to die, but I’m convinced this approach gives me the best shot at maintaining strength and vigor as long as possible for my body. If you want to give it a shot, Pete’s course is easy to understand and put into action, as well as very reasonable in price. Give it a try – amaze your friends and gym mates – works for women amazingly well to rebuild those youthful curves you once enjoyed. Click Here! Pete now sells only the Kindle version on Amazon – the link gets you there.

Update: 8-31-2017 – 
The progression discussed above came to a screeching halt when I reached 525 lb for the static deadlift, which for a 160 lb 72-year old is a pretty big load. I found that I could not stay balanced as I pulled the weight off the rails. Basically I didn’t have sufficient strength in my feet to correct for any slight forward or backward offset of my position at the start of the lift. I also found that I couldn’t hang on to the bar for the requisite 5 seconds – not enough grip strength even with lifting straps.

I decided that I would try a reverse grip on one hand to better hang on to the bar, and tried again for a third attempt. The reverse grip threw my shoulder alignment slightly off, I lost form in my mid-back and never got it straight as I pulled to full extension. half-way up I heard/felt a loud pop mid-back and put the weight down. X-ray showed I had a compression fracture of my T-12 vertebra.

So I proved that such limits exist, by finding mine. I was severely scolded for my stupidity by my beloved wife, and promised never to go within 100 lb of that weight again.  I have revisited 425 lb many times in the years since, but that is as high as I go – still a respectable lift. I got as strong as was safe for my stature, and have been able to periodically return to some of these lifts to regain my peak strength, in spite of adding years to my age.

I only do two of these lifts now – the static bench press and the static dead lift, and I work them in with my normal 3-day split workout, inserting a series of progressive lifts to get back to full strength maybe 2-3 times a year. Every time I do this ramp-up to my limits I see a change in body shape in the mirror that comes with growing stronger and getting leaner – It’s amazing to Experience the body respond to the incremental demand! I’ll turn 78 on 9-11-2017, and last week I got 295 lb in the static bench; I think I can beat 315 lb this time around before Christmas.

Good Living – Frank


Frank Wilhelmi

Frank Wilhelmi

Frank Wilhelmi – 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.

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