To Top

40 is the New 20 – Part 2

By the time you read this, it should be just a few weeks before my 40th birthday, which will occur on October 31. Yes, I was born on Halloween, and I’ve already heard all the jokes (I never take my mask off). It’s ironic that I was born on a day when the tradition is to dress up in a costume and go door to door looking for all kinds of tasty but empty calories. Last year I tried dressing up like Conan. But I digress.

What I’m really here to do is further discuss the differences between my training strategies of today vs. 15 or 20 years ago and offer you a look at my current workout and diet.

Exercise Selection

That was then: When I started lifting weights in my mid-teens, I had only one goal: to get big. I needed muscle and bulk badly because at 5’11 1/2” and 125 pounds I looked less intimidating than my sister. After extensive research I discovered that the fastest road to raw size was through basic, heavy movements. That’s why I based my program on squats, leg presses, deadlifts, bent-over rows, bench presses, incline presses, weighted dips, military presses, barbell curls and skull crushers.

Unlike many misinformed beginners I stayed away from the fancy machine and cable exercises and busted my butt with good old heavy metal—it worked. I got bigger, and I got stronger, and everyone around me noticed. Most people believed I was on the juice—and I was. Apple, grape and orange were my favorites. After many years of training that way, however, I noticed that I looked more like a wrestler or football player than a bodybuilder. I was a mound of mass without shape or artistry. In addition, my joints were taking a real beating, and I began to accumulate my share of aches and pains. But that was then.

This is now: Nowadays my goals are somewhat different, although I’m still seeking more muscle mass and always will. More than anything, however, I’m meticulously attempting to sculpt the perfect physique, at least as perfect as my own genetics will allow. My focus is on refinement of every muscle group, which includes better overall shape, lines and tie-ins.

I also am seeking better separation between muscle groups and improved proportion and aesthetics. In order to accomplish those things, I now use many different exercises, as well as angles, grips and stances. I still include at least one basic movement per workout but also venture toward more isolation exercises, using dumbbells, cables and machines of all types. In fact, I’m constantly trying out new ways to position my body and alter the angle of push or pull in order to target a muscle—or section of a muscle—with laserlike precision.

Don’t get me wrong—I still love to lift heavy and can still move plenty of poundage, but my challenge now is not just to acquire more size but to create a masterpiece.

Rep Range

That was then: Just as I understood that the basic lifts built the most muscle, I believed that heavy weights and lower reps—four or five per set—were the Holy Grail of mass. That approach definitely worked for several years; however, after a time I found that diminishing returns, progressively worse aches and pains and nagging injuries began to take the place of ongoing progress. That didn’t stop me, as I thought the solution lay in going even heavier. The stronger a muscle, the bigger a muscle, right? Well, right and wrong. It took me years to finally embrace the fact that muscles are made up of different fiber types that respond uniquely to varied rep ranges and that our anabolic machinery needs to be stimulated through more than just one pathway if reaching your genetic potential is the goal. Yes, get stronger, but do so in many rep ranges, not just one. But that was then.

This is now: These days my training regimen has just two consistent themes: intensity and variation. Those of you who have read my articles and columns in IRON MAN understand that I change workout protocols every week through my Power/Rep Range/Shock (P/RR/S) and Fiber Damage/Fiber Saturation (FD/FS) training programs. The changes include not only a wide variety of rep ranges but also lifting tempos, rests between sets and intensity techniques. Every week my goal is to attack the muscles differently and to force the central nervous system to deal with a unique form of stress.

Whereas in the beginning my training was fairly one-dimensional, now it is utterly dynamic. Heavy weights still play a role but are only one part of a multifaceted approach to hypertrophy. The system has rewarded me with steady gains in muscle, a lack of training-related injuries and a far more challenging and enjoyable method of working out.

Focus and Concentration

That was then: Without a doubt, since day one in the gym I was as serious as a heart attack and chock-full of drive and intensity. Even though I always used relatively strict form on most movements, however, I never really concentrated on the action of the muscle while it was working. My main goal was to move the weight from point A to point B under good control, but my mind was not necessarily focused on the mechanics of the exercise and how my muscles actually felt while contracting and lengthening. But that was then.

This is now: As the years go by, I can feel myself developing a better connection with each of my bodyparts. The old saying, “Put your mind into your muscle,” should not be taken lightly, as there is evidence that the more you think about the working muscle, the more fibers you can get to fire. Exhaust more fibers, and you’re on the road to better gains.

When I perform a set, not only do I drown out everything that’s going on around me, but I also make sure to feel my target muscle work through every inch of the movement—from the concentric to peak contraction to eccentric to stretch. I call it precision training, as I literally picture myself as a machine, kind of like the mechanics of a working clock. Every repetition is deliberate and precise, with my body locked into a position that enables me to zero in on exactly the area of a muscle that I wish to hit. I definitely feel that I am training on a higher level these days, and I have no doubt it’s a major contributor to my ability to continually improve my physique.

Not Getting Older, Getting Bigger

Unlike most sports and activities where age often hinders performance, bodybuilding lets you enjoy continual improvements well into your 50s and even 60s if you make the proper adjustments to your training and nutrition strategy. You need to work with nature and not against it. Listen to your body. Pay attention to the signals it gives you. Understand that building the body is a lifelong process that requires a more sophisticated and meticulous approach with each passing year. Never look at aging as a detriment, though, at least not when it comes to your physique. Consider that as time goes by you can continue to build more dense, thick and refined muscle, with more separation and striations—more “mature” muscle, so to speak.

Appearing on the cover of the October ’08 IRON MAN at age 40 was a dream come true for me. Knowing that I look better now than I did 20 years ago only adds more fuel to my motivational fire. In fact, I am hoping that I can be an IM cover man again at age 45, 50, 55 and beyond, each time looking better than the last. Just make sure you keep your subscriptions up.

12-Week IM Cover Shoot Training Program

In order to arrive in top condition for my photo shoot, I began to prepare approximately 12 weeks beforehand, using a two-days-on/one-day-off/two-days-on/two-days-off training schedule. I believe that’s the optimal way to stimulate hypertrophy, as it allows for proper recovery and repair. I split my bodyparts as follows:

Monday: Chest, shoulders, abs
Tuesday: Quads, hams, calves
Thursday: Lats, traps, lower back, abs
Friday: Biceps, triceps, forearms, calves

My program was divided into four three-week cycles of Power (week 1), Rep Range (week 2) and FD/FS Shock (week 3). After each three-week cycle I would begin again, but each time with a different set of exercises. The programs listed are an example of one full three-week cycle.

Editor’s note: You can read Eric Broser’s features on P/RR/S and FD/FS training at They’re located in the PDF Library section. IM

Rest Between Sets: 2.5 to 3.5 minutes; lifting tempo: 3/0/X

Week 1: Power

Chest, Shoulders, Abs
Dumbbell bench presses 3 x 4-6
Smith-machine incline
presses 3 x 4-6
Weighted dips 2 x 4-6
barbell upright rows 3 x 4-6
Seated dumbbell presses 2 x 4-6
Standing lateral raises 2 x 4-6
Cable crunches 2 x 12-15
Hanging straight-leg
raises 2 x 12-15

Quads, Hams, Calves
Hack squats 3 x 4-6
Leg presses 3 x 4-6
Smith-machine lunges 2 x 4-6
Lying leg curls 2 x 4-6
stiff-legged deadlifts 3 x 4-6
Single-leg leg curls 2 x 4-6
Leg press calf raises 4 x 6-8

Lats, Traps, Lower Back, Abs
Weighted wide-grip
pullups 3 x 4-6
Undergrip bent-over
rows 3 x 4-6
Close-grip seated cable
rows 2 x 4-6
One-arm dumbbell rows 2 x 4-6
Partial deadlifts 3 x 4-6
Barbell shrugs 3 x 4-6
Weighted incline
situps 2 x 12-15
Supported knee-hip
raises 2 x 12-15

Biceps, Triceps, Forearms, Calves
Standing alternate hammer
curls 2 x 4-6
Strict barbell curls 2 x 4-6
90-degree dumbbell
preacher curls 2 x 4-6
Smith-machine close-grip
bench presses 3 x 4-6
Seated overhead dumbbell
extensions 2 x 4-6
Single-arm rope
pushdowns 2 x 4-6
Seated calf raises 4 x 6-8

Week 2: Rep Range

Rest between sets: 1.5 to 2.5 minutes; lifting tempo: 2/1/2/1

Chest, Shoulders, Abs
Hammer Strength incline
presses 2 x 7-9
Smith-machine bench
presses to neck 2 x 10-12
Incline dumbbell flyes 2 x 13-15
Bodyweight dips 2 x 16-20
Seated lateral raises 2 x 7-9
Alternate dumbbell
front raises 2 x 10-12
Rear-delt machine
flyes 2 x 13-15
Standing one-arm
dumbbell presses 1 x 16-20

Quads, Hams, Calves
Smith-machine squats 2 x 7-9
Sissy squats 2 x 10-12
One-leg leg presses 2 x 13-15
One-leg leg extensions 2 x 16-20
Seated leg curls 2 x 7-9
Lying leg curls 2 x 10-12
Smith-machine stiff-
legged deadlifts 3 x 13-15
Standing calf
raises 1 x 10-12, 1 x 7-9
Seated calf
raises 1 x 16-20, 1 x 13-15

Lats, Traps, Lower Back, Abs
Wide-grip supported
incline rows 3 x 7-9
Undergrip pulldowns 2 x 10-12
Close-grip Hammer
Strength rows 2 x 13-15
Stiff-arm pulldowns 2 x 16-20
Close-grip cable upright
rows 2 x 10-12, 7-9
shrugs 2 x 13-15, 10-12
Weight hyperextensions
3 x 16-20, 13-15, 10-12
Lying straight-leg
raises 2 x 16-20, 13-15
Machine crunches 2 x 13-15, 10-12

Biceps, Triceps, Forearms, Calves
90-degree preacher curls 2 x 7-9
Low-cable curls 2 x 10-12
Reverse curls 2 x 13-15
V-bar pushdowns 2 x 7-9
Seated machine close-grip
bench presses 2 x 10-12
One-arm overhead extensions 2 x 13-15
Dumbbell kickbacks 1 x 16-20
One-leg calf presses 2 x 10-12, 7-9
Seated calf raises 2 x 16-20, 13-15

Week 3: FD/FS-Shock Hybrid

Rest between sets varies; lifting tempo: as listed below

Chest, Shoulders, Abs
Incline presses (6/1/X) 2 x 4-6
Flat-bench flyes (2/4/X) 2 x 6-8

Cable crossovers 2 x 10-12
Dumbbell pullovers 2 x 10-12
Hammer Strength shoulder presses (6/1/X) 2 x 4-6
Behind-the-back cable lateral raises (2/3/X) 2 x 6-8
Cable one-arm bent-over lateral raises (drop) 1 x 10-12(6-8)

Weighted crunches 2 x 16-20
Lying knee-hip raises 2 x 16-20

Quads, Hams, Calves
Lying machine squats (6/1/X) 2 x 4-6
Sissy squats (2/3/1) 2 x 6-8

Leg presses 2 x 10-12
Leg extensions 2 x 10-12
Lying leg curls (6/1/X) 2 x 4-6
Hyperextensions (2/4/1) 2 x 8-10
Standing one-leg curls (drop) 1 x 10-12(6-8)

Standing calf raises 2 x 8-10, 16-20
Seated calf raises 2 x 8-10, 16-20

Lats, Traps, Lower Back, Abs
Weighted wide-grip pullups (6/1/X) 2 x 4-6
Close-grip cable rows (1/4/X) 2 x 6-8
One-arm dumbbell rows (1/4/X) 2 x 6-8

Stiff-arm pulldowns 2 x 10-12
Undergrip bent-over rows 2 x 10-12

Dumbbell shrugs 3 x 8-10
Partial deadlifts 3 x 8-10
Cable crunches (drop) 1 x 12-15(8-10)

Supported straight-leg raises 1 x 16-20
Seated bench knee raises 1 x 16-20

Biceps, Triceps, Forearms, Calves
Barbell curls (5/1/X) 2 x 4-6
Low-incline dumbbell curls (2/4/1) 2 x 6-8
Seated hammer concentration curls (drop) 1 x 10-12(6-8)
Weighted dips (6/1/X) 2 x 4-6
Incline EZ-curl-bar overhead extensions (2/4/X) 2 x 6-8

Reverse-grip pushdowns 2 x 10-12
Pushdowns 2 x 10-12
Leg press calf raises (4/1/X) 1 x 6-8
Leg press calf raises (1/4/X) 1 x 6-8
Seated calf raises (drop) 1 x 12-15(8-10)

Instantized Creatine- Gains In Bulk

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in Over-40 Training