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Get Your Muscle Back

You used to be in good condition, but now you’re out of shape and 40-plus. You long ago lost your muscles, and instead you have excess fat. Here’s how to start putting matters right.

Many people who try to get back into bodybuilding following a long layoff do too much too soon, push themselves too hard too early, get injured, get discouraged, lose their enthusiasm and give up bodybuilding for perhaps the final time. That must not happen to you.

Training. Your return to bodybuilding must be practical, safe and gradually progressive. Otherwise it won’t be successful.

You need to get back into regular exercise. Do three approximately one-hour sessions per week—Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or any other group of three nonconsecutive days. Alternate an upper-body routine with a lower-body one—just five exercises for each. That means each workout will occur three times every two weeks.

Do one warmup set plus two work sets for each exercise. Do eight reps per set, except for calves, where 12-to-15-rep sets are better. Take it easy to begin with—use very comfortable weights and build up gradually as the weeks go by. Keep workout records. Take about eight weeks before you’re using almost (but not quite) your best current weights for the required sets and reps. Thereafter, add a very small amount of weight every week or two, and just nudge the poundages up—get some tiny weight plates.

You must use correct exercise technique—especially as the intensity of your program cranks up; if your technique is incorrect, expect injury. You must avoid injury if you’re to make good progress.

Routine 1

1) Bench presses or parallel-bar dips

2) Pulldowns or torso-supported rows

3) Overhead dumbbell presses

4) Dumbbell curls

5) Crunch situps

Routine 2

1) Squats (free weights, not on a Smith machine) or leg presses

2) Calf raises

3) Partial deadlifts from just below your kneecaps

4) Leg curls

5) Side bends

The routines are short to minimize training time and to enable you, once you’ve been training for about eight weeks, to keep a high level of intensity. It’s much easier to train hard, progressively and effectively, on short workouts than on long ones.

Twice a week, at home, stretch. Follow a careful, gradually progressive set of stretches for your calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads and shoulders, along with a spine rotation. Make progress slowly. Becoming flexible is important for a number of reasons, but if you rush to increase your flexibility, you’ll get injured.

You can add cardio after a few months, but for now, if you can find time for a two-mile walk two or three times a week in addition to whatever other walking you may do, do so. For each two-mile walk, you can eat an additional 120 to 200 calories while still keeping yourself on your fat-loss schedule.

Nutrition. Stop mistreating your health with poor nutrition. Consume only healthful food. To get you started, here’s a template of healthful, easily prepared, low-cost meals.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with a little butter, spices and honey, and two boiled eggs.

Lunch: Can of fish (packed in water or tomato paste) and a chunk of bread. Vary the type of fish and bread to prevent boredom.

Dinner: Meat, cheese and pasta, rice or baked potatoes. Vary the meat and cheese and the toppings or flavorings for the carbs.

Immediately before lunch and dinner, have a glass of vegetable juice. Also add some low-calorie salad and veggies for lunch and dinner as time and inclination permit. Include a little extravirgin olive oil and two teaspoons each of flaxseed and cod liver oils, plus a high-potency multivitamin-and-multimineral supplement and extra vitamin C.

About midway between your main meals, have a snack of, say, an apple, a few dried dates and perhaps a small piece of cheese. So that’s really five feedings a day. And if you have a few hours after dinner before bedtime, have a small but nutritious snack before you hit the sack.

Make 2,000 calories your daily allocation for the time being—for example, three 500-calorie main meals and two 250-calorie snacks. You probably need to trim some bodyfat so that you can see your six-pack. How long that will take will depend on how much excess fat you have. Aim for a maximum of one pound of weight loss each week. If you need fewer than 2,000 calories to achieve that, do it. If you don’t need to cut back all the way to 2,000 to achieve it, of course, that’s better. For the calorie values of foods visit www

Arrange your daytime activities so that you can sleep for eight hours or more each night. Sleeping well is essential for your health and your bodybuilding progress.

There you have it—your new bodybuilding lifestyle. The approach is practical and realistic even for busy people. Still, it requires dedication, albeit nothing like the dedication of a professional athlete.

Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new 638-page opus on bodybuilding Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or

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