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Advice on getting lean without losing more weight

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  • Advice on getting lean without losing more weight

    I've arrived at maintenance. According to the age- and gender-adjusted Jackson-Pollack body fat chart, I'm at a healthy BF% (21%) for my age (51), and my weight (158) is OK for my height (66"), too.

    The problem is that I want to be lean (16% BF) to show some muscular definition. The obvious suggestion is to do weight resistance training + HIIT, but I do — nearly 7 hours a week of it (see example workout below). I've hit a plateau, and I don't know how to get stronger. I changed up my routine about a month ago, and I'm only slightly stronger than I was. For example, I can lift only than about 40% of my body weight in a bench press, and only 6 reps worth of that.

    I adopted a form of intermittent fasting about 4 weeks ago after reading the site. I eat only in an 8-hour window, and only 2 large meals per day, with a high-calcium snack like yogurt or cheese every 3rd day. I'm not perfect with this protocol, but I stick to it 5-6 days each week. I eat closer to 1900 calories on non-workout days, and closer to 2500 on workout days. When I deviate, I'm still low-carb/primal, but I "graze," eating for more than 8 hours and with smaller meals and snacks. I suppose I could reduce my calories, but I'm not sure that would do anything but lower my metabolism.

    I'm lifting as heavy as I can 3x/week. Here's an example from my most recent workout, adapted from "I Want to… Do a Pull-Up!":

    10 min. recumbent bike (low-speed)
    Lat-pec stretch on foam roller
    Shoulder Circuits (3 sets)
    Band pull-aparts (15x3)
    Wall slides (10x2)

    Superset 1
    DB split squat (25x10x3)
    DB incline press (30x10x3)

    Superset 2
    Plank push-ups (10x3)
    Close-grip front lat pulldown (70x12, 85x10, 100x6)

    Superset 3
    Pushups (15 shoulder-width, 15 elevated, 15 spiderman)
    Plank sets (3 sets, L. side w/flexing 30 sec., front 30 sec. . R. side w/flexing 30 sec.)

    Superset 4
    Band-assisted pullups* (10, 8, .5, 6); I estimate I'm lifting 50% of my weight
    Standing wide-grip cable row (23x12, 27x10, 30x8, 33x6)

    Superset 5
    DB bicep curl w/ shoulder press (12.5x12, 15x10, 17.5x8, 20x6)
    Standing Push/Pull

    HIIT cardio, 20 min.

    *I stand on a huge rubber band slung over 2 parallel posts, then do a pull up where my hands grab 2 small handholds above me.
    I've built up to my current weight amounts and pull-up lifts over the course of 4 weeks, and I've hit my plateau. I have some limits on how much weight I can safely lift in the DB squat, due to knee problems (crepitus, aka crunchy knee syndrome) and shoulder/deltoid exercises (tight rotator cuffs). I can do 1-2 unassisted pull-ups or chin-ups, and I can't make any progress in my bench press or military press. Am I just being impatient, or is it possible I've already reached my genetic potential?

    Any ideas for breaking through this plateau?
    Last edited by acohn; 04-29-2012, 10:45 AM.

  • #2
    Did I offend people?

    I've had 76 views on this post but zero responses. Did I say something offensive or incredibly ignorant? Should I just RTFM/RTFB?


    • #3
      Originally posted by acohn View Post
      I've had 76 views on this post but zero responses. Did I say something offensive or incredibly ignorant? Should I just RTFM/RTFB?
      Huh... That is odd. Maybe no one really knew the answer?


      • #4
        Originally posted by acohn View Post
        Any ideas for breaking through this plateau?
        Increased recovery time? At age 51, you might just be working out too much. Body by Science and Drew Baye both have some good explanations of how easy it is to overtrain and how/why it happens. Increased age also requires increased recovery time. You might just be doing too much. If you work a muscle before it has recovered completely, you are tearing down what was half built up, and there are limits to how long you can do that.

        But yes, it is a complex question and there are a tone of variables. The best you'll get is a few ideas of things to try.

        You shouldn't be hitting a plateau in 4 weeks, so that tells me something is pretty wrong with your plan or you are simply impatient. It takes a long time to build muscle, even when you are young and have high testosterone levels.

        My suggestions:
        1. Deload, and work out less often. Muscles get built during recovery time, not during the workout. If you aren't increasing your weight after every workout then you aren't recovering.
        2. Work on healing your joints- MobilityWOD, glucosamine, bone broth, physical therapy... That will help you more than anything else, I bet, because then you can *hopefully* start doing the lifts that get the real results, such as squats and deadlift.
        3. If you can stand an HIIT workout for 20 minutes, then your intensity is not high enough. The toughest HIIT workout I've ever seen (Tabata sprints) are 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for four minutes. The hardest one I've ever done was 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off for 15 minutes, and I felt like I was going to die. Get off the machines and run, or maybe swim. The machines are holding you back.


        • #5
          Are you sure you're eating enough? 1900/2500 kcal sounds a bit light. You might try eating more and doing less cardio. There is a lot of truth to the technique bodybuilders use to cut...they bulk first. Put on some lean muscle before you try to reduce bodyfat. Besides, a redirection on your training and diet will make you feel good! Have fun and enjoy the experiment.

          I do not think you're too old to do this. Master class bodybuilders do it.


          • #6
            You have conflicting goals. I want to get stronger... I want to get leaner. It is very difficult to do both.
            I'd start using barbells. Follow starting strength and gain some strength for a while. Then focus on dropping the bf%.


            • #7
              No, not offensive or ignorant to me. Just WAY too dang much exercise. I couldn't think after reading all that. Made me tired. :-)

              I'm a 45 yo dude, lost 48 lbs in 30ish weeks, 274 to 226. Used to play football and bench press and squat zillions of lbs and what not. Then got old and fat. When I was more conventional and more fat, I used to do push ups 2-3 times per day, morning, noon and night. Now I do push ups 1-2 times per week. Usually one set of 35-50 depending on how I feel that day, occasionally 2 sets of 25-30 instead if I tire quickly. I also do squats, pull ups and occasionally planks (hate em). I sprint every 2-3 weeks and I walk 2-4 miles 4-5 times per week. That is my entire exercise program start to finish. My muscles are developing more this time around then they ever did when I went to gyms or exercised every day. I don't know if it is rest time or lots of protein and fat. Those are my only two variables. My guess is you either need more rest time and/or make sure you eat lots of protein and fat to give your body the raw materials it needs.

              Congrats on making your goal weight!!! And good luck with the leanness!


              • #8
                Yeah, you are doing IMO way too much! I'm 47 and I train for about 20-30 minutes a week at most and I'm in the best shape I've been in in a long time. You are doing all those sets of all those exercises, then doing HIIT??? My weight training workout lasts all of about 12 minutes and I can barely walk afterwards much less do HIIT!

                Please understand that exercise is only meant to be a stimulus. Your body does the rest. But to do that first the stimulus must be intense and deep enough then the recovery time must be long enough to not only build back what is depleted but then to overcompensate i.e. growth stronger, bigger muscles. If these requirements are not met you will get at best mixed or no results. 7 hours a week training is insane! Unless you are some genetic freak and or on steroids that is looking for serious systemic breakdown trouble. More is NOT better! The right amount is perfect.

                Another thing is your intensity level while training. I simply can't believe that you are training all that hard on that schedule. If you were, you'd not be able to do near that much.


                • #9
                  [QUOTE=Another thing is your intensity level while training. I simply can't believe that you are training all that hard on that schedule. If you were, you'd not be able to do near that much.[/QUOTE]

                  That's true. Last night I really wanted to do 50 push ups in one set, but I could only do 35, I waited about 10 seconds and did 15 more. My arms and pecs were numb and I could barely move for 30 minutes or so. Pecs are feeling pretty buff right now! And I'm not doing any pushups tonight, I can still feel it.


                  • #10
                    If you (Buffdv) can normally do 50 pushups in a set and you could only get 35 last night, you are clearly doing them too often! Give your body some time to adapt! It is a MUST! Do the pushups twice a week and see what happens!


                    • #11
                      Agree with some of the above.

                      You are training too much. You are not giving your body enough time to recover and then get stronger.

                      Try training less but with better quality and also make sure your form/technique is good. Don't you hate those guys in the gym who pick up heavy weights but cannot do the exercises properly. you say you are lifting as heavy as you can which might mean you are sprinting before you can jog.

                      2010 - 5,11 and 101KG

                      2012 - 5,11 and 77KG

                      Train hard, eat well and love life


                      • #12
                        i agree that you are working out too much/too hard. The stress that is causing on your body may very well be in the way of you seeing results.

                        Since going primal about 10 months ago, I also dropped my total workout time to about 3-3.5 hours a week. I was in decent shape/body comp before, but now I'm very happy with where I am.

                        41 y.o.
                        153 lbs
                        Body fat estimate (scale/measuring averaged) - 11-12%

                        I do a leangains-style fast every day (eating in the window of 1 p.m. - 9 p.m.) I'm pretty strict primal (with dairy) throughout. I certainly feel like I hit 80% compliance, usually probably more like 90-95%. Since I train early morning, I follow lean gains advice and consume 10g BCAA before and 10g BCAA after my workout.

                        3 days a week I'm doing kettlebell work (per ETK); including warmup and stretching after, it's usually 40-50 minutes. Two days a week I do a MetCon focused TRX (or bodyweight) workout, usually no more than 30 minutes. I take two days off a week. I have a 22-month-old girl for whom I am the primary care-giver, so we get a lot of moving into our day - going for walks, playing at the playground, "carry me", etc.

                        I get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.

                        I don't have a before picture, but here's where I am
                        “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery


                        • #13
                          Achon, I'm a personal trainer and would suggest to you to change things up a bit. Your program is pretty advanced for someone who wants to gain strength and lower body fat. First off drop the super sets and just do straight sets. 3x10 will increase the size of your muscle while doing more weight and less reps (5x6 for example) will increase your strength to weight ratio. This will also help you to lower your body fat percentage quite quickly.

                          When you're lifting heavy, you want to find a weight that you can lift 3-5 times maximally. Your rest period should be between 2 and 3 minutes when you're lifting heavy weights , 1 minute to 90 seconds when lifting 3x10.

                          I wouldn't lift anything that you're able to lift for more than 3x10 because your body switches and starts using a different energy source that's more efficient for endurance vs strength.

                          Compound lifts are the best to begin with then add in additional isolation exercises. For instance:

                          Program one

                          Barbell Dead lift 3x10
                          Assisted chin ups 3x10
                          Incline bench press 3x10

                          You could just stop there if you like or like I say add some isolation exercises like:

                          Standing EZ bar curl 3 x 10
                          EZ bar skull crusher 3x10

                          Add those after your chin ups and incline press respectively.

                          HIIT (high intensity interval training) should not take you 20 minutes. As a matter of fact if it is taking you 20 minutes you're not doing it right. HIIT is meant for short bursts of extreme energy. For instance:

                          6 intervals of the following

                          Using a 12 kg kettle bell
                          10 seconds of jumping followed by 20 second rest. Back to back to back until you've jumped for 10 seconds 6 times. If you can't do the jumping because of your knees, do swings with a heavy kettle or battle ropes.

                          That goes into my next point. Your knees. Google vastus medialus exercises. That's the little tear drop muscle on the inside of your quad just above your knee. Focus on strengthening that muscle to help with your knees.

                          I hope this helps. Oh! And one more thing. It seems like you do, but do a journal of your work outs. What you did, how you felt, how many sets and what weights you used. Good luck and have fun!