Case Hardened: The Over 60 Template

by Tom Furman

“The only thing you can guess about a broken down old man is that he is a survivor.” — Joe Sarno, Way of the Gun

Days become weeks. Weeks become months. Months become years. Years, well,. they become decades. They may contain some injuries, illnesses and the death of friends and family. However you manage to endure and move forward. You don’t beat Father Time, you fight him. And in any fight, the idea is to hit the other guy and not take punishment yourself. You need to be case hardened. You need to be smart. In the words of the International Molybdenum Association, “A tough core and hard case”.

This template is extremely open ended. You can use barbells, dumbbells, bodyweight, kettlebells, clubbells, fatbells, sandbags and bands. As per your aerobics, running, rucking, rowing, biking, walking, swimming are good. The purpose behind such a broad use of methods is to adapt to your lifestyle, needs, injuries and goals.

The program can be 3 to 6 days per week. It adapts around your current abilities and expands them. It takes into consideration that certain exercises don’t fit all people. It has the option of variety and can work in a fully equipped gym, in a garage or a playground.

There is an A workout theme and a B workout theme. The A workout is a push, pull, squat and fold done in circuit fashion. The B workout is a posterior chain move and aerobics. Both workouts will have warm ups and stretching. The A and B days are alternated with any pattern that is adaptable to your lifestyle and health. As I said earlier, 3 days per week or 6 days per week, as well as everything in between. Rest when you need to, but often life provides breaks like appointments, car repairs and other minor emergencies. You’ve aged to 60, don’t let failure of will takeover now.

“A” Workouts can be weights, ‘bells or bodyweight. Don’t moralize exercise or food. That is the realm of idiots. Don’t make things complex.

We include a push, a pull, a squat and a fold. In the bodyweight realm, this is pretty easy. A push up, a pull up, a squat or lunge and a sit up or leg raise. That is about as basic as it gets. The same exercises used by armed forces for decades. Then we do them in a circuit. Why a circuit? Time, efficiency and we keep moving. This is not the method to maximum one rep strength. If you still want to include a pet lift, then do it first and rest adequately between sets, then move on to this circuit. Initially, go through the circuit once to make sure it doesn’t irritate anything chronic on your body. Then add a round every workout. The sweet spot will be between 5 and 10 rounds. The reps should be held constant so don’t calculate too high to start. Here is an example.

  • 15 Australian Pull Ups
  • 20 Parallette Push Ups
  • 20/20 Step Ups w/weight
  • 10 Slow Knee Ups w/slings

Weight training at a commercial gym and doing circuits is tough due to crowds and equipment sharing. Here, instead of a circuit, two supersets might work out more efficiently.

  1. Drag two dumbbells to the leg press machine. Now alternate leg presses with incline dumbbell presses. (the leg press machine’s seat is inclined). Do so for 5 to 8 rounds.
  2. Sit into a supported row machine. After a set of rows, hit the deck and hold a hollow body hold for 30–45 seconds. Repeat this for 5–8 rounds.

As per Kettlebells, Clubbells, Fatbells, etc, there are ample, “circuit style”, workouts on YouTube. Pick a favorite, get good at it, then increase the weight or try a new one.

Circuit workouts fall into a grey zone. Not hypertrophic enough, not aerobic enough. However, there is this scant, anecdote that I thought was interesting-

“Another example of the health giving benefits of, ‘training over your head’ is from Iron Game legend, Dave Draper. I remembered an anecdote Dave’s wife, Laree, mentioned when some of us noted the visual difference over the years when Dave moved from straight sets to super sets.” Laree said,-

“Dave spent three weeks in the ICU at the onset of congestive heart failure in the early ’80s due to a decade of excessive alcohol. A couple of years after that, the cardiologist couldn’t believe the progress of Dave’s recovery and said ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” At the time, Dave was doing what he’d always been doing, training 6 days a week, nearly always supersetting and working fast”.

Laree confided that the Cardiologist thought Dave was a runner. However, Dave didn’t run. That hands on examination of his cardiovascular plumbing indicated adaptation from circuits that were noteworthy to the surgeon. Don’t bet the farm on this, but why not do both if you are over 60?

The, A, workout should be preceded by doing the McGill 3 designed by Dr. Stu McGill. We only get one spine and if you make it to age 60, treat it better than your 401K. You don’t want to visit Snap City with your backbone.

Following the workout is stretching. I’d highly recommend doing some resistive type stretching. This can be in the form of PNF stretches. The PNF stretching not only allows a greater range of motion, but stimulates conservative strength gains in the end range of motion, which can be the end game if you blow a joint during recreational activity. A link for a stretching resource is at the end of this article.

If you have a weak body part, several high, time under tension sets of isolation exercise can be placed at the end of the workout. This can be neck, calves, forearms or even gunz.

“B” Workout is straight forward. It is a posterior chain movement and long, easy, aerobics. You should proceed this with a warm up based on Foundation training to train the “hinge” and get blood in the muscles. There are many possible movements to do for the backside of the body. Remember, humans are, “Rear Wheel Drive”, vehicles.

Some moves —

  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Deadlift with a barbell, trap bar, dumbbells
  • Deadlift with bands and a flatiron
  • Kettlebell Snatches
  • Cleans with a barbell or kettlebell
  • Band Good Mornings
  • Hyperextensions or GHG Raises

I won’t get into detail about each method. Suffice it to say that doing 100 to 500 swings, then going for a jog is a strong elixir for longevity. It is very stimulating to the cardiovascular system and lean body mass. Doing deadlifts are perhaps the foundation of strength. Working to limit weights is another game, especially after age 60. I’ll provide resources at the end of the article. One possible tool is the Green Ghost Volume Deadlift Program.

Just doing hyper extensions is maintaining and building lumbar strength, which is good. It doesn’t contribute to the work capacity other than minimizing a weak link.

Listed above is, “Deadlift with bands and a flatiron”. This is a nice little tool. Of course, super strong lifters will retort, “Why not use a barbell?” I’d agree with them. However tucking a barbell into your back pack is precarious when you go to the park to workout. Don’t moralize this stuff, use it.

The LONG SLOW DISTANCE aerobics is another part of the longevity formula for the over 60 trainee. Don’t argue that, “Aerobics deplete muscle mass”. There is a name for those who use that meme and statement. Pussies.

There is ample peer reviewed data on the efficacy of aerobic exercise. It stretches the heart as a type of adaptation. ‘Limit’ lifting thickens the heart. That is another type of adaptation. Things like circuits or extended lifting (kettlebell sport) are of mixed outcome. As well, kettlebell sport athletes RUN as part of training. This is not guesswork. They run or row and the senior lifters WALK.

The clearest sources of cardiovascular exercise instruction in my observation are Philip Maffetone and Andrew Read . You can’t go wrong here. The list of aerobic exercises can include running, walking, rowing, hiking, swimming, skiing (cross country style), biking and indoor cardiovascular machines.

To back track a bit. A simple kettlebell swing program is https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-hybrid-power-conditioning-program This program is organized so that you can through it with particular weight, then after finishing, increase the weight and do it again. When you are doing it with a 92 Kilo Kettlebell, you are a stud.

The B workout should end with long duration holds of static stretches. Build up to 60+ seconds of relaxed stretching. Don’t force it, but you should be really warmed up from aerobics and posterior chain work.

Now on to lifestyle issue which will keep you alive and thriving. The first of which is diet. While this is a highly emotional issue, there is a simple test. If you have excess body fat, you eat too much. If you are lean, you are consuming adequate food. Calories count and for sure there is a difference between how each macronutrient is metabolized, but if you carry fat, you are carrying extra energy that your body did not need. Simply counting calories and eating less can do magic. It is a not a nuanced response, but it works.

Of particular interest to the senior male is adequate protein intake. As we age, we lose muscle in a process called, “age related sarcopenia”. Simply taking supplements does not fix this. Resistance training and adequate protein do. So what is adequate? Some like to consume a gram per, “target”, bodyweight. This is a simple rule of thumb. The best sources are from animal and dairy sources although there are non animal sources if there are ethical reasons that you don’t want to consume animals.

While protein is a big focus, keeping fat off the body, while maintaining lean body mass is an ongoing project. You probably need to eat FAR less than you do while maintaining a higher protein intake. There is a highly technical reason for consuming less food as you age. It’s called sitting on your ass more.

This broad statement can be a guideline -

Food supplements are a broad category and highly controversial one. It’s hard to divide the sense from the nonsense. I’ll keep this simple, here are the baseline supplements if you already consume a well rounded diet listed above.

  • Fish Oil
  • Vitamin D/K
  • Magnesium
  • Creatine
  • Whey/Casein

There are many more supplements which have persuasive evidence for their use, but this is the bottom line. Please note their are some who don’t react well to milk proteins and creatine, so this highly individual. Boosting protein intake from supplements as well as 5 grams of creatine per day can help maintain the waning muscle mass of a 60+ male.

Sleep is of incredible importance. As we age, the need to sleep decreases slightly, but this is highly individual. According to some research, during sleep the brain kind of cleans up the garbage. No sleep and it gets messy. You age mentally. Your immune system is affected and the ability to recover from hard work, especially as we get older, is impaired. If you have sleep issues, deal with them and optimize your nutrition, sleeping environment and stress.

Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT is a like a traffic accident. We either avoid looking at it or can’t stop. At some point in life, men need to address their diminishing hormone levels. To sound highly unprofound, ‘the best advice is to seek the best advice’. The first source is through referral from your Primary Care Physician to a Urologist. This can be frustrating and may take shopping around. This is not the realm of Naturopaths, Chiropractors or Internet Chemists. You have to be educated.

Resources. Here are some of the sources I listed above and a few more. I’m surely missing some, but this is a good start.

The End.

For more personalized training I am available for Online Fitness Coaching. Please contact me at physicalstrategies@gmail.com

Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and conditioning since 1972. With an early background in wrestling and a student of the methods of the York Barbell Club, Tom immediately separated fact from fiction growing up outside Pittsburgh. Eleven members of his family were combat veterans, the most famous one being “Uncle Charlie” (Charles Bronson) His down to earth training methods are derived from his decades long practice of martial arts and his study of exercise science. The application of force, improvement of movement and durability rank high on his list of priorities when training. He gives credit to hundreds of hours of seminars, training sessions, and ‘backyard’ workouts, including training time with many martial arts legends. He also credits his incredibly gifted training partners who came from varied backgrounds such as Exercise Physiologists, Airborne Rangers, Bounty Hunters, Boxing Trainers and Coast Guard Rescue Divers. His best selling ebook, “Armor of War’’, is available at tomfurman.com. His guide to mobility, “Bamboo Gods, Iron Men and Rubber Bands’’, is available on Amazon.

Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and fitness most of his life. He’s currently a fitness coach and been blogging since 2005. www.tomfurman.com