If you want to know if a strength training program works don’t give it to a twenty-year-old kid who plays football. Give it to a forty-year-old basketball player. The difference in body type and testosterone levels will help to really isolate what works and what doesn’t. If your forty-year-old basketball player gets stronger you’ve hit pay dirt.
Well, what do you get when you test a program on a seventy-year-old woman and it works?
You get a program so rich in benefits that it makes you look like a genius as a trainer.
When I attended the Easy Strength seminar last year one of the standout things for me was that I had essentially been following that approach already with my athletic clients, just not with any kind of system or structure. Having even a simple, basic plan to follow made things a lot easier for me from a programming perspective and gave me a better understanding of things I’d seen working and knew instinctively were right. Now when someone asks me a question about what we are doing I get to reply with one of Dan’s favorites, “Because Pavel and Dan said so”.
For anyone who follows Dragon Door Australia on face book you will have seen video this year of my mother, seventy year old Noela Read, performing many deadlifts, squats and swings. Using the Realistic Reps formulae from Easy Strength my mother, at 53kg, has taken her 5RM deadlift from 32kg to 55kg and her 1RM from 40kg to 70kg!
The program itself has been very easy, and I’ll get to it in a minute, but I’ll prelude that with some of the supporting work we did as well. I also need to say that mother has been my longest serving client, getting training programs off me for over twenty years now. She’s probably quite happy the early days that involved stair sprints and burpees are done with! (And who in their right mind would give that kind of training to a seventy year old?)
We begin every session with Super Joints followed by a couple of rounds of two hand swings with a16kg bell for ten reps and a get up each side with a 10kg or 12kg bell (the 10kg is her Goldilocks bell for this). Prior to the current strength block of training we would do a series of FMS based drills as well as some goblet squats and easy deadlifts.
When I say easy, it’s not in the sense that she wouldn’t have to focus, but more in the sense that at no point did she ever have any reason to doubt me when I told her she could make a lift. It amazes me when trainers often prescribe training to their clients, that is different to what the trainers themselves used to get in shape in the first place! If it’s good enough for the trainer, it’s good enough for the client.
Well, deadlifts and squats gave me the biggest bang for my buck in my training along with making sure that everything moved correctly (this relating to both mobility as well as whatever stability was necessary along with a midsection strong enough to cope with this). So even though my mother was advanced in age there was no reason why we wouldn’t follow the same approach.
To make it even more interesting, my mother is not a fulltime gym junkie – we normally only train twice per week. Well, as it turns out the Realistic Reps formula works just as well on a modified two-day per week plan for a seventy year old as it does for a five-day per week person half that age. The key for me with clients is to always allow clients to have a win in training. I never pick weights that clients cannot achieve. That way when we push for the limit when I tell them that they’ll make the lift they just believe and do it. Easy Strength fits this criteria perfectly.
The simple “rule of ten” for big lifts was key in my mind, and because we utilize some of the crawling work from Tim Anderson’s Becoming Bulletproof as well, I knew she was already getting enough upper body work simply through get ups and the crawling.
Our focus is always on two key exercises – goblet squats and deadlifts. We also perform swings, get ups and crawls, but the majority of strength work done is always those two.
We started with a simple 2 x 5 program for each, but in a circuit format that was 5 reps deadlift, 5 reps goblet squat, one lap of my gym crawling. Then we’d usually add weight and do it again. We followed this simple formula for about two months that was punctuated by a natural break when she went on holiday (built in recovery phase and she came back stronger).
Upon returning we resumed a similar format, except this time using 5,3,2 with each change in reps coming with an increase in weight. So a typical session at this time might have been:
Deadlift – 5 reps, 40kg
Goblet Squat – 5 reps, 12kg
Deadlift – 3 reps, 44kg
Goblet Squat – 3 reps, 16kg
Deadlift – 2 reps, 48kg
Goblet Squat – 2 reps, 20kg
This has steadily built up over the last few months and now looks like this (because we have been focusing on the deadlift we haven’t tried to increase the squat even though it is easily possible, to the point now my mother is actually asking why she isn’t squatting with a 24kg!)
A more recent workout looks like this –
Deadlift – 5 reps, 50kg
Goblet Squat – 5 reps, 16kg
Deadlift – 3 reps, 55kg
Goblet Squat – 3 reps, 20kg
Deadlift – 2 reps, 60kg
Goblet Squat – 2 reps, 20kg
For her seventieth birthday recently we did a series of deadlift singles starting at 50kg and working our way up to 70kg! At the time we hadn’t even worked up past 50kg for 5s in training – even more proof of Easy Strength!
It’s quite common for parents to be proud of their children, but not many children get the opportunity to watch their parents turn into a total septuagenarian certified bad ass like my mother. My clients now know not to ever complain about the weights I tell them to use because no one likes to be told that my seventy year old mother can out lift them!
Original le here: