Andy Baker Transcript

Andy: We believe that strength is the foundation to all other physical qualities. But there are other concerns that most people have in terms of when you talk about an overall fitness program. Strength is one element of that, but there are other physical qualities that we want to train as well, including things like balance coordination, flexibility/mobility, anaerobic and aerobic endurance, those sorts of things.

And barbell training does a very good job of training lots of physical qualities at once. Separate and apart from just strength or just the addition of muscle mass. And so, especially for an older population, things like coordination, things like balance, things like mobility are very, very important to train and we don't necessarily need a separate training program to address all of those things.

If we can with one shot address all of those things, then why, why not do that? Versus an isolation type of machine based program that may address some of the concerns with strength and muscle mass, but then have a separate program for balance, a separate program for flexibility and mobility, a separate program for endurance, those sorts of things.

If we could get it all in once it makes a lot more sense, just strictly from a practical standpoint and that, your average person that's raising kids or grandkids and working jobs and has a busy social life or whatever, we only have so much time in the day for exercise. And so we want to try to maximize the efficiency of what we do.

Kevin: Way back in episode 16 I spoke with Dr. Jonathon Sullivan, and we discussed WHY someone over 50 should care about getting – and staying – strong.  And we talked about different fitness protocols, and spent a good amount of time talking about which of these exercise protocols are best for us aging adults.  We talked about the health benefits of strength training, and the fact that us folks over 50 should consider ourselves athletes of aging in the most extreme sport of all – the sport of aging well.  But we only scratched the surface of WHAT we should do to get strong, and just as importantly, HOW we should do it.


Hello and welcome to the Over 50 Health & Wellness how.  I’m you host Kevin English – I’m a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach and my mission is to help you get into the best shape of your life - no matter your age.  We have a great show for you today – And Baker is here to help us get and stay strong.  But before we get to that I want to let you know that today’s show is brought to you by the Silver Edge.   The Silver Edge is my online personal training and nutrition coaching business where I help you get off the exercise and diet hamster wheel and start making permanent healthy lifestyle changes, so that you can enjoy the second half of your life with strength and confidence, and show up as the healthiest, strongest, most vital version of yourself no matter your age.  If you’re interested in learning more, send me an email at and we’ll start a conversation.  My promise to you is no hard sales pitch, not annoying incessant follow up emails, just an introductory conversation about your personal fitness goals.  OK, enough of that, let’s get on with today’s show!


My guest today is Andy Baker.  Andy has over 17 years of experience as a personal trainer and strength coach and is one of the most sought-after strength and fitness experts in the industry.  Andy coaches high level elite athletes as well as “athletes of aging” and is the co-author of “Practical Programming for Strength Training” with Mark Rippatoe.  In addition, Andy is the co-author of “The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life after 40” with Dr. Jonathon Sullivan.  In this episode Andy shares exactly what we should do to get strong, as well as how we should do it.  We cover optimum exercise selection, set and reps, programming and progressions – for everyone from the very basic beginner to the advanced athlete looking to compete in the sport of powerlifting.


But before we jump into the nuts and bolts of how to get you stronger, let’s meet Andy and get a little background.


Andy: For me started very early on. I was about 13 or 14 first time I touched a barbell. Had no idea what doing but fell in love with it from the minute that I started. So like a lot of people, it started with me revolving around sports training. Training for football and baseball, those sorts of things that I did competitively in my youth. And then from there just kind of morphed into different things until I started to pursue it professionally pretty young. Got my first internship while I was a sophomore at Texas A and M and wound up doing some camp type of training, working with athletes early on, then just over the years, morphed out of working with that demographic and of accidentally stumbled into working with an older population.

So I still do a good mix of both. But here in the last decade or so, I'd say, 70, 80% of the work that I do is with those people that are, 40, 50 plus, all the way up into their late eighties and early nineties even.

Kevin: And we're certainly going to dig into some of that. But just backing up a little bit, you mentioned that you first got into strength training really at this very young age, 13, 14. Tell us a little bit about that.

Andy: It’s kind of a funny story. I guess it would have been junior high school, middle school timeframe, that's when you start the off season program in football. And so that's usually the athlete’s first exposure to some sort of formalized weight training program.

Well, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, my parents who are kind of like me are not very technologically savvy knew they didn't have a lot to teach me about computers. And they were adamant that I take a computer literacy course instead of the off-season weight training program.

Which of course I was resistant to. But we cut a deal, which was that if I would take the computer literacy course, then they would buy me a weight set for Christmas. And so of course that was that's what I got, it was one of the old rickety, I don't even know what brand it was, but just kind of rickety as hell, old plastic coverings with sand weights in there.

I think there was a few cracks in them where the sand would leak. So, it was what we had and it was in our garage and I'm from Houston. So it was 105 degrees in the summertime and that sort of thing, but like I said, the first time that I did it, my body just kind of clicked with it. I think I had a good, intuitive understanding of what, even though I really didn't know what I was doing in terms of programming or any sort of technical coaching or anything like that, right away started to see changes in my strength level and the way that I looked and developed and that sort of thing.

So of course you have a little bit of success with something like that early on, you really latch onto it. And over the years it just became a passion and I just read everything I could get my hands on. There wasn't a lot of material back then to read, but eventually kind of morphed away from the barbell set in the garage and to joining a gym, a local gym and bugged all the big strong powerlifters for all the free advice they would give me. And in those days, I was probably the last  generation before this stuff became widely accessible on the internet and before people had smartphones. So there was a different pathway to learn about this stuff, which was kind of human to human interaction in the gym, which we've lost a little bit in a way, that was the only real source of good information was your fellow trainees in the gym.

So like I said, I just sought out the biggest strongest guys in the gym, bugged them like crazy, trying to pick their brain for every bit of information I could get on how to train and what to do and how to get strong and how to build muscles and how to get better at sports and all that kind of stuff.

And, you learn a lot by just watching, you try to watch the commonalities of what do all the big, strong guys in the gym, what are they all doing? And there are certain fundamental commonalities between all of them. So you learn a lot that way.

Kevin: Yeah. And I suppose you're right. Once upon a time you wouldn't have learned how to do something or fancy programming or whatever on, on YouTube or

Andy: Yeah. That's the thing with modern day is it's the best thing that's ever happened to strength and conditioning and also the worst. There's more information than ever accessible to the audience. But at the same time, there's so much bad information out there, or if you don't have the right filter you're not really able to interpret this flood of information that comes at you online as to what you should be doing.

What's good information? What's bad information? What's just stuff to get clicks for social media versus what's right. It's hard for the person that's coming into this that doesn't have any sort of background with it to actually ascertain where they should begin and what they should do.

So, the way it was, it was better. When I was coming up in that you just watched the people who were actually big and strong and you got to see how they trained day in and day out, not just what they put on Instagram, that sort of thing. So you got some good experience just by watching and talking to people.

That was also before we had smartphones. So not everybody was wearing headphones or on their phone in the gym, like they are now. So there's a whole lot less information sharing I feel like that goes on just because in between sets people are on their phone or people have their headphones on, is kind of a do not approach type of sign. So I think there's a little bit less human to human interaction in the gym. So people are forced to go to outside sources enable to learn.

Kevin: Yeah, that's actually very insightful. Obviously, if you walk into a gym these days, that's exactly what you're going to see is a bunch of individuals with their headphones on, or staring down at their phone between sets, et cetera. But once upon a time, that culture was completely different, right? That technology didn't exist.

Andy: If you wanted headphones in the gym, you had to have a big old clucky CD player on your belt that would skip every time you hit it or laid down. And so, it just didn't really work, but now, you've got the Bluetooth headphones and all that sort of thing. But I understand the appeal of that, but at the same time, it's changed the culture to a degree in the gyms.

Kevin: It certainly has changed the culture. Yeah. And I don't think we see, and you may know this better than me, do we still have that you think of that dingy hole in the wall kind of strength gym, as opposed to these more glamorous kind of global gyms? Is that strength culture still alive and well where there are people in there doing more of this power lifting type thing? And  is some of that old school culture still alive or is that dead and buried and gone now?

Andy: No, I think it's still out there. I definitely think it's still out there. But I would also say that the type of training that used to exist only in those kinds of what we call dungeon gyms or whatever has become more mainstream. So, I know when I was growing up, it was very frowned upon for guys to do heavy deadlifts and that sort of thing. Powerlifters and such were relegated to the back corner of the gym if they trained in one of those big commercial facilities.

So that's changed also. And I think programs like CrossFit have actually done a lot to change that, where the demand has come from the bottom up from the customers demanding of the gyms of we want power racks. We want squat racks. We want deadlift platforms. So as where before, from a way of doing business standpoint, the big gyms didn't really want a gym full of people doing squats and deadlifts and power cleans and that sort of thing. It was all selectorized type machines, that sort of thing.

But I think really CrossFit could probably be credited with this, but also just social media in general. The interest in barbell training and in quality strength training has grown so that people, when they join a gym, if they go into a 20,000 square foot facility and see one squat rack in the corner, they're not going to join that.

Because there's going to be a wait at 5:00 PM for 30 minutes to get to the squat rack. So gyms have been forced to add, I know even here locally, I used to be the only gym around had four or five squat racks in my gym. You know, now some of these big commercial facilities have even added whole separate rooms that are more or less strength training rooms, I guess you would say, where they have lots of deadlift platforms and power racks and things like that where people can actually do real serious training.

And I can assure you that the big gyms really didn't want to do that. Well, first of all, they would prefer you not to come period and just pay your monthly dues. But if you are going to come, they would prefer you just sit on a stationary bike and watch TV, or go do the selectorized machines because they can ensure that it's in a way it's safer, it's easier to supervise.

It's less noisy, it's less messy. It's definitely perceived as safer. So they were really forced to do it from the ground up by the consumer, which has been a good thing for the consumer.

Kevin: I would agree wholeheartedly. And to your point on the CrossFit gyms, it put a lot of barbells into a lot of people’s hands who may not have had that experience before or had that opportunity for

Andy: USA weightlifting was on life support before CrossFit.

Kevin: I think you're right. Yeah. Weightlifting guts got rescued more or less, and I've had weightlifters on this podcast talk about that. And they're like, look, I'm not a proponent of CrossFit, but CrossFit did more for weightlifting than weightlifting has ever done for weightlifting.

Andy: No doubt about it. And I think powerlifting could say the same thing. I mean, when I first started competing the first few meets that I did, one - they weren't very big, and two, it was probably 95% men. There were very few women. Now, if you go to a big meet, there's a lot of women that are doing barbell training and there's a lot of older people that are doing it.

So it has broadened. And I think that really started with CrossFit. And I think what happened was that as CrossFit became so insanely popular, I think over time what people really found - both coaches and athletes - was that of all of the different stuff that CrossFit was doing,  all of the different exercises and modalities and workouts, what was the really the few core things that really drove the results in terms of strength, body composition, fitness, performance, whatever you want to call it. And it was the barbell lifts.

I mean, it was the squats, the dead lifts, the cleans, the presses, the bench presses. It was less the kind of the novelty stuff, the wall balls, the kettlebells, and I'm not against any of that stuff, but that's not what was really, I think, at the core of what was driving the great results that people were having.

So I think what happened was people would start CrossFitting and then as they splintered away, they would specialize either in Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting. So it was a portal through which a lot of people entered to get to the barbell, which they otherwise probably would not have done. CrossFit made it cool.

Before it wasn't cool. Well, nobody even knew what Olympic weightlifting was. Few people knew what powerlifting was, but powerlifting was not cool. That was just a sport that a bunch of big fat guys did. It's changed the perception of that, for sure. And it's really grown, both weightlifting and power lifting. In my opinion.

Kevin: It certainly has. And it's done a lot for the over 50 crowd as well. There are people walking into CrossFit gyms, specifically over 50, and we could have a long discussion about whether that's good or bad, but the fact remains that there are people over 50 – men and women – and some of these it will be the first in their live doing these lifts we’re talking about.  The Olympic lifts and powerlifting lifts.

So let's segue a little bit. You've mentioned powerlifting several times, and I'm guessing there are a few people out here listening right now that that may not know about power lifting. Talk about powerlifting, what the lifts are, what a competition is, and we'll move our conversation forward from there.

Andy: Power lifting is a three lift event, the squat, the bench press and the dead lift, performed in that order. And at a meet, the lifter will have nine attempts. You get three attempts per lift. So nine total. Every lift is performed for a single one repetition maximum, and then it's divided up by weight, class, gender, age, and they have different formulas that they use to determine the winner.

There's an overall winner. And then winner of each weight class based on the total amount of weight that you lift. So they combine the squat, the bench press and the dead lift. And that's your total. And then within that, they also have subcategories of bench press only, deadlift only, push pull, which is for people that don't want to do the squat.

That's fairly popular with older people that just want to bench, press and deadlift, and don't necessarily want to max out on the squat, which is not a horrible idea, but that's push pull. So there's subcategories in there, but power lifting is squat, bench press and deadlift.

When you talk about of extrapolating powerlifting training out towards a training program, there is some nuance differences between for power lifting and using the power lifts for training. There is a difference between the two. So what a lot of people see powerlifters doing, they may say, well, that's not really what I want to do. And that's not what I do with the bulk of my clients. But I do use the squat, the bench press and the deadlift with the bulk of my clients.

But the aim for the general population that is using those lifts to get stronger is different than a powerlifter who's solely looking at peaking for one rep max strength for a competition. There are some things that you'll change about how you coach the lifts and how you train the lifts order to peak for a power lifting meet versus train to get functionally stronger.

So very, very similar and tons of overlap, but a little bit different.

Kevin: Clearly you can see where, especially for somebody like a novice lifter, let's say over 50, perhaps training for a power lifting meet, we might have some concerns there anytime time you're going to attempt a one rep max max. So I do want to talk about programming and specifically using those lifts in programming and also I suppose, using those lifts in order to prepare for a competition.

But before we go there, you are an author of a couple of books. You've Practical Programming for Strength that you wrote with Mark Rippetoe, and you've got The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40 that you wrote Jonathan Sullivan. And we've had Dr. Sullivan on the show and he talked a lot about why we would want to do strength training for people over 50.

We’ve taled about powerlifting, these three major compound lifts. Why would somebody over 50 want to do that type of lifting?

Andy: Well, there's a lot of reasons. In terms of just the lifts themselves, we're going to want to bias our training towards free weight movements that involve moving a lot of muscle mass at once. Just in terms of efficiency, practicality, functionality, and carry over to everyday life.

You know, the movements that we do in life typically are not performed with muscles in isolation. They're performed with muscles working together as a system. And these movements that we coach as part of our program, the squats, the deadlifts, the bench, the overhead presses, the cleans in some contexts, these are the movements that incorporate the most muscle mass.

They use the muscle mass over a long range of motion and they allow a lot of weight to be lifted. And that's important. A lot of people get scared off by that, but you have to keep in mind that heavy weight is relative to the person. So, if you see somebody doing a 500 pound deadlift, it doesn't mean that we are necessarily training you to do 500 pounds.

Although that would be really cool, but for the beginner it might be a 45 pound deadlift on day one. But that's still more weight than you'll be able to move as compared to other modalities or other elements. So it's all relative. But for that person, it's going to allow you to train the most muscle mass with the most weight.

Those are really the three criteria that we look at is most muscle mass possible, most weight possible. And so that's why we like them. The other part of these movements that we like is the fact that they also have broad overlap with other kind of domains of fitness.

So we're obviously biasing towards strength because we believe that strength is the foundation to all other physical qualities. But there are other concerns that most people have in terms of when you talk about an overall fitness program. Strength is one element of that, but there are other physical qualities that we want to train as well, including things like balance, coordination, flexibility/mobility, anaerobic and aerobic endurance, those sorts of things.

And barbell training does a very good job of training lots of physical qualities at once. Separate and apart from just strength or just the addition of muscle mass. And so, especially for an older population, things like coordination, things like balance, things like mobility are very, very important to train and we don't necessarily need a separate training program to address all of those things.

If we can with one shot address all of those things, then why not do that? Versus, an isolation type of machine based program that may address some of the concerns with strength and muscle mass, but then have a separate program for balance, a separate program for flexibility and mobility, a separate program for endurance, those sorts of things.

If we could get it all in once it makes a lot more sense, just strictly from a practical standpoint. And your average person that's raising kids or grandkids and working jobs and has a busy social life or whatever, we only have so much time in the day for exercise. And so we want to try to maximize the efficiency of what we do.

Kevin: And I think some people might even be surprised when they think about something like a deadlift or a squat, and you talk about balance, mobility, and clearly all those things are involved in those movements. And you mentioned aerobic in there as well. And I think somebody listening right now might be scratching their head on that one. But anybody who's done a heavy set of three deadlifts can attest to the fact that you're going to be out of breath by the end of that. Your heart is going to be working

Andy: 100%. When an untrained novice comes into my gym, they see a lot of weights and what they don't see is a lot of treadmills and that sort of thing. I've got an Airdyne bike and a rower tucked away in the corner, but 99% of my floor space is covered with weights.

And one of the questions I get asked a lot by new people coming in is, what do you do for cardio? People that have never squatted before are generally the only people that are going to ask that. And I'll tell them, just give me a workout and ask me if you feel like you need more than that.Because like you said, heavy sets of five squats, dead lifts, those things when you stand up from those and rack the bar, your heart rate is elevated.

Strength is general and conditioning is specific. The conditioning that you get from weight training is not going to prepare you for a marathon. It's not going to prepare you for a five round mixed martial arts fight. It doesn't have that sort of impact on your anaerobic and aerobic systems, but it is very useful for the things that most people maybe struggle with. So if you're winded from walking up a flight of stairs and you have to stop at the top, which, a lot of my clients that I see when they start, these are some common complaints. I get to the top of my stairs, and I have to stop and hold the handrail and take a few deep breaths or, I've got to do yard work for a half of a Saturday and I can barely get through it. And if I do get through it, I'm wrecked for the rest of the weekend, or even just things like rearranging furniture in your living room and picking up a couch and moving it from here to there, that sort of thing is more along the lines of what people do in their daily lives.

Kind of simple physical labor around the house, around the yard, and in their workspace. And weight training prepares you very well for those sorts of things. Like I said, if you want to train for a marathon or a triathlon, well you're going to have to run, bike and swim. Weight training will help towards those goals, but it's not quite enough. But for the bulk of the general population that's not looking to compete in some sort of aerobically based event, weight training is about all you need in terms of preparing your energy systems for those types of demands.

Kevin: That's a very good point. I think most of us - certainly those of us over 15 - the chances in our daily life that we're going to need to run 26.2 miles over to the next town for some reason it's pretty slim. But we will need to exert ourselves strenuously and in specific cases be able to walk up and down stairs, pick up grandkids and move things around, et cetera.

So let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room here. There's somebody out there thinking well, I don't know. My doctor told me I shouldn’t squat. It's bad for my knees. Somebody else probably went to a chiropractor or to a physical therapist at one point for their back. We know that the low back is one of the most common injuries, and the person there said, well, no more dead lifting for you. How safe are these movements that we're talking about?

Andy: Well, there's two ways to look at it. One, the hard data does not support that. If you look at the numbers it does not support statistically, and this goes back for several decades that, as compared to other type of athletic activities, the data does not show weight training as a significant risk in a young population or an older population. From an anecdotal observation, walk into the waiting room and for orthopedic clinic, how many people are waiting to get their surgeries and see how many of them are there because they were lifting weights and how many of them were there because they were not lifting weights, that got injured doing some fairly mundane things. How many have a back injury from picking up a 50 pound bag of mulch in their yard that they were not prepared to lift because they were not trained to do so?

If you can work your deadlift up to 150 pounds, which is a very reasonable thing for almost anybody probably listening to this, then that 50 pound bag of mulch, all of a sudden, it's not so heavy. And it doesn't matter if you pick it up with the perfect mechanics or not. Can you still get injured? Yes. Your likelihood of injury is much lower. The likelihood that that injury is significant is much lower and your recovery from that injury is going to be faster. The other side of that is I say, in terms of the medical community, that's another thing. I've seen over my career - and I've been doing this nearly 20 years now - is that the medical community has become more and more supportive of this activity with an older population. There was much more of the well, my doctor told me not to pick up anything over 10 pounds. My doctor said don't do squats and deadlifts because I'll hurt my back or hurt my knees.

There was more of that 20 15, 10 years ago than there is today. I have far more people now that that will come to me and say, you know, I told my doctor I was doing this. And he said, great, keep it up. Part of that is because I think just, again, it's like the CrossFit thing. It's kind of been from the ground up where I think doctors and the medical community at large have just been forced to recognize the fact that the people that are coming into their clinics and their offices that are engaged in weight training or strength training probably are having better health outcomes than those that are not. So it's just hard to ignore from an anecdotal standpoint of just evaluating patients.

When you're looking at say a 30 year old in terms of their health and their physical output, there's not that much difference between somebody who weight trains and somebody who doesn't. I mean, there is, but there isn't. Most 30 year olds, if they're not exercising regularly lifting weights, they're still not all that limited in their day-to-day life of what they can do. You progress that up another 30 or 40 years, and you start looking at somebody who's 70 that has lifted weights for the past decade versus somebody that has completely ignored their physical body.

There is a massive difference. Those are almost like two different people. The difference between a 75 year old that has neglected their body and a 75 year old that's lifted, it’s night and day. And I think just from an observational standpoint, that it's very, very hard to ignore from the medical community.

I also think more doctors are more into it now. There's an old guard of, we just need to walk and run and ride our bikes and that sort of thing versus a newer generation moving in that's got a better recognition just from a personal anecdotal standpoint that know weight training is actually something that's important for an older population.

And I think most importantly, it can be sustained late into life where the problem with running, and I've got a number of clients over the years, and dozens that were avid runners in their thirties, forties, fifties, they hit their sixties and all of a sudden things start falling apart. Ankles, knees, low backs, hips, all of a sudden don't like that pounding the pavement and they're left thinking, okay.

What do I do now for my physical fitness? Cause running is actually breaking me down, tearing me down a little bit. Plus the aerobic based exercise only is speeding up some of the effects of aging in that it's very catabolic. It's very wasteful of muscle tissue and the primary concern for our older clients is how do we preserve muscle tissue?

How do we preserve strength and muscle tissue? I'm not saying that heart health and all that stuff's not important, but there's other ways to go about it. Rather than really long bouts of aerobic activity that aren't as catabolic and wasteful of muscle tissue. I mean, you just look at the body of an elite marathon runner.

That's not what we're chasing when we're in our sixties, seventies, and eighties. I mean, we're wanting to do the opposite, which is to add muscle mass  because it's brutally hard to keep it. The body's trying to shed it, but that's what we call sarcopenia that, that loss of muscle mass. I mean, that's what puts people in wheelchairs and that's what puts people on walkers, is a loss of strength and muscle mass. Not the loss of aerobic ability. And so I think it's weight training - it's just one of those things that you can start when you're 60, 70 years old and you can maintain it for another 10 years. And it's actually countering the effects of aging rather than accelerating.

Kevin: There does seem to be a shift in the culture towards this acceptance of strength training, specifically for older people for longevity, for wellbeing, for health, and not so much, maybe for a powerlifting meet.

I think it was Dr. Gabrielle Lyon who says muscle is the organ of longevity. Of course we know that as older people, we're going to start to lose those Type 2 muscle fibers, those fast twitch muscle fibers, preferentially over those slow twitch ones, which you had mentioned all that running and the aerobic type thing. And it's the strength training that's really going to help us hangon to, or even grow and develop more of that muscle as we age.

So, yeah. Thanks for sharing all of that. That's, that's fantastic I want to talk about programming, but before we get there, let's talk about our novice lifter, the person listening to this who doesn't really have a whole lot of experience with the barbell. What's the best way for somebody like that to get started with these lifts?

Andy: Here's the problem with the barbell lifts. There is a technical aspect to them. It is not as easy as sitting down in a selectorized Nautilus machine and moving the pin up and down the stack in a fixed range of motion. There's a much lower barrier to entry to that sort of exercise protocol.

There's no technique to sitting on a stationary bike, there is a barrier to entry in a way with the barbell lifts. And it is very difficult to find a workaround for good coaching. The problem there in lies is that there's just not a ton of really good qualified coaches.

That's changing. There's more and more personal trainers and strength coaches out there that are moving into the realm of training the over 50 crowd with barbells. But I would say best thing you can do at the beginning is if you can, is to find a qualified coach to help you. In-person is the best, but there is now an almost an unlimited amount of online coaching available as well. So you want to find a qualified coach, somebody who - I'm a starting strength coach - so I'm always going to be biased towards finding a starting strength certified coach that can teach you these lifts or at least evaluate your own attempt at teaching yourself, so that you know whether you're doing these lifts correctly or not.

So the first thing is if you can, you don't want to just walk into the gym and start trying to do squats if you have no idea of a model that you're working towards. So whether that's from a book or YouTube videos or a coach, you need to some preliminary self-education. No more than I would try to fix my car by just opening up the hood and start unplugging things and loosening up bolts and that sort of thing.

You want to have some sort of fundamental knowledge of how thing work before you start tinkering with it. So that's where coaching really comes into play is to try to find a coach that is aligned with a system of barbell based strength training, some experience working with the over 50 crowd, because there is some differences in applying these things to older people versus maybe your average CrossFit gym, which has a whole lot of twenties and thirties, which I've always said, that's the easiest population in the world to train.

They move better. It's a little bit more difficult with the older folks. There are some limitations, sometimes there are some kind of individual manipulations that you need to make in order to get people to where they can do these lifts safely and efficiently. So that's where I would start, with some preliminary self-education.

I'm always going to tell people, if you can get the book, Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, read through at least how to do the squats and the dead lifts. You can almost bypass the other movements, the bench presses, and even the overhead presses and the power cleans.

If you can just teach yourself and learn how to squat and deadlift. In terms of functionality for older folks that's going to get you 90% of the way there. We like the other lifts as well, but to me, the squats and the deadlifts are really the core. Those are the two life life-changing lifts, life altering lifts, if you will. And they really are. I'm not using hyperbole when I say that. I really do believe that. So if you can teach yourself those lifts, find a gym that's set up for barbell training. That's the other thing is to find a good environment to do it in. Your local community gym or whatever may not be the optimal place to do that.

But nowadays there's almost a never ending sea of gyms that are available. Gyms like mine that are strictly set up as coaching gyms. They're not public membership gyms it's just, and Sully's gym is the same way where our entire gym is based strictly upon a coaching model rather than a membership model, and there's a lot of gyms like that.

You have to do a little bit of digging, but your average Gold's gym or crunch fitness is not necessarily going to be the place that you're going to want to look to learn these lifts. You're not going to have qualified instructors there. Most of the time. There's a few diamonds hidden in there, but for the most part, you're going to want to find somebody that specializes in this sort of training if you can. That's going to be your fastest route to get there. You can get there on your own. There's plenty of people that are self-taught. But it like anything else, if you can have a qualified, experienced person show you how to do these things, you're going to save yourself a significant amount of time getting from point A to point B.

Kevin: So folks out there you heard a couple of things in there. One is a starting strength coach, or you find somebody who's certified in that program, like Andy, and I'll drop these into the show notes as well so folks can look this up. Clearly that would be ideal, right? That's that in-person coaching - somebody who in real time has got eyes on you and is correcting you in real time and teaching you this form.

That would be ideal. And then Andy mentioned the book Starting Strength, and that is a fantastic resource. I've referenced that thing continuously. It's dog-eared, it's highlighted. That is the second best way, I think, of trying to self-teach yourself these lifts.  Do yourself a favor, buy that book.

OK, so before we dig into what a sample program might look like for somebody over 50 – we’ve mentioned programming several times here – what is programming?

Andy: That's a good question. Programming the roadmap to get from point A to point B. Today you're at a barely being able to do a body weight squat for a set of five, to get you to where - you can just pick an arbitrary number - we want to get you to 100 pounds squat or 150 pound squat for a set of five. How do we get there? There's a process that you have to go through where one session is built on the previous session and has an eye on the next session.

It's very important that people differentiate the concept of exercise versus training. That's a very distinct difference and we're not anti exercise, but the mindset and the strategy that's used are two different things. Exercise is anything that you're doing for the purposes of just getting a result for today.

In other words, it's - as my mentor Mark Rippetoe would say - it's just about getting hot sweaty and tired. It's picking some random collection of exercises and knocking them out today with no real eye on what you did in the previous session or what you're going to do in the next session. Training, which involves programming, is very different. Programming training has a fixed starting point. And from there we take a very small step, very small conservative step towards that larger goal. So everything that we do today is built off of what did we do in the last session and what are we going to be doing in the next session.

In other words, I mean, the simplest example of that is, the client comes in in the gym today. We start them off with a 45 pound bar. They squat it for three sets of five. Okay. That's good for today. That's more than you did last time, which was nothing. So 48 hours from now, we're going to go to 50 pounds. 48 hours after that, we're going to go to 55 pounds. That's that sort of thing. It's not necessarily about what can you do today. And this is where sometimes people who like to train hard and like to push themselves get into trouble. They want to push as hard as they possibly can today.

And it's not really necessary when you're looking at the longterm. You just have to build on what you did last time. And if you can do that without killing yourself, you're going to get better progress in the long-term. If every session is maximal, then sometimes it's the recovery can't keep up with the training.

And so progress gets blunted. But if you can go up five pounds on Wednesday versus what you did Monday, and then go up another five pounds on Friday and go up another five pounds on the following Monday, that's really all that you need to do. You're going to elicit a training response from that increasing load.

And a lot of times it will be perceived as fairly easy in the beginning. Once you get over that initial soreness, that sort of thing, it's a very conservative progression. But a conservative progression in the short-term is going to lead to longer gains in the long term. You're going to recover easier.

You're going to adapt to the training better. And you're going to keep yourself from getting all of those kinds of aches and pains and inflammatory conditions and stuff that come up along the way. So those are going to be a factor that you're eventually going to have to battle, but we want to try to kind of prolong that as long as possible.

Kevin: Thanks for sharing that. And I think people might not have thought about that distinction between exercise and training, and thinking of that training or that programming as being that more strategic roadmap to get you from A to B. So let's take a hypothetical situation here. We've got a novice and let's just say we've screened this person. They move well. They've got the mobility to do these movements to squat deadlift and press.

Would you recommend this person starts doing? The week look like for this person? We know we've got that progressive overload that you just described. We're going to add a little bit of weight each time, we're not going all out max every session, but how might we structure workouts? How many would we do in a week? What exercise selection will we do? How many sets and reps? What might that novice workout look like? Is it tremendously cool? Is it fairly simple?

Andy: Very, very simple. It's like it math. It's addition and subtraction before you get to multiplication and division. And before you get to algebra and all the other stuff that follows.

So we're going to start with just the basics. The basics for us are going to be like you said, the squat, the deadlift, the bench, the overhead press. And then there'll be a few other movements in there depending on the person. But generally the model that we kind of start with is a three-day per week model, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, whatever works for you.

Each workout starting with the squat. The reason that we start each workout with the squat is because what defines a novice, it's not just someone who's new to weight training. We have a little bit more technical definition than that. And a novice is somebody that's capable of recovering and adapting to training, basically every 48 to 72 hours.

In other words, if you're capable of adding weight to your squat, every 48 to 72 hours, then why not do that? Why do it just once a week, if you could do it three times a week and still recover from it. And that's what a novice can do. A novice can go into the gym three days a week and add a small amount of weight to the squat and make progress literally at every single session.

And they can do that for, depending on the person and how their genetics and their nutrition and their stress management and sleep and all these other things, they can do that probably in most cases from like six to 12 weeks uninterrupted. And that's going to be a very, very fast progression.

That's important from the fact that it's going to get you from weak to strong or significantly stronger, very, very quickly. It also creates a lot of buy-in from the client. And that's important to me is that when somebody starts a new endeavor, if they have to wait weeks and months in order to see results , the likelihood that they're going to really be bought into it is lower.

But when they can see those results very, very quickly, and they notice after the first week, I'm already significantly stronger and after the first month, wow, I'm a lot stronger. Now you've got, for me a client for life. But more importantly, you've got someone who has decided for themselves that they're a lifter for life.

Because it has made a substantial and drastic change in their life. So that's why we program those lifts three days a week, instead of just once a week. The second lift of the day is typically a pressing movement. We generally alternate between the bench press and the overhead press.

There's a lot of overlap between those two movements. So we would say the second movement on, let's say week one, on Monday, we bench on Wednesday, we overhead press and on Friday we bench press again. And the next week would be the opposite. We would overhead press twice on Monday and Friday and bench press on Wednesday.

So you're just alternating every other workout and then the third exercise of the day is generally the deadlift. Starting out we typically deadlift people three times a week, or at least I do that will last for two or three weeks before the fatigue will start to build up in the lower back. And then I'll reduce the frequency.

It's maybe just once or twice per week. But the deadlift is much the same as the squat and then at the beginning, recovery is pretty good. It's every 48, every 72 hours, the person can come in and I can add a small amount of weight. And the deadlift, it's usually five to 10 pounds per workout. So you're looking at 15 to 30 pounds per week on the deadlift as an initial starting point.

And that's significant, that's going to have a significant impact on that person's strength and muscle mass. And we might include a fourth exercise, which is generally some sort of upper body pulling movement for those that can, it might be chin-ups and pull-ups. For a lot of my older clients chin ups and pull ups are not something that's in the cards right away.

It's not something that I generally stress over if they can't, if they're a long way from being able to do a chin up or a pull up, then we might have them do something like lat pull downs. We might have them do something like a body weight row. If you own a pair of rings or TRX straps, or whatever you have, but some sort of upper body pulling movement I feel is important.

It trains the flexors of the arms, that sort of thing, which I think is an underrated aspect of strength training. And that's how we interact with our environment. So, getting the arm stronger with those sorts of movements is a fourth movement that I considered to be more or less be fundamental.

Me and Dr. Sullivan have talked about it a lot, another underrated movement - and this is important for a lot of our much older clients say, you know, seventies and eighties, where do the overhead press - a lot of times can be problematic. So it's very, very, very common to see people come in that have a lot of range of motion limitations in their shoulders, arthritis in the shoulders, or just general lack of mobility is a very real thing, especially in men that are in their sixties, seventies, and eighties.

And a lot of times the overhead press is not trainable. Which is unfortunate because the overhead press is in our basic novice program is the only upper body movement that's trained standing on two feet. We're big on that. The squat and the deadlift, we stand on two feet. And again, going back to that element of balance, coordination, using lots of muscle mass.

So not just the legs and the hips, but everything, the buzzword is the core. You know, the core is used in those movements. Everything between the barbell and your feet involved in that movement. So we like to train movements that involve the full body standing on two feet.

And if you can't train the press, you're missing out on an upper body movement where it's just you and the barbell out in space, standing on two feet. And so we use a lot of just standing barbell curls, it’s one of those that has been kind of, in a lot of the strength training world, is kind of considered a “bodybuilding movement.”

But I actually believe that the barbell curl is a very functional movement for a lot of people. And that's something that I'll include in my programming for sure, for people that can't overhead press. And I know Dr. Sullivan uses it a lot. He trains a lot more geriatric patients than I do, late eighties and early nineties.

And that's a big part of their programming because it's almost hard to find a guy that's in his eighties or nineties that can overhead press with good mechanics. It's pretty rare. But they can barbell curl and it's a good movement. So that's about four or five movements that would basically be the core of the program.

And you're just going to repeat those basic three workouts every week. For as long as you can, for a lot of people three days a week might be a little bit too much. So I have a lot of clients that only train with me two days a week. And so this is another one of those things where what's optimal from a physiological standpoint, kind of collides head-on with what's practical. Sometimes just from a cost standpoint in that coaching is expensive, unfortunately. But it just is, and a lot of people can only meet with their coach, say one to two times per week. But you don't want to let that deter you from doing the program just because you can't do it three days a week.

Two days a week works really, really, well. I have a lot of clients that train with me Monday and Thursday, Tuesday, and Friday, that sort of thing. So it's not something that has to be done all the time. And that's good in a way you really can commit one hour a week, twice a week, and you can make as we like to say in the book, a big deposit in your physiologic 401k from a minimal investment of time.

So sometimes just from the practical reality, whether it's finances or scheduling of that's all you can meet with your coach, or that's just all your body can recover from. And definitely in the long-term a lot of my clients wind up moving to a two day per week program because as the weights get heavier and the demand to get stronger gets higher, the three days a week just winds up being a little bit much.

And if they're trying to balance the weight training with maybe some other activities that they do, twice a week works really, really well. I've even got clients that train with me just once a week. So progress is a little slower for sure, but there's progress nonetheless, and it's infinitely better than doing nothing at all. The difference between once a week and nothing is huge. I always tell people, I can only fit you in once a week or they can only afford once a week or they, their schedule only allow once a week, and they're kind of hesitant, should I even do it if I'm just going to do this once per week?

And you know, my retort to them is usually, well, how many weight training workouts did you get in last year? And the answer is usually none. And I say, well, once a week, if you don't miss, that's going to be about 52 workouts this year. And that's a big difference between zero.

Even if you miss some due to the flu and vacations or whatever, and you get 40 or 45 workouts in, that's infinitely better than zero, you're still going to get stronger. You're still going to build that muscle mass. And so I just say that because I don't want your listeners to necessarily be deterred if they can't do the full program.

So don't let perfection be the enemy of progress.

Kevin: So, what it sounds like though is it's not very complicated, right? You had three, four, maybe five movements depending on your client there. And you're going to do this full body workout, three times a week, two times a week. And even one time a week is better than zero times a week. But it's, it's not overly complicated. So we've got our novice in, they've come in and been diligent on their three times a week. They're knocking this out. They're making great gains to your point, we're adding five pounds every week. There's this feeling of accomplishment.

There's this sort of built in motivation factor there as they see themselves basically PRing every week, for all intensive purposes, right? For this novice, and they're getting stronger and that's bleeding  over into their real life, and they're more confident, competent people. And now all of a sudden what happens is they're deadlifting, whatever that weight is, let's say that’s 150 pounds, whatever it is. And that's what they did last week. But all of a sudden, now that's what they're doing this week. They're plateauing in other words. So sooner or later, unfortunately, we just can’t have linear progress forever.

So now we've got our novice, who's been at this for a while. They're getting strong. They're really good in they're in movement mechanics now, but they're starting to plateau. Where do we go from there from a programming perspective?

Andy: So this applies to older people or younger people. The fundamentals don't differ based on age. But at that point, we have to find a way to increase and/or vary the type of stress that this person has been exposed to. So backing up a little bit on the novice program, we generally stick with the rep range of five reps.

We use a five rep range because that is what we call the metabolic middle. Iit's right in the middle there, it's kind of this perfect intersection between enough repetition and enough weight to drive the adaptation that we want. Okay. So the most direct pathway to pure strength is just to doing heavy sets of one, one heavy single repetition.

That's a very direct way of training absolute strength, which is what we want. The problem is it's not enough volume. Volume is just basically - that could be thought of as the total amount of work that you do. One repetition, even if it's done with a very heavy weight is not very much volume.

So you need a certain baseline of volume in order for the body to respond. Sets of five reps, usually we do about three, is a good amount of volume while still allowing enough weight to still be in the strength training zones. That's why we don't do sets of 10 to 15.

Too much volume and also not enough weight. So you're kind of outside of that window of what would be optimal in terms of, you're trying to find this middle ground between weight volume and recoverability. Five reps do a really, really good job of finding that middle ground.

So we train our clients with sets of five in the beginning, almost exclusively, but that's going to run its course after a while. Fives will stay as one of the fundamental rep ranges that we work in. Over time that person is going to need more stress, also a varied type of stress.

So at that point, what we will do, you can't just, doesn't work to just increase volume and keep adding weight. So if three sets of five is not enough, can't just move that person to five sets of five and keep adding weight. If they're stuck at say 150 pounds for three sets of five, you can't just go to five sets of five and greatly increase the amount of training volume that they're doing, and then also just keep adding weight. That's too much. They'll hit an even harder plateau and actually start to regress from over-training. So we have to figure out a way, how do we add stress to this person in a way that they can also recover from? So what I typically do is we start to increase the volume a little bit.

So we have now instead of every day being three sets of five and adding weight to Monday, Wednesday, Friday, what I really like and what Dr. Sullivan also uses is a heavy, light, medium approach. So you have a day of the week where say, let's just take the squat because that makes it easier to narrow it down to just one movement.

We have a day where you will train the squat a little heavier than what you've been doing. And we also will probably lower the rep range. So now, instead of doing sets of five on your heavy day, we might have that person start doing some singles, some doubles, and some triples not necessarily limit sets, but definitely when you lower the rep range down and get down into the one to three rep range, now you can start adding a little bit more weight to that person, but now you've dropped the volume. So you have to offset that on another day of the week by increasing the volume. But lowering the weight. So we might have a heavy day on - let's just say instead of three sets of five, we drop it down to three sets of three.

Okay. And that doesn't seem like a lot, but in practice it actually makes a difference. So you can start adding weight to - let's say the Monday workout is three sets of three. On Wednesday we may have a light recovery type workout. Cause they're going to be a little more fatigued from doing that heavier weight.

So we do a say maybe three sets of five again, but at a pretty lightweight it's again, it's kind of an active recovery. In some cases we may decide not to squat at all on that day. And then on Friday, which would be a medium day. This is where we would increase the volume. So we might increase them to say five sets of five or something like that, but we would reduce the load from where they were at.

So let's say we ended the novice progression three sets of five at 150 pounds. Well now the next week on Monday, let's say they're at three sets of three and we're able to go up to 155. So we keep adding weight to the bar. And on Friday we're doing five sets of five or four sets of five.

So slight increase in volume, but we dropped the load a little bit down to 140 or 135. So there's an increase in volume on one end of the week and a reduction in weight. And on the other end of that week, there's a decrease in volume, but an increase in intensity. So we have simultaneously increased the volume, but also we increase the stress. So it's not that you are not throwing the same pitch at the body over and over and over again. Does that make sense?

Kevin: It certainly does.

Andy: Sometimes these are very difficult to do in a verbal format, when we start working through numbers like this in a verbal format, sometimes people get lost. A lot of times it's easier to see in an article based format where you can see the text, but that's basically what we're doing is we are increasing the amount of stress, but making it in a way that is varied so that it's more recoverable. If that makes sense.

Kevin: It does. So we're going to increase and vary the stress. And the reason being is our bodies are incredibly good at adapting to stresses, right? And that's the reason you don't get stronger by lifting the the same thing every week. Your body will quickly baseline to that, and then it doesn't need to make strength gains, co it won’t.

And early on, as a novice, we're able to just keep adding a little bit of weight in this very simple progression, and we're able to get that growth stimulus every time. And then there's that strength adaptations that we want, and when we start to plateau that's when programming gets a little trickier, right? Like you said, now increase but vary the stimulus a little bit. We're going to shake things up.

We've got our novice now, they’ve come in, they've gotten considerably stronger on that three day a week program, just adding a little bit of weight every single session. They plateaued. We’ve thrown a couple of different tricks at them, in order to get them over that and to keep them progressing.

We have an individual who's getting stronger and is really enthusiastic and has expressed some interest in a power lifting competition. And maybe they don't want to win it. Maybe they want it for the life experience. It’s a bucket list. They’re really proud of what they've accomplished here. What is your your advice to this person who has expresses this? And then how do you prepare that kind of a person for competition? What changes in the,programming?

Andy: The thing is with competition is the person will have achieved the mindset shift by themselves, without the coach. So I don't push people into doing powerlifting meets. They're going to have express that to me. So they're going to have made that mental shift themselves. And so now it's your job as a coach - I mean, I always tell my clients my goal is never to set your goals for you.

My goal is to help lay out the roadmap for you to help reach those goals and possibly tell you if your goals are idiotic or unrealistic, which sometimes they are. But also to tell you that, sometimes maybe you're capable of quite a bit more than what you think you are, but at the same time, the coach's job is not necessarily to set the goal for the clients.

If a client comes to you and has expressed some interest in wanting to take the next step, which is to take it to a competitive level. So competition is specific, so you have to now start tailoring the training program to where that person is starting to train specifically for the demands of a power lifting meet, which at its basic level means they have to get good at pushing one rep maxes or heavy singles.

That's what the competition calls for. You don't do sets of five in a competition. You do sets of heavy singles. And there’s a physical adaptation that has to take place. So the person has to prepare their muscle tissue, as well as their neurological system to get better at straining against heavy singles.

There's a technical aspect to it. The technique changes a little bit when things get really heavy like that, learning how to stay with a lift longer. Sometimes when you pull a heavy deadlift off the floor, a lot of times, for the person that's never done it, you get that thing a few inches off the floor and it doesn't feel like it's going to go.

And so the unexperienced person will set it back down. You have to learn how to strain through that lift and finish that lift to its completion. And sometimes it moves with what will feel like an eternity. It will feel like it takes you 30 seconds to lock that thing out. And it's a fundamentally different rep than say, one rep of a set of five, which were all those reps you're used to them moving a little bit smoother, than that heavy single does. So there's some technical practice that comes through learning how to train with those heavy weights and then a psychological adaptation to not being intimidated by the way those weights feel. Again, when you're pulling that heavy deadlift off the floor and it gets a couple inches off the floor and you hit that sticking point, you feel like there's no way I'm going to be able to lock this thing out.

You've got to be mentally tough enough to just stay with it for a few more seconds. And that bar is going to creep up and up and up and up until you eventually lock it out. The same thing could be said on a squat. If you've never taken out a heavy single out of the rack, and you unrack that thing and take a step back with it, and that thing feels like it's going to crush you. You have to get used to that, and that's something that takes a little bit of time to realize that, yeah, that weight it feels really heavy on your back, as soon as you took it out of the rack. You can in fact squat this weight all the way down and come back up with it.

Maybe don't think you can until you've done it a few times. But you can, so you have to start preparing that person mentally to meet the rigors of that heavy type of training. They have to learn how to manipulate those heavy singles.

And then from a programming standpoint, I usually have people switch to a four day split at that point to where they're training four days a week, as opposed to three. That's three full body workouts per week. We like that because it's simple. It's a very good organization of training. It's very efficient. Over time, and this is true, whether they're young or old, but over time, in order to continue to progress, you have to continuously add more and more and more stress to the workouts, or the body has no reason to adapt and get stronger. You don't get stronger just by going to the gym.

You're going to get stronger by going to the gym and doing more, whether it's more volume or more weight. So you have to continuously push the needle, and that gets harder and harder to do in the context of a full body workout, because each one of those individual lifts becomes harder and harder to do so, sometimes from a practical standpoint, the sessions get longer. It's very difficult to maybe say, get all those workouts in in an hour. So the sessions start expanding into that 75 to 90 minutes or even longer. And at that point, I really like to dial it back to where we don't have those really long drawn out, energy draining workouts.

And so I will switch them to a four day split. So you're training more often during the week, but the workouts are a little bit shorter. And typically that's going to be like Monday and Thursday is going to be bench press focused. That's a third of your total is your bench press. So we're going to switch you to say Monday and Thursday, you're going to be exclusively bench press training.

And probably with some assistance type movements that help to strengthen various components of the bench press. And then say Tuesdays and Fridays are going to be squat and deadlift focused. Because there's a lot of overlap obviously between the musculature of the squat and the deadlift. So we're going to train those lifts together.

I also like doing that, a lot of people will have their own day. They'll have a dead lift day. The problem with that is that in competition, you have to deadlift in a state of fatigue. And if you've never competed before, a lot of times you may squat early in the morning, say nine, 10 o'clock. And the deadlift portion of the meet doesn't roll around until say 2:00 PM or something like that. And you think, oh, I'm rested and recovered. You're really not. The soreness is already starting to set in a little bit from the squat part of it. And so you have to condition your body to be able to deadlift in a state of fatigue.

So I always like deadlifting after squatting for a competitive lifter, just so they're always used to deadlifting in a state of at least partial fatigue from the squats. And so that's why I always kind of grouped those together. And it just makes sense from a recovery standpoint to keep the squats and the deadlifts together.

So at that point, each one of those three lifts, the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift are going to require either more intensity or more volume in order to keep progress going. So it just becomes a practical reality that they need to be split up into different training days. Plus there may be a need for some new exercises that potentially this person hasn't done before, as a means to both add volume and to strengthen individual components of each of these lifts. Especially for the bench press.

So at this point we've been using the squat, the bench press and the deadlift only as both the tested event and as the means to increase strength. Now we have to go outside of that a little bit, and it's no different from a sprinter, think about a different sport. At some point, an elite sprinter is not going to get better just by running sprints. That's going to work for a while and then he has to figure out what is keeping him from getting faster. And he's going to actually have to step off of the track and do some other things in order to make him faster. Well, we have to do the same thing with our squat, bench, and deadlift training.

Up to this point we've just been squatting, benching, and deadlifting, so now we're not making any more progress or it's becoming very slow. So we have to step outside of those lifts a little bit and see what do we have to do in order to make those lifts stronger. And so, going back to the sprinter analogy, that might be weight training.

You know, the guy he's just been sprinting. Well now he's got to go start doing some squats, in order to bring up his hamstring strength and that sort of thing. That's going to be what he's going to need to break through that barrier. For the bench presser, he or she is stuck on the bench press at a given weight.

Well, let's go train your triceps. Let's get the triceps strong. That may be the limiting factor for you. Let's build up your chest muscles, let's build up your back muscles. You have to kind of look at each individual and see maybe what's holding them back and start developing a plan where you're still, you know, it's still built on the squat, the bench and the deadlift, but we have to start looking at some other exercises to bring up some of these individual muscles that may not be getting adequately addressed in order to bring up these weak points and, and keep progress going.

Kevin: As a novice and even as that intermittent lifter, it's still a basic, a basic program, right? You’ve got those three lifts and maybe a couple other exercises, but then when you start getting into performance or elite or competition type training, what you're saying is then we're gonna look at the competitor, the athlete, and we're going to be looking for specifically for what's the weak point? Where can we shore this up to help? Because at some point just deadlifting isn't going to get to get you better at deadlifting right?

Andy: Yeah, at this point we have to add volume, add stress, but you get to a point where how do we keep adding stress or volume to say the bench press? Do we just keep doing more and more sets of the bench?

Now there is a line of thought where there's a lot of advocates of that, which is just keep doing the main lift, but I just feel like there's diminishing returns on that. Again, going back to the sprinter is just doing more and more and more sprints at some point, is that going to make this person faster or does he need to really address why he's not faster and then try to bring up those specific weak points? And so the next question, which everybody has, what assistance exercises do I do? I'm an advocate for, at the beginning, the best assistance movements that you're going to do are the ones that most closely resembled the parent lifts. So when we talk about assistance movements, we're not necessarily talking about bicep curls and calf raises and leg curls and leg extensions, and those sorts of things.

We're talking about variations of the parent movements. And a lot of times there's not a big difference. So like with the bench press, what I might add to that person's program and say some close grip bench presses. It's very similar to the bench. It's going to have a lot of carry over though.

Let's say the person we want to bring up their tricep strength. So instead of doing cable press downs, which I might have them do that as well, but you're going to get more carry over from doing an assistance movement that looks a lot like the parent lift, uses a bar bell and is similar in load.

You know, how much are we going to be able to increase somebody's bench press just by adding cable tricep press downs. Probably not a ton, especially in the short term. But adding something like a close grip bench press, it's very close. And if that person needs tricep strength, let's say their bench press is stuck at 200 pounds.

When the first time they do close grip bench presses, maybe they're only at 150 pounds with that. But you bring that movement up, so now you take their close grip bench press, which they've never trained before. It's they start off at 150 pounds. Bring that up to 180 pounds. Does that then help to increase their regular competitive bench press?

And in most cases, the answer is yes. If they continue to train it. So you could do the same thing on, say a deadlift. You know, if we want to increase low back strength, you start introducing something like rack pulls, which is just a partial deadlift, that begins at the knees where you can really overload the weight.

You can really overload the musculature to the low back. And let's say their rack pull, they start off at 250 pounds. And over the course of a few months, you bring that rack pull up to 300 pounds. Is that going to help increase their full deadlifting strength? In most cases, the answer's yes. For a squat, it could be something as simple as a pause squat, you squat like you normally would, but go down into the hole and pause it for a good solid three or four count.

If that starts at 150 pounds and you bring their pause squat up to 180 pounds, that's going to have some implications in improving their ability to do a full squat with a rebound. If that makes sense. So there's a lot of different ways to introduce those assistance movements into the program.

And having the days split into that four day split gives you the flexibility to add those in. Because if you're still working in that three-day a week full body, you know, you do the squat, the bench and the deadlift. You don't have a whole heck of a lot of time or energy to add in two or three more barbell movements.

You're going to run out of time. You're going to run out of energy to do that. So splitting it up to where you can add those assistance movements to those shorter days is a much more practical way of doing things.

Kevin: Yeah, it certainly is and thank you again for sharing all that. That's some great information. Now somebody listening might be thinking, okay, well wait, what? Power lifting competitions? I thought we were talking about us old people here. What are age divisions? Obviously this is a weight class sport, but how old does powerlifting go up to?

Andy: There's no upper limit as far as I know. I mean, and you can scour YouTube and you can find people in their eighties doing powerlifting meets. Now they'll often, they could go in there and do a single with the bar on each lift and win. Not a whole lot of people in those divisions. But that's not the point anyways, usually for somebody that age it's more of competition with themselves than anything else. But there's no upper limit. I can tell you just from my own coaching practice, my most elite client and I mean, this is elite period, is 70 years old. She's a female. She did not start lifting until she was 65. Her name is Shelley Stettner and she just won the U S APL, which is the United States powerlifting raw nationals. She absolutely dominated her weight class and her age group. She set something like 11 or 12 new national records, and like I said, she's 70 years old and she just competed at the USAPL raw nationals. I believe she deadlifted 320 pounds, squatted 242 - we've squatted 250 in training - bench pressed I believe 138 or 139 pounds. And that's at a body weight - I want to say she weighed in something like 138 or something like that.

Kevin: Wow. Yeah. I love that. Didn't take up lifting until she was in her sixties. Right. Is that what you said?

Andy: 65. It’s a great story because I'm in Texas. My gym is in Houston. Dr. Sullivan's gym is Michigan. She started training with Dr. Sullivan at his gym in Michigan. And his gym is not, and neither is mine really - 90% of our clients are not training to be competitive powerlifters they're training to offset the effects of aging. They just want to get healthier, more fit, stronger in a very general sense for the purposes of just better quality of life, which is exactly why she started training.

She just wanted to be healthier and stronger and more fit. And she got into this thing and it's what we call, she got bit hard by the iron bug. I mean, she had,  multiple, multiple wounds from the the bite of the iron bug and she just took to it. And she had obviously some genetic ability that she didn't know about.

I mean, she's an elite athlete who did not discover she was an elite athlete until she was 65 years old. And so she progressed very, very quickly faster than what most people do following our basic program. Just like I laid out the basic novice program. And she quickly outgrew the need for a very hands-on coaching practice.

You know, as somebody trains and works their way from a novice to an intermediate, to an advanced athlete, they outgrow the need for one-on-one coaching on a daily basis. So your role as a coach becomes much more of an advisor than a one-on-one technician, in that you're working with them day in and day out.

They know how to squat, they know how to deadlift. You don't necessarily have to be there to monitor every set and every rep. They can follow programming that you email to them, without a lot of questions. They understand it intellectually, they more or less understand how programming works.

But you know, they still need guidance of how to get from point A to point B, and even experienced coaches hire coaches, because there's an element of objectivity that you - it's very, very hard to do when you're programming for yourself. There's a few people do it, and I really admire those people because when you're programming for yourself, especially for competition, you're always second guessing everything that you do. It's much easier to step into that role if you have somebody else that you trust coaching for you, you can just change your mindset away from coach and into the mindset of athlete.

That's why a lot of coaches hire coaches, it's not because they don't know what to do. It's that they can't overcome that psychological barrier of all the time second guessing your own choosing and you will inadvertently, even if you know better, not always be objective with yourself and you will often start doing things that you want to do, versus the things that you need to do. And that's where having a third-party objective coach really, really helps us because I'm emotionally invested, but not to the degree that the athlete is.

In other words, I don't really care if she doesn't want to squat today, we're going to squat today. You know what I'm saying? And elite athletes, they need that. They need that push. And sometimes like with Shelly, she needs to be told, no, we're taking a light week this week. I don't care if you don't want to take a light week this week, we're taking a light week this week.

And so you need that sort of objectivity of someone that can both push you and reign you back in when you're maybe pushing a little bit too hard. And so she kind of outgrew the need for that. And so, between the three of us, we decided that Shelly was going to start training with me and more of an online kind of distance format.

But Shelly actually makes the trip down to Houston every now and again, she hops on a plane all the way down, does a coaching session with me, goes to the airport, gets back on a plane and goes back to Michigan. She's very, very dedicated, not many people would do that. But she's very, very into it. She's obviously genetically gifted, but she also has the mindset of this insatiable will to win. And she really is not just doing it for her own personal benefit. She wants to win. When she's in those meets, she wants to win and she wants to win big.

She wants to beat the other people that are in her division. She wants to set records. And again, that's very, very rare for a 70 year old female, especially it's very rare for a 35 year old male, but it's even more rare for somebody in her demographic. So absolutely a pleasure to coach her.

But she's on exactly the same type of programming that I outlined below four days per week, days dedicated to the bench press two days dedicated to the squat and deadlift. A lot of squatting, benching, and deadlifting, but also a lot of assistance type movements to keep being able to add volume to the program and work as what I perceive as her weak points to keep her going.

And so Shelly's a good example of when I talk about Shelly to my other clients or on my social media, I don't do it as you should be doing this. It's more of a, this is what maybe you're capable of. Or even if you're capable of only 50% of what she's capable of, because there are genetic limitations to this, you're probably capable of a hell of a lot more than you think you are. And that's a very, very important thing for older people recognize is that they are not as limited as maybe they think they are. The world is telling them they are. They are not going to have a lot of social or familial support for what they're engaged in.

If they decide to take that next leap into whether it's competitive or just pushing really hard, they're going to have a lot more voices telling them, you shouldn't be doing that. You're going to get hurt, you're too old to be doing this, or they're going to have a lot more naysayers than they are people encouraging them.

And so they've really got to have the right mindset to be able to block that out and know that, I'm not strong now. I may never be as strong as Shelley or some of these other people I see on social media, but I can be a hell of a lot stronger than I am now. And so adopting that mindset is I feel like is very, very important transition for my older clients to make

Kevin: That is so wonderfully well said. I love the story of Shelley as an elite athlete at 70 and in powerlifting no less, that's not the typical view. When you say, hey, I want you to close your eyes and just imagine a 70 year old woman tell me, what is she like, what does she look like? What does she do? You're not thinking about people crushing powerlifting competitions.

Andy: I had seen her lift on videos and that sort of thing. The first time she came to my gym when she got out of her car and was walking across the parking lot to come into my gym, I had to do a double-take. I thought that's Shelly, man. She is a ball of muscle, you know, she did not look like a 70 year old. And she was not bulked up like a bodybuilder, but just the way that somebody that age can move and carry themselves. And interact with their environment versus the person that doesn't – it’s night and day.  Because my gym sits right next to a nail salon.

And one of the things people don't realize a lot of what nail salons do. It's not just painting fingers and toenails. It's iworking on people's feet that have developed things like diabetes and things like that. And, I see a lot of people that are going over there for that reason,  that are her age, 70, 75 years old. And they have to have assistance getting out of their car.

It's an event to get out of the car and then to stand up and regain their balance then having their spouse or somebody else bring them a walker over and watch them slowly walk up curb, and then have to stop look at the curb before they step up on the curb to the sidewalk to make sure that they can navigate that six inch piece of concrete and then slowly walk to the front door.

And you look at the difference between those people and Shelley, and it's just, it's night and day. It's two different people. You know, some of that is not their fault. But it just goes to show you that the difference there's a spectrum there, and you want to be as far along that spectrum, closer to Shelly than the person that is barely able to get out of their car and up the curb. And, unfortunately a lot of people in our population are on the wrong end of that spectrum.

Kevin: It certainly seems to be the case that more people are on the wrong end of that spectrum than are on the, certainly on the elite end of the spectrum. But yeah, that whole spectrum from sick to wellness to optimal health, we want to be as far right as possible for a number of reasons. I mean, certainly quality of life and survivability of illnesses and accidents. Just the list goes on and on and clearly being stronger - physically stronger - can help move us in that direction.  And we've talked about some great ways to get strong. So speaking of which, if people want to connect with you, work with you, et cetera, what's the best way for them to connect with you?

Andy: The best way to get in contact with me is to go to my website, which is just, and I have a lot of different program options on there of templates that you can buy, an online coaching group that you can become a part of, as well as very intensive individualized, one-on-one online coaching.

So there's a spectrum of offers there. I always tell people - sometimes people go to a site like that, and they're not sure what program they should be doing or what's right for them. The best thing to do is just either email me directly from the site or fill out a contact form and just, know, give me a quick blurb and say, this is, this is my situation. I'm 65. I've never lifted weights before, where should I begin? Or I'm 65 years old and I've been lifting for 30 years and I want to compete, where do I begin? So if you're confused by all of the different offerings on there the best thing to do is just contact me directly and I'll be more than happy to point people in the right direction.

Kevin: Okay, great. And I'll make sure I drop all that into the show notes. So folks can find you there. Well, Andy, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show today and share all of your wisdom and knowledge with us. I wish you all the best in all your future endeavors and man, I just encourage you to keep up the great work.

Andy: well, I appreciate it. And I appreciate you having me on, thank you.

Kevin:  Okay folks, that's our show for this week. All of the links to the resources we discussed in this episode and more can be slash episode 70. And you can continue the conversation over there as well. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on today's show.

Also, you can show your support for this show by giving me a five star review on whatever platform you listen to podcasts on and be sure to subscribe and follow. So you don't miss any future episodes. And speaking of future episodes, my guest next week is Dr. Gabriel lion. And she's going to talk to us about muscle centric medicine, and how it applies to folks over 50, we had a great conversation and I know you're going to take away a ton of valuable information from that show.

I want to thank you so much for listening today. And until next time, stay strong.