Work Out Update

September 22nd, 2007 | Posted in General

It’s been a while since I posted about my workout routines. Briefly, about 5 years ago I got motivated by some shocking pictures of a fat, middle aged guy with my face and got back into the gym for the first time in many years. I’ve been working out ever since with a personal trainer, currently Ryan Branson who operates out of a studio gym in Burnsville, MN. I do a constantly changing periodization program that switches from endurance to hypertrophy (mass building) to strength and power.

This summer I spent mostly in a high endurance/cardio program designed to give me a break from building size while at the same time dropping bodyfat and building my endurance and ‘wind’. It was a grueling program and I lost a fair amount of size and strength doing it. Not my favorite thing to do but you have to switch tracks like that to keep your body guessing and resetting for another round of the heavy stuff.

For about the last month I’m back to a mass building program. Currently we are doing a decending rep/increasing weight routine. We started out at 3 sets of 12 reps per movement for two weeks, then 3 sets of 10 reps with heavier weight the next, followed by this week of 4 sets of 10 reps of each movement. In the next few weeks we’ll be dropping to 8 reps, then 6, then 4 as the weights really start going up. I work out 4 days a week doing back, chest/biceps, legs and shoulders/triceps on separate days. We are concentrating on the big compound movements like presses, deadlifts and squats.

One of the interesting things about bodybuilding is that your body has a ‘memory’ when it comes to strength and size. Once you build up to a certain level of strength and mass, your muscles will remember that level and after taking some time off to do a different routine they will get back to that remembered level a lot faster than it originally took to reach it. Right now after only four weeks I am close to my peak size. I don’t do measurements but just eyeball it and use the scale to keep track of mass. I’m just a few pounds off my heaviest weight with minimal gains in body fat (some is unavoidable).

Here are some pictures of some of the movements in my chest/biceps routine:

Incline chest press, mid-movement. This builds the upper chest.

Dumbbell flys, mid-movement. This builds the outer chest.

Decline cable crossovers, top of movement…

… at the bottom. This builds the inner and lower chest.

Dumbbell twist curls, bottom of movement…

…near the top. The “twist” is a rotation of the wrist from bottom to top. At the very top my knuckles will be pointing at the floor with my palms up. This develops the bicep “peak”.

Seated dumbell curls, also with a twist.

Taking a breather….

This routine also includes flat bench presses, dumbbell mid presses, kettlebell power swings, upward cable crossovers and wide grip barbell curls.

Gaining mass is hard work, and not just in the gym. Your diet needs to be strong or you will just be spinning your wheels. I have to make sure I get some good quality protein and low-glycemic carbs in every three hours all day long after a heavy workout. If I miss a few meals my body goes from muscle-building mode to starvation-prevention mode, and will not only store fat from the smallest amount of ingested calories, but will cannibalize the muscle tissue itself as fuel. That is a waste of all that effort. That’s also a lot of food to eat all day.

At 41 I can tell it’s a lot harder to recover from workouts than it used to be, so I don’t know how long I can keep it up. Right now I still enjoy it and it’s nice to be in good shape this late in life, especially considering I sit on my ass for a living. Also I do not get messed with in bars and my daughters boyfriends are scared to death of me, which are nice bonuses.


  1. SteveH says:

    At 41…. hehehheee… come on young man, you can do better! This summer my wife and I have been attending gym on a regular basis and while not building muscle mass, we have both had success in toning our bodies and slowly seeing the body fat reduce. We are both losing weight the right way with this programme and we are really enjoying the gym. Our club also has an outdoor heated pool as well as an indoor one and a sauna and steam room. I have also cut back on my beer, which had got way too much in terms of volume each week, feeling much better for that and hope to keep the beer to a minimum. But the best part is that our gym and swim membership is FREE, as I draw for the social events the club puts on a few times each year, how cool is that!

  2. TomNguyen says:

    Tom, you look great man….it’s amazing what you have done the last 5 years. We gotta train together sometime again!

  3. Tom says:

    Way to go, Steve! Nice perk for doing some drawing events. Keep up the efforts in the gym.

    Tom- I quit Lifetime and now work out in a small gym in Burnsville on River Hills Drive and Hwy 13. We should figure out a place to meet and work out sometime. That would be cool (and inspirational for me).

  4. Mark Hill says:

    Nice workout details and photos, Tom. The decending rep/increasing weight routine is very familiar to me, as well as that whole protein pursuit at mealtime every three hours. (If you wait too long, you can sometimes imagine you feel the gains melting away.)

    I’d post again above, but I’m in a deadline crunch, too. –Happy anniversary to you and your wife! Hope you have a good trip. My wife and i are celebrating our eighth anniversary tonight with a trip to the mountains.


  5. rb434543 says:

    Tom, you look great! Whomever your trainer is, I’m sure you look better than he does…especially for being 41.

    I think a lesson to be learned from Toms success is that you’re never too old. You’re never too far out of shape to put in a little bit of elbow grease, grit and hard work to accomplish anything you put your mind to. This goes for anything, both in and out of the gym…….you might just have to work a little bit harder than the younger guys. That’s OK!

  6. Tom says:

    rb434543 is my trainer, Ryan! Not sure I look better than him but I might be bigger and stronger right now… but he’s too busy training old guys like me to get in his own serious power training.

    … as long as he can lift the barbell off my face if I drop it it’s all good.

  7. Joe Bluhm says:

    Well, at least you’re working towards a larger physique…

    Keep at it, and those arms will surely one day reach that elusive 12″ barrier!

  8. BillyBob says:

    I have a question. I go to a 24 hour gym (sometimes). The gym is hot. I find myself fighting the heat more than lifting weights. Is that okay?

  9. Tom says:

    Heat isn’t necessarily bad, because keeping your muscles warm reduces the chance of injury. Many bodybuilders dress in layers, starting in a sweat suit and peeling off the layers as they start getting warmer.

    That said, if the heat is so high it’s distracting you or making you uncomfortable, then it’s too hot. If nothing else you are in danger of becoming dehydrated quickly due to the excess sweating you are doing.

    If the gym owners won’t turn down the heat (or up the air conditioning), then at the very least bring a lot of liquids to consume. Bring a big container full of water with a little Gatorade mixed in (20%). This will keep you hydrated and replace the salts and minerals sweating takes out of you. If there are any fans in the place, take some breaks and stand in front of them… the motion of the air over your skin will aid the heat dissipation your sweat is trying to achieve.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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