Why do so many men give up on being men once they have reached a certain age? (I could ask women the same question.)
Not my father. A month ago, 75-year-old Vladimir deadlifted 407 pounds at a bodyweight of 193 (and no belt, naturally). Another American record. 1,000-pound bencher Scott Mendelson who competed in the same APF meet exclaimed, “That’s your father? That man is a stud!”
My Father’s Training Program
Since he does not barbell squat, Vladimir pulls twice a week, once light and once heavy. For the last several cycles, he stood on a 45-pound plate to slightly increase the ROM and strengthen his start. In addition to deads, he does parallel grip pull-ups, hanging leg raises, fist push-ups (vertical fists, elbows against the lats, slow and strict), and kettlebell goblet squats. He swims, runs, and climbs stairs.
I vary the type of a cycle my dad follows. More often than not, though, it is a Marty Gallagher-inspired linear cycle. To write such a cycle for yourself, pick the target for the last heavy day (1×3, 1×2, 2×2, etc.) and work back six to twelve weeks. Trial and error have taught me that fifteen-pound jumps are optimal for my dad. He tends to overtrain with ten-pound jumps and twenty-pound jumps do not allow him to gain enough momentum.
Vladimir’s Cycle for the 2012 APF Viking Challenge, Solvang, CA
This time, I bumped his reps up to eight and ten in the beginning of the cycle. Given my conviction that “anything over five reps is bodybuilding,” why did I do it?
Exactly because it was time for some bodybuilding. My father had grown out of the 181-pound class, so reps gave him an extra nudge up to fill in the 198-pound class faster. His muscularity noticeably improved and he got leaner.
I had many a conversation with Marty on the topic of reps. One of the many priceless lessons the Grandmaster taught me was: higher rep sets do not need to push the limit. If you operate in my dad’s poundage range in any lift, you will realize that 295×8 is hard but not RM for a lifter with a 400-pound max. Write this down: 1-3 x 8-10 done with an 80-90% effort will build mass without compromising technique and safety.
Be a Man Among Men
Vladimir picked up the barbell less than five years ago and never looked back. Coaching him is a challenge because, like the young man he believes he is, my dad tends to overdo things. Once, he did not perform as well as expected in a meet. After a thorough interrogation, my old man fessed up that he had climbed 306 floors several days before!
Coaching my father is about holding him back and I would not have it any other way. Over the years, people have asked me why don’t I offer motivation tips. The answer is: I have none. We are all adults here: either you have it, or you don’t.
StrongFirst is not in the babysitting business. We serve the top 1% performers and those who are totally committed to claw their way up to the 1%. Which is why the sports psychology text we chose to publish, Psych, is a manual on reaching world-class performance—not cheerleading drivel to lure the lazy off the couch.
As they used to say in the Rhodesian army: “Be a man among men.” Regardless of your age or circumstances.