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 pullups, hanging leg raises, fist pushups (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.