Steve Maxwell Article : Dear Over-45 Trainee

Discussion in 'Masters (50+ years old)' started by Adam R Mundorf, Aug 12, 2018.

  1. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    Much respect for Steve Maxwell and all that he has achieved as both athlete and trainer, but I, too, found the article overly pessimistic.

    Martin Joe likes this.
  2. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    I love this.

  3. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor


  4. ali

    ali Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Yup, 2 fingers to ageing. Longer recovery, pain in the arse that it is, is the thing, everything else just keep at it. So with that longer recovery comes better, or at least comes with some greater considered, attempts to promote recovery rather than the reliance of youth and winging it. So maybe more proactive recovery but then that really should be a thing when younger too!!
    crazycanuck likes this.
  5. Adam R Mundorf

    Adam R Mundorf More than 500 posts

    A large part of Steve's teachings are knowing the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic goals. If you get too attached to the extrinsic goals of being jacked, lifting a certain weight or performing at the top of a sport, you will be disappointed. You need to have an intrinsic goal as you get older, enjoy the process of moving your body, being healthy and sometimes pushing the envelope but don't be discouraged if things don't go as well as they did when you were young.

    Steve isn't saying it's okay to be weak. There's nothing hardcore about being battered in old age with joint replacements, cortisone shots and injuries but hey at least you can/did lift heavy. You should be strong enough and build strength to the point where it doesn't become a detriment to other qualities. For example, a powerlifter not being able to tie his shoes or having frozen shoulders.

    Steve is right though that as you progress through a system or program, the risk to reward ratio does start to become skewed. It's the definition of progress that I think messes up the message. Progress doesn't always mean heavier and heavier. It can be lifting a 16kg with better form than you did last week. Perfecting every last detail of every single movement is progress. Enjoying the time with the lighter weights, with no rush to reach a arbitrary number set by an author.

    The whole 5 years time frame for complete physical development, is if you hit it hard enough. Like, for example if I quit program hopping and just nailed the RoP for about 5 years straight. Provided my nutrition was in check, I don't think my physique could really be improved much unless I changed disciplines. That's exactly what he said in the article. People following imbalanced programs who have never developed certain areas. For sure my shoulders, back and hamstrings would probably be overdeveloped compared to my chest, quads, abs (maybe) and calves. If I changed to a balanced routine with no specific focus, I would probably build a more balanced body.

    How many of us have truly followed a completely balanced program for 5 years straight? With no one quality being overemphasized?

    This sort of article is an extreme reminder for younger people like myself though. The things you do today can/might impact your quality of life in the future. This goes for anything in life. If I exercise with horrible form/improper programming, it's possible I'll be causing micro-trauma that will haunt me in my older years. I may be able to get away with eating junk food now but will this come back to bite me when I'm older? Same with things like alcohol and drugs. It's a blessing and a gift to grow old. I just want to show up there as viable as I can be.

    I really am enjoying the discussion on here and I love all the feedback.
    Bauer, Waryrenn, H. Mac and 4 others like this.
  6. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    @ Adam R Mundorf,

    I've read and re-read Steve's article on intrinsic vs extrinsic and most of the time I do train intrinsically, but toward extrinsic goals in some respects - always looking to gain some strength and mass, or to shift mass around for vanity's sake. I don't chase numbers but I do like to see them go up.

    I do not normally have a set % of my RM that I increase loading or apply to a deload cycle, generally working a variety of rep and loading schemes when possible and increase when my reps begin to put me out of a given range or when my TUL before tech failure becomes too long.

    I will shift my training strategy if I am not making any gains though. This is something he has mentioned in the past re intensity - ask more of yourself and you'll be able to do more, and this is something C Bass speaks of re his ability to make gains or hold onto them well past the point where most others are in a Nursing Home or pulling their pants up to their armpits.

    I will admit, there is no way with my current lifestyle I could ever hit the numbers I used to hit on any but a handful of accessory work - my days of 300lb benchpress and 400lb squat are truly behind me and have been for a while. But...give me 8 months (maybe less) with a good gym membership and I'll bet I hit 250 and 325 for reps, respectively, at 180lbs bodyweight. I wouldn't be able to do so for long though as I just don't have the time or desire to train that much bench and backsquat, or to spend that much time in the gym away from family. Admittedly I would never have hit my old PRs if I'd had kids to care for at the same time.

    Another thing, I'm a much stronger swimmer than I used to be, paddle a canoe like a boss and for longer periods of time. I have jumped programming and actually improved some of the lifts I had stopped training (don't trade a more ambitious program for a less ambitious one). My max heart rate is still a touch over 180 by my estimate.

    As an open letter responding to older people wanting to get super buff on T therapy and hour long split sessions, well he's right. Not everyone is going to get super buff at any age let alone starting late (some will though!). You have to ask why you're training and if the potential consequences are worth your goals.

    But in a "you're going to decline, accept or get hurt" (if that's what he's saying, and even if he is going to be right at some point) I'm not ready to accept that anymore than I'm going to abandon higher intensity training. I run with what works for me because it works, for me.

    There is only one way to know what I'm capable of, if that does decline year over year and I'm going as hard as I can, that'll have to be good enough - only one way to find out though. In that respect I agree with him that form, intensity of effort, and TUL are the foundation of training, with intensity being the variable most likely to change over time relative to age - but I'm sure a rep to failure is still going to feel like a rep to failure no matter what weight it is. Train smart, train hard. After a couple of re-reads I have to agree with 90% of what he asserts.

    I still take exception to this quote:
    "Once you've reached your mid-forties, you are merely trying to hold onto what you've built over your lifetime thus far; you are 100% in maintainence mode."

    At age 43-44 I began putting weight back on from an all time adult low of about 155lbs. The pinnacle of my rebuild (done in spurts working around wrist and hernia surgery) had me at nearly 200lbs at age 49 (over 40lb difference @ 10lbs/year) and ready to keep going if lifestyle issues hadn't limited my training options to lower intensity protocols. I could have done it in a lot less time too, but multiple surgeries have a way of slowing one down.

    Anyway, thanks for the link, he hasn't been as active on his blog lately - good to see some current words of wisdom.
    Bauer, H. Mac, ali and 3 others like this.
  7. ali

    ali Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Me too. I've been 'sporty' all my life with periods off for family and work stuff and got into movement and strength training in mid to late 40s. Now 54 and in a good place but I do have balance, I think and that's down to Sf philosophy.
  8. offwidth

    offwidth More than 5000 posts

    Yeah... too true North Coast. I don't buy this either. I (like yourself and many others here) are living proof of the fallacy of that statement. Can we be as good at something as we could have been decades earlier? Maybe not. But can we improve on where we are, absolutely!
    crazycanuck likes this.
  9. Bret S.

    Bret S. Quadruple-Digit Post Count Certified Instructor

    "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once, as I ever was."

    Toby Keith
    Brookes, LukeV and offwidth like this.
  10. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I think the point of the article was that recognizing and accepting physical limitations does not mean you stop training. That is absolutely something I believe in. But that's not just a lesson for your later years.

    I'm reminded of my junior year in my college discus throwing career, when I realized that I was already pretty strong, but adding another 20k to my clean wasn't going to add the 15 meters of throwing distance I needed to compete at the elite level. It was the end of a dream. But I kept at it, because I loved doing it.

    That said, the way the article was presented, I am not inclined to read more.
  11. Mirek

    Mirek Quadruple-Digit Post Count

  12. Antti

    Antti More than 2500 posts


    Sure, it's the World records. Sure, they're elite athletes. But the point is they didn't just one day give up. I'd love to hear if they think they sacrificed too much, or just lived their life to the fullest.

    Nothing wrong with settling for less. But thinking settling for less has to be an universal standard and that we can't challenge ourselves into the more mature years? Lots of wrong in that.
    Glen, jef, WhatWouldHulkDo and 2 others like this.
  13. Mirek

    Mirek Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    70-years old lifter who weights less half of my weight benches about as much as do I.
    If there was ever something that has motivated me, then it must be this guy.
    Bret S. and Antti like this.
  14. Stuart Elliott

    Stuart Elliott More than 500 posts

    My take was the article wasn't about not seeking to improve, but the expectation of improvement as we age and the intelligent managing of improvement. It obviously painted with a broad brush for the broad public, take out if it what suits you. For me TUL has always resonated, and I agree with seeking this over banging out reps. He does point out that improvement in numbers does happen, but this is due to skill once a strength base is achieved ...strength is a skill....isn't that also the message from SF?
  15. Alan Mackey

    Alan Mackey Triple-Digit Post Count

    I truly loved the article. But I've been following Steve Maxwell for over a decade and I get where he is coming from. He's not a lifter, he is a grappling practicioner who also lifts, so his point of view is biased. He also loves controversy and tends to write in a certain manner that irks some people.

    I thought his “five years gains” point was spot on.

    Of course you can (and should) strive for improving beyond that, but the harsh reality is that, after five years, you will have probably milked the vast majority of your potential in any endeavor. There’s always room for improvement, but diminishing returns territory is quite close too.

    After five years of running, you should be able to finish a marathon. After five years of lifting, you should be able to pull a bit more than twice your bodyweight. After five years of grappling, you should be able to be competent enough to submit most guys out there.

    To go past that point will take a toll: serious training plan, serious nutrition, serious focus and serious commitment. Is it really worth it?

    Personally, I’d rather expand my interests, trying to become a wider, recreational generalist.

    Going from a twice bodyweight deadlift to a thrice one will be quite a hard and long process. And for what? It’s quite unlikely I will ever need to do that in the real life outside the gym.

    But, maintaining a twice bodyweight deadlift while trying to finish a marathon and getting your purple belt during the interim seems way much funnier, possibly easier and definitely more useful.

    Time spent would probably be the same, but I’d rather be a well rounded generalist than a notable spedialist.
    Glen, strawdog, Milan Hrubý and 5 others like this.
  16. Baker

    Baker Triple-Digit Post Count

    This episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast ruined Steve Maxwell for me. I think he's lost his mind. A the very least, he has some pretty wacky notions.

  17. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    What part?
  18. Baker

    Baker Triple-Digit Post Count

    Pretty much all of it when he isn't talking about training or BJJ. :) There's one point where Joe tells him that he's seriously concerned about his mental health.
  19. Adam R Mundorf

    Adam R Mundorf More than 500 posts

    He just has a different belief system is all. We all have them.
  20. Kettlebelephant

    Kettlebelephant Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Is this the one where he talks about his "guy" who basically tells him what to do based on the position of the stars or whatever?
    I was like WTF?!?! when I watched this.
    At the same time though he still gives great advice. I don't know if it's this JRE episode or another one, but I remember Maxwell talking about hanging as remedy for shoulder pain, which is awesome advice.
    North Coast Miller likes this.

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