Q: I’m in my early 40s. I’ve been lifting on and off for years, but I haven’t built a lot of muscle. I’m going to start the Old Man Young, Muscle workouts, but I’m wondering if I should do more sets since I’m younger than you are?
A: When it comes to individual volume tolerance, there are a number of factors other than age that you should consider. For example, are you a muscular athletic type—a.k.a. a mesomorph?
Since you said you haven’t built a lot of muscle, my guess is that you’re probably like me and more of a thinner ectomorph type.
Using me as a sample of one, I made some of my fastest gains in my early 40s training for a photo shoot with Jonathan, who was in his late 20s at the time. He is more of a mesomorph. His gains were spectacular, while mine were a step or two below his….
It was a five-week span when we saw those great gains. We had just incorporated end-of-set X-Reps into our workouts, which are partials in the stretch range of the stroke at full-range failure. So they extend the set…
We pulled back our volume to around six sets per muscle because we figured X-Reps would take a toll, especially since we were going to failure on every work set and training five days a week.
Here are our five-week results—completely drug-free and no Photoshop or photo doctoring. The magic was in photographer Michael Neveux’s lighting, which made us look massive in the after photos (thanks, Mike).…
So to answer your question, you probably can tolerate a bit more volume than I used with the OMYM workouts at age 62. If I were you, however, I would not go over five per muscle at each workout. Studies show that the mass-building benefits after that are negligible.
I also suggest that you go to failure only on the first set, which is the 20-rep slow-twitch-exhaustion set. On the rest, which are lower-rep sets, stop a rep or two short of failure to minimize damage and boost your recovery.
Like I said, there are a lot of individual variables that determine the optimal amount of work for any trainee. You might have to turn up or turn down the volume, depending on how you’re progressing.
It’s usually best to err on the side of less.
New: Get the ideal exercise for each muscle, the best add-on moves for ultimate mass, complete 35-minute workouts, exercise start/finish photos, and details on building muscle fast and efficiently in Old Man, Young Muscle.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
Former Editor in Chief, Iron Man Magazine
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