How To Build A Rockin’ Body

I grew up listening to hard rock and heavy metal and am a fan of many of the bands popular during the 80’s, so I’ve been excited about some of my favorites reuniting. I’ve also been disappointed, if not surprised, to see how badly some of them have let themselves go. Many have gotten downright fat. Some singers can’t get halfway through a concert without losing their breath, and some guitarists who used to be all over the stage now just stand around looking tired.

But not Dee Snider. The screen capture below is from a Twisted Sister concert at the Göransson Arena in Sandviken, Sweden on December 14, 2013. He’s fifty eight years old, and in great physical condition.

Dee Snider of Twisted Sister on stage in 2013 at 58 years old

Dee Snider of Twisted Sister still rockin’ at 58

When asked about his workout regimen in an interview a few years back, Dee said,

It’s not what you do, it’s how consistently you do it! I have been training consistently for decades. You don’t have to do a lot, you just have to commit to it and that goes with eating wise too. I’m not like “I don’t eat anything” kind of guy, you just stay away from the fried foods or the cheesy things or fettuccine Alfredo stuff. It’s the cumulative effect over the years. So if your looking for the miracle of being fit in their fifties it’s not going to the gym four hours a day, five days a week. It’s putting that thirty minutes to forty five minutes a day, four days a week…. ALWAYS! You’ve seen me perform and…I rock! I can’t believe it myself! When it comes down to it, I always adhered to a certain lifestyle and certain fitness regimen. Again, nothing fanatical, just always consistent!

Sound familiar? It should. While four workouts a week is a little more than most people need when training at a very high level of intensity, the general message is spot on; results come from brief and infrequent but hard workouts done consistently over time, and sensible eating.

What you do does matter, though, and there are certain things you need to do if you want to still be rocking a body like Dee’s when you’re in your forties, fifties, and older. Which exercises you perform and how you perform them have to take both effectiveness and safety into consideration. The goal isn’t just to stimulate improvements, but to do so without wrecking your body in the process or undermining your long term health and mobility. This means choosing exercises that efficiently load the targeted muscles without overstressing the joints. This means performing these exercises with strict form, moving in a slow and controlled manner and focusing on creating tension in the muscles rather than bouncing, jerking, swinging, or throwing weights around. This means paying attention to your body and how it responds to exercise and adjusting your volume and frequency as necessary to avoid overtraining.

While the optimal workout or training program for any individual will vary depending on their goals and response to exercise, after years of experimentation I’ve found the following general template to be highly effective for the majority of people when done hard and consistently. It effectively and safely works all the major muscle groups, can be completed in half an hour or less if you rush between exercises, allows for some variability in exercise selection, and can be adapted to a variety of equipment.

Perform one set of one exercise from each of the following categories. Move slowly, taking three to four seconds to lift the weight, three to four seconds to lower, and hold for two to three seconds at the end point on compound pulling and simple movements. Use a weight that allows you to complete between six and ten repetitions in good form on the pushing movements, and between five and eight repetitions on the rest (fewer repetitions due to the longer rep duration with the hold and squeeze). When you can do more in good form, increase the weight the next time you train. Move from one exercise to the next as quickly as you can.

  1. Compound hip and thigh extension
  2. Vertical pull
  3. Horizontal push
  4. Horizontal pull
  5. Vertical push
  6. Trunk extension
  7. Trunk flexion
  8. Heel raise
  9. Wrist extension or gripping
  10. Wrist flexion or gripping
  11. Neck extension or right lateral flexion or rotation
  12. Neck flexion or left lateral flexion or rotation

While this might seem to be high volume relative to some popular high intensity training workouts the second half of the exercises are for smaller muscle groups so the overall demand is not excessive for most people. If you have a difficult time getting through this you can always divide it into two workouts or substitute simple movements for some of the compound ones.

I’m currently training at home alternating between two workouts based on this structure, one slightly modified, using just a set of SelectTech dumbbells and the UXS bodyweight station:

Workout A

  1. Parallel-grip pull-up
  2. Push-up
  3. Dumbbell squat
  4. Inverted row
  5. Dumbbell press
  6. Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift
  7. Dumbbell push crunch
  8. Dumbbell one-legged heel raise
  9. Dumbbell wrist extension
  10. Dumbbell wrist curls
  11. TSC neck extension
  12. TSC neck flexion

Workout B

  1. Chin-up
  2. Dumbbell arm curl
  3. Lunge (alternate starting side each workout)
  4. Parallel bar dip
  5. Dumbbell triceps extension
  6. Dumbbell deadlift
  7. Dumbbell lateral raise
  8. Dumbbell bent raise
  9. Gripping (right – stronger hand)
  10. Gripping (left – weaker hand due to nerve damage)
  11. TSC neck right lateral flexion
  12. TSC neck left lateral flexion

In a fully equipped gym, this could translate to the following using free weights:

  1. Squat
  2. Chin-up or barbell pullover
  3. Bench press
  4. Bent over row
  5. Standing press
  6. Stiff-legged deadlift
  7. Weighted crunch
  8. Dumbbell one-legged heel raise
  9. Wrist extension
  10. Wrist curl
  11. Neck extension with harness, manual resistance, or TSC
  12. Neck flexion with harness, manual resistance, or TSC

…or machines:

  1. Leg press
  2. Pull-down
  3. Chest press
  4. Compound row
  5. Overhead press
  6. Back extension
  7. Abdominal flexion
  8. Calf press
  9. Cable wrist extension
  10. Cable wrist curl
  11. Neck extension
  12. Neck flexion

…or done entirely with bodyweight:

  1. Parallel-grip pull-up
  2. Push-up
  3. Squat
  4. Inverted row
  5. Pike push-up or handstand push-up
  6. Hip raise
  7. Crunch
  8. Heel raise
  9. Thick-bar or finger hang for grip and forearms
  10. TSC neck extension
  11. TSC neck flexion

While no one workout is optimal for everybody this general structure has been very effective, and is a good starting point from which to develop your own workouts based on your goals and how your body responds to exercise. The same goes for eating. No one diet is optimal for everybody, but the same general principles apply; eat a variety of nutrient dense foods in an amount appropriate to your energy expenditure and goals, and minimize intake of foods which contain significant amounts of potentially harmful substances.

There are no secrets to building a rockin’ body; results come from eating and sleeping well and training hard, progressively, and consistently.

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