By Ron Harris
I’m in a similar situation to many of you who are now in your 40’s or beyond and who have been weight training hard and heavy since our teenage years. I’m all banged up! It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve become one of those middle-aged guys at the gym who looks longingly at the crazy weights the young bucks are handling and reminds himself, and maybe even others who are sick of hearing it, that we used to use that much, or more, back in our glory days. The fact is, due to various past and present injuries and issues, I can’t handle as much weight on many exercises as I used to. Even worse, there are some exercises that I can’t do at all anymore due to pain and the high risk of injury. Though I still love training and am in the gym 5-6 days a week, it’s not as much fun as it was before my joints and connective tissues broke down, and I’ve harbored a decisively negative attitude toward the productivity of my workouts, or lack thereof, for a while now.
Then today I had a talk with IFBB Pro Chris Tuttle, who is about to make his return as a 212 Pro bodybuilder after four years away following a severe knee injury. He’d also torn his pec a couple years before that. Since then, heavy bench presses and squats have been out of the question. Yet here he is, looking better than before. How is that possible? Chris told me,
“I finally stopped focusing on all the things I couldn’t do and put my energy and attention into what I could do.”
Read that again. All the complaining and self-pity won’t ever change your limitations in training, and in fact, we can’t even think of them as limitations. When Tuttle was forced to stop barbell bench pressing, he turned to dumbbells and machines and focused more on form and contractions rather than bench pressing 400 pounds. Guess what? His chest has far better development now than it did before! He’s finally figured out how to train his legs properly without very heavy resistance, and they too are improving.
I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t try to treat and rehabilitate injuries and get back to your ‘normal’ style of training, down to the weights and exercises. But there will come a time for many of you when that’s not reality. You’ll have two choices then. Number one, despair about your miserable plight and rage against cruel fate for taking you away from the type of training you’ve known and thrived on for years. That path will get you nowhere. The second choice is to move on. Find the exercises you can do, adjust things like hand or foot positions, until you find angles you can push and pull from without pain. Work very hard on the movements you can do and work hard on your mind-muscle connection for superior contractions and pumps. Your physique will gradually deteriorate with that negative attitude to the point where many will quit training altogether. With a positive attitude that helps you focus on what you can do and what is under your control, you can’t help but succeed.