384: Building Strength After 50 For an Active Retirement with Dave Durell
My guest today is Dave Durell. Dave is a fitness coach, blogger, and speaker and has been in the health industry for over 40 years. He has worked as a personal trainer, an NFL strength and training and conditioning coach, and a physical therapist assistant.
We came across Dave’s work at StrengthAfter50.com, where he shares strength training tips, personal training guidance, and the latest research on fitness. He believes not just in staying strong after 50 but staying strong forever–and it all works a little differently at 50 compared to when we were in our 20s and 30s.
In this conversation, Dave and I explore what it means to be fit for life and to be able to live to the fullest. We discuss the benefits of strength training (and why lifting weights isn’t just for young people), what fitness programming looks like over 50, and the benefits of tools and tech toys designed to encourage recovery.
From there, we dig into what a full-body workout for retirees and pre-retirees might look like, how to get started, and the proper diet to support your body’s needs.
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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why so many retirees suffer when they have the time and the resources to live, but lack physical ability and mobility.
- Why even putting 5 pounds of muscle on is a huge deal after the age of 50–and why you don’t have to train like crazy to achieve it.
- The reason Dave won’t let many of his older clients train more than two days a week.
- How to avoid getting hurt lifting weights.
- Why Dave is such a big fan of exercise machines despite their criticisms.
- The importance of nutrition–and especially protein–in a diet intended to build and keep muscle.
- "Strength training for people over 50 is the closest thing we have to a real-life fountain of youth." - Dave Durell
- "Have a little bit of everything, but not too much of anything." - Dave Durell
- Strength After 50
- Rock Solid Fitness FL
- Dave Durell on LinkedIn
- Dave Durell on Facebook
- Strength After 50 on Facebook
- Strength After 50 on YouTube
- Strength After 50 on Twitter
- Rock Solid Fitness FL on Facebook
- Rock Solid Fitness FL on Instagram
- Rock Solid Fitness FL on Twitter
- Rock Solid Fitness FL on LinkedIn
- Rock Solid Fitness FL on YouTube
- New Rules of Strength Training Over 50
- InBody 570
- Mike Mentzer
- Wim Hof
- Oura Ring
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Casey Weade: Welcome to the Retire with Purpose Podcast. My name is Casey Weade, and this is our mission here at Howard Bailey, here at the Retire with Purpose podcast to deliver to you clarity and purpose and elevate meaning in your life through personal and practical financial strategies, not just on the financial side, but also the non-financial side. And we do that in a couple of different ways. Every Friday, my good friend and I, Marshal Johnson, we get together and we discuss a trending topic in the financial and non-financial space. But then what we're doing here today and we do every other Monday is we provide you with an hour-long interview with one of our world-class guests from a variety of different backgrounds. Today, that background is going to be fitness with none other than Dave Durell, fitness coach, blogger, speaker. He's been in the health and fitness industry since 1982, always open to these interviews. And prior to actually going on recording, I will make sure our guests know that they can just be themselves. Well, Dave’s been doing this for about 50 years. So, this should be pretty darn natural for him.
He has his own personal training businesses, worked as an NFL strength and training and conditioning coach, and practiced as a licensed physical therapist assistant. He has a master's degree in Health Fitness Administration and he runs a website. And where we found Dave was StrengthAfter50.com, where he shares strength training tips, all personal training, and latest research on fitness after 50. He also co-owns Rock Solid Fitness down in Florida, Dunedin, which I was unfamiliar with. It’s just outside of Clearwater with his wife, Patty.
Casey Weade: With that, I would like to welcome you to the podcast, Dave. Excited to have you here.
Dave Durell: Thank you very much, Casey. Thank you for inviting me. I am excited as well.
Casey Weade: You know, your schtick here nowadays is, "Staying strong after 50,” and your fitness program is, "Stay strong forever,” but my question there is twofold. What does staying strong really mean? What does it mean to stay strong and is that really viable? Can we really stay strong forever?
Dave Durell: In reverse order, Casey, we definitely can or people over 50 like myself, you're not there yet, but one day you will be. And it works a little bit differently, as many things do when you're over 50 as compared to when you're, let's say, 20. So, you have to make some adjustments. There are some things you have to do a little bit differently but staying strong means the ability to me means the ability to live a full life. That's the key to it. As you mentioned in your intro, what good is wealth without health? We always say in our little world, health is wealth. So, when people approach or get to retirement age, they’ve, with your help, got the resources that they need to be able to live a little bit more free life perhaps, achieve some bucket list items that they might have been waiting for quite a while to achieve. And they've got the resources now, the financial resources, the time, the kids are out of the house, the career is winding down or completed. But what if you're not physically able to do those things? Where does that leave you?
So, that's my thing. You need to have the physical strength to be able to enjoy good health throughout the rest of your life and to be able to be active and do these kinds of things that you've waited all this time to be able to do. So, you definitely can do that. You can achieve muscle building, low body fat. You can stay strong, functional, healthy forever, as I say. And strength training is the key to doing that in my book. In my book, Casey, strength training for people over 50 is the closest thing we have to a real-life fountain of youth.
Casey Weade: Well, and I understand you're a skinny teenager like me. And you talk about a moment ago that we can stay strong and we may… I want to know, can we gain muscle after 50? And kind of the way that that parallels maybe my experience, your experience, and youth, when I was 15, 16, 17, 18 even younger than that, I wouldn't say I really hit the ability to gain significant muscle until I was in my early to mid-twenties. And prior to that, it was always a challenge and that presented its own athletic and sports-related challenges as well. And then all of a sudden they hit the stride where all of a sudden my muscle gain took off significantly. And I'm wondering, gaining the muscle after 50, is that much like gaining muscle for those of us that were skinny teenagers in our teenage years?
Dave Durell: I would say so. I would say so. You have to be realistic about it, of course. Are you going to gain 25 pounds of muscle and look like a 30-year-old bodybuilder, competitive bodybuilder in their prime? Probably not. But can you add 3, 4, 5, 6 pounds of muscle on your body in a few months? Definitely within a year's time, yes, you can because I have clients every single day of the year who do exactly that in our personal training studio and the Internet clients that I have on my website. In our personal training studio here in Florida, we know that because we measure that. We have a device called an InBody 570. It's a bio-impedance device, costs a lot of money. We have them stand on it and it tells us what their muscle tissue total amount is, what their body fat levels are, what their hydration levels are, etcetera. And we see that routinely. We routinely see 50-plus-year-old adding 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 pounds of muscle and that's significant. It doesn't sound like a lot to a 20-year-old but to a 50-plus-year-old, that is very significant.
And the purpose of your muscles is to produce movement. That's why you have muscle. So, the more muscle tissue you have, the better able you are to produce movement. And that's more what most people over 50 care about. We all want to look good, but we probably are not prioritizing having a peak on our biceps and a six-pack and all this type of stuff. We want to be able to be healthy, do what we want to do in life at the minimum amount of aches and pains, things of that nature, and strength training does all those things for you as well. But it is definitely 100% possible to build muscle over the age of 50. I just did a few months ago, maybe about a year ago now, a little experiment on myself over four weeks where I purposely measured everything I ate and trained consistently and hard, which I do anyway. And I put myself on that InBody machine before and after the four weeks, and I gained 2.2 pounds of muscle and lost 3.5 pounds of fat and I'm 64, so something works. And that was training once a week for 30 minutes.
Casey Weade: Well, it just makes common sense. If we have more muscle tissue, then we can move better.
Dave Durell: Absolutely.
Casey Weade: Yeah. So, simply, I don't know that I've ever really thought of it that way and I'm hoping that others may be keyed into that. Hopefully, my dad's listening to this, for one. He's somebody that moves a lot, goes on a lot of walks, and that's kind of his main mode of exercise is walking. And when I invite him to join me in the gym, I invite him to do strength training, it's not just him that I've heard this from but I wonder if you hear this a lot, too. “Well, I can't do that anymore. I can't lift weights anymore. That's a thing that we do when we're younger,” and where that attitude and mindset comes from and how we get someone out of it and starting to think about it differently.
Dave Durell: That is a big myth that is very still prevalent. As you mentioned, Casey. I'm not exactly sure why. I mean, on the one hand, I think people are starting to recognize that there is value to strength training and working out and staying strong and keeping your muscles fit and healthy and able to move year-round once you're older but, yeah, I think there's a couple of reasons for that. Number one, people have this mental image that lifting weights is like what you see people doing in the Olympics with that kind of weight lifting or if you watch certain shows on television where they have competitions, fitness-type competitions that involve lifting weights, they think it's this dangerous thing that you have to do and that it takes hours and hours to get anywhere. And none of those things are true. You can get great results and, in fact, you should exercise in a way that's very time efficient. It doesn't take a lot of time. It takes 30 to 45 minutes once or twice a week. And it can be and should be done safely.
And this is something that we have to educate people over 50 on in our personal training business all the time. “I am not going to let you throw anything around. I am not going to let you get stuck under anything. I'm not going to let anything fall out of you. We're going to do everything safely, slowly, smoothly. It's going to decrease your aches and pains, not take away, not add to them, and you're going to feel a lot better. It doesn't take a lot of time. It's safe.” I mean, what possible excuse could there be? It's just a misperception I think that how I used to do it when I was on the high school football team, I can't do that stuff anymore. I can't do barbell squats that the coach used to make me do and power cleans and that's kid stuff. All that is kid stuff. That part's true, but that's not what it should look like once you're over 50. So, it's a little bit of an education process but I want people to know your dad can go with you to the gym, whatever it is you're doing. He doesn't have to do that. He could just be there for 30 minutes, get a full body workout in, and he is going to feel like $1,000,000 if he doesn't already. If he does already, he'll feel like $1,000,001.
Casey Weade: Well, before we got started, I said, “Well, did you get your workout in today?” And I heard a no. And I was like, “Really? You didn't get your workout in today?” You know, I know in your bio you said when you did graduate from college, you were working out 2 hours a day, six days a week. I remember those days. And those are fun days. And those days are behind me for sure as well. But still, I feel that I should have some level of workout at least six days a week. And then you said your workout routine is quite a bit different. You're only working out a couple of days a week. I'm just wondering how much have you shifted your training routine as you have aged and what does that timeline look like for you? How has it evolved throughout different times in your life?
Dave Durell: It's a somewhat interesting story, Casey, because you're right. When I was young, getting out of college, in high school and college, I was on the wrestling team. You just kind of you're in more of a sports mode, right? You're not lifting weights every day because you have to go to wrestling practice. You have to run. You got to do all this other wrestling stuff. So, once I got out of college, I was like, “I'm just going to focus on lifting weights, see how big and strong I could get to see what happens.” So, I did what everybody else was doing back then. This is the early 80s, six days a week, 2 hours a day, and you're supposed to do chest and back on Monday and arms on Tuesday and legs on Wednesday, which a lot of guys at least probably forget to go to the gym on leg day. So, then you're back to chest and back, which is what you really want to do anyway. And I wasn't getting anywhere. I mean, I got a little bit of results but nothing significant.
And then back then, a guy came onto the professional bodybuilding scene. Now this is pre-Internet so the only sort of information we had was bodybuilding magazines, which obviously are not scientific journals. So, we were at a little bit of a loss there to find out what really the scientific best way to lift weights was. This guy came on the scene by the name of Mike Mentzer, and he won the Mr. Universe contest with a perfect score. And he said he was working out 45 minutes, four days a week, which is a third of what everybody else was doing and a third of what I was doing. And the guy was ten times my size. So, it's like, "Why not try that? It's working for this guy at least, one guy.” So, back then, you had to write a check and put it in an envelope and send it into wherever it was, wait a month and a half for your little booklet to come in the mail or your instruction booklet. So, I talked to another guy into doing it with me, and we followed that routine for four months just as it was written in that booklet.
And it was really, really hard and really, really brief. I was 23 years old and I gained 16 pounds of muscle in that four months and I did not gain any body fat. Tested my body fat. I didn't gain any. It was still in the single digits. And I was shocked. I mean, my body was visibly changing every couple of days. I was 23. So, back when you and I were in our 20 years old, we would have done better to increase our intensity and decrease our duration and frequency of our workouts. Now, when you're over 50, that is imperative because your recovery ability is one of the changes that happens when you're over 50. Most people know this intuitively once they're over 50. You can't recover from just about anything as well as you used to. You can't go out drinking, partying, and stay out all night like you did when you were a kid. You can't stay up all night studying or doing anything else like you did when you were a kid. You need more rest and recovery. Your body can't handle as much stress. And strength training is a form of stress.
So, when you go to the gym, your muscles don't get bigger and stronger while you're in the gym. The workout that you do only stimulates your muscles to get bigger and stronger. The actual chemical processes that result in muscle growth and an increase in strength take place afterwards, Casey. And it doesn't take 5 minutes. It takes time for that process to occur. So, when you go into a workout, when you got done with your workout this morning, I'm sure you work out pretty hard, I'm sure you're serious about it, you didn't feel the same when you left your workout as you did before you got there, right?
Casey Weade: Right.
Dave Durell: You felt fatigued. You might have felt exhausted depending on how hard you worked out. Why is that? The reason for that is something got used up, which was a lot of energy. A lot of chemical processes took place. Muscle glycogen was released. Different waste products were produced, etcetera, on a cellular level. You got tired. You used up a bunch of stuff. In a sense, you have dug an energy hole from that workout. That's why you feel somewhat depleted. And it takes time for that hole to get filled back in. If you're over 50, it takes longer than when you're 20. It might take several days, in fact. And the first thing your body has to do is replace that energy you used up, meaning it has to fill that hole. Then and only then can it build new muscle tissue on top of where that hole used to be. If you think of a hole in the ground, if you want to build a mound of dirt or whatever it is you're doing, you have to fill the hole back in first before you can build stuff on top of. That takes a few days. Those rest and recovery days are when you actually grow and get bigger and stronger.
So, if you only have one of those per week, then you're limiting yourself. You're shortchanging yourself from a recovery standpoint. And it doesn't matter. This energy drain is systemic. It doesn't matter what body part you're doing that day. You're still digging a hole that still has to be recovered from. And if you go to the gym before that hole is filled in, you're shortchanging yourself. You're going to stay in an energy hole and not get the most out of your training. So, people actually get better results. We have people all the time and say, “Can I come to your training studio more often? If I'm coming twice a week, wouldn't I get twice as good as results coming four days a week?” And our answer is, "No. You'd probably get no results.” You have to only come twice a week. We don't let them come any more often. Now, this is not to suggest that you're not serious about your training. It's because you're training less often doesn't mean that it's not taxing. You still have to train with a high level of intensity. That's what your body requires.
And that's what a lot of people over 50 are afraid of like you alluded to earlier, “Well, I can't be doing all this crazy weightlifting stuff.” You just have to fatigue your muscles to a point where you've sent a signal to your body that its current condition is insufficient to meet those demands, and then it has to get stronger. It's like if you go out on the, you know, if you try to get a suntan by standing in front of a 60-watt light bulb, you're not going to get something. You have to go outside where it's hot and sunny. And that ultraviolet light is perceived by your body as a threat and it adapts by forming a suntan. It’s the same principle. You threaten your body with some heavy-weight training, which can be done very safely, it's going to perceive that as a threat. Your muscles get bigger and stronger and you're getting the results you want. But you have to give it time to grow. So, a simple thing I tell people, this sticks with a lot of people, Casey, is for a long time a lot of us, you and I included when we were 20, have been asking ourselves the wrong question with regard to exercise.
People seem to want to find out, "How much exercise can I tolerate? If I go three days a week, that's pretty good. I wonder if I go four days a week. Well, maybe I should go six days a week,” because they're so motivated. They want great results. And that's really the wrong question because at some point, common sense would tell you you're not going to be able to recover. You work out 20 out of 24 hours a day. Nobody does that. You can't recover from that. The right question to ask is how little exercise do I require to get the best possible result? And the answer is surprisingly, surprisingly little if you do it correctly.
Casey Weade: There's a lot that we could go into there but there's something that's been on my mind. I don't know if you can speak to this, ice baths, ice plunging. For me, it's something that I have been doing for quite some time and I am thinking, I think this is something that more younger individuals tend to be doing but it is all about recovery, being able to get in that ice bath and recover quicker. It really is all about recovery. There's more to it than that. Of course, it's having benefits across the spectrum of health. However, one of the things that I have learned as an ice plunger and a Wim Hofer is jumping in that ice bath as soon as you get done working out is going to inhibit your ability to grow muscle, strength, and endurance. And you want to wait 5 to 8 hours before you actually take that plunge. And when you're talking about having your body know that these muscles are insufficient to meet the demands they're currently under and you want it to feel that for a period of time. That just feels like it clicks for me. Well, if I jump into that ice bath right away, my muscles are immediately going, “Oh, you're good. You're safe. You don't need to grow.” Is that what is happening? It seems like all the studies have to do with all this biochemical stuff that's going on but really, in layman's terms, is that really why we shouldn't be taking ice baths immediately after a workout?
Dave Durell: That's exactly right. Your gut is correct there. Yeah. It just makes sense that you want to give that workout time to sink in to be perceived as a threat. You know, similar to the suntan thing, you dive in an ice bath after 2 minutes in the sun, your body's like, "Oh, yeah, there's no threat here. Big deal. Yeah, we're fine. Why form a tan? That takes energy. I don't want to do that.”
Casey Weade: And what are your thoughts, if any, around ice plunges and baths like this as you age? Does your need for that evolve? What are some of the pros and cons?
Dave Durell: Well, the pros are the documented health benefits. It is good for recovery. It's good to kind of, I don't know, in a sense, wake your body up, I guess. Get drive deep, deep circulation. That’s what you're really doing is promoting a deep level of circulation down from the surface and that's a beneficial thing. In terms of recovery, I know these things are all very popular, foam-rolling, ice baths. There's many different recovery modalities. There's a facility. There are many facilities. There’s one right near our studio that just opened up and that's kind of what they do, cryotherapy and the sauna, and the red light thing and all of that stuff. I think all those things are fantastic. They're all advances in science. The science of health and fitness and recovery is a big part of that, as I already went on and on about. I think sometimes, especially younger people perhaps kind of view that for maybe hope that that is a substitute for rest and sleep and time, but it is not. The best recovery modalities are still time and rest and sleep. But all these other things, they're helpful. There are things that are probably going to help you and probably not going to hurt you. So, why not? Why not take advantage of them if you have the resources?
Casey Weade: I love that idea, not having to sleep as much and just jump into ice baths and getting 4 hours less to sleep. But no, I know that's not the case.
Dave Durell: Exactly.
Casey Weade: All of this comes out to workout intensity. I could see how as you're aging and you're having trouble recovering, that incorporating some of those things into a regular routine may just make the act of working out something that is more palatable. And when it comes to workout intensity, you've talked a lot about workout intensity and you also have written quite a bit about it. How do we measure it, though? How do we measure the workout intensity that we're having? Why is it important? I think you've already spoken to that but how do we actually measure the level of intensity that we have? Because we all kind of perceive that intensity a little differently. Do we use wearables? Do we use a WHOOP strap? Do we use an Oura Ring? What are your thoughts around measuring intensity? And maybe it doesn't have to be that scientific. For me, I like it scientific.
Dave Durell: Well, with regard to cardio-type activities, Casey, I think the wearables are great. The intensity and cardio activities, if you're running, cycling, whatever it is and your goal is to get your heart rate up to improve your cardiovascular efficiency versus strength training versus getting stronger, then intensity is measured by heart rate. So, you want to get that to a certain level and wearables are fantastic. Now, you just can program things to talk to you and beep and do all kinds of things to let you know where you need to be or you can just look down and see where you are and measure your intensity that way. With strength training, I think that the value there is more limited and I think there's a simpler way to do it. I believe that with regard to strength training, there's only two measures of intensity you can accurately assess with 100% accuracy, and that is zero and 100%. If you are not doing anything, you didn't even start yet, your intensity is zero. If you proceed with an exercise to the point, let's say it's barbell curls, probably a lot of listeners have that experience doing a curl, just bending your elbow.
If you conduct the exercise with good form, which I can describe what that is, if that's necessary, until a point where you literally cannot lift that weight anymore, you try as hard as you can, it just doesn't move, that's 100% intensive. Your existing strength level right then is somewhere less than the amount of weight you're lifting. And at that point, you're done, by the way. You don't have to repeat that exercise. That's 100%. It's very, very, very difficult to measure anything in between. So, with regard to intensity in strength training, intensity of effort is the stimulus that causes muscles to get bigger and stronger. So, when we talk about training, working out for 30 to 45 minutes, once or twice a week, I don't want people to get the impression we're not serious about it and that the workout isn't hard. We don't get anybody at our personal training studio, we do 30-minute workouts there and nobody ever asks for 31 minutes. When it's over, it's over. They want to leave. So, it's important that the intensity is high. Otherwise, you won't send that signal, as I mentioned earlier, and your body will not respond to it.
So, I want to take you through a quick exercise, Casey. You've got workout experience. You'll get this. Probably anybody, even if they don't have a lot of workout experience will get this. Let's say all of us sitting here listening right now are going to do a set of barbell curls to build up our arms. Okay? And so, we select the weight that we are pretty sure we're going to get ten repetitions with. So, we start doing our curls. It's nice and slow and smooth. Nothing herky-jerky. We're not throwing it. We're isolating our biceps as much as possible. The first rep that we do is pretty easy, right? We're capable of doing ten. The first one's not bad at all. Second one's not bad either. By the third one, it's starting to get a tiny bit harder. Fourth one’s a little harder still. The fifth and sixth rep are harder still. Now, we're starting to get a little bit tired. Our biceps are burning a little bit. Rep number seven is hard. But we continue on. We’re motivated. We're going to keep going here. Rep number eight is really hard. Rep number nine is really, really hard.
And rep number ten is almost impossible but we just keep going and we grind it out and we get to the top somehow. We lower it under control and then we try rep number 11. No matter how hard we try, we cannot complete rep number 11 no matter how hard we try. We put it down. Our set is over. So, we would call that a set of ten reps to failure, right? We just performed ten reps to failure. Here's my question to everybody. Which repetition of that set that we just did, that set of ten repetitions to failure, which rep of that set is the most productive in terms of increasing our muscular size and strength? The first rep, the easiest, or the last rep, the hardest?
Casey Weade: The last rep.
Dave Durell: The last rep. Everybody says that. Nobody ever thinks the first. If we did one rep and put it down, that would be the most productive. Now, here's my second question. What if we didn't do that rep? What if when it got really hard at rep number eight, we decided that that was enough intensity for us and we stop there? We have not done the most what we all just agreed, well, you and I agreed, and hopefully everybody else did as well, we did not do the most productive repetition, which is rep number ten. And it doesn't matter whether we do one set of eight, three sets of eight or 100 sets eight. We still haven't done the most productive repetition. And once we do that repetition, here's the good news, we don't have to do it again. We've done everything a human being can do to stimulate an increase in muscular size and strength in that muscle, and we can move on to the next exercise. This is how you get a full-body workout in, in 30 to 45 minutes.
Casey Weade: So, you don’t see the benefits of taking that same set that you just did to failure and doing it again, and doing it again and doing four or five sets to failure?
Dave Durell: No.
Casey Weade: That is traditional bodybuilding method.
Dave Durell: It is. It is. And as I say many, holy cow, 40 years ago or something, I learned this from a guy named Mike Mentzer who I later got to meet and have him train me and all kinds of stuff. And I have been training myself that way for the last 40-something years. This is how we train all our personal training clients. This is how I trained professional athletes with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars. It works. It works every time, and it works for everybody if you do it correctly.
Casey Weade: Now, there are still some injury concerns some will have about going all the way to that 10th rep and when do I take it to that 10th rep. Well, I think that’s a good place to answer a question from Chris, one of our Weekend Reading subscribers. So, for those of you that subscribe to Weekend Reading, we’ve reached out to you a week prior to this interview and had you submit questions. If you want to have that same opportunity moving forward, just shoot us a text. Get yourself signed up for Weekend Reading. Get the great resource and get this great opportunity. Just use the text for the key letters WR to 866-482-9559.
So, Chris says, “When I was younger, I worked out until I was fatigued and hurt to measure my workout success.” Kind of what we’re talking about. “When I pressed my workouts harder, I would hurt more two mornings later, but then my body would get used to the new effort level. Now, if I press too hard, I think about tendinitis, sprains, tears, and pain, they can stick with me for weeks. What is the threshold to think about when I want to get from A to B? Where A is the current level and B is some new level of fitness, either minutes, resistance level, or weight, I would kind of think of it in this context of when do we go from rep 7 to rep 8, rep 8 to rep 9, rep 9 to rep 10.” And he wraps up this, “How do I gauge when it’s okay to take it to the next level and how to set that level?”
Dave Durell: I appreciate that question from Chris. And the key there is, with regard to strength training, how those repetitions are performed. That’s the key. So, he’s concerned about muscle strains, tendon strains, things of that nature. That’s one of the new rules of strength training I talk to people about for people over 50, but it applies to everybody. And what you want to do is move the weight slowly and smoothly under control at all times to avoid those types of problems.
When you get into a dangerous situation where you might injure yourself is typically when you’re incorporating momentum, when you have the force of momentum helping you lift that weight. That can actually, if you or I, Casey, were to stand on a force plate and lift a weight over our head as fast as we possibly could, and if that weight weighed 100 pounds, the force plate would register– if we were doing as fast as we could with a lot of momentum, it would register as much as 500 pounds or less than zero due to the force of momentum. That’s been measured before in studies that go back for years. Momentum and extra speed is really, really bad for you when you’re lifting weights. Speed kills in weightlifting just like it does in a car.
Casey Weade: So not a CrossFit fan.
Dave Durell: I am not. I am usually not allowed to use that word, so I’m glad you did instead of me, but I am not.
Casey Weade: I’ll pass that automatically, CrossFit that is.
Dave Durell: The techniques that I advocate are diametrically opposed to that. Everybody’s free to do what they want. I got close friends that perform that type of training and they love it. But if you’re over 50 and you’re Chris and you want to stay safe and you’re wondering how do I go to the next level without injuring myself, here’s what you do. You lift the weight in two seconds. You pause for a second at the end and you lower the weight even more slowly in four seconds, and you just count that out to yourself. You lift up 1 and 2, hold it, down 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. And if you do that, you are not incorporating momentum into the movement. The only thing moving that weight is your muscles. And it would be very, very rare for you to get injured from that type of training speed.
Now, if you do that, you can safely proceed from rep number 7 to 8 to number 9. And while you can’t do two seconds and four seconds on rep number 11, you stop. You don’t continue on, well, now, I’m going to lift it fast so I can get a few more reps. You don’t do that. You just try to keep lifting it slowly. When it stops, you’re done. And lo and behold, magically, the next time you go back to the gym, you’ll be able to do more than 10 reps. You will have gotten stronger, and eventually, you can move up and wait a little bit.
Casey Weade: Well, and I think that speaks to a lot of those that are maybe just getting started. How do I get started? But maybe we can expand on that with, I think, a very relevant question here and a specific one from Sean. Sean asks and says, “I am 52, 6 foot 6, and I weigh over 400 pounds. I do not have a gym membership. I have a desk job and I’m not very active. What are some starter exercises or suggestions I can do at home to gradually start my strength improvement journey?” And I don’t necessarily want you to answer it directly and what are some things we can do at home, but just in general, what would you say to someone like Sean? How do I get started? And do I start at home? Do I start going straight to this failure reps? Where do we begin?
Dave Durell: Well, that’s good point for someone like Sean, who admits he’s inactive. He hasn’t done it before. He’s letting us know that. He has a desk job. Anything he does, Casey, it’s going to be a 100% increase in intensity. So, even if he’s not doing this to failure stuff to his body, it’s a whole new deal. So, yeah, he can definitely do some things at home, just starting with body weight. There’s some simple movements that will represent a big leap in intensity to him. His body weight will be enough in the beginning, and then he can progress those, and then eventually move into some type of progressive resistance program.
But yeah, you don’t want people to be discouraged right off the bat with, well, I got to do all this training to failure and all this stuff. And if you do that after having not trained ever or not trained in several years or some prolonged period of time, you’re going to get very, very, very, very sore and you’re going to want to drive to Florida and track me down and kill me for telling you to do that. So, yeah, start out easy, of course. Break yourself into it just like anything. And then once you’re up the speed and you’ve got a handle on things, then you can start gradually ramping up the intensity. But just by doing anything from being completely sedentary, as Sean says that he is, is a big step forward.
I always say the hardest step for somebody is from 0 to 1, just starting something. Anything. Just starting that habit. So, don’t worry about the intensity right off the bat and worry about all this trying rep number 11. Just get in there and do five reps of something. And then the next time, do six, then do seven. Worry about all that failure stuff later. But yeah, if you’ve been completely sedentary, just get started. Just get in the habit. Do something. Do one rep the first day, two reps the next day, whatever it is, just get started.
Casey Weade: We had a lot of questions around the specifics of the routine, talking about and speaking to your typical stay strong forever fitness routine. And maybe you want to answer it in that way and maybe bring some of those things in there. We just had a couple of questions about using machines and bands and body weight, and one of those came from Yvette. Yvette said, “I belong to an expensive gym before COVID, but since then, I have been doing resistance training with bands or exercises like pushups, squats, and planks. Are these as effective as using machines that can only be found in gyms?”
In conjunction with that, Mike asked a similar question about utilizing machines and just the beneficial difference between using machines and using free weights. So, let’s just talk about machines, free weights, body weight, bands, and maybe how those fit into a stay strong forever fitness routine.
Dave Durell: Sure. With regard to Yvette’s question, you can definitely do it at home. You can definitely use bands, you can definitely use body weight. However, the key phrase that you need to incorporate there is progressive resistance exercise. So, as I mentioned earlier, the intensity has to be high. There has to be a way to progress that as you get stronger.
So, if you’re doing a body weight exercise in the first day, you can only do five repetitions, whatever it is, maybe push-ups, let’s say. When you get to the point where you’re able to do 20 push-ups, how do you progress from there? You have to find a way to do that, which you can do. You can slow down the speed even further than what I just mentioned. You try doing push-ups where you lift yourself in five seconds and lower yourself in five seconds. That’s going to be way harder than just doing them as fast as you can. So, that’s a method of progression. So, that’s the key. You have to find a way to progress.
With regard to bands, bands come in different colors, and the different colors are different strengths. So, start out with the red one, and if the next highest one up is green, eventually go to the green, and then go to the blue or whatever the colors mean, try the next hardest one. As long as there’s a way to progress it, you’ll be fine. With regard to the second question, which kind of sounded like machines versus free weights, once again, any time progressive resistance is present, you’ll be able to get good results, and both machines and free weights will do that.
But I like to say that I’m a big fan of exercise machines in a gym. It sounds paradoxical, but to me, machines make it easier to work harder because you can sit or lie down in or on a machine, select the weight, and all you have to do in most well-made machines is push or pull, whatever the exercise is. You don’t have to worry about things falling on you. You don’t have to worry about your balance. You don’t have to worry about anything.
Technique is less of a factor. If you’re in a curl machine versus– now, there’s good machines and bad machines. Engineering is a big consideration. But if you’re in a good curl machine, what you got to do is bend your elbows and straighten your elbows. You don’t have to worry about bending your back too much, getting a back strain. You don’t have to pick the weight up from any kind of a rack. You don’t have to put the dumbbells back. All you got to do is curl.
So, with leg exercises, in particular, Casey, a well-made leg press machine is going to be much safer and just as effective as doing barbell squats, for example. You get stuck under a barbell squat, training to failure as I’m advocating, that can be a big problem. If you reach failure on a leg press, you just stop and climb out. So, I think there’s many benefits to machines. However, they are not a requirement for getting good results. The only requirement is progressive resistance.
Casey Weade: I guess what I’m surprised by that is when we look at machines, we don’t get the benefits of balance. We don’t have a lot of those smaller supporting muscles that are going to get that same level of work that they would get if we were using a free weight. Shouldn’t we still be incorporating some free weights? Or maybe there’s another way that you help to work around some of the risks of overdeveloping the large muscles and under-developing those balancing tissues.
Dave Durell: Yeah, I think it’s very important to have a complete full-body routine, and the routines that I give out, we differentiate between building exercises, which are for the large superficial muscles that we can all see and rebuilding exercises, which are more for muscles that are involved in stabilization, injury prevention, typically deeper muscles that you can’t even see, rotator cuff, neck muscles, things of that nature, low back which we train everything where we are, grip, ankles.
So, if you have a good, well-designed full-body routine, you should be covering just about everything you need to cover. I actually believe contrary to more popular opinion now, it’s detrimental to do exercises with the intent of maximizing muscular contraction in a bunch of different muscle groups. I am very much against trying to lift weights while standing on an unstable surface or on one foot or any of these kind of things because it’s going to decrease…
Casey Weade: And that goes for everyone, not just people over 50.
Dave Durell: Right. Everybody, every person. There’s a principle in exercise science called the SAID Principle, S-A-I-D, which stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. So, in layman’s terms, it means you get what you train for. So, if you want bigger, stronger muscles, the best way to get those is to train specifically for bigger, stronger muscles, and that involves a high level of intensity. And if balance is a factor, you’re going to necessarily decrease the intensity if you’re worried about falling over while you’re doing the exercise. If you want to train for balance, you should train specifically for balance, etc.
Casey Weade: That’s really helpful, really helpful. We’ve talked a lot about strength training, but we did have questions about cardio and just incorporating all these different elements that you have also touched on – strength, cardio, movement training, stretching. And when it comes to exercising, where are we getting our most bang for our buck? Is it strength training? Or is it cardio? It seems to me what we’re hearing is that strength training.
Now, Bruce had a question, specifically two questions, how to balance those things. So, how do we balance the combination of strength, cardio, movement training within a week? And he also had a follow-up question, answering that by recommending hours or percentage of time a week, but what is your opinion of the value of VO2 max cardio and how it can be improved? So, I think that really comes back to that. Are we getting more bang for our buck with cardio or strength training? And I know we need all three of these things. We need all of these different elements. So, what is that balance or what is that combination? And how do we determine the right balance for ourselves and our unique selves?
Dave Durell: That is a fantastic question. Part of it is the uniqueness of each individual and what you need. I think everybody needs strength training, but the way I advocate doing it, it only takes a little bit of time, 30 to 45 minutes once or twice a week, and you will get a VO2 max benefit and a cardiovascular benefit beyond that from strength training. If you work out intensely and you move at a pretty good pace for that 30 to 45-minute full-body workout, you will get a cardiovascular benefit. And if you’re able to utilize a pretty full range of motion on the different exercises and lower the weight slowly as I recommend, you will get some flexibility benefit as well. It’s not the same as stretching, but it’ll help keep you kind of loose if you do it correctly.
So, I do think strength training gives you the biggest bang for your buck. Now, having said that, I don’t want people to just lift weights twice a week for 30 minutes and then sit around the rest of the time. I think it’s important to incorporate different activities to improve cardiovascular efficiency on the other days.
So, what I typically recommend, Casey, is do your strength training, high intensity, short duration, infrequent, once or twice a week, and then in between, do some low to moderate intensity cardiovascular activity, hopefully something you enjoy, hopefully something outdoors if you’re able to do that. If you don’t live in Florida in July as I do, don’t do that maybe. But yeah, just kind of keep it fun, low to moderate intensity, you don’t have to get too scientific with it. You can figure it out subjectively just if you put your cardiorespiratory effort, let’s say, on a 1 to 10 scale, where 10 is you’re huffing and puffing so much you can’t even talk to somebody and 0 to 1 is you’re just sitting down doing pretty much nothing. Keep it somewhere between a 3 and a 6, your cardio.
So, if you and I are doing some cardio activity together, Casey, we could probably talk to each other, we might be a little huffy-puffy, but we could talk to each other, but we would not want to sing to each other. So, just enough to get the heart rate going, get the breathing going a bit, try to keep it up for at least 20 to 30 minutes. You can go longer on cardio. You’re not trying to go for high intensity, low duration. It’s a low to moderate intensity, longer duration, something fun.
I know big one now, it’s pickleball. Seems like everybody in the world is taking up pickleball. I haven’t even tried it yet, but that seems like a good one. Or go hiking if you live in an area where that’s something that’s possible, go swimming, go take a brisk walk, ride your bike, whatever it is, just something that keeps your heart rate at that level where you would describe the intensity as a 3 to 6 or 4 to 6 or even 4 to 7 out of 10. And your weight training as you do that set and you’re getting in those last really hard reps, that’s more like an 8 to 10, but it’s brief, it’s over with quickly, and you don’t have to do it very often.
Flexibility is very important as well as we get older, particularly, studies show hips and shoulders lose a lot of flexibility as we get over 50. So, a great time to stretch is right after a weight training workout. You got all that blood flowing and you’re totally warmed up and loose. That’s a great time to do some hip and leg stretches, do some shoulder stretches, or also, after the cardio is a good time. Stretching is not a warm-up. Don’t stretch before you start. There’s no benefit to that. It could be dangerous. So, whether you’re warmed up after your workout and do some stretching, that’s important as well.
Casey Weade: Now, speaking of time of day, we had a question from Chad on the ideal time of day for strength training. He says that he typically lifts in the mornings, but sometimes in the afternoon or early evening. And maybe it’s not just strength training, but are there different times that are more beneficial for cardio or more beneficial for movement training, yoga, things such as that, tai chi and strength training? How do you think about time of day when it comes to when you’re going to participate in your fitness routine?
Dave Durell: My response to that is get it in whenever you can get it in. What’s important is the sustainability of your routine. So, you want to do it consistently and over a long period of time. So, one day, you might be able to get it in at 7:30 a.m. Later on, it might be, I can’t, I got stuff to do, or for whatever reason, the time isn’t available to me, well then get it in later on. I don’t think there’s a particular benefit that should prevent people from choosing a certain workout time or selecting a certain workout time.
At our personal training studio, we let people schedule their own appointments via an app that we use, irrespective of who the trainer is. I’m not anyone’s trainer. They might get me one day, they might get my wife one day, they might get Nino one day, they might get Lindsey one day, whoever it is, we tell them, “Come when you can come. Don’t miss.” That’s the key to it. So, I wouldn’t worry about that too much. It’s kind of an individual thing.
You told me earlier you went already this morning. I am not an early morning workout guy. I’m just not. I would much rather go at night. But a lot of people, if they wait till nighttime, they’re just not going to go. They’re tired and they’re hungry and they had enough that day and they just want to go home and relax and they’re not going to get it in, so.
Casey Weade: Well, look, I’m an evening workout guy, but I got three toddlers, something that you don’t have. So, I’ve got to get it in where I can get it in, just like you said.
Dave Durell: Exactly.
Casey Weade: I feel like we’ve talked a lot about working out, strength, and I just feel like we’re leaving out at least half the equation, which would be diet. And when it comes to diet, I think you could probably wrap all of diet up by answering this one question the way that you see fit from Roger saying, “While exercise is good, a good diet is crucial. I would ask Dave the following, what is the best diet you would recommend? And maybe he can disclose his diet without getting into privacy issues.”
Dave Durell: I have a rather unexciting diet and diet recommendations there. The way I look at it is, from a scientific perspective, from a physiology perspective, there are certain macronutrients that we all need every day. There’s only six of them. They are protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. So, what I advocate is find a way that works for you personally given any food preferences, avoiding food allergies, cultural implications that might affect your food choices and make sure you get those proper macronutrients.
Now, the big one for people over 50, Casey, is protein. Studies show very, very clearly that once we’re over 50, we do not process protein as efficiently as when we’re younger. So, what that means is we need to get in more to utilize the same amount and have it actually be used by our body. So, as far as protein goes, older people need more. I need more than I used to. The recommendation typically, I have talked to literally the top experts in the world about protein utilization, and people over 50, it’s almost universally recommended to get 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, which is almost double of the normal recommendation. So, you got to prioritize protein is what I’m getting at. If you get whatever you weigh in pounds, try to get about 60% to 75%, try to get three quarters of your body weight a day in grams of protein if you can. Really pay attention to that.
From there, I know different people are going to be into keto or a more carnivore type of diet. Some people are vegetarians. There’s different various reasons for these things, whether they’re seeking health and they think that’s the way to get it or it’s a moral issue, sometimes in the case of vegetarians or vegans particularly. All that’s fine to me, but the rules are still the rule. I didn’t make them up. You still have to get all six of these nutrients some kind of way. So, I’m against extremes. Things like a meat diet, I know a guy, literally, all he eats is steak. That’s literally all he eats. That’s not good. You’re going to die of scurvy on that. There’s no vitamin C, There’s just a lot of things missing there.
So, the number one consideration is don’t have too many calories. That’s a little tricky to figure out if you don’t have access to some device that can tell you your basal metabolic rate. If you do, like I do, it’s easy. You just see what your basal metabolic rate is. My case, it’s like 1,700. You get a little over that and you’re set. If you get less than that, you’ll lose muscle. So, don’t overeat calorie-wise. Prioritize protein.
And then I’ll leave people with this simple little thing. Have a little bit of everything, but not too much of anything. A little bit of everything, not too much of anything. I also want to add that to me, the reason I’m not a fanatic about any one particular way of eating, to me, eating is one of life’s simple pleasures. And as such, it’s part of a full life. And that’s why we’re doing all this stuff, right? It’s like the old joke. If you’re a jogger or something, if you jog 10 miles a day, you’re going to live an extra 15 years. But if you’re 15 years in a wheelchair, what good is that, right?
So, you don’t want to live long just to live long. You want to live a full life. And if you enjoy a glass of wine sometimes, as I do, if you like chocolate once in a while, like I do, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re in normal, good health, you’re not diabetic, you’re not going to keel over and die if you have those things once in a while, as long as your total calories aren’t too high and you’ve gotten all your macronutrients in.
So, another saying I tell people is get what you need and then have what you want. You have a calorie budget every day. Get what you need first. and whatever calories are left over in the budget, have what you want, you’re going to be fine.
Casey Weade: That is fantastic. And it’s very relieving and refreshing as well. So, protein, fat, carbs, minerals, vitamins, and water. Just keep it simple and enjoy it along the way.
Dave Durell: Keep it simple. Simple is good. I love simple.
Casey Weade: But I like to bring things to a close here. And I’d like to ask you an off-the-wall question. So, Dave, what is your strangest, most unusual daily practice?
Dave Durell: Oh, boy, my strangest, most unusual daily practice. I would say this is pretty strange and unusual. I do something, every morning I have a chair I sit in in my living room. I get up pretty early and I sit there and I leave it dark and I do what I call awareness minutes. And I sit there and I figure out these questions I ask myself in a philosophical way. Where am I? What should I do? What’s happening around me?
And I find that just sitting there asking those three questions kind of grounds me for the day, kind of sets the tone for a purposeful day, gets me thinking about what I need to do moving forward in the future, goal achievement wise. So, I don’t know too many people who do that. So, I guess it’s kind of unusual. I think I might have invented it.
Casey Weade: That’s a new one.
Dave Durell: Yeah, that’s probably it, right?
Casey Weade: I really like that. Is there a lot of time for that? Is it literally a minute? Or how much time do you typically spend in that space?
Dave Durell: No. It’s several minutes at least. Yeah, it kind of depends. I just kind of let my thoughts take me where they take me. And at some point, obviously, you have to get up and get going. So, it can’t be all morning. But yeah, I just like to start with a little quiet time and think about things like that and just set my mind for the day.
Casey Weade: I can see how powerful that would be, not just for you where you’re at, but for individuals that are stepping into retirement, thinking about a daily practice they could incorporate into their retirement. I could see the benefits of doing such a thing, just getting the mind right and getting yourself headed in a productive direction for the day and checking in with yourself, having a little moment of reflection. Actually, I really enjoy that, Dave. Thank you for sharing that.
There are certain things that we partnered up with Dave on. Prior to getting started the conversation here, Dave had a little offer. So, Dave went to partner with us to offer his e-book, New Rules of Strength Training Over 50, along with four instructional videos to you for free. However, there’s only one thing you’re going to have to do, and that is write an honest rating and review over on iTunes or write us a review on iTunes and then shoot us a text. So, you can text us the key word “Book,” that’s B-O-O-K, to 866-482-9559. Just text us that keyword “Book” and then we’re going to shoot you a link so that you can deliver to us your iTunes username. We can verify it and then we can send you out your e-book along with those four instructional videos.
Dave, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I know you have elevated my life and I’m sure those that are listening have had the same experience. Thank you so much.
Dave Durell: Casey, thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it. We had some fun here this morning, and hopefully, people heard a couple of things they can take away from our discussion and apply right away to their lives.
Casey Weade: Without question.