Ask the Strongman

Q: Is it true that it takes longer to recover between workouts as you get older?

It's a fact that growth-hormone and testosterone levels decrease with age. And that means it takes longer to repair your muscles fully after a hard workout. So the older you get, the smarter you need to be when planning your workouts. I'm stronger now than I was 10 years ago, but I can't lift as heavy as often or I'll break down. This becomes more problematic because injuries take longer to heal with age. So you have to listen to your body. A good rule of thumb: If you're not improving a little each workout--by increasing the weight or doing more reps--you aren't giving yourself enough time to recover.

Q: How do you work your abs?

I bagged traditional ab exercises, like crunches, in favor of core-development exercises. When done correctly, core exercises strengthen the body all the way down to the connective tissues of the skeleton, which not only helps you lift heavier weights but also lessens the risk of injury. Jim Cotta and Alex McKechnie, strength coaches for the Los Angeles Lakers, turned me on to some very effective core-development exercises. They're done in various positions utilizing medicine balls, thera-balls, sticks, and core boards. The focus is to stabilize the body before movement takes place.

One of my favorites: shoulder turns. Here's how to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent, and your back naturally arched. Without tightening your face, contract your abs as if you were blowing up a balloon. Hold this position while breathing normally. Then have your workout partner try to rotate your shoulders, pushing on one and then the other, randomly changing directions of the pressure while you try to hold your torso steady so it doesn't turn. After 30 seconds, rest for 60 seconds, then repeat three times for a total of four sets, two or three times a week. The spine needs to be held in a neutral position, not arched or rounded.

Q: Do you wear workout gloves?

Never. Gloves are for gardening, not lifting.

Mark Philippi, C.S.C.S., is director of strength and conditioning at UNLV, and a two-time finalist in the World's Strongest Man competition.


“I describe Alex McKechnie to people all the time, and the first thing I say is, ”He’s a genius at what he does.”

“I was basically retired because of injuries. Thanks to Alex, I am back to 100%”

“The Core System is the best rehab and strengthening program out there by far.”

“You really feel like you’ve worked your whole body.”
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