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Some gym weight training questions

Old 01-31-22, 11:29 AM
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Some gym weight training questions

A little background.....I am 75 and have been a member of a gym for the past 15 yrs. I'm not a "gym rat" kind of guy. Fairly consistent in the off season but rarely go if I can ride. By "fairly consistent" I mean 4-5 days a week. My weight training consists of 5 different exercises. All are done at 3 sets of 10 reps. They are:

Concentration curls (free weights) w/25 lbs each arm
Leg raises.....115 lbs
Leg curls ......145 lbs
Chest press...175 lbs
Pull downs.....145 lbs

All but the curls are machine.

Is machine weight roughly equal to free weights?
Am I going easy on myself with the weight or reps? (I tend to do that in general)
Are there other things about weight training I should consider?

Hoping that someone who actually has experience/expertise might be able to offer advice.

TIA
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Old 01-31-22, 01:02 PM
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You're doing excellent as-is. I wouldn't worry about it too much. You're not "going easy" on yourself.

And no, free weights aren't the same as the weight indicated on the machines. Before bikes my BIL tried to help me with gym plan stuff, and when he got me off the machines he told me to ignore what those said. The free weights in most instances were more difficult.

Reason is the machines might simulate a range of motion, but they still don't force you to use stabilizing muscles to perform the proper form of the motions. That's what he said at least. I've no idea if that's totally accurate, but it made good sense to me at the time.
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Old 01-31-22, 01:04 PM
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Is machine weight roughly equal to free weights? No. Based on pullies/lever length etc. machine weight can mean pretty much anything. One example: assuming leg raises mean leg extensions, it would be odd to do less with this than with leg curls but you do significantly less. Likely due to the difference in machines.
Am I going easy on myself with the weight or reps? (I tend to do that in general): difficult to say. If the last set is hard, as in you couldn't do 3 more reps if your life depended on it, then you're probably fine. At 75, make sure your form is good on all of your reps. You don't have to destroy yourself, but it also shouldn't be easy.
Are there other things about weight training I should consider? You don't have any exercise that works your glutes (the largest muscle in your body). Also nothing for your lower back. Back extensions and leg press (if you don't feel comfortable doing a squat or deadlift) would be good things to swap with leg curls and leg raises (again, assuming you mean leg extensions) respectively. Pull downs work your biceps (among other things), so your curls are likely redundant... but I get it, everyone likes curls. You probably should consider some ab/core work. Planks, ab roller etc. Leg raises, leg curls and curls are all isolation exercises. This doesn't make them automatically bad, but it does mean that they aren't working a lot of different muscles.
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Old 01-31-22, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
You're doing excellent as-is. I wouldn't worry about it too much. You're not "going easy" on yourself.

And no, free weights aren't the same as the weight indicated on the machines. Before bikes my BIL tried to help me with gym plan stuff, and when he got me off the machines he told me to ignore what those said. The free weights in most instances were more difficult.

Reason is the machines might simulate a range of motion, but they still don't force you to use stabilizing muscles to perform the proper form of the motions. That's what he said at least. I've no idea if that's totally accurate, but it made good sense to me at the time.
What he said was generally true, but it likely is a marginal gain at best for most people. Free weights would be my default suggestion, but if a person doesn't know what they are doing (and is unwilling to learn) and/or doesn't feel comfortable then machines are okay too. Consistency and effort are more important than machine vs free weights IMO.
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Old 01-31-22, 02:21 PM
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Stick to compound movements and alternate push and pull in more than one plane.
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Old 01-31-22, 02:58 PM
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how do you do a 145 lb leg curl w/o a machine?
115 lb leg raise (extension?) on a machine? how are your knees? or are you talking about a leg press
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Old 01-31-22, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post

how do you do a 145 lb leg curl w/o a machine?
115 lb leg raise (extension?) on a machine? how are your knees? or are you talking about a leg press
I misspoke. I do the leg curls on a machine as well. I will have to check those numbers again. I was trying to use my memory. A bad idea at this age.
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Old 01-31-22, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post

Is machine weight roughly equal to free weights?
Not even close....Free weights provide a lot more stimulus to the body than a machine.
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Old 01-31-22, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post


115 lb leg raise (extension?) on a machine? how are your knees? or are you talking about a leg press
It's a leg extension machine. Despite college football I have never had a knee issue and they are still fine.

Re: Leg press.....I've just started doing them and I'm trying to use moderate weights. At this point I'm doing 3x10 with 180 lbs. I'm calling that moderate but I have no idea if that is what someone else would call moderate. It's just not stressful for me. As I'm sure is obvious I have little idea about all this. Thus my request for help.

Last edited by bruce19; 01-31-22 at 05:05 PM.
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Old 01-31-22, 08:50 PM
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IME free weights are much better than machines unless the exercise does not have an equivalent free weight option, like lat pulldowns and horizontal rows for instance. I believe that the stabilizer muscles activated by free weights are essential for injury prevention. I've done strength training for much of my life, starting in the Army.

My wife and i joined a gym in 1979. We've been gym members ever since. However i never could get any decent results, never made much progress after the initial few months until I found Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible, second edition in my mid-50s. Using his text, I created the attached PDF cheat sheet.

The first two years, I only did the AA workouts, 3 sets of 30 with the same weight each set, 2 days a week after a 1-hour spin class. Doing that pretty much eliminated worry about injury. I got some friendly coaching from other gym members, which helped. Youtube is also helpful. I recommend following that practice for the first year.

The secret to making progress was to adjust the weight for each exercise so that I could only complete maybe 28 reps on the 3rd set. If I could do 30, I'd increase the weight slightly the next time, for all 3 sets of course. That takes some messing around when you start. It's normal to be considerably too optimistic about how much weight to use. Doing this consistently made a big difference in both my power and endurance.

Note that most of these exercises are multi-joint i.e. compound lifts.
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Old 02-01-22, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
IME free weights are much better than machines unless the exercise does not have an equivalent free weight option, like lat pulldowns and horizontal rows for instance. I believe that the stabilizer muscles activated by free weights are essential for injury prevention. I've done strength training for much of my life, starting in the Army.

My wife and i joined a gym in 1979. We've been gym members ever since. However i never could get any decent results, never made much progress after the initial few months until I found Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible, second edition in my mid-50s. Using his text, I created the attached PDF cheat sheet.

The first two years, I only did the AA workouts, 3 sets of 30 with the same weight each set, 2 days a week after a 1-hour spin class. Doing that pretty much eliminated worry about injury. I got some friendly coaching from other gym members, which helped. Youtube is also helpful. I recommend following that practice for the first year.

The secret to making progress was to adjust the weight for each exercise so that I could only complete maybe 28 reps on the 3rd set. If I could do 30, I'd increase the weight slightly the next time, for all 3 sets of course. That takes some messing around when you start. It's normal to be considerably too optimistic about how much weight to use. Doing this consistently made a big difference in both my power and endurance.

Note that most of these exercises are multi-joint i.e. compound lifts.
Thank you. This morning I went up a bit on the leg presses to 230 lbs. I'm going to refer to that chart as I continue. Thanks again.
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Old 02-01-22, 07:34 AM
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I would advise guarding against injury over trying to increase weight. You seem to be doing very well. An injury could be devastating.
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Old 02-01-22, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
It's a leg extension machine. Despite college football I have never had a knee issue and they are still fine.Re: Leg press.....I've just started doing them and I'm trying to use moderate weights. At this point I'm doing 3x10 with 180 lbs. I'm calling that moderate but I have no idea if that is what someone else would call moderate. It's just not stressful for me. As I'm sure is obvious I have little idea about all this. Thus my request for help.
go get 'em kid!
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Old 02-01-22, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
I misspoke. I do the leg curls on a machine as well. I will have to check those numbers again. I was trying to use my memory. A bad idea at this age.
OK, no worries, guess I'm a light weight. after 2 years away from the gym a cpl yrs over 60 I'm on a new routine with a circuit of machines including the exercises you mentioned. I have 1 cranky shoulder & I've had 1 minor knee surgery so I don't do weights that my muscles can handle, I do weights that my joints can handle. hope to still be gyming it at 75 like you!
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Old 02-01-22, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
Thank you. This morning I went up a bit on the leg presses to 230 lbs. I'm going to refer to that chart as I continue. Thanks again.
Yeah, cut the weight down to where you can do sets of 30. Heavy is about ego. I only look at results and don't care what that looks like. Well, my wife likes the look of my legs these days, so there's that. Back in the day, Pete Penseyres could sled 400 lbs. for 50 reps. That's strength-endurance!
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Old 02-01-22, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by RH Clark View Post
I would advise guarding against injury over trying to increase weight. You seem to be doing very well. An injury could be devastating.
This is good advice. At your age, you're not going out trying to win some strength competition. Health, function and longevity are all things that would be affected by an injury. If in doubt, go lighter/easier. There's always the next time if it was too easy.
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Old 02-01-22, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Yeah, cut the weight down to where you can do sets of 30. Heavy is about ego. I only look at results and don't care what that looks like. Well, my wife likes the look of my legs these days, so there's that. Back in the day, Pete Penseyres could sled 400 lbs. for 50 reps. That's strength-endurance!
Literally no one, other than Carbonfiberboy, is recommending doing sets of 30. 3x10 is completely fine.
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Old 02-01-22, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by OBoile View Post
Literally no one, other than Carbonfiberboy, is recommending doing sets of 30. 3x10 is completely fine.
Yes, other than Friel, it's just me and Pete. OTOH it works.
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Old 02-01-22, 05:05 PM
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And I forgot to include a detail: when I restart this program in the fall, I do one month with one set of 30, then a month 2 sets of 30, then the 3 sets. It takes time to build up strength-endurance, but that's what I like. There are many studies which confirm that the number of reps doesn't matter for muscle growth, only that one cannot complete the last set of however many reps. Thing is, "one injury can spoil your whole season" - CFB
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Old 02-01-22, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Yes, other than Friel, it's just me and Pete. OTOH it works.
First of all, I wouldn't get lifting advice from Friel. Why listen to a cyclist when you can learn from actual strength athletes. Do you go to Rippetoe or Defranco for advice on your cycling workouts?

Second, Friel doesn't seem to recommend 30 rep sets either:
https://joefrieltraining.com/muscula...g-for-cycling/
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Old 02-01-22, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by OBoile View Post
First of all, I wouldn't get lifting advice from Friel. Why listen to a cyclist when you can learn from actual strength athletes. Do you go to Rippetoe or Defranco for advice on your cycling workouts?

Second, Friel doesn't seem to recommend 30 rep sets either:
https://joefrieltraining.com/muscula...g-for-cycling/
Looks like the 5th edition has the AA phase at 15-20. The 2nd edition had it at 20-30. Being conservative and actually more concerned with endurance and not getting injured than lifting heavy right from the start, I went with 30 reps. I think in your "who's your advisor" sentence there's just a chance you might have it backwards. Why look to a strength athlete for advice on endurance cycling training? The strength athlete's goal is to lift the maximum weight possible. The cyclist's goal is to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible without increasing leg weight. It's also more complicated than simply trying to get maximum force out of minimum size. There's also muscle fiber type to consider. By using high rep sets designed to fatigue the muscle, the type 2 fibers fatigue first and thus the type 1 fibers are forced to do the work.

The downside of using high reps is that they do create more fatigue. That's the reason that one should do them in the fall and winter, then use fewer reps in spring and summer. The other thing is that more reps takes more time. I'm pretty de-conditioned now because of the Covid thing and thus not going to gyms where they don't wear masks, which is most of them around here. But when I was going at it, I'd start with high reps in the fall and gradually taper down to 4 reps in the high season, still lifting max weight possible for the reps. That was long after my first couple of seasons doing nothing but high rep. I didn't notice a difference really, just that high rep takes more time. I didn't notice the extra fatigue, possibly because I was better trained from the gym work. I'd do an all-out spin class, go right into the gym, and do the same weights, reps, and sets that I'd do fresh and not notice the difference.
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Old 02-02-22, 05:26 AM
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everyone's goals are different. in my late 40s I went thru a body transformation using swimming, running, cycling, racquetball. in the gym eventually settled on a 5x5 program using a combination of body weight exercises like pull-ups, free weights like curls & inclined bench press & various machines, on some of the stations I would go higher than 5 reps & of course treadmill work. 3 miles running was short but effective. or 30minutes at a local HS track. I think I got my free weight curls up to 45 lbs but I could only do 5 at a time but w/ a 5x5 program, by time I was done I had done 25, same w/ pull-ups & dips, etc. high reps won't build muscle mass

always remembered to rest 48 hrs between weight training & did other things in between like swimming, running, cycling, etc

at 75 I have no idea what works for building muscle mass. I know my 94 yr old Dad could really use help w/ his legs but I can't figure out how to get him on a leg press. the stairs in his own home are pretty good

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Old 02-02-22, 05:37 AM
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8-12 reps for 3 sets will balance dynamic strength (endurance) AND absolute strength (what one can do once). Nothing wrong with being lopsided to the endurance end of the spectrum, especially when one gets up into the 7th decade, less chance for injury. That said, you're taking the time to do it, why not get all you can from it? If I didn't know what I was doing, this is the last place I'd look for information.
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Old 02-02-22, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Looks like the 5th edition has the AA phase at 15-20. The 2nd edition had it at 20-30. Being conservative and actually more concerned with endurance and not getting injured than lifting heavy right from the start, I went with 30 reps.
You'll note that 15-20 reps is only prescribed for a small subset of actual sessions. Most use a lower rep range. Also, there's no evidence that doing 30 reps is safer.
Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I think in your "who's your advisor" sentence there's just a chance you might have it backwards. Why look to a strength athlete for advice on endurance cycling training?
This is strength training. Most cyclists know next to nothing about it.
Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
The strength athlete's goal is to lift the maximum weight possible. The cyclist's goal is to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible without increasing leg weight.
This can be done using lower reps.
Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
It's also more complicated than simply trying to get maximum force out of minimum size. There's also muscle fiber type to consider. By using high rep sets designed to fatigue the muscle, the type 2 fibers fatigue first and thus the type 1 fibers are forced to do the work.
This is already done when riding your bike. The current prevailing thought is that you don't try to duplicate your cycling efforts in the gym. Contrast is good. Furthermore, your statement isn't really correct. The type 2 fibers don't really get used unless the type 1 fibers aren't capable of generating sufficient force. This happens immediately with heavier weights, but not with lighter ones.

Look, you keep doing you. I'm not telling you that you need to stop or change or whatever, but just keep in mind that no one else is suggesting this rather extreme approach. The fact is that pretty much all reasonable rep schemes will work reasonably well for someone who is looking to get fit and doesn't have some extremely specific performance goal.

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Old 02-02-22, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
If I didn't know what I was doing, this is the last place I'd look for information.
This is a very good point. I've spent a lot of time on strength message boards as well as cycling boards. I would not go to a strength board for advice on a bike fit, or sweet spot vs pyramid training and I wouldn't come here for advice on lifting.

There are definitely some people here who know their stuff, but this isn't what this board is about.
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