BY CHRIS CUOMO
More. That is what we all want, right? It is an existential force, but you don’t have to bone up on Sartre to see how it applies to your body—more strength, more athleticism, and most of all, more muscle.
But once you’ve blown out 30 candles, the quest becomes harder. Your metabolism slows, your testosterone levels dip, and your muscle starts wasting away. Soon you’re stuck in what the Viagra ads call “the age of knowing.” That’s a nice way of saying old and soft.
As a 44-year-old, I find that terrifying. But I also see it as a challenge. What would it take for a busy family guy like me to not only regain lost muscle but also add several pounds more? Tied to my quest for “more” was my need for “less.” Less time for training, less stress on my achy back, and less desire for radical diet revisions. (If you want to burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time, try The Anarchy Workout. The 30-minute workouts helped one guy lose 18 pounds of body fat in just 6 weeks.)
I scheduled a body scan to get my baseline weight, body fat, and muscle mass (203 pounds, 12 percent, and 166 pounds, respectively). Then I teamed up with Eric Von Frohlich, a.k.a. EVF, the founder of Row House and EVF Performance in New York City, to chart my course. His first edict: “You’re going to do it the hard way. There are no shortcuts to building muscle.” I gave myself three months. Fate pushed it to six. But along the hard way, I learned five tips any man can use to build strength at any age.
Create a Plan You’ll Actually Follow
To fit my goals and schedule, EVF designed a three-day-a-week plan inspired by power-lifter Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program, which gets its name from its rep formula. Each workout focuses on a big lift—squat, chest press, or dead-lift—and includes “accessory” moves to shore up weaknesses. I capped off each session with a metabolic circuit to stay lean. (See “The Hard Way Workout” down below for my routine.)
Stay the Course
Like many guys, I started freestyling—lifting more weight than I was supposed to, cutting too many calories from my diet, and adding my own twists to EVF’s master plan. Work harder, build muscle faster, right? Not always. Three weeks into my program, I wasn’t any stronger. EVF offered two solutions: (1) Keep a training journal to stay focused on my goals and track my progress, and (2) take recovery more seriously. (For more ways to build a healthy, strong body, check out the 7 Exercises Every Trainer Wishes You Would Do.)