What Load Should You Be Training At?
The load you should be working at for your lifts is very dependent upon your goals.
If your looking to build Power, Strength, gain some Muscle (hypertropy) or build Muscular Endurance they all require a certain load range based off your 1 Rep Max or Estimated 1 Rep Max. I will go though how do a 1 Rep Max test at a later date.
Below I have outlined the basics for Power, Strength, Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance.
Note there are other considerations you must take into account when training such as training frequency and number of exercises in a session to maximise your progress.
If you are interested in a goal specific training programme get in contact am happy to help.
Many people think that if they are not sore after your workout its not been a good session and you are not effectively stimulating your muscles for growth. However how sore you are is not a good indicator of how effective your training is for muscle growth. (Have a look at this study if your interested).
Although muscle soreness may make you feel like you just had the best workout ever, it actually isn't a good indicator of how effective your training was for muscle growth or strength gain.
Muscle soreness usually occurs when you perform exercises you are not familiar with or are familiar with and have done some eccentric training.
The more often you perform a certain type of exercise, the less muscle damage and soreness it causes over time. This is known as the "Repeated Bout Effect" and it explains why you become less sore when you train consistently.
So, if you are making progress in the gym, you don't have to train for constantly sore muscles. In fact, being super sore all the time can inhibit you from pushing hard in the gym by increasing recovery demands and impairing performance. (See study here).
How To Do A Pull-Up - (STRICT)
I regularly get asked how to get that first pull up. Like "Four Stages To A Perfect Push Up" here is a progression model I use for getting that first pull up.
It's important to note that this progression model will work best for those who are at an average body weight and lack pulling strength to properly execute a pull-up. If someone is overweight, simply losing excess fat in combination with vertical pull training should be the main focus to start with.
Stage 1: Pulling Strength!
The goal here is to increase vertical pull strength. Once you're able to lat pull-down close to your own body weight for more than 5 reps, progress to phase 2. See "Strength Training - The Basics" for guidelines on how to build strength. These guidelines should be applied to all stages.
Stage 2: Strength, Skill and Range of Motion (Assisted)
Here he focus is on practising your pull-up skill through assisted pull-ups. Once you can comfortably go through the range of motion and need little assistance, progress to the next stage. You can use resistance bands or if you have access a Machine Assisted Pull-Up, this bit of kit is great at this stage but not many gyms have them.
Stage 3: Negative Pull-ups
Work on the negative (eccentric) pull-up, we turn things up a notch and let you practice pulling your own body weight. Once you can do several eccentric Pull-ups in a very smooth and controlled manner (controlling your body weight), it's time to start smashing out some pull-ups.
Stage 4: Pull-Up Progressions
Once you can pull yourself up for 8+ reps per set with perfect form, it's time to progress, consider adding weight!
The Secret To a Toned Look
Achieving a toned look is a goal many people have. But it's important to realise that your muscles cannot "tone" by training with very high-rep ranges and limited load or doing more cardio.
So there are no special training or nutrition techniques that will directly make your muscles look toned. Achieving more defined muscles basically comes down to slightly increasing muscle size and reducing your body fat percentage so you can showcase your muscles.
This is done through consistent strength/hypertrophy training, controlling your food intake, and being patient. The sooner you accept this and stop looking for the next "8 week faddy transformation", the less frustrated you will be.
Muscle Growth, Exercise & Age
Exercise has no age limits!
Just because you are a middle-aged individual, doesn't mean it's too late take control of your health and improve the way you look.
A 2009 study compared the effects of a 8 week split body resistance training program on two groups of males aged 18-22 years and 35-50 years. Both groups gained similar amounts of muscle and strength (See the study here).
Other research shows that even individuals who are older than 60 years old can significantly enhance muscle size (See the study here). Next to increasing muscle growth, resistance training can also be an excellent way to treat sarcopenia (loss of muscle quality) and prevent osteoporosis (increased bone weakness) in older adults.
So, your age is not a good excuse to "give up" on training and a healthy balanced diet.