The quest for the holy grail was known to lure many a brave man with the duality of earning eternal life in the case you survived an arduous and dangerous journey. In modern days the lure of "eternal life" (or staying young for as long as possible) is seemingly not worth the journey of discipline, consistency, and hard work one must take to continue gains in muscle mass, strength, and fitness into our thirties and beyond. Probably like most "thirty somethings" life has changed for us in more ways than one. No longer may we have the ability to train 7 days a week for hours on end because of our job and family obligations. No longer can we hit up the dollar menu multiple times a day for risk of its immediate accumulation as excess body fat and increased health detriments. And most likely we may no longer train "balls to the wall" for risk of those nagging aches and pains that can keep us out of the gym for extended spells. Indeed our bodies have seen better days in terms of energy, metabolism, and hormonal excess but we still possess certain advantages to keep the progress coming.
As mentioned before, our continued progress in physical development will entail more discipline, consistency, and hard work then in our younger years. The "thirty something" athlete must learn to apply these aspects equally to their nutrition, training, and additional recovery modalities. At this point it is ok to pull some proverbial tricks out of the sleeve.
In terms of nutrition our longevity is dependant on getting the proper amounts of macro and micro nutrients in sufficient quantities. Too much and we risk storing those excess calories as unwanted body fat and fail to absorb the excess vitamins and minerals. Too little and we loose all that hard earned lean muscle and risk recovery between sessions. At this stage our metabolism can no longer incinerate the huge amounts of booze and late night burritos like we did in out twenties. So it is imperative that we clean it up by leaps and bounds. Yes, it is a SACRIFICE to eat well. But if we can minimize the saturated fats, increase our phyto-nutrient levels, and improve our caloric density (with respect to quality macronutrient intake) a little bit everyday; then we can rely on that steady influx of muscle building nutrition. As this consistency gains a head of steam we will notice huge energy reserves and a supercharged metabolism. With busy work schedules, family commitments, and other excuses to NOT eat correctly it may seem virtually impossible to keep this commitment. An easy way to remind ourselves to get in proper amounts and quality of food is the "3 and 2 rule". Meaning eat 3 solid food meals a day revolving around the breakfast/lunch/diner schedule that each and every one of us are used to and consume 2 liquid meals. We can also use the 3 and 2 to mean 3 serving of vegetable or clean carb and 2 servings of proteins per meal if we are looking to gain muscle mass. Simply reverse the ratio and eliminate heavy starches if we are looking to cut body fat. The 2 liquid meals (shakes) are custom made toward your fitness and palatable needs that follow the same guidelines as the solid food meals which are great chances to consume our healthy fats.
On the training end of out quest we must also work just as smart as we are willing to work hard. The down sides of aging has brought us heightened stress levels, dwindling energy reserves, nagging aches and pains, and a lack of time. But fear not as with our age comes experience and applicable knowledge of how we respond to certain stimuli. In our younger days we could easily go for a three hour routine using just about every exercise in Arnold's Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, seven days a week training each body part 3 times a week. Now, we are lucky enough to survive a third of that volume. What is important to realize here is that at our age and experience we have paid our dues with all those crazy routines and long, grueling workouts. Our nervous system has become more efficient and now does not require the huge amounts of volume and variety it use to respond to. Simply put, efficiency is now the name of the game in regards to programming and frequency as we have already set the foundation with mastering the basic exercises, and bagged enough volume with remedial training routines. In order to keep our gains coming in the gym it is more important at this stage to train our nervous system rather than our just our muscles. Our programs are better off utilizing shorter lasting blocks (3 weeks of this followed by 3 weeks of that) where everything from loading, drill selection, volume, and methods may be consistently rotated. Not only does this force our CNS to consistently adapt but it also allows us to stave off overuse injuries as our emphasis can change on a more frequent basis. Just remember that with all of these CNS intensive methods we must give ample time for recovery so it is a built in reward to NOT have to train but a few times a week. In turn, these shorter and frequently changing periods allow us to minimize the actual number of drills so that we may concentrate our efforts on that drill to give us the most out of it. We may now view our "body part" splits as "body areas," splitting it up into four (upper body push, upper body pull, lower body push, lower body pull) major areas. This is a diversion from a classic isolation muscle split but keep in mind that we are concerned with training the nervous system. Simplifying our philosophy into these areas will allow us to choose drills that concern multiple joints where the largest loads can be used. Using the template above we have our Upper Body Push that concerns our self with variants of the bench press, overhead press, dips, pushup, triceps extensions, and various deltoid work. The Upper Body Pull is aimed at developing the musculature of the upper back where we may employ rowing variants, pull-up variants, and bicep work. On the lower Body Push day we can hammer the muscles on the front of the legs with back squats, front squats, lunges, and step ups. The Lower Body Pull day will help us develop the all important back side with deadlift variants, power cleans/ snatches, hip thrusters, good mornings, Romanian deadlifts, and calf work.
What's left is our ingenuity and imagination when it comes to executing rep schemes, drill sequence, and learning more progressive methods.
Life does not end at thirty... It only begins!