Nicole Kidman’s biceps, Davina McCall’s six-pack: could you get ripped in your 50s?

CCould Nicole Kidman be real? That question was raised by her photoshoot for Perfect magazine, in which the 55-year-old took a winning pose with her taut, huge, extremely detailed biceps, flexing her arms like a bodybuilder. She looks like a creative figure, and as if she can pull a truck out of the swamp. I was fascinated by his feet. The definition of muscles on one leg, on the head, is difficult to see. Oh man, no more. The Daily Mail said she looks “decades younger” than her age, which isn’t true, because we don’t age each other with our arms (it’s all in the eyes, guys). What she looks like is absolutely ripped 50s. She looks like an elite athlete, as did 54-year-old Davina McCall with her rock-hard six-pack and even Hugh Edwards, 61, caused a stir on Instagram by showing off her toned torso .

There has been a trend of visual power in female form over the years, driven by millennials, who exercise differently. They focus on body-strength training and urban calisthenics, using online coaches, inspiring Instagram communities, and a better, less fat-accumulating lifestyle. Yet the key difference lies in their sexual politics.

When we’re in, or about to enter, our 50s as young, the female ideal was to be incredibly light and thin. The definition of muscles, specifically – god help you – shoulders was considered muscular and undesirable. Visible triceps were fine, a sign of low body fat, but it’s hard enough to tone your triceps while leaving your shoulders unaffected. I remember being warned against rowing as an activity, with a horror story about someone’s sister who had tried it several times and ended up looking like a wrestler. Myths were spread such as the fact that, if you accidentally build a muscle and then don’t do it, it will turn into immovable fat, hence Big Daddy. You’ll have this awesome ratchet where you build a muscle, twist a muscle, accidentally build more, and if you ever stop, you’ll run to seed, and no one will ever love you. Theoretically, this could continue until you became the Hulk, so it was safe to stick with aerobics. It was all based on the idea that ultimate femininity should be as distinct from man as possible, that your meaning as a woman stems from your difference from a man, in the Didridian tradition. Women born after the mid-80s are no longer swallowing it.

so it’s rather old No As for muscle definition, and major celebrities like Madonna have been very clear on this point over the years. I wouldn’t say it’s solely for the general population, though. “People in their 50s usually want to get rid of their stomachs,” says Leon Bolmir, 51, owner of Geysers Boxing in Hitcham, Norfolk. Personal trainer Lucinda Meade, 58, says: “Most guys want to look strong but natural.”

But say being ripped in your 50s is what you want, can you make yourself a prank? How hard would it be, and can it be done from a standing start (or more likely, a seated start)?

Yes, anything is possible, says Jenny Stout, 57, a former Olympian and gladiator. “It’s all down to the person and how committed they are to themselves. If you have an adequate diet, and you’re sticking to your gameplan, exercising, of course, you can transform your body. ” Chances are you won’t look like Kidman in the end, though, unless you look like him in the beginning. “We can’t legislate for people’s body types,” Stout continues. “If you have a very good body composition, you are one of the lucky ones.”

‘I would work all day every day if I could. That’s my talk’: Jenny Stout, former Olympic relay bronze medalist. Photo: Sarah Lee / The Guardian

So what is it going to take? Don’t make fun of yourself: While you can see a muscle in all its glory, it’s because it’s not hidden under a blanket of fat. Diet is a necessary but insufficient part of bursting: You can shed off all your fat and still not have a lot of muscle to show for it, but if you can still see fat you can’t see muscle. . And as you age, it becomes harder to lose body fat, because the way you process blood sugar changes. I can’t stress this enough: ridding yourself of body fat is not a good, balanced diet with so many different colors on your plate and no cake. It’s just too extreme and not exactly Instagrammable: I once interviewed Helen O’Reilly, AKA Panther the Gladiator, when she was getting ready for a competition, and she ate 18 chicken breasts the day before.

“Then you have to think about what your skin is going to look like?” Mead recommends. “How’s your collagen? I know that, as for me, if I lose too much weight, I’m going to have skin hanging off.”

Stout agrees: “We have to be very careful not to get too thin and too fat, because when you get older, it gets too old.”

As far as muscle hypertrophy, the act of gaining muscle and making it bigger, is not for the faint-hearted. “That means training every muscle group to exhaustion two or three times a week,” Meade says. “You’re damaging that muscle, then you have to rest it, then it gets bigger with protein synthesis. It takes time, and you have to be prepared to go to trouble.” This brings us to the question: Are you willing to be the most important person on your program? “It’s possible, but it comes down to the sacrifice of everyone around you, right?” Bolmir says in a combative manner. “You’re probably at your most stressed this decade: Parents pass away, men and women take all responsibility for their families. That’s probably the problem in your 50s — you come last. “

You can get incredibly ripped when you’re younger, using just a few bars of your own body weight and maybe in a pinch, you’ll need weights as you age because your muscles are already disintegrating (a downer). sorry to be there). So it helps if you have a pre-existing gym ethic – as you really enjoy being there – as well as some foundation in strength training. It basically helps if you’re stout – “I’d work out all day every day if I could. That’s my buzzword” – but we can’t all be Olympians.

You have some advantages at this stage of your life. It is said that as you age, you have more stamina. This is what it looks like, if you ever see a Seniors Ironman or similar, a sudden injection of staying power, an unexpected gift from the universe. It’s not quite, though: “We’ve been on this planet long enough that, by this age, we’ve got a good understanding of our bodies,” says Stout. You instinctively know when to relax and how much rest you need, you never run out of steam. “We used to hold veteran triathlon championships where I served in the military,” Bolmir says, “and his stamina was incredible. But he worked, and then he lay down for 12 hours.

There are disadvantages: for both sexes, you’ll be straining your joints until you listen to them. If there are things that Stout can’t do because she will break her lower back and knees, then there are definitely things you can’t. You can’t argue with your wrist, for starters. It’s not so much a trade-off (if you build the muscle around your joints you’re going to help in the long run), but it’s an ongoing consideration, which will certainly make your hypertrophy plans over-timed. bar will interrupt.

'I had really great arms': Zoe Williams working out for her fitness column in 2019.
‘I had really great arms’: Zoe Williams working out for her fitness column in 2019. Photograph: Kelly French/The Guardian

Relatedly, posture is important, especially to your back and, for women, your pelvic floor. It’s impossible to tell how bad they were, those five sitting-down decades you just did. “It does as much to you as being a builder,” Bolmir says. So even if your training goals are mainly trying to exhaust yourself three times a week, you also need to make time for something like Pilates or yoga. “You can’t do the necessary training until your pelvic floor is in order,” Meade says. “It’s the main postural thing that keeps you upright. If you find yourself urinating while lifting heavy weights, or having painful sex, your pelvic floor isn’t right.”

Is it worth all the pain? I fit into my 40s column, and for a while, between street dance classes and hiit workouts, I had really great arms. I would be in a barre class next to a room-length mirror, thinking: “Wow. I probably could have been in an ad, as long as they airbrushed my head and it was an ad for weapons. I’m not sure it has improved my quality of life. Getting ripped is primarily an aesthetic decision, and if you get that washboard belly, what are you going to do with it – wear a crop top? to the garden center?

Without question, though, whatever muscle you build, you’ll thank yourself in your 70s and 80s. It’s strange how good we are at cancer and heart disease (even if we don’t do anything about it) and how to prevent them, when falls are a huge factor in poor quality of life, and building muscle isn’t actually a clear prognosis. Is.

Lastly, are there any shortcuts? Yes, according to YouTube, with many of its commercials for “electronic muscle stimulator that melts body fat”. Muscle stimulation has medical uses, to retrain muscles, reduce muscle spasms, and prevent muscle atrophy after a stroke or accident. But so far there’s no evidence of a reduction in girth, melting fat, or “rock-hard abs.”

There are also camouflage effects you can try. Once, a friend wanted to go to a fancy-dress party as the ringmaster, and she approached a makeup artist to paint a six-pack on her stomach. It could have worked, if she didn’t spend all night: “Look at this incredible makeup job on my fat belly.” But there are other things he could have tried, like wearing a shirt. It’s not in the Ringmaster Code, that you have to go bare chest.

In the end, of course you can get ripped if you want. It’s almost a cornerstone of the health and fitness cult, that anything is possible if you want it hard enough. You have my blessings, but I’m not sure I’d bet on you.

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