Boom Generation Fitness

Mind - body fitness and health strategies for powering thru later years

The blog is aimed at the generation that was born between 1946 and 1964 - the so-called Baby Boomers.

We are now into our middle-age and very interested in staying fit and healthy until well into our senior years.

This blog provides some of the tools to do just that. You can find posts here and lots more by clicking on the links to THINK FIT and THE FITNESS PAPERS (see left side column).

These pages are about any and all matters concerning wellness, mind, body and spirit and, of course, physical exercise of all sorts. A special feature is an emphasis on individuals who can provide examples for us all of a healthy, energetic and positive life.


Geoff Quartermaine Bastin

More about who I am on:

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Most folks think that over 50 it's hard to increase muscle strength. NONSENSE! I started weight training at 50 (eight years ago) when I could barely bench 40 kgs. About 5 months ago I started High Intensity Training (HIT) based on Mike Mentzer's Method (see post). I started the incline leg press at 250 kg to failure (HIT means going to muscle failure, never mind the number of reps). Now I'm at 300 kgs (660 pounds), a 20% increase in strength. Not so bad for 58 years old!

Health warning: Do NOT try HIT unless you are an experienced weight lifter or bodybuilder. It can be very stressful. As with all exercise, consult your medical practitioner before starting if you are new to this, and progress slowly with plenty of recovery time. 

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Thanya Sawangjareanwat who at age 42 is a hard core fitness and yoga freak and

prize winning marathon runner introduced me to "The Plank"… a 60 second isometric exercise for strengthening your core muscles (around your back,, sides and stomach – the principle muscles that support movement).

OK, it looks REALLY easy and I’m a bodybuilder – piece of cake, or so I thought!

Just try it, exactly as shown in the photo. Similar to a press up, but rest on your elbows with your hands clasped in prayer! Straighten your body off the ground so a straight line runs from the top of your head along your back (don’t sag or stick it up in the air!) to your feet which are up on the toes.

Hold it and breathe normally.

Easy huh? I leg press 660 pounds and I’m here to say this is a worse killer. Do it for one minute. Most beginners won’t make it. If you can, then build up to 3 sets of a minute each. Start variations like the side or back plank. Raise your legs alternately. Check it out on the Web for lots of info. One good site is

This is a great exercise for flattening the abs, building strength and becoming more agile. When you think you can, try this test for core muscle strength and stability designed by Brian Mackenzie , a senior athletics coach (UKA 4) with UK Athletics, the United Kingdom's National Governing body for Track and Field Athletics.

Conducting the Mackenzie Test

  1. Position the watch or clock where you can easily see it (I like it just above my clasped hands)
  2. Start in the Plank
    Hold for 60 seconds
  3. Lift your right arm off the ground
    Hold for 15 seconds
  4. Return your right arm to the ground and lift the left arm off the ground
    Hold for 15 seconds
  5. Return your left arm to the ground and lift the right leg off the ground
    Hold for 15 seconds
  6. Return your right leg to the ground and lift the left leg off the ground
    Hold for 15 seconds
  7. Lift your left leg and right arm off the ground
    Hold for 15 seconds
  8. Return you left leg and right arm to the ground
  9. Lift your right leg and left arm off the ground
    Hold for 15 seconds
  10. Return to the Plank
    Hold this position for 30 seconds


  • Good Core Strength
    If you can complete the test fully, you have good core strength.

I guarantee you are going to find this incredibly difficult, But without core strength, none of your other exercises are really going to help with all round fitness. Focus on core strength and everything else falls into place.

Photo courtesy from

Monday, July 28, 2008


I started weights and body-building in 2000 aged 50 when I was working in Vientiane in Laos. After work I would go to a small gym at the Lao Plaza Hotel and struggle with tiny weights and huff and puff. I benched 40 kg (88 pounds) max – less than half my body weight!

Then a friend suggested I buy “Weight Training for Dummies” by Suzanne Schlosberg and Liz Neporent – yes, the ladies have got some good advice for beginners of both sexes. The results came with regular hard work and learning the right techniques. I found the book was down to earth, emphasized safety, has good illustrations and there was no silliness about looking like Arnie.

But I did want to have the strength you need when you get older and a little heavier. As a youngster I was pretty skinny – 6 foot four inches of skin and bone, though some muscle and wiriness as I learned karate and then later T’ai Chi, so I was by no means weak. I probably weighed in at about 80 kgs (176 pounds) aged 30. However, in those days (early ‘70s) people in the martial arts advised against weights and bulking up, so my physique suited the training. But by my late 40s not much exercise and a sedentary office routine combined with lots of business travel had made me a lot less fit than even the photo suggests. I must have weighed around 100 kgs (220 pounds) aged 50 when I started weight training.

Those early results in the gym in Laos quickly meant that bodybuilding got to be addictive; I also wanted to prove that even if you start at a fairly unfit 50, some real progress is possible. The next post will provide a quantitative idea of the results and how to get them, Don’t ever say you are too old!

Photos:The guy with the beard is me aged 30, then at 50 before I started weights and now at 58; getting older can mean getting bigger and stronger!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"The Gym" Islamabad

This is "The Gym", the best exercise center in Islamabad, Pakistan where I have the privilege of working these days for the Bush Empire. This is a serious gym with lots of older, well-used machines, and good free weights. Cost is cheap, I pay Pak Rupees 2,500/month which these days is about $35. "The Gym" is clean and reasonably well-maintained - they just spent money re-painting and re-furbishing the gear. memberships is serious (usually) so you get a good feel pumping iron.

Monday, May 26, 2008


As a regular exerciser – in my case weights – I’m always suffering soreness and muscular pain. This used to be chronic until I learned about “trigger points”. Of course, I always knew something about Japanese “Shiatsu” massage or Thai finger pressure massage, but I never joined the dots.

An amazing number of common aches and pains —and a variety of other puzzling physical symptoms — are caused by myofascial trigger points. In fact, trigger points are the primary cause of pain roughly 75 percent of the time and seem to be part of nearly every pain problem.

Trigger points are hyper-irritable spots in skeletal muscle that are associated with palpable (you can feel them!) nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers. An 'active trigger' point is one that refers pain either locally or to another location (most trigger points refer pain elsewhere in the body along nerve pathways).The painful point can be felt as a knot or band in the muscle, and a twitch response results from stimulation of the trigger point. Unexplained pain radiates from these points of local tenderness. Therapy can be applied directly to release the tension.

The part of a muscle fiber that actually does the contracting is a microscopic unit called a sarcomere. Contraction occurs in a sarcomere when its two parts come together and interlock like fingers. Millions of sarcomeres have to contract to make even the smallest movement. A trigger point exists when over-stimulated sarcomeres are chemically prevented from releasing from their interlocked state.

The drawing is a representation of several muscle fibers within a trigger point. It’s based on a microscopic photograph of an actual trigger point. This particular trigger point would cause a headache over your left eye and sometimes at the very top of your head.

Treatment of trigger points is best by manual pressure. The approach was pioneered by a respected fitness trainer, Bonnie Prudden and is known as “Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy”. A good Thai-style massage or Shiatsu will also help. Worst case, feel out the knot or nodule yourself (if you can reach it – many are in the back and buittocks) and apply pressure, not too much or too little.

For more info check out:

Or look at the highly-respected, two-volume medical textbook, Myofascial Pain & Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual.

This is based on decades of medical research by Janet Travell and David Simons.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


In 1978, Mentzer won the amateur Mr. Universe contest with the first and only perfect score. In late 1979, he won the heavyweight class of the apex Mr. Olympia contest (open only to champion professionals) again with a perfect score. Mentzer retired from competitive bodybuilding after the 1980 Olympia show at the age of 29 when most people agreed he should have beaten Schwarzenegger. He died unfortunately in 2001 due to an undiscovered genetic blood disorder unrelated to his body building activity. He remains a huge influence for more intelligent body-builders who want a scientific, logical and proven way to develop without drugs. For more info the link is:

Mentzer devised and successfully implemented his own theory of bodybuilding. His theories are intended to help a person achieve their full genetic potential within the shortest amount of time without the use of harmful steroids.

The essence of the system is as follows: maintain perfectly strict exercise form, move the weights in a slow and controlled manner (about 6-8 seconds per full rep), work the muscles to complete failure (positive and negative), and avoid over-training – allow time for the body to recover and grow.

What does this mean in practice? Leave aside the question of what exercises to choose and how to do them (form): we can discuss these aspects later (this is a huge subject, by the way, which makes it so interesting – each session becomes a scientific experiment! I would never have suspected that body-building was an intellectual activity!). In simple terms, stick to the basic, simple exercises and learn how to do them precisely and perfectly ….Lots of websites for doing that which I will return to exercises and form in another article. For now, remember whatever exercise you do, choose a weight where you can do the exercise in perfect form without “cheating” (i.e., using body weight, momentum or muscles other than the target group to lift the weight).

Now: the scientific principle of the Mentzer Method or Way is that muscles build size and strength in direct proportion to the amount of absolute weight they move at one time, not the length of time they move that weight over. This is why (for example) people’s legs get to a size relative to the weight of their body, but don’t get very much larger even if they walk or run or cycle extensively – the muscles increase in stamina relative to the duration of use (i.e., the person can shift the given weight for longer periods of time – which is what you train for in cycling or running), but not significantly in strength or size (although obviously an exercised limb will have more muscle than one that is not used at all).

So, the muscle will grow relative to the heaviest weight, the maximum weight that it has had to move once. The most a muscle can grow is thus related to the weight where the muscle simply cannot move it more than once. This is what is meant by training to “failure”. Put another way: if I can just bicep curl once with 25 pounds, then the bicep will allocate exactly the necessary fibres to lift 25 pounds once, no more, no less. If I want more fibres (bigger muscle) then I have to lift a heavier weight. There is no other way of growing muscle.

Let’s take a simple example: a dumb bell curl to impact the biceps. You can curl 10 reps per set with (say) 20 pounds. After a 1 minute rest, you curl the same weight for another 10 reps (another set). You do another set and another. By now your biceps are tired. By repeated training with the same weight you will increase the number of sets you are able to do. You have increased the muscle’s stamina (ability to repeat the movement), but you have not trained to failure and you have not increased in absolute strength (i.e., you won’t be able to lift much more than 25 pounds). And you may have spent 15 minutes or 20 minutes doing the sets. The next time in the gym, you repeat the sets…. And you may do this every day of the week. Your entire time can be spent in the gym – with no gain in size and strength. Indeed, over-training a muscle (i.e., not allowing it time to rest, recover and grow) can lead to injury and muscle loss – the opposite of what you are investing time and energy to achieve. This is the most common experience of people who go to the gym; disappointment sets in, they get injured and they stop training.

This time-based, high set number approach WILL NOT grow your bicep or add to your strength. I know, I tried it for years and wondered why the hours I spent in the gym and the hundreds of sets added absolutely nothing to my size or strength.

Using intensity training, the approach is different: by experiment, you find that you can just do 6 reps with a 25 pound weight. On the 6th rep, your bicep “fails”, i.e., you cannot manage to repeat the exercise. You wait one minute, and repeat, this time you just manage 5 reps before the muscle fails. You stop. You are at your absolute physical limit.

Now, your muscle has found a new weight limit. It has been severely stressed and needs serious time to recover. You do not repeat the exercise for one week. Recovery time is the other part of the intensity equation; muscles do NOT grow in the gym, they grow when they are recovering. You MUST leave enough time for recovery and growth. By the way, the bigger the muscle, the heavier the weight, the more stress and the longer time to recover…. I train my legs to failure with a (current) max 500 pound leg press only once a month, my back to failure (currently) with a 198 pound lat pull down once every 2 weeks and biceps once a week with (again currently) about 88 pounds. For these exercises I do 2 sets of 10 reps on the legs, 3 sets of 6 reps on the back and 3 sets of 10 reps on the arms.

The next time in the gym, do NOT simply repeat the 25 pound/6 rep/2 set exercise. Increase the weight by a small amount. You will find that you can just do the 6 reps with a heavier weight – your muscle has got stronger, and you will also see that it has grown. By small incremental steps in the absolute weight used, you will fairly quickly see increase in size and strength. And you will not be spending so much time in the gym – better results for less time spent.

A note on weight and age: there is a trade-off obviously. A young stud of 25 can half kill himself (indeed herself) lifting a real maximum weight and collapse at the end with failure….. Your average 50-year-old is asking for trouble doing that. As weights increase (and your strength with them) so the pressure on joints, bones and the arterial system increases. You can get to the point where your muscular strength simply outstrips the capacity of the support systems. So I am very careful to understand where my absolute max probably is – you can find out by cautious experiment – and then I back off slightly, substituting an even greater emphasis on form and slow speed for the top weight theoretically possible. I also stop as soon as I feel nauseous or in any way light-headed. In this way I have never been injured. As ever – consult a doctor if you haven’t used this intensity training approach before.

The guts of the approach then, is to use as heavy a weight as you safely can for 6-8 reps per set. Try another set to failure. Go slow (6-8 seconds per rep). You will find that the slower you go, the less weight you can lift (so again, you can substitute slow reps for heavy weights to protect yourself). If you can do more than 3 sets with the weight at your chosen rep speed, then it is not heavy enough. Rest and recover for about a week (Mentzer used to recover over a fortnight!), next time increase the weight for the same number of reps/sets.

It is essential to understand that moving the same weight for more reps and more sets is NOT increasing your strength or size, it is increasing your stamina (and you may want that). If you want to grow, the ONLY way is to increase the absolute weight for a fixed duration and allow longer recovery periods as the weight is increased (since the stress on the body also increases).

The results will be dramatic. You will see visible results in the mirror each week, In a month you will go from e.g. 25 pound bicep curls to 40 pounds – a measurable increase in strength. You will have spent less time in the gym (important as you get older and more prone to injury) and generally feel better because you are not constantly exhausted. Seeing is believing……. I have been AMAZED that at 58 I can grow in size and strength in a way I could never do before. No injuries, no tricks and a minimum of time pumping iron.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Eddie Vernon writes from Thailand: On 26 January went to Chiang Rai to compete in the first of the 5 race series for the national mountain bike championship and came first in the 50+ age group (as I expected). See picture attached. The guy second from right came third. He won all 5 races in 2007. The guy who came second (second from the left) moved up with me into this age group this year - I competed directly with him twice last year and was faster than him both times. So as long as I stay fitter than the others I am confident I'll win the series and subsequently receive a trophy from the prince some time next year.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


My good friend and supplements guru gave me a heads up about pomegranate juice. He’s just experienced some issues with prostate cancer and orders the juice every time we dine together. According to Wikipedia, “Studies indicate that pomegranate juice reduces arterial plaque, reduces systolic blood pressure, and reduces LDL cholesterol” One 250 ml (8.45 oz) glass of pomegranate juice provides approximately 50% of an adult's recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the vitamins A, C and E. Pomegranate juice provides 100% RDA of folic acid and a substantial amount of potassium and niacin. Wiki also gives the scientific journal references that support the claims for help with prostate cancer.

But be warned: there is also evidence that with some medications the juice can be dangerous. A 48-year-old man was taking ezetimibe (trade name Zetia) 10 mg a day and rosuvastatin (trade name Crestor) 5 mg every other day for 17 months. Both medications are used to treat high cholesterol. He began drinking pomegranate juice (200 ml twice weekly) and three weeks later, was admitted to emergency with thigh pain and an elevated serum creatine kinase level. Both are symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a serious condition that causes the breakdown of muscle fibers and may lead to kidney failure. Rosuvastatin belongs to a group of medicines called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, or ‘statins’. Grapefruit juice is known to increase the risk of statin-induced myopathy, but up until now, there was little information about whether pomegranate juice might also increase the risk. Pomegranate juice and grapefuit juice, are both known to block enzyme systems in the intestines. By inhibiting these enzymes, the juices may increase blood levels of many medications.

For more information on drug interactions look at

Bottom line: nothing is free. Before you take the magic cure, make sure you read what there is on the Net and when in doubt, ask the doctor.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


George Anderson, an anger management and executive coach for physicians asked the following question on LinkedIn (by the way, join as a major business network and see George's profile):

"Are the stresses in your life impacting your success?
Stress is a primary emotion which is a factor in many diseases including heart attacks, strokes, ulcers, diabetes,hypertension, depression and anxiety. Stress precedes anger and exacerbates frustration and anger. Stress reduces the ability to concentrate and focus on precision learning"

The answer is almost certainly yes if you are a senior executive from the BB Generation. What's important about this (aside from the obvious health aspects) is that senior executives hold the knowledge base for their companies. Given that increasingly knowledge is seen as a corporate asset, anything that impacts on this important resource such as stress-induced ill health or poor performance directly diminishes corporate wealth.

This is a subject that Boom Generation Fitness will be investigating. Watch this space!!

PS: the photo just illustrates the kind of pressure at work Baby Boomer executives are subject to.... not always lunching or playing golf!!