I recently received the following question from a reader named Paul:
“How does a 56 year old male who has been lifting for about a year, twice a week – only squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, back extensions, and pull-ups, insert more arm work to get bigger arms, yet deal with the longer recovery period an older person experiences”
Paul is doing a lot of things right. He’s following a Minimalist type training program, he’s giving himself ample time to recover, and hopefully he is eating enough protein, drinking water, and eating clean overall. For someone that is older, the time to recover between workouts DOES go up. Your strength might not decline so much, but your “battery” does take a hit in that exercise tires you out much more than when you were younger. So keeping this is mind, how do people over the age of 50 go about training effectively?
1. Lower the frequency of training – You can being in amazing health training 3x days weekly, or even 2x days weekly if the workouts are long enough. Taking two full days to recover between workouts will ensure you are recharged
2. Lower the intensity – Train with 60-80% of your max weights, and keep the reps in the 6-15 range. This will spare your joints from heavier loading, while still building muscle and maintaining strength levels
3. Ditch the lifts that hurt – Do not do movements that you know aggravate your joints. Whether this is barbell bench press, barbell squats, upright rows, etc, keep all of your movements joint friendly
4. Use Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Cables, Machines, Bands, and Bodyweight – The reality is that you do NOT need to do barbell work at all to maintain an amazing physique and high level of health. Taking the barbell out of your training can keep all your joints feeling good and gives you a lot of fun variety to training
5. If there is a muscle group you want to improve, train it every workout–Do 2-4 sets of a joint friendly movement every time you train. For biceps and triceps, 2 sets of curls, 15-25, and 2 sets of triceps extensions 8-15 reps. If you do that three times a week, in addition to your regular training, you will notice improvements over time
6. Keep the sets moderate – A good workout can be as few as two movements, and up to 8 in some cases. Ive found the “sweet” spot for most individuals is 3-5 exercises. The covers all the ranges of motion for any given muscle group, and it allows you to get quality work in. 3-5 exercises, for 2-5 sets each (sets vary depending on the movement and intensity)
7. Always warmup-don’t overcomplicate this. Do anything that gets your heart rate elevated and gets you sweating. Always do 1 high rep warmup set for every movement, feel it out and see how your body handles it on that particular day
8. Don’t Ever Max Out – I made this point somewhat already, but its worth saying. Maxing out is ALWAYS risky, and the number of injuries that occur is very high. Once you are in your 50s and beyond, maxing out becomes pure ego, and serves no real purpose in training. If you are insistent upon maxing-do it rarely, at the end of 3-4 months of training-Always have spotters and safety rails set up-Be fully warmed up, mentally prepared, and rehearse the lift in your head-Use whatever supportive gear is appropriate That covers off the forefront of my mind how I train mature lifters, and would advise them to do so. I would also highly recommend working with Jim and Jay thru the usage of Jim’s Forged Training program. I’m currently helping Jim edit Forged into a book and quite honestly it is going to be an amazing resource for lifters (male and female) of all age groups. Jim has been using this program for close to 22 years and at 45 and on only TRT he has an astonishing physique.