Training at 50+

Question

I’m almost 50 now but still train. No injuries fortunately, and I want to stay healthy and active. I’ve lifted heavy my entire life but realize I can’t do that anymore.

What’s the best way to downshift?

Answer

The best way isn’t to downshift at all, it’s to go on offense.

This is going to be a rant about expectations, so get ready.

Tom here has lifted heavy his whole life, and he has no injuries. It’s obviously treated him well. So he wants to downshift… why?

If anything, he needs to keep lifting heavy and preferably keep adding weight to get even bigger and stronger.

Let me tell you a little secret.

If you hit 50 and expect to be weaker and smaller than you were at 30, you will be.

If however, you hit 50 and expect to be as strong or stronger than you were at 30, you will be.

Now, It is true you can’t lift heavy forever, but why invite forever in before its time?

Why not address forever when you get there, instead of prematurely ending what until now has been a great training career?

Recommended Changes

Sure, I would recommend some changes – like dialing up the bodyweight stuff as you age. Following my rule of thumb, he should be performing 50% bodyweight work and 50% weights

Handstand pushups with a weight vest for 1-3 reps is still plenty heavy, but carries with it just a fraction of the injury risk overhead pressing does.

Weighted chin ups and dips? Two of the finest exercises you can perform. They blow pulldowns and bench presses out of the water in my opinion.

And if your back is still in good shape, why not still deadlift? Just trade your straight bar and mixed grip in for the trap bar and a neutral grip. It gets you to the same place – lots of muscle using a big compound lift, with maybe what – half the injury risk?

Tom might try and fail on some counts.

Let me show you how he still wins

Let’s say he’s not able to get stronger on 3 of his 5 core exercises, no matter how hard he tries.

But by shooting for the stars, he still hits the moon and 2 big lifts continue to go up. If even one of those 2 happens to be trap bar deadlifts, he wins. Why? Because there isn’t a muscle in his body that doesn’t get worked with that movement.

Even if it’s 2 lesser movements, its still progress. It still motivates him to get to the gym. And hopefully it motivates his to explore other strategies on his stalled lifts.

Those stalled lifts BTW, are probably miles better than most 50 year olds – who would give their right arm to be “plateaued” at his level.

Bottom Line

Never, ever “downshift” in the weight room unless you absolutely have to. Let’s say, in the event of injury. They call this progressive resistance training for a reason. Not regressive training. Not maintenance training. PROGRESSIVE resistance training.

Live it. Breath it. Love it. Do it as long as you can. And if and when you can do it no longer, we’ll talk about what to do then.

But not before then.

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Coach Rob Regish

Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to Superhumanradio.net for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

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