Aging is a natural and inevitable part of life’s journey, bringing with it a host of changes both physical and mental. As the years go by, you may find yourself grappling with a new set of challenges, such as less muscle mass, reduced flexibility, and decreased energy. It’s easy to believe that getting older means surrendering to a gradual decline in strength and vitality.
But, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Getting older doesn’t mean it’s time to sit on the sidelines. Age is just a number, you can always get stronger!
And this strength can impact your lifespan in many powerful ways. As you’ll see below, getting stronger is associated with better aging and mortality, stronger bones and heart, and improved quality of life.
The good news are that it’s never too late to add strength and be fit. However, if you really want to be in shape as you age, we need to cover some things together. Just continue reading!
Body Changes and Aging
Growing older brings the possibility of many age-related changes. Ignoring them can alter your life in a negative way.
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.
Why does this happen? As we age, fatty deposits can build up in the walls of our arteries. These deposits can harden and slowly narrow the arteries, ultimately leading to a reduced blood flow and less oxygen, increasing the chance of a heart attack.
Age-related changes happen in the skeletal system as well. Even though changes might not occur as rapidly as they do elsewhere in the body, bone tissue is also broken down by the body and replaced. This process is called osteoporosis, it weakness the bones and can lead to increased changes of fractures and falls.
Luckily, one thing doesn’t change all that much. It’s your metabolism. For years it was believed that our metabolism slows down as we age. But studies prove that this is mostly false, as a slight reduction is only visible in most people.
After the age of 60, metabolism could start to decrease about 1 percent per year. However, this appears to be correlated with a reduction in activity. So, the more active you stay, the better!
Maintaining Mobility: The Best Way to Prevent Injuries
If you’re not able to move your joints freely through their range of motion, the risk of injuries increases.
And if you’re injured, it’s hard to do regular exercise. Without exercise, you’ll lose muscle and strength. And muscle loss is strongly correlated with a lower lifespan.
Avoiding injuries plays a direct role in weight management too. Regular physical activity outside the gym can help maintain your body weight in a healthy range. Move less, and the pounds will go up.
So, mobility is vitality important.
Unlike strength training, there is an inverse correlation between mobility and aging. You likely need to invest more weekly time to maintain mobility as you age.
Be that as it may, you don’t need to spend an hour a day stretching. For most people. 10-15 minutes a day will be enough.
To start, try extending your warm-up before your workouts. This way you’ll build a habit, and slowly incorporate more mobility work over time.
Strength Training: Do’s and Dont's
There is no way around it, your workouts will have to change as you age. It was fun to do max bench presses and squats with really heavy weight, but that needs to stop. Your goal now is to train for longevity.
This is a long distance race, and putting yourself at unnecessary risk is not what we want.
So, what is the best way to fight the loss of muscle and power? From my research and experience it is a combination of weight lifting and safe plyometric training. Mixing these two with regular physical activity creates an ideal path to stay fit and strong throughout your entire life.
How to implement these changes? If you’re 50 years and older, it’s time to embrace a bodybuilding approach. In other words, your intention is to build muscle, focusing on more reps and proper form.
The weight is still essential, and getting older doesn’t mean you should be weak. But low reps and heavy loads beat up the joints, and it also increases your chance of injury.
Therefore shifting your attention to a higher rep range of 10-12 per set is the perfect amount. Still trying to add a bit more weight or sets each week, so you always ensure muscle and strength progress.
Structuring Your Training Plan
You will likely feel best and make the most progress by training hard 3 times per week. As we age, the ability to train hard often diminishes, as well as recovery time.
So, 3 full-body workouts each week will do the trick. Keep them simple and effective. Do an upper-body pull, upper-body push, and a lower body workout. Performing 2-3 challenging sets per exercise for 10-12 reps.
Start each workout with compounds lifts such as the bench press, assisted pull-ups, lunges, chest supported rows, and similar.
To finish your training add 1 or 2 of your favorite isolation movements. These can help you hold onto as much lean muscle as possible, and they are easy on the joints. More curls, lateral raises, and tricep press downs.
Don’t forget to always warm-up properly, and stretch. Adding a few mobility movements here and there can’t hurt too!
Use this plan as an inspiration. While you can follow the workouts as written, feel free to add in movements you’re more comfortable with. As long as you understand the foundation, exercise selection isn’t strict.
Upper-Body Push Day
10 reverse fly’s
6 push-up shoulder taps
10 band face-pulls
Flat dumbbell bench press 3x10
Chest fly’s 3x12
Seated dumbbell shoulder press 3x10
Dumbbell shoulder fly’s + front raises 3x12
Tricep push downs 3x12
Plank hold 2 sets till failure
Upper-Body Pull Day
Wrist circles and elbow circles
Lat pull-downs 3x10
Single arm dumbbell row 3x10 (each arm)
Seated close grip rows 3x10
Seated dumbbell curls 3x12
Reverse grip barbell curls 3x12
Floor back extensions 2x10
Lower Body (Leg Day)
Side-to side lunges
Box jumps (low box) 2x5
Goblet squat 3x10
Walking lunges 3x10
Prone leg curl machine 3x12
TRX hip thrust 3x20 seconds hold