Strength training after 50

Why Choose Strength Training?

My Journey in strength training has been more than Age Defying:

“Training was my life, but once I turned 50, thoughts about weight, age, injury, and motivation to workout crept into my mind. When I was younger, I trained, ate, and trained again after practice like every athlete claiming to be the best in their sport; or anything they played.” One morning, I dragged my ass to the bathroom, bent over to lift the toilet seat, and lifted my shirt. As I stood up, I felt a stiff pain in my neck, back, shoulders, and legs as well as noticed the gut starting to overlap my waistband. I began using the excuses, “Your ass is getting old, metabolism is slowing down, and your testosterone levels are depleting………, so don’t worry about it. It’s part of the aging process.”

I was in my 50’s now and the idea of a has-been athlete with the inevitable “Dad bod” was unacceptable, although the bad knees and old injuries keep reminding me that I am not as fit, or functional, as I would like to be. My mind was telling me to “Take it easy son; you are more prone for injury now” and “You are getting a Grand-dad bod.” Although I was a grandfather, I contributed my weight gain to blood pressure medication and the steroids I was taking to treat a condition I developed before retiring from the Army. After losing the excuses and finally tired of being physically UN-fit, I knew I had to get back into the gym and re-establish the routine, habits, discipline, and focus that would reverse the loss of muscle mass, testosterone levels, and total body function (well, almost total) that made me the “All Everything” stud athlete that I used to be in my younger days.

What do most older men fear most…?

“I know my bones have gotten weaker and that I am more susceptible to fracture and osteoporosis; should I be lifting after 50?” Strength training routines will provide consistent stress to your bones, which is necessary to increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. “I have lost some strength and flexibility, my coordination sucks, and I am a little unstable and off-balance; should I be training after 50?”

Strength training will support the preservation and enhancement of lean muscle mass lost while aging, as well as increase your metabolism to slow the onset of increasing body fat. “50…” is quickly approaching, my joints are aching, I’m getting soft, I’m getting man-boobs, and my quality of life is diminishing; I need to stop half stepping in and out the gym and get serious.” Strength training will improve your physical capabilities, increase your balance, reduce your risk of falls, and reduce the symptoms of chronic conditions that lead to decreased virility, quality of life, and mental health.

Returning to the Gym

“Specific cognitive beliefs and schemata have an impact on sexual arousal when combined with anxiety about the consequences of erectile loss.” – David Miller (1998) I wrote a book that would address public health issues with aging and fitness, middle-aged concerns with loss of muscle mass, bone density, and daily functionality challenges, related to low-testosterone, weight gain, and inactivity. 

For those who never stopped training but are looking for alternatives to spending hours a day lifting weights, proper techniques in strength training are suggested to avoid injuries, manipulate different training equipment options, and use the proper weight to build muscle efficiently as you age are addressed in this book.

The truth is, when people over 50 ask, “Why are you doing all this?”, the bigger question is “Why aren’t you?’ Many “senior” citizens are discovering that it is easier to bulk up and build muscle than any other time in their lives by using exercise machines 3 or 4 times a week. Those who have always kept themselves fit, and have some experience in training, understand that routines targeting, specifically, their leg and abdominal areas to prevent falls and hip fractures (common in older people) are most valuable to those interested in building strength and losing fat after 50.

Aging is associated with a decline in muscle strength, an increased risk of falls and a sedentary lifestyle, and “an increase in fat mass, progressive impairment of muscle function, and poor sexual performance.”- Tom Storer (1999). Imagine building a strength training program that has been discovered to re-establish some of the vitality and physical prowess you once had when you were that “All Everything” stud athlete, along with the quality of long life and longevity that man never intends to relinquish. Everyone loves a story of redemption, but most men want to control their own destiny, age gracefully, and write their own chapter in the most honorable book of Manhood.

Establishing A Training Program

The undertaking of a new strength training program involves planning to save time wasted on exercises that may only injure you and encouraging you to adopt exercises that are the most effective for your physical health needs. The key is to first establish your mindset.

You will see the rationale and importance of executing exercises that work for YOU, but it is up to you (and your personal trainer) to determine which ones and at what rate you do them. I would recommend if you do not want a trainer, that you YouTube these exercises to see a demonstration as well as further research the exercises that you find most interesting.

Motivating your confidence to execute basic movements is also a key step in the progression of any program that is tailored to make strength training a lifelong habit for you. Many older men cannot see past their health concerns and must be convinced that the increased mobility and independence offered by committing to a strength training program is a life-changer.

The Myth Behind Aging Strength

The science behind an old man’s strength is real. As the body produces adrenaline-related hormones that not only create a faster (quick) response to fight or flight stressors but a greater level of strength is also produced for the older man as well as in a shorter time. Many older men are performing regular weight training routines into older age as they discover increases in strength and muscle bulk that have allowed them to remain strong or even become stronger. For example, Mark Felix, aged 50, is still able to compete with his considerably younger counterparts at the World Strongest Man competition (ACSH, 2016).

“Strength training exercises can also reduce depression and boost self-confidence and self-esteem and improve your sense of well-being.”- David Buchner (2002). Self-defeating beliefs will stop you before you get started, but the right routine for you may achieve results within the first 3 days as well as motivate you to stay the course and allow the strength training program to transform your life. You may discover that all the exercises in this book may meet your physical needs, motivate you to move without the fear of falling, and assist you in developing the strength to get back on your feet and continue with your mission.

This is not another “it’s never too late” exercise book. Again, the intent is to provide the importance of how the movements will improve your physical functionality, but unless you are already experienced with strength training, my disclaimer is that you HIRE A PERSONAL TRAINER TO HELP YOU DETERMINE THE CAPACITY AT WHICH YOU CAN SAFELY EXECUTE THESE EXERCISES.

Training Habits and Your Fitness Plan

Establishing smart training habits is necessary at any age, but becomes most critical when addressing physical changes, you are experiencing after 50. You may benefit from the following considerations when it comes to establishing your fitness plan:

Mindset

IF you are not motivated to start training or believe you are too old to be strength training, the first chapter will address the sources of motivation in training your strength training mindset.

Maintaining Mobility and Consistency

The steps in planning your routine involve establishing your fitness goals in a way that you can realistically stick to them. They may be as simple as addressing balance issues while walking on uneven surfaces, stepping off curbs, or climbing steps.

Rational for Exercise Choices

The exercise choices for your plan should address the most effective exercises based on their rationale for strengthening the areas of your body, such as your feet and ankles, that are of most concern to your normal daily function.

Maintaining and Reinforcing Mobility

Part of your plan should address any current or potential issues with mobility, such as standing from a seated position or squatting to pick up objects that will require exercises that strengthen your legs. Other mobility concerns should consider lower back issues, poor posture, or feeling pain when executing activities that require you to twist.

Adopting Core Exercises

A major part of your plan should address your core which is the center for all movement and stability.

In addition to strengthening your core, exercises that strengthen your upper and lower back will increase your confidence with bending over and picking up your groceries, laundry basket, grandchildren, or objects on the floor.

The Weight on Your Shoulders

Have problems with stocking the kitchen cabinet or raising objects over your head? Your plan should consider simple exercises that strengthen the neck and shoulders.

Protecting Yourself From Injury

Focusing on exercises that strengthen your arms will increase your pushing and pulling capability as well as help you support your weight when preventing or breaking falls.

Food: the Medicine for Growth and Recovery

A meal plan to complement your fitness plan is necessary for nourishing your muscles, bones, and joints for growth, increased strength, and muscle mass. A dietician in this stage of planning is paramount to obtaining tips for recovering from exercise and injury.

Resources:

Alice Shires & David Miller (1998). A preliminary study comparing psychological factors associated with erectile dysfunction in heterosexual and homosexual men, Sexual and Marital Therapy, 13:1, 37-49.

Rachelle Bross, Tom Storer, Shalender Bhasin (1998). Aging and Muscle Loss, Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 10, Issue 5, Pages 194-198,

Rebecca Seguin, Jaqueline Epping, David Buchner, Rina Bloch, Miriam Nelson (2002). Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults, Tufts University, CDC, p. 3.

ASCH Staff (2016). Is old Man Strength Real? American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), https://www.acsh.org/news/2016/07/29/is-old-man-strength-real. Published on July 29, 2016.

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