You don’t have to lift less as you get older, you just have to make a few adjustments to your training.
It’s no secret that our bodies change as we age. Muscle mass and strength decline, it takes longer to recover from hard efforts, and our capacity to handle high training volumes can diminish. On top of that, mobility decreases and we become more prone to certain injuries. When an older athlete stops training, their fitness deteriorates significantly quicker than it did when they were young and building it back is much harder.
Your training needs don’t change as you get older. You still want to build cardiovascular capacity, strength, and functional mobility. But the way you approach those goals needs to be tailored to the individual, depending on your current fitness level, injury state, and other lifestyle factors. I asked two experts how your training regimen should evolve as you age.
Increase the Volume
The foundation for any training program no matter how old you are is volume. The training priority is restoring functionality in a safe and graduated manner, particularly for individuals who have been sedentary throughout their life, says Matt Swift, a CrossFit coach and masters champion who helped develop CrossFit’s specialized Masters Training program, geared toward middle-aged athletes. Matt Owen, a Gym Jones’ certified trainer out of St. Louis, echoed that sentiment.
We need to really build that base of general physical preparedness in order to build other stuff on top of it strength, power, sport-specific movement, Owen says. We’re going to value volume one to two hours of work every day over anything else at first. It’s a lot easier to get strong when you’re able to tolerate more work, more time lifting weights, and you’re able to recover faster than if we just pull you in and make you start lifting heavy.
Think of developing a solid base of fitness like a really good warmup: It’ll keep you safe throughout your training as you work toward more intensive, higher-impact goals.
Address Problem Areas Right Away
Injuries need to be treated on a case-by-case basis, with guidance from a doctor and/or physical therapist, but Owen shared some general training tips for addressing three of the most common injuries in aging athletes: knee, lower back, and shoulder injuries.
Generally, knee and lower-back issues come from a weakened posterior chain glutes, hamstrings, and calves. To address back pain specifically, Owen recommends movements like Romanian deadlifts and reverse hypers. For knee pain, it’s all about balance: strengthening your hamstrings to take the strain off overcompensating, disproportionately strong quads. Balance is also key for shoulder issues. Owen will usually assess the upper-back muscles to gauge which ones might be overcompensating and which need to be strengthened using Versa Loops exercise bands.
The older you get, the harder it is to come back from an injury. Swift encourages aging athletes to do everything they can to prevent injuries in the first place. There is no room for being reckless or taking risks with form or technique. You have to understand that not every day will be the same; there will be variations in the training load you can cope with. Make smart choices and back off when the body doesn’t feel right, Swift says.
Establish a Routine
Swift is committed to debunking the idea that older athletes shouldn’t train hard or with intensity. In fact, strength training is arguably the most important part of maintaining fitness with age, but it’s often sacrificed in favor of cardiovascular exercise. ‘We need to keep people training hard and consistently. We just need to do so showing greater care and being more conservative with loading patterns and intensity. Older athletes need to be physically challenged just like younger athletes, Swift says.
In fact, recently I saw on JRE (Joe Rogan Experience), a Dr. Peter Attia that spoke about HIS research in this area as well. He requires HIS patients (Peter Attia’s research focuses on human longevity) and he indicated we should acquire the fitness (thru hard work of course) of a physically fit 10 years our junior in order to live better, happier and longer. Watch the while episode here:
Both Swift, Owen and Dr. Attia recommend a training program that focuses on compound exercises multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time and functional movement patterns that use a full range of motion. This isn’t all that different from a workout that either trainer might recommend to a younger athlete, but the key distinction is extra recovery time. Swift recommends three to four sessions of weight training a week for an older athlete and an extra rest day compared to what he might recommend for a younger person. Side note, in my (Nerd of Fitness) opinion Kettlebells are the best tool for compound exercises, hands down. Kettlebells offer STRENGTH & CONDITIONING all at once. No other tool does that like a KETTLEBELL.
Regardless of intensity or volume, establishing a regular routine and sticking to it is the most critical part of training as you age. Don’t stop training, ever. It is genuinely a case of use it or lose it, Swift says. Once you stop training at a later age, there is a decline at a much greater rate than for a younger population, and it is considerably harder to get it back.
Add Yoga to Your Fitness Regimen
Most yoga practitioners and teachers will tell you that it is never too late in life to start practicing yoga. Yoga can help increase mobility, flexibility & overall fitness. Typically low impact, yoga can be a very intense workout as well. So, anyone planning on starting yoga practice after 50 needs to be aware of the differences in body and health between themselves and a younger yoga beginner. Begin practicing yoga after 50 by starting slow and finding an instructor or a class that specializes in beginners or older adults. A great way to start is by subscribing to an Online Yoga service. Nothing beats actually GOING to a yoga studio, but in-between as well as when your wallet doesn’t allow, Online Yoga is the way to go! We recommend YogaDownload.com. We will include a free Yoga Flow Video at the bottom of this article for you to try!
Invest in Your Recovery
As you age, your body bounces back more slowly from intense exercise. Successful older athletes should take their recovery as seriously as their training. Younger athletes can get away with a poor lifestyle and still perform, but older athletes cannot, Swift says. Have a good sleep ritual, consistently eat a nutritious diet of real food, and undertake a frequent mobility program.
Owen agrees that eight to ten hours of proper sleep is the most important part of recovery and training. It recharges the nervous system and re-balances hormones, and it’s the key to any successful weight-loss effort. Owen also recommends daily foam rolling, copious water, and proper nutrition. (Treatments like cryotherapy, acupuncture, HGH supplements and deep tissue massage have also worked for some of his clients, but Owen resists a blanket recommendation for anything beyond do-it-yourself recovery.)
Even taking an HGH supplement (Human Growth Hormone) can see positive results not only sleep patterns, but muscle gain, weight loss, energy & over all good health. Human growth hormone (HGH) is an essential component of our well-being. It is a naturally-produced substance that promotes healthy muscle and bone mass while working to regulate metabolism. There are many SAFE & Effective HGH supplements on the market, Somatropinne HgH is among the best. Shop around though and see what is right for you.
Don’t Forget a Winning Mindset
There are plenty of ways to address the changes in our bodies through exercise and recovery, but an athlete’s most valuable tool is confidence in their body’s ability to adapt. The mind is primary, and we hold that above everything else. If you can train your mind and condition yourself to expect higher performance and hold yourself to a higher standard, the body will follow, Owen says.
Here is the promised FREE Yoga Flow from YogaDownload.com:
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