Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

Strength Training for People My Age

That weekly brisk walk with a buddy isn't giving you the muscle mass to stave off health problems.

by
Mark Rippetoe

Bio

July 8, 2014 - 8:00 am
Page 1 of 5  Next ->   View as Single Page

shutterstock_188497505

I’m 58. Granted, I’m pretty beat up these days. I’ve had my share of injuries, the result of having lived a rather careless active life outdoors, on horses, motorcycles, bicycles, and the field of competition. People my age who have not spent their years in a chair have an accumulation of aches and pains, most of them earned the hard way. And for us, beat up or not, the best way to stay in the game is to train for strength.

The conventional wisdom is that older people (ah, the term sticks in the craw) need to settle into a routine of walking around in the park when the weather is nice, maybe going to the mall for a brisk stroll in the comfort of the air conditioning, or a nice afternoon on the bicycle, checking out the local retirement communities — at a leisurely pace, of course. For the more adventurous, a round of golf really stretches out the legs. Maybe finish up with a challenging game of Canasta. Your doctor will tell you that this is enough to keep the old ticker ticking away, and should you choose to rev the engine like this every day, you’re doing everything you need to do to maintain the fantastic quality of life enjoyed by old people at the mall.

Standards, unfortunately, are low. Your doctor often assumes that he’s also your fitness consultant. When you get sick, go to your doctor. When you are deciding what to do to extend your physical usefulness, how about taking a different approach than asking his permission to get up off your ass? How about asking yourself whether your current physical condition is as good as you’d like it to be? If it’s not, what would be the best way to improve it?

Top Rated Comments   
For goodness sakes.
LIsten to yourself.

Snif.
Lip quiver.
Teary eye.

Man up.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I had a serious bout of cancer 20 years ago. Now in my 60s, I have various physical problems caused by the radiation I received (but I'm alive!). Running is now out of the question. Working with free weights at a CrossFit gym keeps me fit. I have to scale and I have to be careful (recovering from an injury takes a long time), but I've got a 350# deadlift and a 275# back squat. Now, if I could just get younger.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yep, there's the post I predicted in the article.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (88)
All Comments   (88)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I got a copy of 'Starting Strength' on the reccomendation of an old friend. I wanted to go through my later years with strength not decreptitude.

At first I couldn't do a single pull up. It was a suprise, because I was weaker than I always thought. I was well into my 40's though.

Now, 4 years later (and several rippetoe books down the line), I'm a county standard masters lifter. I haven't finished progressing. I will be a national standard lifter within 3 years more, at least that's my goal.

It doesn't matter about your long term goals, every man on the planet at heart wants to be strong. Every woman too wants the strength to lead a good life. You just need to reach out and take it - it's all down to your willpower.

Don't look back on your twenties as the time when you were at your best. Make that time now. I dare you :)
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm 83 and for the first 60 years of my life, strength training was something rich males did in fancy, expensive sweaty gyms — never a woman and NEVER an "older" person. At age 60 my son urged me to check out CrossFit. I knew the importance of weight bearing to bone strength, but never dreamed of myself in a gym with "all those beautiful, vibrant, young people." I arrived at the gym and was staring at a room full of big tough guys who were lifting weights and death-defying men on a big mat working at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and I refused to pick up a 20 lb Medicine Ball (the test) for fear of injuring my back!! After which I dutifully did 5 ABMAT sit-ups and informed my coach: "my right quad has failed." Actually, I told him that one unit of my right quad had failed!! — to be precise! That was my coach's intro to me! Stunning!

At 80 years of age I was still at it, stronger, and very pleased with my 90 lb deadlift and not feeling at all "elderly". Now, at 83, there are some arthritic issues, but I'm working through it. If I stop the strength training I will then be "elderly".

Thanks, Rip, for an honest, informative and encouraging article, straight from the heart!
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. rippetoe Did you really say this? Accumulating injuries is the price we pay for the thrill of not having sat around on our asses.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm right in this demographic. Will be 55 in less than a month.
I just finished week 5 in the Starting strength program-I am very pleased to date.
Squat: +95 lbs
Press: +40 lbs
Bench: +40 lbs
Dead: +130 lbs
Just added the power clean-feels good.
Increments have slowed down but we are still going up.
Weigh about the same but the stomach is showing signs of definition, shoulders and arms bigger, back muscles much bigger and harder. Good Lord, I'm starting have pectorals! Wife likes the look.

Thoughts for those worried about injury.
Read the technique stuff carefully. Practice with just the bar to get comfy.

Think of this. My first squat work sets were at 115, when I added 10 lbs that was nearly 10 percent. A good size change. Fridays 5 pound bump to 210 was only 2.5 percent more. Watch the technique and those tiny increases are not going to hurt that newly strong body. I think. The risk should actually decrease-as long as we respect the weight we are handling.

No reason I can't hit 300 lb squats in a few months and get that dead over 400 (275 Friday).

I can hardly believe that at 55 I am probably the strongest I have ever been.
This is cool.

Thanks Mark.

In His grip,

Dennis
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
i don't want to sound like I am bragging, but I am a professional horseman that will be 67 in a couple of months. I've had to show my Driver's License a few times to prove my age, especially after people feel the muscles in my arms. (Women seem to light up when they feel arms that are as hard as hickory saplings. LOL)

I don't work out; I just do the same work I did when I was 30, not as much, but the young horses are still young and they still move as fast as a house cat. I don't have any suggestions for you grandfathers who want to reclaim part of your youth, but I do use the Ganoderma Mushroom to keep my energy level steady throughout the day. I think it helps and it works very well on old dogs and old horses. It also helped me lose 20 pounds.

There are no days off. My "workout" is seven days a week and people pay me to work out. Good luck with your struggles. We will see who lives longer: guys who do hard physical work or guys who work out. I plan on being around for another twenty, but time will tell. I don't plan on giving up my work and go to pot like the average guy my age.

I enjoyed the article and the commentary.

skooksjournal.com
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was a semi-professional horseman at one time myself. It is dangerous work, and when that rotten puke you've been worried about gets past you next time and you get hurt real bad (it will happen), keep Plan B in mind. The thing about strength training is that you're engaged in a process that INCREASES strength -- what you're doing is just using the strength you have now. And if you think you're as strong right now as you were when you were 35, you're not being honest with yourself.

Thanks for the kind words, and keep your eyes open.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm 57. I got the book starting strength. I've weight lifted before but never squats or dead lift. I have bad shoulders (two dislocated shoulders) plus just over frozen shoulder syndrome. My back over the years has been a perpetual problem including pinched sciatic nerve. Raking leaves would make me crippled. My knees are just plain bad. Ache a lot and if I'm not careful I can get to where it is painful to walk. Analysis by specialist is crummy knees. Got the book as recommended by instapundit. I was starting up weight lifting again and approached it totally differently. First being very careful with technique I added squats. Something I never thought I could do. Start off just with body, then with the bar. I am still careful and instead of just 5 I target 12 when I do them. The book convinced me to do presses. The squats got me to where my knees no longer ache. Huge deal. So then with my lower back problem I really really never thought to do dead lift. It is now my favorite. My back is much much stronger. I do three sets of 5. 250 is the max and my next goal is 300. I am amazed but here is the really amazing thing. How it has carried over to real life. My yard is requiring a lot of work. Recently I've rototilled for 5 hours straight. Two days ago I shoveled mulch for 4 hours. Yes I'm tired. Yes I feel almost crippled. But no sciatic nerve problem. A day of rest and I'm fine. I never would have thought I could do that strenuous an activity without being a total mess. Needing a Chiropractor. Heck, I wouldn't have been able to even do it before I started there routines. Added bonus, I've started a shooting sport USPSA where people do hand strength exercises to better control the gun. No need for that. My hand strength is getting plenty of work out.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks Mark, have your book, hat tip to the blogfather, another fan, and strengh training works for this 59 year old formerly fat guy office drone who spends WAYYYY too much time sitting for work.

Thats enough for me. Keep up the good work.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm 71 and had an irregular heart for the last decade - in and out of rhythm. Condition up and down, but I've stayed at it both walking and weight lifting and proved to myself that it is right to prioritize strength training. Both make me feel better but the big difference comes from the weights - because, as you say, I can just DO more. My lower back is a joke (Farm boy) so barbell and running cause injury, so I use dumbbells (Jorge Cruise routines) and a bike and can avoid injury which means I can stay at it. There is one other thing that makes a huge difference at my age - Tai Chi. Flexibility, balance, body awareness, stretching - even enjoying working with the aches and pains of being in my 70s. My experience says you are exactly correct about taking care of strength FIRST - even if you are just a young fella. ;-)
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another predicted post. The best way to avoid an exercise-related injury is to stop exercising. Just sit down and stay there. It's also an excellent way to make absolutely no improvement, second only to riding a bike and using dumbbell routines. You cannot get stronger if you don't do things that challenge your current strength level. Riding a bike and waving dumbbells around do not challenge your current strength -- they merely make use of it. And if you're in your 70s, you are getting weaker unless you're doing something to get stronger.

Barbell training, executed with proper technique, DOES NOT CAUSE INJURY. Correctly performed barbell exercise is FAR more effective for improving strength, is FAR more effective than machine-based training, and has FAR fewer injuries per 100,000 hours than running. Barbell training is merely normal human movement patterns progressively loaded with heavier weight.

This PROPAGANDA must stop.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I’m pretty beat up these days. I’ve had my share of injuries... most of them earned the hard way."

I'm 38, and after a knee surgery and two shoulder surgeries, I can relate.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm 53, started working wit weights in the gym in December to get in shape for a scout wilderness trip. Never had used weights. Quit the machines and adopted the Starting Strength program in April, more in hope than in faith that it would work, but just like the book says, I keep adding weight every time, and amazingly the next time I can add a little more. I'm convinced progress has been much faster on the barbell program than before. I'm now confident I won't be that dad they have to evacuate from the scout outing.

Is there one of the Rippetoe books that is written for us late beginners, with nutrition and routine guidance tailored to 50+ novices? If not, is there somewhere else where I might look?
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
The 3rd edition of Practical Programming for Strength Training has a chapter for geezers. All new stuff.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 4 Next View All