Strength Training for Men Over 50 – Introduction
Strength Training for Men Over 50 + Full-Body Workout Routine
You might think that exercise is a young man’s game.
And you’re not alone, because as men get older, many resign themselves to the middle-aged dad bod spread and give up sports and working out.
Giving up sports and working out is a HUGE mistake.
Natural fitness and muscle mass tend to peak in your 30s and decline gradually after that, accompanied by a decrease in bone density and testosterone levels.
However, while getting older is unavoidable, the good news is that you can delay your descent into decrepitude by maintaining your fitness program.
Giving up exercise will simply speed up your decline.
Working out will help preserve your existing muscle mass, prevent weight gain, and protect you from many chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes that often accompany the aging process.
That said, it may be necessary to change how you work out.
This article discusses the modifications you need to make to align your strength training workouts to your senior status.
Strength Training for Men Over 50 – Workout Guidelines
Use these guidelines to modify existing or create new workouts as a man in your 50s.
#1. Warm-up like you mean it!
In the glow of youth, you probably felt all but invincible.
Injuries, aches, and pains were pretty rare and quickly overcome.
As you get into your later years, your muscles and joints become less resilient and more prone to injury.
Like an old car, your body will take longer to warm and start working smoothly.
Make your workouts more comfortable and productive by spending longer on your warm-up than when you were younger.
A better warm-up will ensure your aging muscles and joints are ready for what you are about to do.
A proper warm-up consists of three main components:
- Pulse raiser – 5-10 minutes of easy to moderate cardio to raise your temperature and perfuse your muscles with oxygenated blood.
- Mobility and flexibility exercises – lubricate your joints and loosen your muscles.
- Muscle activation drills – exercises to fire up the muscles you are about to use.
In addition, you should do a few progressively heavier sets of your main exercises to “ramp up” from lighter weights to your training weights.
How long should your warm-up be?
That’s for you to decide.
Spend as long on warming up as necessary.
10-15 minutes should be enough, but you can do more if you feel you need it.
See How to Warm Up for Deadlifts Properly in Four Easy Steps for more details on getting your body ready for the king of free weights strength training, the mighty deadlift.
#2. Train for function rather than appearance
Ask most younger men why they lift weights, and invariably they’ll say that they want to look fit and strong.
While these are worthy fitness goals, it’s time to be a little less vain and turn your attention toward function and away from aesthetics as an older man.
Training for functional fitness means choosing exercises that will improve how you move and feel.
In most cases, the best exercises for function are the most practical strength exercises for preserving and building muscle.
Good examples include compound exercises like:
These powerful compound movements work many of your major muscle groups simultaneously.
As a rule, if the exercises in your workout mirror the movements you do outside of your training program, they’re functional.
Also, try to include more unilateral exercises in your workouts, which means training one limb at a time.
Unilateral exercises help identify and fix left-to-right strength differences and improve your balance.
Balance, like strength, tends to decline with age, and poor balance is a leading cause of accidents and injury in older people.
#3. Work on your posture
Posture tends to worsen with age.
The combination of tight and weak muscles can pull your head and shoulders forward and cause your upper back to become hyperkyphotic.
It’s why some older men often look hunched.
Don’t let that happen to you for several significant reasons.
Poor posture can have a massive impact on balance, mobility, and functionality, not to mention your appearance.
Also, things like hyperkyphosis can lead to back pain.
Hitting your 50s is the perfect time to start working on your posture.
Spend more time training the muscles on the back of your body, known as your posterior chain, than you do those on your front.
You don’t have to give up push-ups and bench presses, but make sure you do more pulling than pushing exercises to develop the overall strength you need to sit and stand up straight against the pull of gravity.
See the 7 Best Pull Exercises for Strength and Fitness + Workout for more information on pulling exercises.
#4. Make the switch to full-body workouts
Budding bodybuilders and younger male exercisers often follow split routines for upper body and lower body, which means they train different muscle groups on different days, for example;
- a chest workout on Monday,
- back muscles on Tuesday, and
- legs on Wednesday.
However, that’s not how your body works in nature, and it’s not a good use of your training time, either.
In contrast, your body works as a single, synergistic unit, so that’s how you should train it.
Also, switching to full-body workouts means you can train your entire body 2-3 times a week, not just once a week, as with most split routines.
This increase in frequency is generally more effective for lean muscle mass preservation.
Not sure where to start?
Don’t worry – there’s a strength training program for you to follow at the end of this article.
#5. Be kind to your joints
As your 40s become your 50s, your joints will probably show signs of wear and tear.
They may even be sore or stiff, which is a natural part of aging.
Rather than ignore these changes and plow on regardless, show some sympathy and modify your workouts to reflect the changes affecting your joints.
Examples of joint-friendly workout changes you can make include:
- More low-impact cardio and less jogging, running and jumping
- Don’t squat as deep
- Avoid behind the neck presses and lat pulldowns
- Do floor presses that use a partial range of motion and are more comfortable for your shoulders than the bench press
- Use dumbbells instead of barbells
- Learn how to use resistance bands
- Do rack pulls instead of deadlifts off the floor
- Do planks instead of sit-ups
In other words, look for ways to make your strength workouts easier without making them less effective.
You can still train hard, but you need to train smart.
#6. Listen to your body
Paying attention to how your body feels is arguably the most crucial consideration for resistance training in your 50s.
As a young man, you could ignore your aches and pains, gulp down a pre-workout shot, and push on regardless.
A protein shake and a nap later, you’ll feel recovered and ready to go again.
However, as a man in your 50s, pushing yourself harder than necessary could keep you from training for a week or more.
Remember, older bodies recover more slowly than younger ones.
So, listen to your body and heed your body’s signals.
If your knees are aching, either warm up for a longer duration, reduce your weights, or refrain from squats for a few days.
Are you feeling tired?
Then don’t force yourself to use the same weights or do the same number of repetitions as usual.
Take it a little easier and come back stronger next time.
Being kind to yourself is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and intelligence!
As an older exerciser, you need to know when to pick your battles.
Taking it easy today will probably mean you can get back on track tomorrow.
Ignoring your body could mean several missed workouts and poorer results.
Strength Training for Men Over 50 – Full-Body Workout
Here’s a sample weight training workout designed for men in their fifties.
It adheres to all the guidelines outlined above.
Remember to warm up before working out, so your muscles and joints are ready for what you’re about to do.
Do this workout 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days, for example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Box goblet squat
8-12 per leg
Seated DB press
Band pull apart
AMRAP = as many reps as possible.
Stop 1-2 reps short of failure, just as your ability to maintain proper form or movement speed starts to change.
Get the most from your strength training for men over 50 workouts while being kind to your joints by doing each exercise properly!
#1. Box goblet squat
Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, core
Goblet squats are arguably the most joint-friendly variation of squats.
Descending to a box ensures you can’t squat too low, reducing the potential for knee strain.
How to do it:
- Stand with your back to a knee-high box or bench.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest, just below your chin.
- Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Bend your legs and squat down until your butt LIGHTLY touches the box.
- Do not relax; stay tight.
- Stand back up and repeat.
Target muscles: Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, triceps, core
While bench presses are a proven chest builder, they’re notoriously hard on the shoulder joints.
Push-ups are just as effective but much more joint-friendly.
How to do it:
- Squat down and place your hands flat on the floor, fingers pointing forward and shoulder-width apart.
- Walk your feet back, so your body is straight.
- Brace your core.
- Bend your arms and lower your chest to within an inch of the floor.
- Push yourself back up and repeat.
- Make this exercise easier by bending your legs and resting on your knees.
- Make it more challenging by raising your feet and placing them on a bench or stool.
Target muscles: latissimus dorsi, biceps
Pull-ups and chin-ups are essentially interchangeable.
While you do pull-ups using an overhand grip, you perform chin-ups with an underhand grip.
Try them both and see which one you prefer.
Many exercisers find chin-ups marginally easier than pull-ups.
How to do it:
- Using your preferred grip, hang from an overhead bar (e.g., a power tower).
- Brace your core, bend your legs slightly, and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Bend your arms and pull your chin up and over the bar.
- Slowly extend your arms and repeat.
- Make this exercise more accessible by using a resistance band for assistance.
- Make it more challenging by wearing a weighted vest or using a chin/dip belt.
#4. Reverse lunge
Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus
Reverse lunges are excellent for your balance and hip mobility and are easier on your knees than forward lunges.
You can do this exercise with or without weights are preferred.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet together and arms by your sides.
- Brace your core and look straight ahead.
- Take a big step backward, bend your legs, and lower your rearmost knee down to within an inch of the floor.
- Push off your back leg and return to the starting position.
- Do your next rep with the other leg.
- Alternate your legs for the duration of the set.
#5. Seated DB press
Target muscles: Deltoids, triceps
Dumbbells are invariably more joint-friendly than the same exercise done with a barbell.
Doing this exercise seated also provides your lower back with some beneficial support.
How to do it:
- Set the backrest on your exercise bench to around 80-degrees.
- Sit on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the floor.
- Brace your abs.
- Raise your dumbbells to your shoulders, palms facing forward.
- Press the weights up and together, so they meet overhead.
- Lower them back to your shoulders and repeat.
#6. Inverted row
Target muscles: Latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius, posterior deltoids, biceps
Like pull-ups/chin-ups, inverted rows work your lats.
However, because of the angle of your arms, they also target your mid-traps and rhomboids, which are two important postural muscles.
How to do it:
- Set a horizontal bar (e.g., in a power rack) to about waist height.
- Sit below the bar and hold it using an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
- With your arms extended, straighten your legs and lift your hips off the floor to align your feet, butt, and shoulders.
- Bend your arms and pull your chest up to the bar.
- Extend your arms and repeat.
- Make this exercise easier by raising the bar and changing the angle of your body.
#7. Hip thrust
Target muscles: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings, erector spinae
Hip thrusts are a very back-friendly exercise for your posterior chain.
If you currently spend or have spent a lot of time sitting down, this exercise is the perfect antidote.
How to do it:
- Lie on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat.
- Rest your arms on the floor next to you.
- Drive your feet into the floor and lift your hips toward the ceiling.
- Lower your butt back to the ground and repeat.
- Make this exercise harder by using one leg at a time or holding a weight across your hips.
#8. Band pull apart
Target muscles: Middle trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoids
Given how important posture is for older adults, including this exercise in this workout makes sense.
Because they target the muscles across and between your shoulder blades, band pull-aparts are an excellent exercise for fixing that slouch!
How to do it:
- Hold a resistance band with an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
- Raise your arms in front of you, so they’re parallel to the floor.
- Keeping your elbows slightly bent but rigid, open your arms and stretch the band out across your chest to form a T-shape with your arms.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Target muscles: Core
A strong core is good for so many aspects of your overall health and physical performance.
Your core works as a natural weight lifting belt, stabilizing your lumbar spine.
A stronger core could help reduce your risk of back pain and improve your posture.
How to do it:
- Lie on your front and rest on your elbows, forearms pointing forward.
- Brace your core and lift your hips off the floor, so your body is straight.
- Look straight down at the ground.
- Without holding your breath, maintain this position for the prescribed duration.
Target muscles: Erector spinae, gluteal muscles
This exercise targets your lower back.
A more powerful lower back is less prone to injury and pain than a weak one.
Hyperextensions are also good for your posture.
How to do it:
- Lie on your front and clasp your hands behind your lower back.
- Look straight down at the floor.
- Push your hips into the floor and lift your head, shoulders, and chest slightly off the floor.
- Lie back down and repeat.
Strength Training for Men Over 50 – Wrapping Up
Rather than giving up exercise when you hit your 50s, you should do everything possible to stay active and keep training as you get older.
Working out as you get older will help slow the aging process.
However, you can’t train like you used to, and doing so will probably lead to a lot of joint pain and preventable injuries.
A 50+-year-old body is not as resilient as it used to be!
Use the strategies in this article to maintain muscle mass and strength, and ward off the middle-age spread while respecting the aging process.
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