16 Weight Training Tips for Men Over 50
Want to know how to start working out in your 50s but don't know where to start? Don't worry, I've got your back!
Men of all ages are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of lifting weights. However, it seems that many men in their 50s didn't get the memo...
It’s almost as if men in their 50s think, “OK, I’ll stop looking after myself now!” Or perhaps it's because they think they're 'past it.'
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I know many men in their 50s and older who routinely defy age, and have better physiques than men half their age.
Just because other men your age are overweight, tired and have no sex drive doesn't mean you have to be the same way.
As long as you look after your mind and body, you can remain energetic and vigorous for most of your life, and lifting weights is key to this.
In this article, I share 16 weight training tips for men over 50, and show you why age is in the eye of the beholder.
#1 Aim for brief and intense workouts
If you’re older than 50, your body will not be able to withstand tissue trauma (from training) the same way a 20 year old can.
Yet so many older men train classic bodybuilding style, four to five days per week, not recognizing their bodies and recovery ability have changed.
The majority of guys who spend hours in the gym get nowhere anyway. They believe that the amount of time they spend in the gym is directly proportionate to their results.
As a man in his 50s, you’ve probably got a family and a bunch of responsibilities. Therefore, you don’t have the luxury of spending hours in the gym/
You’ve been around long enough to know that one life’s maxims is quality over quantity. And this applies as much to weight training as it does to anything else.
For men lifting weights over 50 years old, brief but intense training sessions 2-3 times a week are more than enough. Some guys can handle 4 sessions. But more than that is excessive as it starts to cut into your recovery ability.
Don't drink the koolaid
HIT-style training, i.e. training to positive muscle failure – is ideal for men over 50. This combines both brevity and intensity.
If you’re never trained HIT style before, it will wipe the floor with you. You’ll be begging for momma and reciting multiple Hail Mary’s.
But once you become accustomed to training with that kind of intensity, you’ll likely never look back.
I recommend you check out PD Mangan’s One-Hour Fitness program for an excellent primer on HIT training (use the discount code: KELLY for a 50% discount at checkout).
Incidentally, here’s a picture of PD Mangan deadlifting -
He's a pretty jacked for a guy in his 60s – so clearly he knows a thing or two.
#2 Injury avoidance is your #1 PRIORITY
Forget about building muscle or anything else, injury avoidance is #1 PRIORITY in the gym.
NEVER do an exercise that hurts. If it does, stop immediately and find an alternative exercise. This may be due to the angle you’re working the muscle at, poor posture, or simply poor form (I’ll cover these issues more later).
Whatever it is, don’t do that exercise until you figure out what the issue is.
Getting a muscle strain or tear may mean a few weeks out of the gym in your 20s, but if you're in your 50s, that could mean MONTHS out of the gym.
A few years back I traveled to China and stayed there for several months. At my local gym, I met an American guy in his 50s who had been training for years.
He seemed to know what he was doing and had a fantastic physique for a man of his age. One day, however, I saw him hobbling around the gym. I asked him what happened. With a sad look on his face, he confided that he broke his own rules and used too much weight on a machine and strained his calf muscle.
The result? His calf ballooned and it looked like someone went at it with a baseball bat. He couldn’t train his leg properly for several months. I’m sure he learned his lesson in the end.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
#3 Machines are your best friend
Many men in their 50s earned their stripes lifting weights the old school way. That means using predominantly free weights and training balls wall.
They may even say something like, “Machines are for weaklings!!”
So when you suggest to these men using machines might be a good thing for them, they’re almost offended. To them, machines conjure up images of guys dressed in cheesy sport attire and long socks.
I don’t care what people say – machines are your best friend. In fact, I feel the majority of workouts for men over 50 should include machines.
Not only do machines prevent injury, but they minimize wear and tear on your joints. And as a trainee in his 50s, joint wear and tear is a BIG DEAL.
Many men in their 50s come to me and complain about joints that ache. If you want to prevent this scenario, and avoid aggravating any existing conditions – use machines.
Honestly, it’s hard to fuck things up or get an injury using a machine. And you’re not sure which machines to use, I recommend finding a gym that uses Hammer Strength.
Alternatively, start bodyweight training. You'll dramatically lower your injury risk because you're training the way your body was designed to.
#4 Use higher rep ranges
Ideally, workouts for men over 50 should mainly involve using higher rep ranges.
That means anywhere from 8-20 reps. Why you ask? Higher rep ranges mean less load and less strain on your joints and central nervous system.
Research indicates that moderate loads of 8-12 beneficial for hypertrophy (i.e. muscle gain). Where 15+ reps are ideal for developing muscle endurance.
Lower rep ranges may better in terms of pure strength training. But as a man in your 50s, the potential for injury and stress placed on your entire body is simply not worth the trade off.
Does that mean you’ll bench less? Maybe. But you’ll sure as hell look and feel better than 99% of men your age. What's more, you'll avoid many of the common shoulder problems and surgical procedures men in their 50s suffer with.
#5 Warm-up properly
In your 20s and 30s, you can get away with doing a single warm up set then jumping right into your workout. But in your 50s, you need to take your warm-ups seriously.
First off, warming up increases your overall body temperature. This will reduce the possibility of getting an injury. Warming up also increases muscle temperature. This means you can tap into the full potential of your muscle fibers. Otherwise you're only reaching half of your potential.
A proper warm up also ensures the proper release of hormones vital to a successful workout such as growth hormone, testosterone and insulin. These hormones play a key part in both your performance during your workout and the adaptation phase after.
Get on the treadmill or bike and get the blood flowing for 10-15 minutes before your workout. Ensure you warm-up adequately (i.e 2-3 sets) for every exercise.
#6 Do regular stretching and mobility drills
The axiom as you get older is: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
This applies not only to muscle mass, but to flexibility as well. When you’re younger, your body has a natural elasticity. But as you grow older, you must make a conscious effort to remain flexible.
You should aim to stretch at least 2-3 times a week for 5 minutes at a time. You could also try some form of Yoga or Pilates.
Regular stretching will get rid of many of the aches and pains that creep up over time. I also highly recommend you spend some time foam rolling. This will help loosen up many of your muscles, in particular the side of your leg and your lower back.
But be warned:
The first time you foam roll won’t be a pleasant experience.
#7 Use correct form
This goes without saying and applies to guys of all ages: use proper form!
I’ve seen many guys in their 50s load up the weights and perform exercises with terrible form.
Then they wonder why they need knee straps and their joints hurt. It’s not because of old age, it’s because they’re stupid when they train.
Even if you’re a seasoned trainee, you can sometimes let your ego get the better of you. And that one time decide to push it and use too much weight? You pay the price for it.
But there’s more to it than simply being a form nazi. Using proper form means you target your muscles effectively and maximize your workouts.
For example, let’s say you don’t use proper on the squat, and you don’t squat to parallel. Doing it this way means you don’t the benefits and the muscle fibre contractions you get from a full squat.
In short, you’re leaving money on the table.
#8 You cannot afford to skip workouts
You can get away with it in your 20s and 30s, but this stuff starts to compound as you age.
The work you put in now will directly affect your quality of life in your later years. That means remaining disease-free and ultimately staying out of a care home.
I’m sure you never dreamt about being in a vegetative state or forgetting your own name in the latter half of your life. But that’s exactly what will happen unless you put in the work now.
You must see your workouts as non-negotiable – as if your life depended on it. Because actually, it does.
#9 Utilize time under time tension
Because you’re using less weight and overall volume, you should increase your time under tension. This means slowing down your reps and focusing on quality muscle contractions.
This is especially important as you’ll be user higher rep ranges.
Focus on slowing down the cadence of your lifts. Spend 1-2 seconds lifting the weight and 3-4 seconds lowering it. Research suggests that the negative or lowering portion actually produces more force.
Slowing each repetition down places more tension on your muscle fibers; ultimately leading to greater contractions and more gains.
#10 Supplement diligently
In terms of supplements, I usually find most people are on one end of the spectrum or the other. They are either anti-supplements, because they think they can get everything through their diet. Or, they spend massive amounts on supplements
However, the truth lies somewhere in between. The food we eat today is treated with numerous chemicals in an attempt to extend its shelf-life.
As a result, it’s often deficient in vital micronutrients (e.g. Zinc, vitamin C, magnesium, etc.).
To make up the shortfall in micronutrients in today’s world, it's vital to supplement.
On the other hand, many people have a fixation on supplements, seeing them as some kind of magic bullet. But if your diet is crap, then it doesn’t matter how many supplements you take.
Supplements done the right way can not only boost your workouts, but can help with recovery, sleep and cognition. And if you’re weight training at 50, you need every advantage you can get.
#11 Optimize your testosterone levels
According to research, testosterone levels decline with age as much as 0.4-2% each year. So by the time you’re 50 years old, your testosterone levels could have declined by as much as 30%.
But given the fact our environment is so toxic, I suspect in practice this decline could be even greater.
Testosterone improves cognition, libido, muscle mass, bone density and heart health among other things. What's more, if you struggle with low testosterone then you will be spinning your wheels in the gym.
No matter how hard or how often you train, you will fail to gain strength or appreciable muscle mass.
Therefore, it’s in your best interests to ensure your testosterone levels are optimal.
I write about this in my upcoming book, Optimized Under 35. Though if you’re a man of any age, you will get something out of that book.
In this day and age, you simply cannot afford to overlook this aspect of your health. Testosterone is every man’s life blood.
If you’re a man over 50 and you eat well, train hard, and generally look after your body, testosterone replacement therapy may be a good choice for you.
It restores your hormone profile to that of a young man, but you have the experience and decision-making of an older man.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean that you need TRT, which means you're on a lifelong medication and all the costs and management associated with it.
Most men will go far simply by optimizing their diet and lifestyle alone.
If you truly care about optimizing your hormonal profile and finding on what's going on inside your body, I recommend you take a blood test.
If you're on a budget, I recommend you use Discounted Labs. Alternatively, if you're looking for something in-depth, you can contact me about the functional blood testing that I offer for my coaching clients.
One of my clients in his 50s discovered he had stage 2A rectal cancer after doing a blood test with me. Truth be told, a normal lab test isn't going to cut it if you want an accurate picture of your health.
#12 Find a Routine and Stick with It
In my experience, this is one thing that holds people back most when trying to make progress in the gym:
Constantly changing routines. I wrote about this in my article 18 Ways to Get Stronger in 2019. Suffice to say, many people get “shiny object syndrome” and go from workout to the next.
Progressive overload is one of the basic tenets of building muscle and improving your body composition. Therefore, if you change workout every week, you won’t get the kind of progression required to get results.
Another reason guys jump from one routine to another is simply because they don’t know what to do. If you’re not experienced in the gym, or you’ve been out of the game for a while, it can be overwhelming.
That’s why I came up with my 28 Days to Shredded program. Your diet, training routine and supplementation routine are all laid out in plain English, so you don’t have to think about it.
All you need to do is show up and do the work. Obviously, I can’t help you with that part – but if you do follow the program, I promise you’ll get results. Want proof? Check out Chris’ results below.
#13 View training as part of your anti-aging strategy
There are no two ways about it. Your level of fitness determines your quality of life. But not only that, your level of fitness is correlated with how long you’ll live.
According to research, people with a low level of fitness have a 70% higher death rate than those with higher fitness levels.
In his excellent Anti-Aging Blueprint course, PD Mangan states that exercise is anti-cancerous. Indeed, it appears that it increases molecules in the bloodstream that can inhibit cancer cell growth.
He cites a study on hip fracture patients that followed a high intensity strength training routine, and received treatment for depression and vitamin D. This reduced death rates by 81% and reduced care home admissions by 84%.
Muscle is anti-inflammatory and protects against disease. This is because it acts as a storage depot for protein, and in disease states such as cancer, sepsis (a toxic response to infection), or traumatic injury, proteins are released from muscle tissue for wound healing.
The bottom line:
The muscle you have, the better your chances of avoiding disease and surviving it. So, if you’re a man over 50 and you want to live longer; you need to build muscle mass and lift weights.
#14 Stop making excuses
This may be the first start weight training in your 50s (or even beyond). You may have been out the gym for a number of years. And now you’re looking to get back into shape.
Whatever it is, don’t let excuses get in your way. Understand this: your age is NOT a reason for you, go be in phenomenal shape.
Just because other men your age let themselves go shit doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Sure, your body may have more limitations now, but so what?
Does that mean you can’t get in the gym and kick ass?
In my experience, most of the limitations for building muscle and strength for men over 50 is in their head.
Most men who get into their 50s are poor low testosterone saps. Do you know why? Because they CHOSE to be that way. Not because of their age or any other bullshit. They stopped caring and looking after themselves.
Now quit making excuses about what you can and can’t do.
#15 Fix Your Posture
If you haven’t paid any attention to posture in recent years, then now is the time.
My experience with posture correction is: the longer you neglect your posture, the worse it gets. There are numerous benefits of good posture.
These include; less lower back pain (a common problem for men over 50), improved mood, less tension in your neck and back, and improved circulation.
The first step in improving your posture starts with being aware of it. Get someone to take a picture of you with a shirt off from the front, side and back.
That way, you can get an objective assessment of how your posture actually is.
You may find that your neck leans forward (kyphosis), or that your shoulders are internally rotated. This second one is especially common in men that drive and spend a lot of time at computers.
I recommend make postural correction exercises a staple in your workout routine. Great exercises for improved upper body.
#16 Pack on size
OK, you’re weight lifting at 50 years old, but so what? Does that hold you back from building muscle and improving your body composition?
Absolutely not. Getting jacked is not just for younger men.
As long as you have the right foundations in place, there is no reason you cannot put on a significant amount of muscle mass in your 50s.
Some men in their 50s and beyond have this idea that trying to gain muscle is somehow “beneath” them.
But let’s be clear, there is nothing immature or childish about wanting to build muscle. Sure, it’s vain, but I see NOTHING wrong with wanting to look after your appearance.
More muscle mass simply makes you look better, instead looking like a rake that’s better off in the garden.
You’re telling me you don’t want to look better naked? Come on now.
Looking the part, and being strong to boot makes you FEEL BETTER. But not only that, I guarantee you it will improve a whole lot of other areas of your life too.
Many of my coaching clients are men in their 50s. And when they come to me, they all have their own issues.
A lot of them are overweight. Many suffer with low libido and high levels of stress. Indeed, often these men have done well in their careers and made a lot of money, but at the expense of their health.
Making big changes to your health and your physique in your 50s is no mean feat. You simply don’t have the energy levels and recovery ability of a younger man.
But, with the right attitude, consistency and dedication, anything is possible. My clients are proof-positive of this.
Many have lost weight, gained muscle AND gained their life back. They no longer buy into the myth that being an older man is a handicap. Being in great health and top shape as a man in his 50s opens up a whole world of possibilities to you.
Possibilities you didn’t even think existed. But they were always there – you just didn’t see them.
And that’s the thing about getting into great shape that’s rarely discussed:
It gives you incredible mental clarity in your life. Maybe even for the first time. If you follow many of the tips I outline in this post, I promise you incredible results.