weight lifting old ageThere is no better feeling than throwing 500+ pounds on a bar and lifting it off the floor. To most people this probably sounds a bit sadistic, but in reality it just shows my absolute love for weight lifting. My favorite part about weight lifting is the fact that it molds not only your exterior, but it also strengthens your interior. The discipline, dedication, hard work and the pride I have exhibited over the past 20 years of training has been an experience that cannot be summed up in this introductory paragraph. It is something that has to be lived and experienced to be fully understood.

At this point in my life (32 years old) my body has been through hell. 8 years of football (high school and college) and 20 years of weight training has been accompanied by two blown ACLs, a botched knee surgery that has left me with a permanent drop foot, a slap lesion in my left shoulder, back pain, neck issues, and wrist pain. Other random joint pain is also a common occurrence. When you are young you think you will forever be invincible but the sad reality is, you aren’t.

As you age, workout programming is more essential than ever.

Here are a few tips for all of you beat up, old bags out there who still enjoy training and want to continue to look great.

1. Control, Control, Control

Control the weight. Don’t worry about how much weight you are using, worry about creating strong contractions through a very strict range of motion. Tempo is a key factor here. Control the eccentric portion of the movement and explode on the concentric portion while focusing on contracting the prime mover of the movement. Lifting in this controlled fashion will allow you to get more out of using less weight. For more details on tempo check out this awesome article!

2. Take Rest Days Serious

Don’t screw around on your rest days. Stick to your diet, get enough sleep and relax. Rest days aren’t days to go out, drink and stay up all night while eating pizzas. As you age, it becomes more difficult to recover between workouts, so make those rest days count.

3. Utilize Machines

I am one of the biggest “anti-machines” trainers you will ever meet, but they do have their place. Machines put less stress on joints and are on a fixed path which allows you to control the weight easier. Because of this, you can recover quicker while using machines. I am not telling you to replace your main movements with machines, but adding machines to your workouts can help add volume to your workouts that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to add with barbells and dumbbells.

4. Pre-Exhaust Work

I love squatting, but I am so strong that I need to use a lot of weight to actually get a good workout. This hurts and makes it very difficult to recover at times. A good way around this is to perform squats later in my workout. If I tire my legs out through different leg exercises, by the time I get to squats I can get a good workout with a much lower weight. This saves my joints while still taxing my muscles. This idea can be translated to any body part or lift.

5. Decrease Volume of Brutal Lifts

Some of the most brutal lifts are squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. Unfortunately they are also the most effective lifts. If these lifts cause issues for you, I suggest doing them less often or not at all. You don’t NEED to do these lifts, but if you CAN do them I would suggest that you do. If these lifts cause difficulties for you, try decreasing the volume. You can do this by performing them every other week. You can also decrease the amount of work sets that you do. Either of these are acceptable options for decreasing volume. Play around with it and find what works best for you.

6. Substitute Exercises to Get Similar Results

Finding alternative exercises is integral to your progress, especially if you are going to get rid of one of the big three (deadlift, squat, bench). If you aren’t squatting make sure you are doing lunges, leg press, and glute bridges. If you aren’t doing barbell bench press make sure you are dumbbell bench pressing, using machines, using cables and doing push ups. For alternatives to the deadlift, check out this article I wrote covering this topic.

7. Ice, Stretch, Massage

Ice sore joints (Twenty minutes on, at least forty minutes off). Stretch after workouts. Perform self massage on sore areas or go to a massage therapist. Take care of the little things and your body will thank you for it.

8. Just Say No

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Be smart. Just because I can bench press 365 pounds or more, doesn’t mean I should. Not now. Not when the risk is so much higher than the reward. To quote one of my favorite Eagles of all time, “For who? For What?” Thanks Ricky.

By taking this advice into consideration, you will stay injury free and continue on your weight lifting adventure way into your golden years. You can thank me later!