Want to stay fit and strong as you age? Here’s how to adjust your training. Don’t worry, lifting weights is still a big part of it.
As I get older, instead of focusing mainly on being the biggest and strongest guy around, I’m shifting my focus toward pro-longevity training. Should you? Let’s talk about it.
The Bullet Points
Increasing lifespan beyond what you could achieve in a healthy state is a slightly different, complex topic. Exercise may not be as important as increasing telomere length, increasing the number of satellite cells, maintaining hormone levels, etc. Pro-longevity training, however, means maintaining or improving your level of fitness and functioning as you age.
The key is to train the things that naturally decrease as you get older: muscle mass, power, strength, speed, mobility, and endurance. Of those, aging impacts speed, agility, and power more than endurance. Strength and muscle fall somewhere in the middle.
Minimizing or preventing sarcopenia (loss of muscle) is certainly part of it, but basic hypertrophy training will take care of that. Most dedicated lifters maintain decent levels of strength and conditioning because it’s part of what they already do.
However, few lifters work on power, speed, and agility, important parts of pro-longevity training. These capacities tend to “go first” as we age.
Explosive work prevents the conversion of fast-twitch fibers to slow-twitch fibers, which comes naturally with aging. It also increases neurological efficiency (preventing brain degradation) and improves insulin sensitivity.
Mobility is a huge part of pro-longevity training.
For conditioning, many do steady-state work, which is good, but they neglect harder conditioning: anaerobic capacity. How much hard work can you perform in three minutes?
A good program should address all of these aspects in some regard. We’re not talking about maximizing your potential in each of these areas, which would require a periodized approach focusing on different aspects at different times. Rather, we’re talking about concurrent training, increasing everything simultaneously, though to a lesser extent.
Do two or three hypertrophy-based workouts per week and two athletic days (one for power and anaerobic capacity, one for conditioning with some skill/explosive exercises). Low-intensity cardio can be performed at any time.
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I turn 50 next year so this sounds like the direction I need to be headed.
I started your effort based Hypertrophy plan and figured I would use the Push/Pull/ Legs as my 3 Hypertrophy workouts and drop the bonus day.
Can you give an example of what the other two athletic type days should look like or point me in the direction to research how it should be designed? Thanks!
Here’s what I came up with taking some info/exercises from another program (think its an old one by you) and some exercises I just like. Any suggestions is appreciated.
A1. Drop Catch Bench 5×5
A2. Football Bar Floor Press 5×5 (60-75%)
B1. Speed Alternate DB Row 5×5
B2. Bent Row (60-75%) 5×5
C1. Incline Medicine Ball Throw 5×5
C2. Incline DB Press (60-75%) 5×5
D1, One Arm T-bar Shoulder Press 5×5
D2. DB Push Press (60-75%) 5×5
A1. Broad Jump 5×5
A2. Snatch (Focus on speed, not weight) 5×5
B1. Vertical Jumps 5×5
B2. Lumberjack Squats (60-75%) 5×5
C. Sled Sprints 3×15 meters
Here’s an example of what I’m typically doing.
Keep a few things in mind:
I don’t actually follow a program, in that my sessions are highly variable. I do respect the “theme of the day” but the actual content of the session is not planned in advance. I think that a program is important when you learn to train (like following a recipe when you start cooking) and when you want to peak at a certain time or to maximize results in one element. But when your training is more “hollistic”/aimed at improving everything as well as overall health, I think that following a rigid plan is less important. Of course, I have 30+ years of training behind me so I’m likely better than most at autoregulating my training.
I’m now more of an educator than a coach. This means that the bulk of my work is now giving seminars, writing articles, answering forum questions, and creating social media content. I still train clients, but only online. This means that I have a lot more free time and less stress than most. I do have two kids but Jayden started school and Mady goes to daycare. So from 7:30am to 4pm I can do my own thing (I also wake up at 5am to do work).
I have a very good capacity to tolerate physical work; I recover pretty fast. As I’m getting older, it takes a bit more time but it’s still faster than many.
With that in mind, here is my typical weekly content:
Strength & Hypertrophy: twice per week: For strength I currently focus on the following lifts:
- Zercher squat
- Snatch-grip high pull from blocks
- Barbell curl
I will do two of those in a strength session and 2-3 simpler hypertrophy exercises.
I will sometimes replace a strength session with a pure hypertrophy workout (typically on machines) if I feel more tired.
Performance/conditioning sessions: twice per week I do a circuit-type workout aimed at improving aerobic power and anaerobic capacity.
These are never the same (kinda like Crossfit without the hazardous movements) but they normally use:
- 4-5 exercises
- 5-6 rounds
- Active rest (stationary bike)
Here are some examples, these are my last two conditioning sessions:
6 rounds of
Bodyweight dips x max reps
Snatch-grip high pull from hang x 5
Farmer’s walk x 40 meters
Stationary bike x 2 min
5 rounds of
Box jumps x 10
Walking lunges x 30 meters
See Saw press (alternating DB overhead press) x 10 per arm, with speed
KB long pull (from floor to arms fully extended overhead, not as a swing, more like a high pull) x 10
KB rotational/lateralswings x 10/side
Heavy bag. (100lbs boxing bag) carry x 30m
Stationary bike x 2 min
Aerobic work (around 120 beats per minute): 3 x 45-50 min/week (these are normally done as a second daily session)
Boxing training once a week (which is also anaerobic capacity work as well as explosive/agility work)
Martial arts 3x a week (typically as a second session, in the evening)
A week can look like:
Monday: Conditioning session / Aerobic work
Tuesday: Strength session / Martial arts
Wednesday: Aerobic work / Mobility
Thursday: Conditioning session
Friday: Aerobic work / Mobility
Saturday: Strength session / Martial arts
My 5-year-old son does the martial arts and boxing classes with me.