Blanket “cookie cutter” recommendations for mature lifters are useless.
A 49-year-old can have a 35+ year training history (good and bad)—they might not have exercised regularly since high school.
Of course, the most important areas that almost always require modifying relate to recovery—which fundamentally comes down to improving sleep, and managing stress, both in and out of the gym.
But with training, apart from avoiding a handful of highly problematic lifts, the key programming modifications for older lifters come down to watching out for the Terrible Toos:
- Too much volume.
Too many unproductive sets (junk volume)—too many redundant exercises (4 different biceps exercises). Getting MORE out of LESS is key for older lifters.
- Too high in intensity.
Low reps should be used sparingly and heavy barbell work should RARELY hit failure. This helps prevent digging too deep of a recovery hole not to mention prevent injury. Plus the lighter you train, the more frequently you can train PRODUCTIVELY.
- Too sloppy.
Absolute perfect form throughout a set isn’t necessary or even ideal—your last rep or two should show some “urgency.” Although, I would still keep ALL reps of the basic barbell lifts VERY clean.
- Too long in the gym.
This one isn’t just for the older lifters, either—most people just train too damn long. And it’s not a “testosterone plummets after 56 minutes” thing—just pure pragmatism. NOBODY can sustain focus indefinitely. So the longer you’re in the gym, the more the work you did towards the end of the session was likely sub-optimal.
- Too focused on the mirror.
You can still be a recreational bodybuilder and not train like a 14-year-old fitfluencer on the ‘Gram. That means focusing on the exercises that will eventually lead to a strong, balanced, muscular physique—not just movements that make you “look all swole” in front of the mirror.
Squat, row, chin, push, row, hinge, lunge.
And if you’re older—row some more.
– Coach Bryan