Blanket “cookie cutter” recommendations for mature lifters are useless.
A 49 year-old can have a 35+ year training history (good and bad); they can also have avoided exercise completely since high school.
The most important areas that require modifying are related to recovery, which includes sleep and stress management , both in and out of gym.
Apart from avoiding a handful of highly problematic lifts, the key, in terms of programming modifications for older lifters, is to watch 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 productively train.
- Too sloppy. Absolutely perfect form throughout a set isn’t necessary or even ideal. Your last rep or two should show some “urgency,” though I would still keep all reps of the basic barbell lifts VERY clean.
- Too long in the gym. This isn’t just for older lifters. Most people just train too damn long. It’s not a “testosterone plummets after 56 minutes” thing — it’s 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 sub-optimal.
- Too mirror focused. You can still be a recreational bodybuilder and not train like a 14 year-old Insta-Influencer. Focus on exercises that will eventually lead to a strong, balanced, muscular physique staring back at you in the mirror…not just exercises that make you look all swole while you perform them in front of the mirror.
Squat, row, chin, push, row, hinge, lunge. And, if you’re older, row some more.