Strength Training After 50 – Why There’s Nothing To Fear

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Written by Brian Sweet

It’s never too late to start taking care of ourselves to help undo the effects of time. Getting older is an undeniable fact of life but feeling old is another matter! 

It’s never too late to work on building up your strength and gaining muscle, so here are some of the best tips for strength training after 50.

Why Should I Start Strength Training?

As we age, we begin to feel the effects of sarcopenia, also known as muscle loss. Beginning in our 30s, we can lose between three to five percent of our muscle each decade! By starting strength training after 50, we can undo some muscle loss and prevent the frailty prevalent in older age.

What Are the Benefits of Strength Training?

Toning our bodies and gaining muscle means we’ll be able to stay independent as we get older. Everyday tasks, such as carrying our groceries or playing with our grandchildren, can become challenging as time goes on. 

Preventive measures mean that we’ll continue to enjoy a high quality of life and all the little joys that come with it.

mature woman using barbells strength training after 50

A Harvard School of Public Health study revealed that men who performed strength training had less belly fat than those who did aerobics. Regardless of gender, strength training can help decrease body fat and lower your risk of heart disease. 

However, it is recommended to incorporate cardio exercise sessions with strength training days.

All in all, strength training is an all-rounder exercise that will keep us young and healthy as long as we continue to practice it. More on the benefits of strength training for the over 50s.

Is It Possible to Build Muscle After 50?

Yes! You can build muscle at any age. While it is harder to build muscle over 50, the most important part is to start. Scientific evidence shows that you can continue to build muscle even after your 70s!

Important Things to Consider When Strength Training After 50

If you feel ready to get started with strength training, here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Your recovery time will be slower than it was in your youth. It’s vital to set realistic expectations for how you’ll feel after your workout.
  • Consider your anabolic resistance. It means that you’ll still build muscle, but not quite as much as you did when you were younger. It’s not difficult to overcome this hurdle by practicing a healthy lifestyle.
  • Your blood pressure may elevate during workouts. Studies show that regular strength training is beneficial to blood pressure.
  • If you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or renal disease, you should first consult a doctor. 

What Do I Do to Start Strength Training?

It might be nice to get exercise instructions from a qualified professional like moi (:
But should you be confident enough to start strength training on your own, here’s how you can get started:

Plan Your Sessions

Planning your sessions will prevent you from getting bored. Training up to three times a week is enough to see significant gains in your muscle mass as well as all-round toning

While splitting your training sessions is good for focusing on a core muscle group, full-body training is ideal for beginners. The reason for this is that it allows the different parts of your body, including your brain and nervous system, to learn to work together.

Choose Your Weight

One of the factors to consider is to find a weight that you can lift for up to 15 repetitions while staying comfortable.

You will need different weights for different exercises so adjustable dumbbells might be a good option, although initially, even a DIY solution would be good enough. Try water bottles filled with sand.

How Many Reps Should I Do?

Traditional strength training has an optimal goal of 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. 

Rather than focusing on a particular number of repetitions, a safer idea is to try various exercises that engage the same muscle group. As an example of this, your whole body workout can consist of:

  • Squats: This exercise focuses on your lower body and strengthens your quads, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, and lower back! Your local gym will most likely have a leg press machine. Use that. The machine requires less balance and mobility and is good for beginners.
    Although doing squats, free-form allows you to have more variety in your workout. It also benefits you by targeting minor muscle groups that help with stability.
  • Bench Presses: Bench presses focus on the upper body and work on your front deltoids, chest, and triceps. Again you can use the chest press machine at the gym, and it’s fine for beginners since it requires less coordination.

    But again, using a machine will mean missing out on a variety of workout possibilities that can subtly activate different muscle groups. It would be better with a bench but even without one, it’s not impossible.
  • Deadlifts: This exercise helps improve your back, glutes, and hamstring muscles. As a bonus, it also helps strengthen your grip! Starting out carefully is important. After 50 our backs can be a little sensitive to new potentially stressful experiences.
  • Seated Rowing: Seating rowing benefits your mid-back and your biceps. It also targets the latissimus dorsi, which is a muscle on the outer area of the chest wall. It helps improve your posture (no banana backs here) and protects your shoulders.
  • Lateral Pulldowns: The lateral pulldown strengthens your back and benefits your bicep muscles.
  • Overhead Presses: This exercise focuses on your upper body and benefits your triceps.

Doing anywhere from one to four sets of these exercises in any combination is a great start to your strength training journey. Remember that while two sets are better than one, doing something is always better than nothing!

Most of these exercises also strengthen the body’s core which is important as part of a functional training regome.

What Else Can I Do to Support My Strength Training?

Eating right for muscle growth will help support your strength training journey. Muscles can’t develop without proper nutrients.

Older adults need 1.3 grams of protein per kg of body weight to prevent muscle loss—this means you’ll probably need to eat more than that to see gains. Don’t pig out!

For optimal muscle growth in strength training for men and women over 50, aim for up to 2.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. 

Good protein sources include dairy products, eggs, soy-based foods, grains, and nuts. You can also supplement your protein intake with powder to help reach your target.

It’s recommended to eat a good portion of your daily protein allowance directly after a strength workout enabling muscle repair.

Best of all, you don’t have to count calories or weigh your food when you’re seeking to build muscle. 

Consider incorporating some balance training into the mix.

Can you get fit and toned at 50?

You can build muscle and get toned at any age and it’s even more important after 50. Strength and resistance training as we age means stronger muscles and bones which means fewer injuries.

Can a 50-year-old woman get back in shape?

Yes. Include strength training for all muscle groups two or three days a week and aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week.

What is a good bench press for 50-year-old man?

In your 50s around 75 percent of your body weight

How do I tighten my body after 50?

Aim for 3 days a week of strength training plus regular cardio activities. Include a healthy diet with minimal processed foods.

What training split is best for older lifters?

For the over 50s do lighter weights and more reps. Don’t “train to failure” as this will cause too much stress on the body’s systems.

Final Thoughts on Strength Training After 50

Making lifestyle changes can be difficult, but don’t feel discouraged if you miss a day of strength training. 

Research has been done to establish that it can take on average, 66 days to form a habit, so keep at it! 

It’s never too late to build muscle, and before you know it, you’ll be a stronger, healthier version of yourself!

Along with cardio, strength training can help you maintain a healthy fitness level past 50.

For more on life after 50, you might like this

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Mad keen runner of old. Now just mostly mad. But mad keen on researching the best and latest fitness-related information and products for a healthier and fitter midlife. Over 50 - most definitely. Qualified in Australia as a PT in Sports & Recreation.

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