Last week marked 2 years working with Don. I have found our time together to be exceptionally valuable and I’d like to think he’s learning as much from me as I’m learning from him.
Like all clients, our conversation started out around training. How to move, how much weight to lift, what exercises to perform, and why. What to eat, how much should he be walking. Typical stuff but what’s unique is how our conversations have grown. Now we talk about things he’s experienced during his life as a father, husband, grandfather, and business owner. As a coach, these are the most rewarding conversations because you can see the positive impact you’re having on a life that is truly being lived. It’s the best.
The first and (likely) most obvious question will be this: should Don be lifting weights at nearly 90 years old? As per the Department of Health and Human Services, active older adults (65+ years of age) should perform the following activities:
- 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week
- muscle and bone strengthening exercise 2x per week, working most major muscle groups
- older adults are also encouraged to do balance training weekly
Overwhelmingly, the evidence supports strength training for everyone, particularly older adults. Strength training is essential for maintaining and building stronger muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues, or said another way, our musculoskeletal system. What folks often under appreciate is it’s our musculoskeletal system that affords us our independence. Guys like Don continue living in their home because they can. They can navigate stairs, take out the trash, get off the toilet, and drive their own car. Sure, there’s some luck involved but building / maintaining strength is vital to give yourself the best possible shot at this sort of existence as you age. More info @ (2018 Physical Activity Guidelines).
Barbell Training, Really?
Yes, I’ve had this discussion many times. Barbells are simply the best tool for someone looking to get stronger. Let’s examine why that is.
- Loaded Human Movement
- Incrementally Loadable
Loaded human movement includes stuff like pushing, pulling, bending, lunging, and squatting. These are exactly what we do with a barbell. We can take a guy that has difficulty getting off a 16″ box on day 1 and build that to a 95lb box squat 6 months later. As you might guess, he no longer has difficulty getting off that box… or his couch… or his toilet.
Additionally, being able to incrementally load these exercises is vital to providing the appropriate dosage. Similar to medicine, strength training takes some fine tuning to get it right for each person. We see some athletes that are very sensitive to training protocols, while others are more resistant, it’s all part of working with them over time. What is unique to barbell training is the ability to titrate that dosage up by as little as 1/2 a pound. If you’ve read any of our other articles, you’ll know how regular, demonstrable progress is important for keeping us motivated… no matter how small the progress is.
What Does Training Look Like @ 88
Depending on Don’s schedule (man is he busy), he’s usually training 2x per week. Our exercises usually include:
- sled push
- rack pulls
- pin overhead press
- pin incline bench press
- leg press
- pull down
We don’t necessarily do all those in a session, typically we’ll break that up across the week. Session to session, we aim to make small amounts of progress (i.e., lift more weight). Don will be the first to tell you to “put some damn weight on the bar” and that’s how we like it because more weight on the bar is how we get stronger.
Getting Stronger @ 88
When I started working with Don it looked something like this:
- press @ 15lbs x 5
- incline press @ 15lbs x 5
- rack pull @ 35lbs x 5
- leg press @ unable to perform
- pull down @ 40lbs
More recently, it looks like this:
- press @ 50lbs x 5
- rack pull @ 135lbs x 5
- incline press @ 60lbs
- leg press @ 125lbs x 10 x 2 sets
- pull down @ 110lbs x 10 x 2 sets
We’ve done this by simply adding a few pounds every session or two, depending on how he’s feeling. Nothing magical or complicated, just consistency and hard work.
You’re an Athlete, Like it or Not
A common question from an older athlete might be something like “yeah, but should I even bother at this point”? To that I say, “what if you had 0 dollars in your account? Would you bother doing something to put some in there? Yes, you most certainly would”. You don’t have a choice and lifting is no different, you don’t have a choice. You SHOULD be training!
Life is a full contact sport. It will push you down, beat you up, and spit you out. Aging is no joke. Little by little, we lose strength, we lose our muscle mass, and we lose our independence. Strength training for life is a very real necessity. I’ve written before on how Strength Training Isn’t Optional.
At our gym, we love watching guys like Don box squat 2 racks down from a female athlete that is preparing for an upcoming powerlifting meet. To us, they’re both very much training and we couldn’t image a gym running any other way. If you currently find yourself in the “older adults” category and are realizing that you need to get to work, we’re here to help. Book a Meeting today and we’ll get you set up.