Training Recommendations for Men Over 50

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics
Fitness advice for men over 50

I want to make it clear that I am not implying that men over 50 are physically weak. Many of them are incredibly strong, trained, have tremendous energy and can run circles around younger generations. However, it’s important to acknowledge that not every person who reaches 50 is well trained and adapted. Many people are relatively sedentary or have no idea what form of exercise or training to practice. They feel increasingly sluggish, and the effects of aging certainly become more acute under certain circumstances. This article highlights the importance of finding suitable physical activities that not only combat sedentary lifestyles but also help mitigate the impacts of aging.

As someone who studies physical culture, I believe I can provide helpful advice for older individuals looking to get fit, strong and functional, even if I have not yet reached my 50s. The importance of incorporating physical training is even more crucial for men over 50 than when they are younger. At this age, maintaining muscle mass, bone density, and overall physical health becomes increasingly vital to counteract the effects of aging. Regular exercise can help in managing weight, improving heart health, and maintaining flexibility and balance, which are essential for overall well-being in later years.

Do Strength Training!

It’s known that we have multiple types of muscle fibers in our muscles, and with aging, we tend to lose many of the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the powerful ones. This loss is detrimental to any man, as it leads to a decrease in strength and an increased risk of incidents due to slips and a lack of reactivity. Strength training helps maintain these fast-twitch fibers, preserving muscle power and reducing the risk of falls and injuries.

Therefore, it’s absolutely essential to engage in strength training, even if you’ve never done it before. Strength training improves metabolism, particularly glycogen metabolism, increases insulin sensitivity if there are minor resistance issues, and stimulates muscle hypertrophy. So, not only will you prevent the loss of fast-twitch fibers, but you can also start building muscle at this age. As long as there’s a natural secretion of testosterone, there’s no reason why you couldn’t develop muscles. Additionally, strength training leads to increased bone density, which is extremely important for individuals over the age of 50. This can help prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fractures.

Now, what I recommend is to engage in strength training that’s tailored to your level. I know men at 50 who are incredibly strong, and I don’t really have any recommendations for them, as they know their capabilities well. However, the key is to do strength training that matches your effort capacity and generally avoid maximal efforts. So, don’t overload the bar; instead, focus on form, clean execution, and work with moderate but relatively heavy weights.

You can also do calisthenics, certainly. It might be a bit more challenging to do a workout 100% dedicated to strength, but a hybrid workout is absolutely excellent. Pull-ups, push-ups, dips, a bit of bench pressing, some squats with a barbell, are all formidable exercises. This approach not only builds strength but also enhances functional fitness, flexibility, and balance, which are crucial at any age, particularly over 50.

It’s frustrating for me to see so many men around 50 years old who tell me that they were strong in their youth, but now at this age, they feel they have no choice. I believe that at this age, physical training is more relevant than it was at 20 or 30 years old. Now it matters the most.

Stretch Your Muscles and Do Mobility!

Generally, flexibility decreases with age, and men typically have lower flexibility compared to women. This decline in flexibility can contribute to a range of motion issues and increase the risk of injuries. Therefore, incorporating flexibility and mobility exercises into regular workouts is important. Stretching sessions and mobility drills can help maintain and even improve flexibility, aiding overall physical function and well-being.

I highly recommend that you also do bodyweight exercises and focus on a full range of motion. When the execution is complete, joint mobility increases. This approach not only enhances flexibility but also builds strength in a way that is harmonious and balanced with the body’s natural movements. Exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups, performed with full motion, can greatly improve joint health and overall mobility.

Workout Routine for Old Man
The best pushup for protecting the joints

Avoid Extreme Fatigue

If you’re someone who is dedicated to constant resistance and endurance training, it’s important to avoid acute fatigue and focus on recovery. Extreme fatigue can lead to muscle strain, which can cause tension and inflammation. This can ultimately lead to a reduction in fiber elasticity, making your muscles more susceptible to injuries. The lightest form of muscle lesion is the muscle strain, which can put you out of commission for a week.

If you do experience a muscle strain, it’s important to act quickly. Applying cold water compresses immediately after the incident can help alleviate the pain and reduce inflammation. You should repeat this at home for the following 2-3 days. While some people suggest applying warm compresses, it’s important to consult a physician before doing so. Lastly, it’s important to note that massages don’t work for muscle strains.

Do Stability Training!

Advanced age leads to diminished reflexes, reaction speed, and balance. It’s incredibly important to maintain these qualities over time, and they can be trained by simply doing stability exercises at least once a week. The chances of falling and sustaining serious injuries significantly decrease when you have good static and dynamic balance. Exercises like single-leg stands, balance board work, or stability ball exercises can greatly enhance your body’s stability and overall coordination.

 

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You Need Aerobic Training in Zone 2

This type of Zone 2 cardio training is enjoyable and can be sustained for a long duration, such as cycling for 1-2 hours or running moderately and rhythmically for 30-60 minutes. Zone 2 training is effective for building endurance, improving cardiovascular health, and enhancing fat metabolism, all of which are particularly beneficial as you age. It’s a moderate-intensity exercise where you can still hold a conversation, making it both effective and manageable for longer sessions.

This is considered the “green zone”. I recommend at least one, if not two to three such workouts every week, depending on your availability and personal schedule. By doing so, you’ll develop a stronger heart, improve the metabolism of slow oxidative muscle fibers, enhance your respiratory and circulatory systems, among other benefits.

Can You Do Vo2 Max Training?

I believe that the most important indicator of fitness and longevity is the VO2 max. The better your respiratory and circulatory capacity, the higher your performance, and the less effort you feel. VO2 max, which measures the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise, is a key marker of cardiovascular fitness and overall endurance. Improving VO2 max through regular aerobic exercise can enhance athletic performance, delay fatigue, and contribute significantly to healthier aging.

The best form of training to improve VO2 max involves swimming at a pace where the effort feels hard, maintaining it for 3-4 minutes (100-200 meters), or running at a fast pace — not sprinting, but pushing to the point where your respiratory system is heavily challenged. Doing 4-5 intervals of 3-4 minutes each, with 3-5 minutes of rest in between, is all you need. Aim to incorporate this into your routine once every week or two. This type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) effectively enhances cardiovascular fitness, increases VO2 max, and improves overall endurance and health. In other words, this approach will help you maintain speed and performance. Engaging in such high-intensity training not only boosts cardiovascular health but also contributes to preserving agility, reaction time, and overall athletic ability.

 

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It’s crucial to balance the level of effort and intensity during aerobic and anaerobic efforts. It’s important to adapt your training according to your capacity to avoid any physiological issues. It’s best to take your time and gradually work towards your goals.

Here is what’s happening when we get old

As we age, it’s not just muscle mass that diminishes; our maximum cardiac output and respiratory capacity significantly decrease too. From the age of 18 to 80, there’s a loss of over 50% in these key cardiorespiratory metrics. This decline affects our overall strength, diminishes our muscle power, and impacts our ability to perform everyday tasks like climbing stairs or carrying groceries, as well as enjoying longer walks in nature. To maintain a high quality of life in our later years, a combination of aerobic training in Zone II, VO2 max training, and strength exercises is essential.

I hope this information is helpful, and if you need my assistance as a personal trainer, you can contact me via email. I’m here to provide guidance, create tailored workout plans, and support you in achieving your fitness and health goals. Don’t hesitate to reach out for personalized advice and training.

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