bodybuilding and aging: how getting older affects your training
This is something that we’re all faced with eventually. Time moves on and so does our age. It affects our training greatly. The days of heavy lifting move over to lighter sets and more machines than free weights. Injuries and arthritis set in from years of lifting heavy. So what should the aging bodybuilder do and how can he handle this mentally as well as physically. Well you have to throw all egos aside and be realistic of what’s taking place in the body.
I had a great bench press of 455 lbs. and now I’m lucky to do 175 and I haven’t even done benches in over 2 years. It hurts my shoulder, and I have a torn triceps which really hinders me but I haven’t really lost any size. Benches were great for strength and ego, but they really didn’t do that much for my size. I thought they did when I was younger, but then moved to dumbbells, which I was able to get more development from because I could go deeper with my reps.
Now I do a lot of machines and they work well. They main thing is muscle resistance, whether it be a free weight or machine - and today’s machines are designed to replicate free weights. I don’t go heavy at all but rather do strict reps with a lighter weight and shape the muscle. I’ve had people tell me that I was huge back in the day, and I was, but I’m actually heavier now and my shirts fit tighter. What they were seeing was more cuts under the lights and posed photos so I really did look bigger. Yes, I was probably bulkier, but as I age, I feel that leaner looks better and is much healthier.
I do have a lot of pain in my left shoulder, wrists and knees and sometimes it’s unbearable to train at all but I pop a couple of ibuprofen and go through it. Once I warm up, I’m good to go. Standing dumbbell presses are out, as my shoulders hurt too much and my right triceps can’t support it. Any behind the neck triceps movements are out for the same reasons. So, I supplement machine cables instead and they work pretty well. Dumbbell flat and incline presses are ok and they’re good for the chest. Squats are out as my right knee can’t take it, but leg press seems to work fine.
So there are options and I didn’t list all of them, but you can experiment what works for you as there are many to chose from in the gym today. If you continue to go heavy as you age, it’s only going to get worse as it damages the joints and becomes irreparable.
I cut my sets back to 3 per exercise and 4 exercises per body part. Less is more, and it seems to work much better than endless sets as we age. Recovery time is also much more important, as is diet. I feel as you age and you’ve accomplished various strength feats there’s nothing left to prove, so leave it at the door and move on.
I try to get into the gym for 45 minutes of weight training and 15 minutes of cardio. Sometimes I group two body parts and other times just one body part, depending on my mood that day. I used to think I had to do endless sets per muscle group and now I’ve found that not to be the case. What I’m doing is working even better.
I would suggest these techniques - especially lightening up on everything as you get older. You’ll enjoy your workouts much more, and still get results. Just remember diet is ‘key’ if you want to really sculpt the body. It makes a huge difference and you’ll see it very quickly.