Weight training in your 50s and beyond is a topic that is easily overlooked as a path to better health. Because there are so many negative connotations that are related to being big and muscly, many women and men in their 40s and 50s disregard the important of sustaining and growing healthy muscle mass.
Today you’re going to see the flat out lies that are told about weight training as an older adult and why you would smart in ignoring these allegations to find your own version of fitness mastery.
To begin, take a look at the first and biggest lie of midlife weight training…
Lie #1: Lifting Weights Makes You Gain Weight and Get Bulky
It’s pretty likely that when you think about weight lifting, you envision a bodybuilder, posing on stage, with giant, bulky muscles.
The thought of this for most people in their 40s and 50s is pretty revolting. I mean, who really wants to walk around with all of that mass on them!?
Bodybuilders and those I’ll call gym-rats (you know what a gym rat is. If you’ve ever been to your local Globo Gym and seen the guy or girl standing in front of a mirror, doing curls and flexing their abs…that’s a gym rat) tend to be the image we have in our heads when it comes to lifting weights.
But bodybuilders and gym-rats look the way they do because of the VOLUME of weight training they do, not because of the weight training in and of itself.
You see, the general population has fallen into this bodybuilding-style of weight training that is focused on doing a high volume of reps. You know the program: chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, shoulders on Thursday, and arms on Friday (I left out legs because…well…the average gym-goer doesn’t work their legs).
It’s because of this high volume, single muscle focus that brings you to have big, bulky muscles. And while higher volume training is imperative to healthy muscle growth, you don’t have to be big and bulky when you implement a good weight training program.
Weight training should be used to battle aging
On the contrary, the muscle growth you get with a quality program will save you from a disease that plagues EVERYBODY as we age. The disease is called sarcopenia. And if you’re around the age of 45-50, then you’ve likely come across this term once or twice.
Sarcopenia is your body’s natural tendency to shrink the size and number of muscle cells you have. In other words, your body is trying to eat your muscles as you age.
On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. But if you dig a little deeper, you may be surprised at what kind of impact sarcopenia can have on your quality of life.
Take your grandma, for instance. It’s likely that your grandma (or grandpa…or your friends grandparents…who ever) has trouble getting around. Maybe they need help standing from a sitting position. Or maybe they walk around with a cane or a walker.
If you can envision the person I’m talking about, you can begin to see the impact that sarcopenia can have on your life.
Aging does NOT = degeneration
I know what you’re thinking, “But Jerry, isn’t that just a result of getting old?! I mean, don’t we all end up with a walker and slippers at some point?”
Contrary to popular belief, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! You will not end up with a walker and slippers because of old age. You will end up with a walker and slippers because of your lack of preparing your body for old age.
Studies show that a quality resistance training program of at least 3 days a week is enough to counter act the impact that sarcopenia can have on your body.
Does this take effort? Yes!
Do you get instance gratification from this approach? No (sort of)
But the possible disruption in your life quality as you age should be enough to get you moving and lifting to overcome this probable life-sucker.
Lie #2: Lifting Weights Leaves You in Pain!
If you’re a human being, you’ve probably heard of Crossfit. And if you’re a human being with friends or family, you probably know someone who does Crossfit.
Crossfit has been a game-changer in the fitness world. It has gotten more people off their butts and in the gym than almost any other fad (yes…sorry…but Crossfit is a fad) before it.
Ironically, at the same time, it has also gotten more people to be scared of lifting weights and performing intense workouts than ever. So what gives?
If you are one of those human beings those knows a crossfitter or 2, you probably also know a crossfitter that’s been injured at some point. With the rise in crossfit workouts over the last couple of decades, there has also been a rise in gym injuries.
Is this because of the Crossfit workouts themselves? Not necessarily (although, the demand that Crossfit workouts put on your body does increase the likelihood of injury if you’re not paying attention). Most people get hurt from Crossfit workouts or from any resistance training workout because of setting the bearer to entry too high.
What exactly do I mean by high bearer to entry?
Let’s look at an analogy. Think of tennis for a second. I know next to nothing about tennis. What I do know is that there are significantly different levels of tennis play.
For instance, you can go up to a tennis court and knock a tennis ball off a wall by yourself..
Or, you can bring a friend with you and you can play a couple of tennis matches for fun.
You can also find a group of people who also like tennis and play in a regular tennis group on Thursdays.
Or, maybe you can join your local amateur tennis association and play locally for prizes.
Finally, if you’re really good, you can play on the professional tennis tour with the Williams sisters and others.
These are all different levels of tennis play that require higher level skills which probably required a certain amount of practice.
Weight lifting is no different. For the average person, Crossfit workouts are the “Local Amateur Tennis Association” level of lifting weights. But that average person is at the “Bring a Friend to Play Tennis for Fun” workout level.
That means you must start your workout journey WHERE YOUR ARE TODAY! Not where you were 20 years ago, or where you want to be in a couple of months. You have to start where you are, and you have to progress effectively so that your body adapts over time.
Weight training IMPROVES aging, it doesn’t impair it
With an effective, progressive weight training program, you should actually be able to stave off injuries as you age. Weight training has proven to fight against osteoporosis, the body’s natural tendency to eat your bones.
It’s also proven to increase the strength and pliability of your tendons and ligaments. This improves your joint health and decreases the likelihood of being injured from a fall (or from simply putting your shoes on).
Take these ideas into account the next time you’re looking to start a weight training program. There’s no better time to start than now. Contrary to popular belief, you are not ruined and you can become fitter, healthier and stronger!