You Are NEVER Too Old to Strength Train

One of the things I hate in life is when people make excuses.  Some of the more annoying ones include:

Situation: Reminding a client that there is one set left…
Excuse: “I can’t, I’m too tired”

Situation: Giving someone a nutrition plan and they respond with…
Excuse: “I NEED carbs…can’t I have more than that?” (Note: Nobody NEEDS carbs.  Carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that we do not NEED to obtain from our diet.  There are Essential Amino Acids (Protein) and Essential Fats which must be obtained from our diet, but our body can convert Fat or Protein into fuel)).

Sorry ladies, you don't "NEED" carbs.

Situation: Not showing up to the gym to train
Excuse: “I am too busy, too tired, my spouse needs me to do something, etc.”

While those aforementioned excuses are fairly common, one of the most depressing excuses is, “I can’t because I am too old”.  Age is something that we cannot stop and its negative effects range from decreases in testosterone, muscle mass and bone density to memory loss.  Though many folks use age as an excuse, there are those out there who put people half their age to shame.  Here are 3 men who NEVER use age as an excuse:

Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne is a legend.  Back in the day, he got many people off of their butts and into the gym by showing the benefits of smart nutrition and exercise.  He practiced what he preached and recently passed away at the age of 96 in late January 2011.  His family said that he continued to perform his daily workout routine until the day before his death.  Jack LaLanne’s daily workout wasn’t a walk around the block; he continued to do push-ups, pull-ups, dips and other muscle-building total body exercises. 

Dr. Charles Eugster

A retired Dentist from England, Dr. Eugster was a self-professed couch potato until his 50’s.  He realized that if he wanted to live a long life that he would have to get active and that is exactly what he did.  Dr. Eugster became a World Champion rower, winning dozens of medals.  He began adding heavy weights into his training at the age of 87 (yes, you read that right), after which he noticed dramatic improvements in his rowing performance.  In 2010, at the age of 91, Dr. Eugster scored the highest number of points ever in a Strenflex competition with a winning performance which included doing 57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 seconds!!!  Most people one quarter his age could not accomplish that!!!

Louie Simmons

Louie Simmons is the epitome of Unstoppable Strength.  Anyone and everyone in the iron game knows Louie and his legendary gym, Westside Barbell.  Louie’s bio from the Westside Barbell website: “One of only six lifters to total Elite in five weight classes, Louie Simmons is no stranger to the lifting community. For the last 27 years Louie Simmons has totaled Elite in various lifting organizations. He is the only lifter over 50 years of age to squat 920 and total 2100. Ranked 4th nationally in 2000 in the open division, Louie has squatted 920, benched 600 (at age 50), and deadlifted 722.”  At 62 years old, Louie is stronger than most College Football Players (yes, you read that correctly).  Louie is a personal hero of mine and his contributions to the world of strength are second to none.  He has produced “25 world and national champions, 28 800+ squatters, ten 900+ squatters, and three 1000+ squatters”, enough said.

I know what you are thinking, these guys are the exception to the rule, I am not going to benefit from Strength Training because I am starting too late, I am too old, etc.  When someone above the age of 55 who had never trained previously gave me the excuse, “I’m too old for that”, I would not push because I didn’t want them to get injured, but then I read a study which COMPLETELY changed my mindset about the role of age in strength training…the fountain of youth is made of IRON!!!

In the February 2011 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, there was an eye-opening study conducted by Candow, et al. entitled “Short-term heavy resistance training eliminates age-related deficits in muscle mass and strength in healthy older males”.  The following is a synopsis of the study(1).

Objective:  To determine whether short-term heavy resistance training in healthy older men could eliminate deficits in muscle mass and strength compared with healthy younger men.  

Methodology:  Seventeen older men (60–71 yr) performed supervised resistance training for 22 weeks. Before and after resistance training, measurements were made for lean tissue mass, muscle thickness, and strength (measured by leg and bench press 1 repetition maximum) and were compared with values of younger men (18–31 yr). Before training, older men had significantly lower lean tissue mass, muscle thickness, and strength compared with younger men.

Findings:  All deficits were eliminated after 22 weeks of resistance training.

Conclusion:  Short-term, heavy resistance training in healthy older men is sufficient to overcome deficits in muscle mass and strength when compared with healthy younger men.  The practical application from this research is that healthy older men can be prescribed a whole body heavy resistance training program to substantially increase muscle mass and strength to levels similar to young, active individuals.

What did we learn?
1)      You CAN train heavy even if you are older.
2)      You CAN gain benefits from heavy strength training when you are older.  Amazingly, even in old age, you can return to levels of strength and muscle mass seen in healthy younger adults.
3)      It is NEVER too late to start strength training.




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1) Candow, DG, Chilibeck, PD, Abeysekara, S, and Zello, GA.  “Short-term heavy resistance training eliminates age-related deficits in muscle mass and strength in healthy older males”.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. February 2011 Vol. 25 No. 2 pgs. 326–333

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2 Responses to “You Are NEVER Too Old to Strength Train”

  • Carnival of Weight Loss and Obesity May 24th, Edition:

    [...] presents You Are NEVER Too Old to Strength Train posted at Unstoppable Strength, saying, “Discover why age is NOT an excuse to avoid strength [...]

  • Thanks for the encouragement! Since turning 40, I’ve been trying to get back into my college shape. If I can lose 30 more pounds and add 25 more to my bench, I’ll make it.

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