Super Effective Workouts For Men Over 50 (That Won’t Take All Day To Do)
Workouts for men over 50 must meet 4 criteria to be considered super effective.
First of all, obviously your strength workouts have to be productive – that is, actually make you stronger. If your workout program isn’t producing a consistent, objectively measurable increase in muscle strength, something is drastically wrong.
Assuming that your workouts are definitely making you stronger, it is critically important that your workout program is safe. Getting hurt in the gym is both counterproductive and demoralizing. And while there is always some risk, there are a few things we can do to minimize the risk of injury.
Next on our list of criteria for super effective workouts is to make sure those workouts are sustainable. You’ll be needing a workout plan that you can easily personalize and stick with for the rest of your life.
Once our workouts are productive, safe, and sustainable, the last step in our quest for super effective workouts is to make them time-efficient. Our bodies are different now, and at this stage of our lives we don’t have the time to be “gym rats” anyway.
So now that we know what criteria need to be met for super-effective workouts for men over 50 – how do you put together a strength training program for yourself that includes workouts that satisfy all of these criteria?
That’s exactly what I’ll help you figure out in this post.
Related Content on workouts for men over 50:
Case Study: How I Added 2.2 Pounds Of Muscle With Four 30-Minute Workouts At Age 63
Subscriber Q and A Video: 5 Great Free Weight Exercises For Over 50
- 10 Home Gym Essentials On A Budget For Full Body Workouts To Get You Strong Really Fast
- The Ultimate Strength Training Program For Over 50 To Start Feeling Great Now
First, I want to clear up something I get asked a lot when it comes to choosing the best workouts for men over 50:
“Should I embrace high intensity interval training?”
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) refers to the short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. For example, a HIIT workout using a stationary exercise bike could consist of 20 seconds of cycling as fast as possible against high resistance, followed by 40 seconds of slow, easy cycling with low resistance.
So it’s a challenging workout, but that type of training is not productive with regard to increasing strength and muscle mass.
The primary benefits of HIIT are fat loss, higher metabolic rate for hours after exercise, and overall health. (Menshealth.com)
This style of training is mainly a cardiovascular workout – it is NOT designed to increase strength.
Weight training continues to be the “gold standard” form of exercise to increase muscle mass. (Healthline.com)
If you want to build muscle, you need to lift heavy weights, and progressively overload your muscles so they are forced to adapt by getting bigger and stronger.
And depending on the type of activities and exercises included in a HIIT workout, a lot of athleticism could be required, making the program less safe and not sustainable. So there’s 3 out of our 4 criteria out the window.
You can still take advantage of the time efficiency of HIIT while adding the best possible strength and muscle building techniques – just take out the 2nd “I”, “Interval”. That leaves High Intensity Training, and that will meet all 4 of our criteria for super effective workouts.
Here’s what to do instead:
Productive strength training to build essential muscle
It shouldn’t take years, or even months, for your strength training program to produce results; it should happen immediately, right from your first workout.
To accomplish this, you have to regularly attempt to lift more weight, or do more reps, or both. This is known as the principle of progressive overload. That means you have to put in a maximum effort on every set (excluding warm-ups) to keep the intensity of the workout high. The closer you can get to a 100% effort, the stronger you will get, and your reps and weight will go up on the majority of exercises in your workout plan right away, and keep happening for a long time.
The final rep in each set should be the last rep you can possibly complete with proper form, and is the most productive repetition of the set.
Safe, sustainable muscle building workouts for men over 50
In medical school, students are taught the ancient Greek phrase “primum non nocere”, which means “first do no harm”. You need to have this attitude when designing your own workouts.
Here are some guidelines to help you make your workouts safe:
- Make sure you can exit the exercise safely at any time.
- On any exercise where you will be under the weight, make sure there is some barrier to catch the weight to prevent you from getting stuck under it. (Don’t be the next guy in a YouTube video getting trapped under the weight while bench pressing).
- The more complex an exercise is to perform, the more dangerous and less intense it will be. For example, power cleans or Olympic lifts.
- If you have back problems, it’s a good idea to always have your chest or back supported during an exercise. For example, seated dumbbell curls would be preferable to standing barbell curls.
- If you want your shoulders to stay healthy, don’t put anything behind your neck. This includes barbell squats and behind the neck pulldowns or shoulder presses.
If you follow the safety guidelines above, you will be setting yourself up for future success by making your workout program sustainable. Make sure the exercises you put in today are safe and simple to perform, so you can perform them not just right now when you’re 55, but also when your 65, 75 or 85.
And you’ll also need to make sure you are creating brief, infrequent workouts that easily fit into your busy schedule – in other words, a program that’s time efficient.
Note: To learn more tips on how to get stronger after 50 without getting hurt or wasting time, get my free strength training for over 50 pdf “The New Rules of Strength Training Over 50” by clicking HERE.
Introduce full body strength training for time efficiency
When you work out in the fashion described above and make the intensity of your workout high (which is necessary to get stronger), it will necessarily be brief, because intensity of effort and duration of effort are inversely proportional.
In simple terms, you can either strength train hard, or you can train for a long time, but you can’t do both. And training hard for a short period of time is necessary to build strength and lean muscle mass. It’s the exercise equivalent of using a tanning bed to get a suntan.
This is great news, because if you’re willing to commit to putting in a maximum effort, you only need to do one set per exercise, and that means you can complete a full body workout in under 45 minutes, achieving our goal of time efficiency.
So what exactly does a workout like that look like?
The ideal full body strength training workout for men over 50
Now let’s put together a sample workout that is productive, safe, sustainable and time efficient. This is the exact template I use to create individualized workouts for the clients in my Platinum Coaching program.
General warm up
- Lower body push – leg press
- Lower body flexion – leg curl (knee flexion) OR calf raise (plantar flexion)
- Upper body push – chest presses OR shoulder presses
- Upper body pull – pulldowns OR seated row
- Midsection – trunk flexion (for abdominal muscles) OR trunk extension (for low back muscles)
- Rebuilding exercise #1: shoulder external rotation (for rotator cuff muscles)
- Rebuilding exercise #2: strongest range leg press (for knee pain)
- Rebuilding exercise #3: Wrist roller (for grip strengthening)
Instructions: After warming up for 5-10 minutes on a bike, treadmill, or using light weights, perform 1 set of each exercise using a slow, controlled rep speed with a maximum effort, until no further reps are possible with good form. Shoot for 9-12 reps for lower body and 7-10 reps for upper body. If you can do more than the high number in those rep ranges on an exercise, increase the weight on your next workout to drop you back down into the rep range. When finished, stretch for 5-10 minutes, concentrating on the shoulders and hips. Once you get the hang of things, this whole process takes under 45 minutes, and you only need to do it once or twice a week.
Strength training workouts for men over 50 offers many long-term health and fitness benefits. But to receive those benefits, you need to design a strength training program that not only produces the desired results, but is also safe, simple to perform, and time efficient. Doing so will make your workouts something you can sustain forever.
Strength training is the closest thing we have to a real-life Fountain of Youth. A 20+ year retirement is a terrible thing to waste, and workouts that are productive, safe, sustainable and time efficient will keep you strong and healthy enough to make the most of those years.
There are several health goals we all should heed as we age and maintaining muscle mass is a big one. Possessing more muscle has zero downside for us dudes (and dudettes): 1) stronger/more functional, 2) an increased metabolic rate that combats potential fat storage, and 3) possess a better physique (Speedo and bikini season is year-round in many locales on Planet Earth).
As Dave says, preserving (or even increasing) muscle is not time consuming if you train hard each session because – by necessity – one needs complete rest days between those infrequent sessions to reap the results of the intense effort exuded! It’s biology, folks.
Thanks for those insights Tom! I think another big health benefit of strength training as we age is in decreasing the aches and pains that come back to remind us of old injuries of the past; not to mention that having bigger, stronger muscles helps make us more resistant to future musculo-skeletal injuries, which of course are harder to recover from the older we are.
Our health is without a doubt our greatest asset, and a sound strength training program is a great way to protect that asset!
Do you still recommend deadlifts Dave? What exercises could you substitute for them? I find as I get older they are not as productive as they use to be. Thanks.
Hi Rodney, I think as we get older it’s best to retire the deadlift, for safety’s sake. Any slightest break in proper form could result in an injury that may set back your training, and in my book that risk is too high to justify the reward.
The alternative is to segment out the different phases of the deadlift and perform 3 different exercises to cover the same muscle groups: a lower body push, like the leg press; a shrug; and a back extension exercise. Just work those into your routine somewhere and you’re hitting the same muscles without the risk.
Thank you Dave.
You’re welcome Rodney!