Weightlifting at 50 and Beyond: You Got This!

I once saw an article saying that after age 40, you should lie down and face the facts: You’re fragile and ancient and you won’t see GAINZ again. In fact, you’ll be lucky if you don’t disintegrate into a little mound of dust.

That’s bullsheet, friends.

Weightlifting at 50 and Beyond | Workout NirvanaListen, you will notice differences – your body just doesn’t respond the same way it did. But that doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle and strength and be a complete badass in the weight room. I’ve had many training clients over the age of 40 and 50 who continue to enjoy the hell out of strength training and all it has to offer.

Not only that, but I feel more energetic, strong, and SMOKIN’ hot now than I did in my 20’s or 30’s.

So there, “I’m-too-old-to-change” sistas.

(And you there, moaning and groaning about turning 30: Unless you want us to burn up your Youth Card, go with it. You’re young, dammit. And if you’re under 40 writing about being over 40, well that’s just stoopid.)

Personally, I don’t need help staying young mentally; I’ll never grow up. But this idea from physiologist Bill Evans sticks with me:


In other words, take care of yourself and keep on lifting, you badass.

So in honor of my turning 50 in a few days (wait – WTF? I’m still 32), I’ve put together a list of how YOU can crush it after 40, 50, and beyond. Keep in mind that everyone will have a different experience depending on their genetics, fitness level, injuries, and lifestyle, so consult with your doctor if you feel it’s warranted, old timer (heh).

Get Yer Rest!

No, I’m not saying you should integrate naps and a 7 pm bedtime. But you will find, after a certain age, that you need more time to recover between your workouts. I only noticed this in the last year, but most likely my body was needing it before then.

Words of wisdom:

Poor recovery can happen to anyone! But your recovery is definitely affected as you age.

  • Look for these signs:
    • Chronic fatigue
    • Not feeling ready for your next workout
    • Irritability
    • Stalled strength gains
    • Chronic injuries
  • Try a lower volume (more below)
  • Leave yourself an extra day for recovery or more time between workouts.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Do not underestimate the huge role sleep plays in recovery and getting results!

Fight the Fluff

It’s true: As we age our muscle mass naturally decreases and our metabolism slows down. We also tend to get busier and more sedentary. So your mission is to prevent that middle flab from forming. And believe me, it wants to take over – you’re fighting against the tide here.

Sage advice:

  • Eat clean in the right amounts to help you maintain a healthy weight and build muscle. You also need to understand that as you age, you need to eat less than you used to. Now, this may not be true for athletes who are very active – endurance runners and such. But for the reasons I listed above – decreasing muscle mass and a sedentary lifestyle – we typically need to eat less than we did when we were younger to avoid gaining weight. Track your food to find out how much.
  • Keep lifting. “But wait,” you might say, “I lift weights – am I still losing muscle mass?”
    Are you lifting consistently, following a smart program, and eating appropriately? If not, you most likely you are losing muscle. It’s a fine line to train hard enough to warrant extra calories and thus build muscle. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Monitor your body composition! Listen up: you must estimate your body fat or at least take your waist circumference to know if you’re gaining fat or losing muscle. The scale will tell you only the total gain or loss. I recommend you estimate your body comp once a month minimum or even twice a month. But do it NOW to get a baseline.
  • If you notice an uptick in fat, ACT.
    • If you’re already fairly lean, add more cardio or increase the intensity of your cardio.
    • If you’ve become lax with your diet, clean it up and start tracking your calories.
    • If your activity level has decreased, then recalculate and reduce your calories.

Train Smart, Not Insane

You can’t keep training insane and expect to be a boss in the weight room. The ole’ joints can’t take a pounding forever, and by the time we reach our 40’s and 50’s they’ve already been pounded quite a bit. So you’ve got to rethink your volume.

Two cents’ worth:

  • Think of warm ups as foreplay. It should be long, comfortable, and make you feel nice and warm. Take your time and do it right. Do 5 or 6 dynamic movements that put your muscles and joints through full range of motion. Never skip it! Never!
  • Train less for more results. This applies to anyone. One of the most common mistakes I see is overdoing it – too many exercises, too many reps and sets, and too many training days.
  • Deload every 3-4 weeks. Schedule periods of less volume or intensity in or they will not happen. Period.

And finally, I share this awesome Breaking Muscle article about training after age 35.

We don’t stay chronologically young forever. But we can continue to be lifting badasses forever, provided we acknowledge and respect our bodies’ needs.

Now get after it!

This article originally appeared on workoutnirvana.com.

24 thoughts on “Weightlifting at 50 and Beyond: You Got This!


    When I hit 50, so many things changed beyond just all the hormone crap! 🙂 For me, it has been constant re-evaluation as I age… definitely need to pay attention & yes, may need more rest.

    I also was an easy ganier before 50 & I had to start lifting a bit heavier at 50 – not super heavy but heavier that 40 & earlier when I could lift lighter & maintain mass. I did lose as the hormones changed & had to adjust.


  2. Happy Birthday! You are absolutely banging for a 50 yr old… heck, you are banging for a 40 year old… scratch that, let’s just say that a 30 year old has nothing on you! Great advice as always. Keep it up girl!


  3. Truth!
    I have a client in his early 70’s who’s put on a surprising amount of muscle in the three years I’ve been training him. His attitude? Push hard, pay attention to the little aches and pains and stay active when you’re out of the gym too. I wanna be like him 😉


  4. wow- the little aside- “and even over 60″….excuse me…I just turned 60 this year and I have been lifting weights for about 10 years. No, I am not a lean, muscular grandma but I find that lifting weights, along with interval training and Zumba can help me fight the weight gain I am prone to do. I also want to keep my bones healthy and both my grandmother and mother have/had osteoporosis. PLEASE, I know from your viewpoint 60 might seem ancient and old…but I am here to tell you it isn’t. And I really don’t appreciate the little aside that seemed to imply that it was OLD! Older women become invisible in this society…I have seen it happen to my mother….and I am going to insist that I not be invisible!


    • Gah! I can see how that came out wrong. Fixing that, as that is NOT what I meant to imply. I truly do think age is a state of mind. I know what it feels like to be viewed as ancient, lol… most people in their 20’s, 30’s, and even 40’s probably think 50 is ancient! I love your spirit, by the way… keep it up.


    • I am over 60 too… and have been lifting weights since the early 80s….so thanks gail! Us more mature women ROCK! THere are many older women who are in awesome shape at my gym and ALL are over 50 as I am in a 55+ community. No slackers here!


  5. I am 61 and just finished my 121st tri…I spend the winter doing other things that challenge me….weights/yoga and mountain biking. No spring chicken but I can run rings around most of the youngsters at work (I teach at a preschool)….I will “rest” when I die!


  6. Great article Suzanne, and soooo true! It’s amazing to think that – not too long ago – doctors actually advised people over 40 to take it easy and refrain from physical activity when possible. I believe staying active becomes even more important as we get older… and strength training is one of the best thing you can do (besides eating a healthy and balanced diet).


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