The Mature Lifter Guide to Lifting Weights

There comes a stage when you accept you are not 25 and as a mature lifter anymore. But that doesn’t mean to say you are resigned to a routine of support frames and working around injuries to get a result from your training. The key with gym routines is to stick at them.

With the best will in the world, the BEST fitness program in the world is one you can stick to for a log time. Not two weeks in, 4 weeks out with an injury.

This is a journey not a sprint.

Health and fitness brings with it the joys of better movement, more energy, more resilience to stress, sleep and everything you know that is good for you.

The only thing it doesn’t do is bring you super powers. It pains me to see those who have had an active lifestyle playing some sport stop in their 40s.

Cue the sedentary lifestyle. And never resume.

Sometimes an increase in pure weight on the bar for a mature lifter is not what it is cut out to be. I mean do you really need a 200kg squat, 140kg bench or 250kg deadlift to play with your kids? Here are some tried and tested methods that we have used over the years to stimulate not annihilate the body.

Using lifting speeds, biomechanics, time under tension and other fancy sounding techniques that results in you doing a serious training session without beating up the body too much.

Transformations can come easily when you know what you are doing. The art comes in the programme design for mature lifters. Far too many coaches have ‘programme bias’ pinning their flags to a powerlifting, functional training, body composition mast. A personalised programme is worth its weight in gold.

Here are 6 of time tested methods that we use

1. Slower Lowering

A controlled and focused lowering phase on the portion of the lift is useful. It builds tendon strength, allows you to really focus on technique and stimulate the right muscles you are trying to stimulate. I learnt the ‘tempo’ methodology off Australian Strength Coach Ian King who taught, with one of his coaches back in 1995, me to use the 3 digit system. The first number your lowered the weight in, the second number you paused before lifting it again and the third number was the speed of the lift.

So if you had a back squat try doing it in a 1-0-1 tempo (1 second up and 1 second down) compared to a 4-0-1 tempo (4 seconds down, 0 pause and 1 second up). The difference is night and day, the weight you will be using to begin with will be too and the challenge all that more, well, challenging!

What’s even better there is a physiological outcome – more burn, more fat loss and overall BETTER results.

2. 1 and 1/4 Movements

From the same vein 1 and a 1/4 movements are really effective in creating a set that lasts longer and at the same time work on the portions of the lift that are difficult. Try a 1 and 1/4 Goblet squat and compare that the 1-0-1 squat that I see in the gym. In the same vein, if you have the flexibility use it and do a full range movement! Again I don’t know who I stole this off but Ian King gets a mention here alongside Dr. Eric Serrano.

3. As a mature lifter, do what you are bad at

If you suck up chin ups it is because you are weak and (probably carrying too much dead weight). So start with a regression, and work at them. If you suck at squats get someone to write you a program to give you the progressions towards being good at them. If your shoulders hurt when you do a press you may be doing them wrong or be weak in a stabilizing area for the movement.

The overall message – leave your ego at the door and deliberately find what you are bad/weak at and go after it. You are only as strong as your weakest link!

There is also the argument to actually stop doing the exercise that is causing you grief. I have worked with a jacked and strong individual for over 10 years now. How many back squats has he done? NONE. Why? Because as a coach I don’t want to risk the T12 stenosis he has sitting there that wont go away. So we find a way around things.

If your back is achy after doing too much gardening or lifting it maybe weak. It needs more work, more core stability and more direct back strengthening work in a sensible progressive manner.

4. Pauses

Pauses in the lowering portion of the lifts are effective. For example an arm curl with 3 pauses in the lowering portion of the lift for 6 seconds at each point will create a different challenge and result in a lighter load being used.

5. Bodyweight movements for Mature Lifter

What is wrong with becoming a ninja in the press up, dip and chin up. These have been the bread and butter of athletes for centuries! Nothing changes my friend!

6. Drop Sets

These are great for a mature lifter. This is where you take a weight for 10 reps and go to failure. Then immediately drop the weight 5-10% and carry on before another drop in weight for 5-10% and finishing up. It means a beat up muscle but you are working on volume not excessive weight. Great for smaller muscle groups like your arms.

Give these a go and see how you are! Transformations can be done at any age.


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