When did we become the old ones in the weight room?
For those of us dipping a toe into middle age, we are fortunate to be part of the first generation of exercisers exposed to the great value of strength training. Prior to the 1990s, the weight room was reserved for bodybuilders, powerlifters and strength athletes. Sports like basketball, baseball and boxing avoided the iron for fear of becoming slow and “muscle bound”, and the average man or woman jogged or did aerobics while living in fear of getting “too big”.
Luckily, research has shown we can build muscular strength and endurance, increase bone density and lower our body fat percentage with simple, consistent strength training. Most importantly, science tells us our bodies can continue to reap these rewards at any age. Muscle is not reserved for the young!
However, as we view our current landscape, mainstream fitness information IS reserved for the young. Glossy muscle magazines have migrated to the internet, where content is often more about inspiration than information. The middleaged exerciser in search of workout ideas will have to scroll through dozens of channels featuring “trainers” who may be closer to their children’s age. Worse, a few minutes of viewing will quickly reveal routines designed to garner views and impress the audience, leaving little time to teach or offer any applicable training advice to the average individual.
Unfortunately, a quick 180 degree turn doesn’t improve our view. Instead, many in the fitness community suggest any of us with a hint of grey hair pick up some colorful, plastic weights and perform workouts sitting in a chair. While we may have some miles, we also have some muscles, and this crowd is not ready to sit! For most of us, we can still move forward in our muscle building journey, provided we make smart choices and respect our bodies. We are still playing by the same rules as our younger gym friends, we just need to adjust the fine print in the rule book.
When it comes to building muscle in an effective and efficient manner, there is no substitute for progressive overload using big, compound movements, such as squats and bench presses. These lifts involve multiple joints and muscles, allowing heavier weights to be used. In addition, the ability to safely perform
these types of movements in the gym will improve our ability to function better in daily life. Pressing ourselves up from the floor to lift a grandchild overhead is the type of move we train for and live for, so if our workouts do not help us in this direction, we need a new map!
The following substitutions offer solutions for us to continue training compound lifts for movement patterns that must remain strong if we are to continue to maintain function and strength for the rest of our lives.
Click on the following link to learn more about the moves you need and how you can adapt and apply them to your own workouts!