I did. And this is how I did it. First I just asked myself a common sense question.
What are the keys to gaining muscle mass after 50 years old?
And here is what I wrote down.
Fitness simplified (in my mind at least):
That was my my basic list.
Conventional wisdom tells you to moderate your life and take it easy as you age so you don’t get hurt or throw out your back.
Be careful whose advice you take.
Just because you find yourself in a state of marginal fitness doesn’t mean you are sentenced to a mediocre finish in life.
Mistake #1 is thinking like an old guy. You have to avoid this like the plague.
Don’t believe you cannot be strong again.
Don’t take advice from guys with big guts, bad backs and skinny arms.
This was my first “aha moment.” I realized I was acting old.
If you want to look old, just act old. Your results are guaranteed.
I had stopped running. I had the “bad back” mindset. I wasn’t lifting anymore because I felt tired. And I was whining about it.
It’s a classic Catch-22.Are you feeling old because you’re acting old? Or Are you acting old because you’re feeling old?
I’m convinced it’s the former. Old age starts in your head.
If you want to pack on some muscle, start acting like a young guy trying to impress girls.
This is a mental game. You’ve got to keep your head in the game.
You have to believe that building muscle is possible.
You won’t do shit if you don’t really believe you’ll get the results you desire.
Strong belief is critical.
Resistance can be provided using your own body weight by doing any number of exercises like pull ups, push ups, dips, squats and rows.
This is typically a great starting point to get you back into training if you are just getting going again.
But make no mistake, if you want to accelerate gaining muscle mass after 50 years old, you have to lift heavy weights.
The key is to lift heavy things. Remember, heavy is a relative term.
Heavy is basically what you can lift for 3 to 5 reps while maintaining good form. You should probably stay away from the heavy single rep lifts for the most part.
Heavy training can be done using traditional weight lifting workouts or even by lifting heavy rocks and logs and carrying them around.
You can flip truck tires or push weighted sleds around. It all works.
Lifting heavy simply means to stress your muscles in a way that causes overload without injury.
This is how muscle mass is built.
Mistake #2 is lifting like an old guy.
Most old guys (and probably you too) who have been out of the gym for a few years have poor core strength.
Core is a general term, and probably not a good one, to describe everything from your hips to mid-back all the way around your trunk. So abs, obliques, back extensors, hip flexors and a bunch of other small muscles are included.
You need a strong core to perform many of the lifts needed for muscle building.
Squatting, overhead pressing, power cleans, dead lifts and kettlebell swings all require a strong core to prevent injury.
You may believe you have a “bad back” because it is sore all the time when in reality you simply have a weak back that is stressed from bad posture, poor ergonomics and years of neglect.
The bad back syndrome is a downward spiral.
I thought like this for years. And I kept getting weaker and feeling older as a result.
It’s called “Circling the Drain.”
You have to break out of this thinking. It’s dragging you down.
Now let me be clear, you may actually have an injured back (a small percentage of us old guys do). It certainly does happen. I am not diagnosing you.
I am simply saying that the majority of bad back problems are due to a weak core and not really an injury. If you have any acute pain, you need an expert to analyze your situation.
Don’t use sit ups to work on your core strength.
They don’t work and waste a lot of time. Work your core with stabilization exercises, compound movements and twisting/bending moves.
Overhead pressing, push ups and carrying exercises like farmers walks are core stabilizers.
Squats, dead lifts and kettlebell swings are compound movements.
Burpees, T push ups and sledgehammer swings are excellent core builders using twisting and bending moves.
Mistake #3 is wasting your time in the gym.
Don’t walk on the treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes. This is a waste of valuable gym time.
Walking is for your rest days. Walk around the block a few times or take an easy run. Get some fresh air. Go hiking. It’s all good. Just don’t do it on your training days.
Did you ever notice that the treadmill walkers or recumbent bike riders never seem to build a better physique?
They looked weak two months ago and still look weak today.
Don’t waste time lifting tiny dumbbells doing curls and ultralight presses. It looks ridiculous and really what is the point? You are not building muscle nor burning any fat.
So stop embarrassing yourself.
I go to a community center gym where a lot of older folks work out.
I see a lot of time wasting going on.
The guys who just sit on the leg curl machine between their pathetic, half-rep sets.
Or the dude who swing curls 15 pound dumbbells for about 20 minutes straight! I’m not kidding. I can do dead lifts and squats and he is still swinging those little dumbbells.
Don’t do this shit. Get serious about your gym time.
The key to gaining muscle mass after 50 is to lift heavy weight using your big muscles.
Make a goal to work up to power cleans but don’t just go there on Day 1.
Build muscle and get strong by focusing on the basic movements. As always, start slow to ensure you do not get hurt.
Don’t get hurt. Recovery just takes too long.
Said another way, DFYU. Don’t fuck yourself up.
But do the big muscle lifts to build a solid physique.Don’t act like an old guy.
Mark aka The Old Spartan and Over-50 Fitness Savior is a 61 year old coffee guzzling father of five wandering the outdoors around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mark works with Active Boomers wanting to squeeze back into their college jeans using his signature Spartan Method system.