In gymnasiums, basements and guest rooms across the country, weights are slamming, pulses are pounding, muscles are tensing. Millions of people, many over the age of 50, are pumping iron, stretching heavy-duty resistance bands, doing push-ups, lunges and squats.

Powerlifter Sharon Solomon | Credit: Sharon Solomon

If you’re one of those dedicated people, you’ve already experienced the many benefits of strength training and you’ll want to keep doing it for as long as possible. In this article, we’ve got tips from three experts to help you do just that.

The magic of bodybuilding after 50

Whether you view weightlifting as a sport in itself, a tool to enhance your other athletic pursuits, or simply part of a well-rounded health regimen, you’re doing your body a world of good.

Bodybuilding is the most effective weapon against sarcopeniathe breakdown of muscle mass and function that begins in the thirties and accelerates after the age of 50.

Beyond that, strength training also helps maintain healthy bone density, is linked to fewer falls and fractures, and improves insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Recent research has even shown that strength training has a protective effect against the risk of dementia.

Act your (biological) age

“I think the over-fifty age group benefits the most from strength training,” said Dave Durell, co-owner of Rock Solid Fitness in Dunedin, Fla., 63, and creator of StrengthAfter50.com.

That’s certainly true for Sharon Salomon of Phoenix, who didn’t start lifting until she was in her 60s. Now, at 77, she is the oldest competitive weightlifter in her home country.

“I know I’ll never be as strong as someone who’s fifty, but I don’t care,” Solomon said in an interview. “I want to stay healthy and be as strong as I can be at my age. I’m the only person my age I know who has never had a knee, back, hip or an operation.”

And she is strong. Two years ago (the last year for which she had official data), she performed a 105-pound bench press, a 155-pound squat and a 225-pound deadlift.

An elderly person wearing a powerlifting medal after competition.  Next Avenue, lifting over 50, bodybuilding
Sharon Solomon | Credit: Raetricia Lucero

A big part of Solomon’s success is his consistency. When she’s not in the midst of a global pandemic, she meets with her trainer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to train.

Consistency is key

According to Joseph F. Signorile, professor of kinesiology and sports science at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla., regular lifting is key to avoiding injury.

“The good thing about connective and muscle tissue is that when you exercise, you strengthen those tissues. So for someone who regularly exercises with weights, the risk of injury goes down significantly,” said he declared.

Salomon took over a year off the lift in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When she resumed training (outdoors, just to be safe), “I basically had to start from scratch,” she said.

This tactic was right in line with what Signorile, who also runs U Miami’s Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging Laboratory, recommends to anyone who hasn’t trained in a while.

Coming back from a long layoff, you need to start with a period of tissue adaptation,” Signorile said. a month or two. “, he added. “People hate to do that, but the thing I always tell them is ‘You can gradually develop now, or you can go to your sports doctor and they will tell you that you can’t lift any weight. You’re going to take months off instead of weeks off to gradually rebuild.'”

Rethink your routine

Durell said another important safety consideration for people over 50 is exercise selection.

“Make sure it’s still safe to leave exercise,” he said. “So some dumbbell exercises should be replaced with others. Instead of doing back squats, go for front squats or use a leg press. Rather than a heavy barbell bench press without a squat, use dumbbells.”

He also advised caution with ballistic or plyometric moves like kipping pull-ups, box jumps and Olympic-style lifts like snatches and cleans. “If you’re not doing them, don’t start, and if you are, ask yourself why and consider switching to more traditional lifting,” he said.

Finally, Durell said, “Stop worrying about showy muscles.” These muscles in the front of the body – the pectorals, biceps and rectus abdominis – tend to be overly concentrated. “There’s a whole other set of muscles that are becoming very important now.” These include the deep muscles of the trunk and rotator cuff, as well as the entire posterior chain, which is crucial for good posture and locomotion.

Work with a Pro; Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Salomon has two more tips for safe bodybuilding after 50.

“I wake up in the morning and I’m in pain, like everyone else. This body is seventy-seven!” she says. “But I’ve never hurt myself lifting weights, because I always had a trainer, and I’m always careful. I am in touch with my body and I know when to say no.”

Salomon explained that if she “don’t feel it” in the middle of a set, she will say no to her coach and stop.

“At my age, getting injured means six months of doing nothing,” she said.

Salomon is living proof that people over 50 shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavy weights. We just have to be smart about it by exercising regularly, choosing safe exercises, and knowing when to say “not today.”

Rachelle Brown
Rachelle Brown is a lifelong fitness professional and freelance writer with hundreds of bylines in print and online. She is a regular contributor to NextAvenue and Active Network, and is the author of Reboot Your Body: Unlocking the Genetic Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss (Turner Publishing). Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @RashelleBrownMN. Read more