Strength Training for the Mature Athlete

There are loads of articles relating to strength training for those later on in years. Some say it shouldn’t matter how old you are; train hard or go home! Other articles can almost make you fearful of picking up a weight if you’re over 50yrs, just in case you break something when you warm up…

In my opinion, like everything to do with training, it should be specific to the individual and you can’t just generalise. Yes, there are some ‘guidelines’, but they are more along the lines of what you should be aware of rather than specifically what you should be doing.

‘Time Under the Bar’

The ‘Time Under the Bar’ relates to how long you have been training and basically how long you have had a bar on your back. This is important to note as a 45yr old for example with no training experience is going to have a different programme and faster results from where they start, than that of a 45yr old who has been training for 25 years aiming to improve his Bench by 5 kgs in the next 12 months.

This is sometimes overlooked, especially as we get older. The old adage of ‘The older you get the better you were’ comes to mind as we reminisce of our ‘glory days’ in the gym (or is that just me haha) where recovery was just the rest time between sets… But we can’t compare ourselves and the improvements made when we were younger and had less time under the bar. The more time we have done something, the harder and longer it takes to carry on improving it as we reach closer to our ceiling…


No matter how old you are, recovery can be an overlooked facet of training when writing a plan. As we age, recovery sessions become even more important. Studies have shown that the rate of protein synthesis reduces as we get older, i.e. the repair and building of muscle slows down. Therefore understanding (like for all athletes as a matter of fact) when and how best your body will be ready for the next session is key. The mode (type) of exercise that you do can influence your recovery time too. Weight training will have a significantly higher recovery time than a brisk walk due to the increased muscle damage. Understanding the stress your body is being put through, the adaption required and the recovery time needed is vital to help you continue to make gains. For example, if you follow this weight training split of:

We can see that each body part gets trained every 3 to 4 days. If you are finding that you are still not ready for the next workout you could change the split too:

Now we are giving ourselves an additional day’s recovery. Other factors like diet (a big factor) and types of recovery protocols you incorporate can also have a large bearing on recovery, but the above table shows a simple yet effective way of still getting enough stimulation for adaptation yet having a bit more wiggle room for recovery…

‘Other factors’

I think it’s important to note, as we get older, more of life’s ‘stressors’ come into play and its ability to affect one’s training and recovery can and will play a part. Most of us in our 40’s and above, have work / businesses to run, mortgages to pay, children to nurture and relationships to prioritise. They will have an affect on your training and recovery because of the time and energy they need from you (another reason why not to compare your training routines and gains to that of your younger self and counterparts). Taking these factors into account is important because everything needs to be balanced. Without balance there will be no longevity.

If you have any questions about strength training for the older athlete, don't hesitate to send Exclusive PT a message as we have plenty of experience, and are always happy to help.

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