Since the dawn of time, humans have looked for ways to exhibit strength and push their bodies to the limits. Powerlifting evolved from this primal desire to lift heavy and achieve incredible feats of strength.
Now, powerlifting is an inclusive sport that welcomes all ages and genders. Many people over 50 are getting into the sport to explore the numerous benefits.
Here are some of the best powerlifting routines for over 50s looking to reap the benefits of lifting weights.
Best Powerlifting Routines for Over 50s
Powerlifting is defined by the Big Three lifts: bench press, deadlifts, and squats. All three are compound lifts that engage various muscle groups to build strength and offset the impacts of aging.
In addition to the Big Three, many lifters incorporate various accessory exercises for a complete, functional resistance training workout.
While the bench press appears to be an upper body workout, it's a fantastic compound exercise that engages the entire body.
Here's how to bench press:
- Lay on a bench with your eyes approximately under the barbell.
- Tuck your shoulder blades in and down to create a strong base. Envision tucking your shoulder blades into a pocket.
- Grip the barbell at shoulder width— the grip width may change depending on your unique physiology.
- Unrack the bar and straighten your arms over your chest.
- Slowly lower the bar until it touches your chest. Keep your elbows tucked, wrists stacked, and triceps engaged by squeezing the bar.
- When the bar touches your chest, drive your heels into the floor and glutes into the bench as you push the bar back up.
- When your arms are extended, and your reps are complete, re-rack the bar.
Start with an empty bar to work on form and always work with safety bars and a spotter.
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Squats are one of the best compound exercises for building muscle strength.
Here's how to squat with a barbell:
- Grab a barbell at shoulder-width and duck under. Let the barbell rest across your upper back, altering your position as needed.
- Secure the bar and step backward out of the rack. Never step forward out of the rack for safety reasons.
- Position your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hinge your hips back while pushing your knees outward to begin the squat.
- When you reach parallel— where your hips and knees are aligned— drive your heels into the floor and stand up.
Keep your core engaged and chest up when completing this fundamental strength training exercise.
The deadlift is often viewed as the best indicator of overall strength, as the lifter can't rely on momentum.
Here's how to deadlift:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart under a barbell. The barbell should be at midfoot.
- Bend over and grab the bar at shoulder-width with your shins touching the bar.
- Straighten your back, roll your shoulders back, and engage your core.
- Stand straight up, using your legs to drive the weight.
Your arms should stay straight and shoulders neutral— don't shrug the weight.
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Rows are a common accessory to the Big Three. This resistance exercise works the upper body muscles used in both the bench press and deadlift.
Here's how to row with a barbell:
- Assume your deadlift starting position, with your feet under the bar and hands gripping at shoulder width. You will want a significantly lighter weight than your deadlift.
- Lift your chest, maintain a straight back, and keep your elbows tucked while pulling the barbell toward your torso.
- Lower the barbell in a slow and controlled manner to complete the rep.
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The overhead press is an upper body workout that benefits your bench press while engaging the core stabilizers needed for squatting.
Here's how to overhead press:
- Stand with the bar at chest height and grip at shoulder-width.
- Unrack and take a step back.
- Tuck your pelvis and brace your core before pushing the barbell overhead to full extension.
- Slowly lower back to starting position to complete the rep.
Avoid letting your hips tilt or softening your knees during this movement.
Weekly Powerlifting Routine for Over 50s
Older lifters should start to strength train three times per week with rest days in between. An example starting program could include the following:
Monday - Squat, Bench Press, Overhead
Wednesday - Bench Press, Row, Squat
Friday - Squat, Overhead Press, Deadlift
This program is a beginner-friendly powerlifting program to get started. As you learn the basic movements, you can start to add on accessory lifts and progressions.
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Adding Accessory Work
Accessory work incorporates isolated and targeted movements using barbells, dumbbells, resistance bands, and body weight. These supplementary lifts are fantastic for targeting the smaller muscle groups and supporting your Big Three lifts.
Some of the best accessory lifts include:
- Dumbbell overhead press
- Tricep extensions
- Skull crushers
- Inverted rows
- Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts
- Glute bridges
- Banded monster walks
- Banded duck walks
- Leg press
- Good mornings
Start by choosing three to five accessory lifts that work the same muscle group as your main lift for the day. Start with three sets of 8-12 repetitions to promote hypertrophy— increased muscle mass— to support your strength-building exercises.
To improve your strength over time, you need to add progression to your training and overload your muscles at a sustainable rate. There are a few ways to progress your workouts.
One way to overload your muscles and increase training volume is to increase the weight. Try to add five pounds to your working weight each week.
Another way to progress is to add extra sets each time you train a specific movement. For example, if you did 4x5 squats this week, try 5x5 next week.
Adding both weight and sets will dramatically increase your training volume over time.
The Benefits of Powerlifting for Over 50s
One of the side effects of getting older is the loss of muscle mass over time. The age-related loss of lean muscle is known as sarcopenia. Fortunately, weight training— particularly with a heavier weight, as is the norm for power training— helps offset the loss of lean muscle mass. As many powerlifting workouts consist of compound exercises, the increased muscle mass and stability can help offset low back pain and joint pain caused by aging.
Read Also: How to gain muscle as a man over 60
Another downside of aging is the loss of bone density, particularly in women. As bone density decreases, the risk of a debilitating break increases. Powerlifting is a form of resistance training that can help maintain bone density as you venture past your 50th birthday.
Hormones change with age, and it isn't uncommon for men and women to experience a decrease in testosterone and estrogen, respectively. As women over 50 are reaching menopause, it's especially important to look at holistic hormone regulation methods. Strength training plays a vital role in hormonal regulation, improving one's slowing metabolic rate, and preventing age-related weight gain.
Tips for Powerlifting Over 50
Lifters over 50 need to prioritize proper recovery in the form of rest, sleep, and nutrition. Overtraining can result in a debilitating injury that takes longer to heal due to the body's aging systems.
Incorporate rest days into your training regimen and focus on sleep hygiene. If you're experiencing sleep disruptions related to hormonal imbalances, talk to a medical professional.
Schedule a targeted warm-up and post-training mobility routine to maintain and improve your range of motion— which is often the first thing to go as you age.
Powerlifting has many benefits for the aging population, from helping maintain lean muscle mass to improving balance and stability. Start with the core lifts and add accessories to suit your training goals. Progression and recovery are essential for sustainable progress when powerlifting over 50.