Can You Get Stronger When You are Over 80? My experience.
At the tender age of 82 Im still lifting weightsoften heavy weights. I have been working out regularly for roughly 67 years. I have emphasized different sports or training approaches during that time, but basically, I have stayed in good shape since I was 15.
So the question is, can anyone do this?
I would offer a qualified yes.
Probably most people could do this IF..
More on that below.
First, can you get stronger at a venerable age:
What I am finding is that while I wont likely set any PRs in the power lifts, when I take up an exercise I have not done for a while (or done at all before) I will add some muscle mass and get stronger the longer I train on the movement.
In short, it seems my body is able to make consistent improvements in exercises that require muscular endurance.
For example, last summer I decided to see if I could meet the RKC standard for the dreaded kettlebell snatch test. For men over age 50 this is performing 50 one hand snatches with a 20 kilo kettlebell in 3 minutes.
It took a few weeks training, but I managed to do it.
After I backed off training, my snatch capacity gradually returned to my baseline level. My workout volume went back to 100-150 reps per week instead of double that when I was focusing on the lift.
Currently Im emphasizing some bodyweight exercises such as the pullup and L-sit.
As before, I get better at these each week and my arms and shoulders are clearly a bit bigger.
The long standing maxim use it or lose it.
Keep your baseline conditioning at a good level and you will probably be able to do a peaking program that will get you to a rarefied level.
Like all peaking programs, you get a brief period when you can do a very high personal maximum, then your capacity recedes a bit.
This is no different than when you were in your 20s.
By doing the peaking program you raise your personal baseline a bit, and you are in an excellent position to do another peaking effort if you decide to do so.
What I believe I have learned
Probably the biggest single piece of general advice I can offer to anyone is:
Never allow yourself to get out of good physical condition.
People who are routinely in good shape have a tendency to stay that way. The benefits are truly immense in terms of health, physical viability, and not contracting chronic diseases.
If by chance you happen to allow yourself to become a bit out of shape, my general advice is get back on the horse and begin your healthy practices NOW!
The longer you are out of shape the harder it is to get back to where you want to be.
My second tidbit of advice is that you must understand the effects of your training and practices. You must and understand how your body responds to different aspects of training and why.
NEVER simply learn something by rote and assume that blindly following the rules will keep you strong and healthy.
Here is one of my favorite examples of blindly following a rule without understanding how things work.
One of the standard rules in exercise is that you must stay hydrated.
According to Runners World magazine since the mid-90s no less than 48 people have killed themselves while running a sanctioned marathon because they drank too much water! In the same period exactly zero runners have died because of dehydration.
Not understanding how water can dilute your electrolytes and thus destroy the functioning of your nervous system led to the death of almost 50 people in marathon races. Too much of a good thing is NOT always better.
I could wax on about other examples, but one should be sufficient.
If you want a long and fun career understanding how your body reacts to training and how to best manage your own nutrition are required skills.
Enjoy your workoutand learn what works best for you.