Man Lifting Barbell

Mastering the Art of Lifting Past 40: 7 Key Principles

Lifting in your 50's, with nearly three decades of iron-pumping behind you, certainly offers a unique perspective on the art of training. As I've found, the pathway to successful lifting for Masters athletes closely parallels the principles embraced by our younger counterparts. Nevertheless, a few strategies can make the journey more efficient and rewarding.

Here, I'll share my seven guiding principles for Masters lifters:

Elevate Protein Intake: Aging brings a gradual decline in your body's protein digestion ability. Hence, Masters athletes require a higher protein intake than their younger counterparts. Consider upping your protein intake as I did – doubling it to 250 grams per day yielded fantastic results. High protein diets, known for enhancing satiety, body composition, and recovery, don't necessarily demand supplements. Yet, a protein powder you enjoy can significantly ease the process. Personally, I blend whey protein with frozen fruit for shakes and mix it into oatmeal and Greek yogurt to boost meal protein content. To stand out, you mustn't eat like the masses, as evidenced by most grocery store carts brimming with low-protein foods.

Choose the Right Activities: It's crucial to align your chosen exercises and sports with your unique structural capabilities. The wisest path, as endorsed by Dr. Stu McGill, might mean opting for partial squats or rack pulls instead of risking deep squats or deadlifts, as your anatomical structure allows. Successful aging prioritizes health and pain-free training. Why boast about competing in events that necessitate monthly painkiller consumption? It's wiser to make choices that allow you to grow stronger, leaner, and faster without future repercussions.

Recalibrate Expectations: Although I'm an exception experiencing peak training results at 53, most Masters lifters thrived in their 20s or 30s. For those in this category, setting realistic expectations tied to current progress proves pivotal. Your mindset should be "What can I achieve now?" rather than basking in past glories. You might always aim to surpass last year's personal records, but what genuinely matters is what you can presently accomplish.

Optimize Testosterone Levels: Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) presents a legal, medically supervised, and safe route to restore optimal testosterone levels. To initiate TRT, search for local clinics offering this service, inquire about insurance coverage, and undergo an initial assessment, including a blood test. If your testosterone falls below the required threshold, which varies by state, you qualify for TRT. While weekly clinic injections or at-home self-injections are common, testosterone cream is less frequent. Trust me, the injections aren't painful. At 49, my testosterone measured 434, and today it's nearly double, leading to enhanced energy, recovery, body composition, and mood.

Don't Blame Age as Your Achilles' Heel: Instead of assuming age as your greatest obstacle, pinpoint your real weak points. Construct a personal list of factors impacting your progress. Rank them by significance, addressing the top items as I did. Remember, age is an inevitability, so why obsess over it? Encourage self-assessment; it's an enlightening process.

Maximize Training Economy: Every action in the gym comes at a cost, but not all deliver benefits. With age, recovery and healing take longer. Adhere to a training philosophy that maximizes the efficiency of each workout. Prioritize exercises tailored to your safety, objectives, and body type. The goal is to perform quality over quantity.

Specialize Without Sucking at Anything: As a Masters athlete, it's essential to avoid letting any physical quality erode to a point where you "suck." Set personal standards, ensuring that in various capacities, you meet your expectations. Avoid slipping into stereotypical "old-guy" habits or adopting excuses tied to age. Positive aging starts with a winning attitude, so act accordingly.

Embrace the "sweet spot" of aging – accept the reality while facing it head-on with a determined, not defeatist, mindset. Your journey to greatness begins with your outlook.

James Freeman


Meet James Freeman, a California native whose passion for fitness emerged during challenging times, reshaping his life. With over two decades of coaching experience, he's not just a coach; he's a real-life example, shedding over 100 pounds in a journey to a healthier lifestyle. Beyond his coaching career, James is passionate about inspiring at-risk youth and promoting wellness in schools. In his downtime, he enjoys swimming and cycling, connecting with nature. Join him on his Instagram and LinkedIn profiles for insights into his empowering fitness journey.