I'm Too Young to Be This Damn Old: Senior Strength

TAGS: senior strength, weight lifting, Jeff Guller, fitness industry, powerlifting

It’s a bitch getting older. It isn't for sissies nor for the faint of heart. I'm finding that the golden years aren't so freaking golden. In just the last six years, I've had a spinal cord stimulator surgically implanted in my ass with a wire to my spinal cord to help override the pain of six herniated discs. Soon thereafter, my right hip was replaced. More recently, there was open heart surgery with five bypasses followed in a few months by prostate surgery. My orthopedist wants to replace my right shoulder and my surgically repaired left knee, but he won’t do either as long as I compete in powerlifting.

My situation isn't that unusual. More and more men and women my age are members of the chest zipper club (people who have had their chests cracked for open heart surgery). Many more have had knees, hips, and shoulders replaced or repaired. In time, we will all soon be bionic men and women. People my age who haven't had one of the above surgeries are either very fortunate or afraid of surgery.

What is the reason for all this? First, we're all living too damn long. Medical science, better nutrition, and fewer physical hardships have allowed us all to live longer. A person born in this century can expect to live 100 years (good for my grandchildren). Surgical techniques are so good now that open heart surgeries and joint replacements occur every day across the country.

In 1957, lifting heavy weights was great fun. Even without the sport of powerlifting, we were always competing with one another to see who was stronger, both in the then three Olympic lifts and the now three power lifts. There were very few formal competitions; we were just competitive. We all read and saw the exploits of the American hero Paul Anderson and wanted to be stronger. Today, while lifting heavy is still fun for me, lifting with a barbell and/or dumbbells is essential for everyone my age. In fact, everyone over fifty needs to lift. Now, I'm not a doctor or a person of science nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Most of what I say, if it has any science to it, I read in an article on elitefts™. If I can remember which article, I’ll give appropriate credit. Everything I say I believe to be true and a great deal of it is axiomatic.

Many of my peers were very good athletes in their day. Some reached very high levels of competence (i.e. college and/or professional levels). What do they do now? Nothing! Except maybe a little golf. To their credit, some come to the various gyms, but what do they do when they get there? Somebody, maybe the medical profession, the cardiac rehab people, the fitness industry or the gyms themselves have tried to convince us what fitness is. So my peers head straight to the aerobic machines, treadmills, bicycles, Stairmasters, and the like. After using most of their energy there, they wander out to the main floor and piddle. Because they don’t know what to do and won’t ask, they piddle with some machines and go home.

Oh my, he’s on a rant and he isn't finished yet.

A few are willing to ask a question. Some go as far as hiring a 130-pound pencil-necked trainer who has never touched a barbell. I watched a friend of mine being trained by a trainer with a degree who fit the above description. First, they went to a machine where my friend sat down and rotated his arms for a while. Then, he threw a medicine ball with the trainer. Then he sat on a big ball with the trainer behind him and held his arms out and lifted one leg as he was directed. Finally, they worked on my friend’s golf swing with a weighted stick. I don’t know what this costs per session, but whatever it is, it’s too damn much. I've offered to teach a strength class for seniors at two gyms here in town. I don’t have a degree in sports science—just a doctorate in experience and results (I know I stole that). Neither gym has been interested in my proposal.

Is he still on his rant? Yea, but don’t bother him. It’s bad luck to stop a rant.

Josh Bryant, in his wonderful article "Get Back in the Game Now: Recapturing Your Glory Years" published here on elitefts™ on August 11, 2013, told us that, “Research has indicated that muscular strength begins to decline around the third decade. Muscular strength can be maintained and even improved during one’s life.”

There isn't any reason for us to be weak little old men and women. There isn't any reason why we can’t be strong little old men and women. We all don’t have to compete in powerlifting, and we all don’t have to be crazy like me. But we all do need to implement the principles of powerlifting and perform compound movements. We can get good arms without curls by doing compound movements and at the same time increase our overall strength. I want us all to be strong enough to get the hell up if we fall down. Get your ass in the gym. As Dave Tate says, “Learn to fucking bench.” At the same time, learn to squat and deadlift. Be senior strong.

He’s still ranting.

Weight bearing physical activity (high intensity resistance training) has beneficial effects on bone health across the age spectrum. The general recommendation that adults maintain a relatively high level of weight-bearing physical activity for bone health doesn't have an upper age limit. Bone mass decreases by about 0.5 percent per year or more after the age of 40, regardless of sex or ethnicity. However, physical exercise that helps preserve muscle mass (i.e. resistance exercise) is also effective in preserving bone mass. High intensity progressive resistance training has produced increases in hip and spine bone mass density in estrogen deficient women. Studies have also found that resistance training has increased the bone mass in older men as well to the same relative magnitude as has been observed in women. Maintaining a vigorous level of physical activity across the lifespan is an essential component for achieving and maintaining skeletal integrity (Kort 2004).

He not only rants, but he gets science-y.

Science, shmience. Lifting is good for the soul. Furthermore, it makes you look better, feel better, and be smarter. It lowers blood pressure, helps control or ward off type 2 diabetes, contributes to weight loss or gain, helps you sleep better, and gets you the hell out of the house for a while. It also helps you develop a sense of camaraderie with your peers. But most of all, it makes you senior strong!


  • Kort Wendy M, et al (2004) Physical Activity and Bone Health. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 36(11).

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