In Part 1 yesterday I introduced you to the reasons for over 50’s to weight train, the best methods and also my personal experience of radical body transformation after 50. Here is the concluding part…

There is a route of progress to free weights, which some over 50’s follow when more challenge is appropriate.

• Another point in favour of machines is safety. Over-50 individuals are likely to be more cautious than youngsters. They are more likely to put effort into an exercise if they know that the only thing that’s likely to happen if it all goes wrong is a loud crash as the weights raised drop within the machine. And I always use the safety features provided – for example, the stop brackets on either upright of the Smith machine, or the horizontal stop bars in a squat cage.

• Talking of squats, I have found these to be some of the hardest of the usual exercises for those over 50. There are often flexibility or range of motion issues in the back or shoulders as well as the legs – and many won’t want to put the additional strain on their lower backs by moving that weight for benefits of their legs.

And there is far less potential for injury and much the same muscular developmental benefit in using a leg press machine rather than a free weight back squat, so use of this machine is typically one of my recommendations.

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One over-50 I know is keen to do back squats and won’t go beyond a total of 50kg – but is happy to perform seat-move leg presses almost at the bottom of the weight stack.

• I’ve found that older people in the gym are more interested in understanding why something works than younger people are. All my older clients like to tie in the biomechanics – which muscles create specific joint actions, and how others act as fixators or stabilisers in a motion.

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They appreciate understanding the physiology behind it, and I believe it helps them rationalize the reasons for, and justify the effort involved in performing an exercise.

• Perhaps because of this interest, older gym users are generally better maintaining good form than younger clients. Also linked to this, there are fewer number-ego issues involved – older folk generally won’t be determined to lift a weight beyond their capabilities by whatever means. Keen to improve their performance, yes, but unlikely to bend the form to achieve it.

• Older trainers like to see progression – they very much appreciate seeing how the numbers increase, even by a small amount, on a regular basis. One of my clients tries to set a personal best on every exercise, every time we train – and this personal best may just be one extra rep on the final set of an exercise.

All the principles of Incremental Progressive Overload apply – starting from a base of good form that is maintained throughout, gradually improving one of the variables involved in an exercise.

• So that they can see the progression working, all my over-50 clients follow my advice of recording the data from gym sessions, and using that data to set the weights and sets for the next time on that exercise. This ‘Measurement is Motivation’ idea is key to my training advice – both for myself and for others of my age group. Of course, it could just be that we older folk have got worse memories!

Although these are the differences I’ve noted from my own range of over-50’s PT clients, it may be that some of these approaches for the over 50’s would have some benefits for those below that magic half-century.

I’ve seen from these clients that an old dog can indeed be taught new tricks! And now I’m wondering if that learning direction can be reversed a little!

Check out Chris’s web site for more tips for those over 50: www.FitnessOverFifty.co.uk – and contact him direct through his WatchFit Profile page.

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