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Strength Training for Over 50

Joe Chalakee, DVRT Master


We are about half way into the New Year already and I wanted to get back into shape. It reminds me of a joke I would use with clients that would tell me they wanted to get back into shape. I would ask them, what shape would that be, square, triangle, or circle? It would make them laugh, but to more importantly, re-think what they are trying to achieve. 

So you are now 5O or over, I am too, and you made a decision to start a new journey in your life and add back, GOOD!  You want to get your health back or the doctor wants you to lose some weight, you want to look better. For me, none of those reasons were why I had to focus back on my training. I wanted to improve my conditioning and endurance for Brazilian Jiu Jistu, not to mention my two active sons! Whatever your reasons might be, here are a few tips from one baby boomer to another in no real particular order. 

  • Leave your ego at the door. I borrowed this from the first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu School I ever trained at, RCJ Machado Jiu Jitsu. I believe this is the most important one. As a former athlete past his prime, this is the hardest to do. We sometimes like to live our past accomplishments. However, we are not 18 anymore, what we did in high school, well, that was then this is now. It doesn’t mean you won’t be achieving incredible things, but you have to be smarter how you approach your fitness goals. 


  • Too Big, Too Heavy, Too Fast. I have seen this way too many times. People with great intentions go fast, hard, and heavy as soon as they get back into their training. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to see the toll this takes on you when aches/pains start to creep in, your constantly sore, and you lose the motivation to perform the next session pretty fast.

This also happens when people choose to invest in their training equipment. When I purchased my first Ultimate Sandbag I bought a Burly! That’s right I bought the biggest one. Filled it with 110 pounds of sand! I couldn’t do anything with it. Yeah, I was strong I could press two 32kg (70 pound) kettlebells. What I didn’ think about was how two different modalities function distinctly differently. 

I purchased a Ultimate Sandbag Power to learn DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training fundamentals. I soon found myself signing up for DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Level 1 Certification because I really wanted to appreciate the nuances and techniques that this really cool system was showing me. You don’t have to sign up for level 1 there are also DVRT workshops, or programs, whatever helps you get a better idea that we aren’t teaching you “sandbags”, but an incredibly powerful way to improve your fitness, movement, and health! 


  • Find a coach or trainer to help you learn how to train safely and meet your goals. If you goal is to fat loose or to get stronger find the right person to help do it correctly. Clint came to me at 62, he was getting older (his words) and all he wanted to do was be able to take the trash cans to the curb without falling over them. What he was really saying he wanted to get stronger and be able to do things as he got older. He is still training and has met his goal. 



  • Speaking of Doctors, Make sure you are cleared to start a workout program in advance. A good coach or trainer will ask you this.  


  • Take it slow learn how to train safe. There is no whining at this stage of the life. It’s all about getting better at what you do and do it right. There are no ribbons to be won or given for showing up. You still have to earn them.  


A couple of years ago a new client, Tom, signed up to train at my gym. Tom was 56, he had lost 90 lbs before he stepped foot in the gym. He was doing a lot of good things like, eating right and even running.  “It was now time for me to get to the gym to get strong.” Tom was clearly inspired.

We started working with him on his deadlift. I asked him to do 10 reps, quickly Tom started going as fast as he could to get them done. He finished his 10 reps. I explained to him it’s not about how fast you can go, it’s about doing them correctly. I could now see he was out of breath and couldn’t even stand up straight.

He became light headed and I quickly sat him down so he wouldn’t fall over. I gave him a bottle of water and told him “you’re not 18 anymore”. He comes back with “I was 38 years ago”….. To which I replied, “It’s not helping you now”, he had a good sense of humor about the situation and agreed. The cool part, Tom is still training 3 years later. 

You gotta practice what you preach! 


We still need to be reminded of these points. This is actually good advice whether you are 50 or even 20. People often say that age is just a number. Well, it is, but it is a bigger number which means we have to be smarter, not as careless about what we do to our body and health. Age isn’t a hinderance to what we can achieve or how hard we can work, but it is a reminder of smarter, not always harder!