T Nation

Advice For Lifting Over Fifty?


I'm seeing my mom next month and she wants me to teach her to use free weights. I wanted to know if there's anything special to keep in mind in terms of safety. I've never stretched or warmed up, myself, so if you could point me in the direction of what I should have her do, that would be great. I don't want to hurt my mom.

She's in her fifties, in good health (apart from smoking), not overweight, but hasn't been active since high school. Lately she's been powerwalking with mini dumbbells, but she claims she can't jog at all. On the other hand she does a lot of heavy chores. So I don't know what to expect on her first day.

I thought I'd teach her the basic compound lifts, starting with the bar only. (Any suggestions if the bar is too heavy? When I started, I had to press using little curl bars at first, but that was just my made-up hack; I don't know what's normally suggested for people who need something lighter than 45 pounds.)

Any insights on how training is different for middle-aged folks would be appreciated..


The main difference I would say (as a 55 year old), is the need to do more warm-up sets, and to go with somewhat higher reps with less weight. I don't think this is as much of an issue for new lifters, but there are way too many muscle tears in older lifters trying to do very heavy lifts for low reps.

On the other hand she should not be afraid of the weights- there are lots of studies showing the benefits of weight training even in very elderly people. Give her lots of props for getting started with this, but not to expect too much too soon.


I've been taking my dad with me this summer. He is 65. There haven't really been any major issues. I started him out with something like the Reg Park 5x5 program you can find on here. The first two sets are progressively heavier warm ups. Then only 3 short working sets. This really seemed to be enough warm up since he didn't have the technical proficiency to lift enough to hurt himself. The main things I did different with him was use a trap bar for dead lifts. The neutral grip and more upright stance is easier.

I remember overhead presses being an issue cause the empty bar was too heavy so we switched to dumbbells. He's got some balance issues so that didn't work out so well either so switched again to Hammer strength shoulder press. After a couple months we switched to a 3x10 scheme and let him back on the machines focusing on increasing weight every week for a couple of more months. I've started a DC Program and he has stopped progressing on his current program so mon morn I'll put him back in the free wight section on the same program I'm doing but with the 5x5 set rep scheme above and see what happens.

Hopefully some of that helps but my main advice is take it real easy the first couple of weeks and focus on learning as much as lifting. Expect that learning curve to be longer than you think, and be flexible. If an exercise or machine hurts or isn't working try something else. pick a few of the ones that work best and gradually add in more. It's more important to make it a lifelong pursuit than have the perfect program today.


First, have her read the mobility for old farts stickied at the top of this forum. My wife just started lifting weights for the first time and she's almost 50. She's enjoying the dumbbells and machines, especially for legs, right now. Some gyms have the short oly bars that weigh less than 45 but if not start her on db presses or use the ez bar (good idea there).


My mom is also asking for help in weight training, but is 67 and overweight. In any case, I believe in first getting up to 20 reps or so with perfect form in bodyweight movements like Bulgarian split squats, pushups, and rack chins, before using any external weight.