T Nation

Crossroads at Age 48


Quick summary: I’m 48 in a couple of months’ time. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and – more importantly to me, I guess – have reasonable muscle size that everyday people comment on. I’m wondering where to turn next.

I dabbled with lifting in my teens and 20s. I did it seriously through my 30s: perhaps not with the best focus, but with visible results. Something happened in my early 40s and I slipped away from regular training for a few years. Now, I’ve been back hard at it for 3 years.

I’m the strongest I’ve ever been (1RMs: 110kg bench, 205kg deadlift, 152kg squat, 75kg shoulder press). I’m probably as fit as I’ve ever been (not as fit as I’d like). I’ve got a modest ‘spare tyre’: I don’t have a proper bf% but it’s sort-of average. My overall body shape is probably enough to be called “muscular” by most – though serious BBers would probably put me down as “athletic” (plus fat).

Things I’ve learned:
– the psychology of training matters hugely; much more than I ever realised. This applies both to the (subtle) reasons that made me stop and re-start training, and also to the benefits of having a set programme to follow, and goals to achieve.
– getting injured sucks, and matters increasingly much. We all sustain injuries. I don’t want the next one to be so serious that it rules me out from training so long I can’t get back. Fear of injury probably prevents me giving 100% to my training: but I don’t mind erring on the side of caution at this stage.
– training keeps me feeling young. I truly want to continue as I do now (say, 4 serious sessions per week) well into old age if I can.
– I’m sure diet is important, but changes which seem “radical” to me (cutting down on snacks; trying to eat more protein) seem to achieve very little effect. Changing my body composition very much is going to take some BIG changes at this stage.

So, the point of my post is that I’m wondering what to do next. Age 48 has me starting to feel “not as young as I was”: I want realistic goals, but I also want to push for a body to be proud of. I can think of several ways forward. I’m wondering what’s realistic – and so I’d be keen to hear the experiences of others here.

  1. Continue much as now: working somewhere between strength-based and bodybuilding style. This probably means my BF% stays stable, which is bearable but not great.

  2. Going all-out to cut some fat: though diet and cardio work. What’s the way to set a realistic goal at this age?

  3. Going for real bulk. Ditto: can you add muscle at this age? Will it come with too much persistent fat?

  4. Branching out. I could try crossfit for example. But age and injury aversion may not make that a good match.

or something else.

You can’t make the decision for me - of course - and this post probably doesn’t tell you enough to choose anyway. But some input/suggestions/personal experiences would be most helpful.


I’m now 53. I was a few months shy of my 49th birthday when I decided to take the plunge and diet down from my ‘full house’ physique (ie, the sort you seem to have) to my current fairly lean state. I (and a number of other TNers) discuss that process in some detail in the thread EyeDentist, how do you train?, which can be found on the Bigger/Stronger/Leaner subforum.


If you look at the 4 options you listed, you will see that you made negative comments about 3 of them and asked for constructive input on the 4th. That should tell you what is important to you at this time. But you also expressed some doubt about you ability to do that (“radical” approaches didn’t give results, so how far do you have to go to get results?).

So, I opt for the branching out option. But do it on your own terms and pace. The goals which give me the most long lasting motivation to train are performance goals. Most of us in this forum lift and train for this reason. Choose a performance goal consistent with achieving better body composition. For example, if you were to become competitive in masters track in the 400m event, you will be exceptionally lean. This could be done without losing much if any muscle mass and your conditioning would be superb. Even in the masters ranks, most of the top level olympic lifters are fairly lean and muscular. There are lots of options. You don’t need to officially compete, although that adds to the motivation and interest.

I agree however that this option is the one most prone to injury. That’s why I say do it on your own terms and pace. Pick a performance goal, learn about it, practice it, and improve. At 48 you still have lots of time.


It’s a mixed bag
I will be 48 in February - like you I l’ve lifted without focus for much of my life but I started taking it seriously around 2003. I found 5-3-1 in 2007 and have been on it ever since.
All I can say is that my priorities have changed. I have lost 30 pounds in my last 6 months and the experience has changed everything. I still lift as heavy I can but my numbers are down from even 5 years ago.
But…I cannot tell why they are down - from b.s. dieting the last 5 years (and failing miserably), the recent weight loss, or getting older - maybe all three.
Here’s the thing - the last 6-9 months or so hard conditioning has taken over my training.
I rotate between the prowler, a sled, 80LB vest, hills, and tabatas on the treadmill (I need something intense to do inside when the weather is bad)
Because of the conditioning, in many ways, I feel I am in the best shape of my life. Yesterday I pushed 360 pounds -

So like I said -it’s a mixed bag
The main thing for me is that I need purpose -


Guys, thanks for the replies so far. There’s some real inspiration there, EyeDentist in particular! Yes: proper goals are good (got my strength to its present level that way). Since I’m talking physique, I should probably post a photo of that: I’ll get onto getting a recent one. I’m 89kg (196lbs), and 176cm (5’9").


TRT /thread (sufficient characters met)


@EyeDentist. Can you explain single arm HS presses to this noob? Thanks!