High or Low Reps for Lifters over 60

I have read articles and heard various trainer talk about how older people should train. There seems to be a split on whether older lifters should do higher reps of 10 to 12 and those who say they should reps of 3 to 5.

My question is what rep range works for you especially those of you over 60.

When I just get weaker and smaller every year, who knows. I am 73 years old and not a single year has past since I turned 60 that I didn’t lose some muscle and strength.

Short answer is that I don’t know for certain which works better, either theoretically or practically.

I can say that, as I got older (now 69), I simply could not sustain the level of volume and frequency that was possible when I was younger. As for low reps at high intensity, your ability to do that depends on your injury history, and joint health. For me, grinding out max effort sets of 3 to 5 reps is something I won’t do on the bigger compound movements (squats, deadlifts); I’m too likely to get hurt, or my joints start to bother me. But 5 rep sets short of failure, and with a little less weight feel pretty good. On upper body and isolation movements, things that are less systemically taxing, I’ll prefer a lighter weight for 8-10 reps close to failure.

Working in those rep ranges, getting in 15-30 challenging reps per exercise or movement pattern over the course of the week seems to be about the limit of what I can manage.

You also need to redefine what you mean by a program working. At some point, just slowing down the rate of decline becomes the best you can hope for.

67 here. I’m doing what I guess would be called high reps, up to 20 per set, but declining as I increase weight each set. I’m only doing that because the comps I usually do require more pure strength and they’ve been put on hold because of COVID. When training for strength I rarely go above 8 reps. Had to edit, forgot I just turned 67.

About 74 here. I’ve been doing higher volume workouts for awhile and so far nothing’s hurting.
I am presently comfortable with 15 reps per set, occasionally doing 20 rep sets. I agree with about everything written on here, but I keep trying.

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Both. and everything in between… Im 62… I do 2 heavier days with low reps, 2-5, and 3 lighter days with rep of 10-20… find what works for you and rotate through rep ranges don’t stay in one zone forever…

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Thanks y’all for sharing,

I am 62 years old and and mine routine below is based on Wendler’s 531. I have tried adding light weight dumbbell bench and presses but my shoulders get aggravated if I add any kind of extra pressing. I have moved to close grip bench for that reason and to trap bars dead lift because conventional dead lifts kept aggravating my lower back as well.

I do stretching and flexibility work daily based on what the chiropractor suggested. He is a former power-lifter who has been quite helpful.

I hate the Airdyne and thinking of just doing about 30-45 minutes of fast paced walking on the mornings I don’t lift.

I am active most days with hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and working around the house. Diet is based off the Mediterranean Diet with a little extra protein added.

My goals are overall fitness and health during this quarter of my lift but I find the loss in strength and size a bit frustrating.

Monday
Squat – 3 sets of 5 Pros / 2 sets of 5-8 FSL
Close-grip Bench – 3 sets of 5 Pros / 2 sets of 5-8 FSL
• Pulldowns – 5 sets of 10 reps
• DB RDLs – 3 sets of 10 reps
• Triceps Rope Press Down – 3 sets of 10 reps

Tuesday

Air dyne 20 min HIIT

Thursday
Trap-bar Deadlift – 3 sets of 3 Pros / 2 sets of 5 FSL
Press – 3 sets of 5 Pros / 2 sets of 5-8 FSL
• Inverted Rows – 5 sets of 10 reps
• Goblet Squat – 3 sets of 10 reps
• DB Curls – 3 sets of 10 reps

Friday

Air dyne 20 min HIIT

Saturday

Farmer walks.

5 set of 50-100 yards.

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The question should be, What rep range best retards muscle wasting (Sarcopenia)?
Everything else is just personal preference with little regard for results.

That is the proper question. But there seems to be a limited amount of definitive information on the subject.

Part of the reason I personally favor using heavier weights and lower reps is because sarcopenia involves the loss of motor neurons. I am just guessing or hoping that heavier lifting, which requires high levels muscle recruitment from the start of the set might be better for encouraging the body to retain those motor neuron connections (vs lighter-weight higher-rep sets carried to failure).

You also find some researchers experimenting with explosive lifting for similar reasons, meaning they hope that explosive movements are better able to preserve the neurological function of fast twitch fibers. But I haven’t seen any studies which convincingly show this is better. And you do have the safety issue that comes up when telling older folks with brittle connective tissue to lift explosively.

There is a community of researchers doing work with mouse models who have fallen in love with High Intensity Stretch Shortening Contractions as the preferred training method to slow sarcopenia. But the scope of the studies they have done is limited and the results are hard to translate to humans. I’ll link a couple of papers below.