T Nation

Two important things...


As I am now entering the "master" division in weightlifting I was reflecting in some changes than lifters should do as they get older. Two things jump at me as being super important to maximize performance in older lifters wanting to improve their performance:

  1. JUMPS! While limit strength can be fairly easy gained at a "normal" rate as you get older (evidenced by a ton of powerlifters hitting lifetime PRs in their 40s, 50s and even 60s), POWER and SPEED are two things that erodes quickly with age. And to me these two physical capacities are immensely important to maximum performance as well a physical appearance. So a lifter should do everything he possibly can to avoid that erosion in power and speed. And the simplest way to do that is to start every workout with some jumping, loaded or not, done for low reps as explosive as possible.

  2. DENSITY. A lot of people talk about how older lifters need to train less often. I personally think that frequency needs to be kept high, but that the duration of the workouts should be reduced BUT density increased. In other words, work at a faster pace while still focusing on performance. Older lifters should spend no more than 45 minutes from the first jump in the workout to the last time the bar is put back on the floor. And in many cases, 30 minutes is better. During that time, strive to keep up a fast pace to get the mechanical work needed for maximum gains. I find this to give better results and cause less aches and pains.

In fact, these two important things should be applied by everybody IMHO!


I completely agree with you CT. Although I'm not at all older, these two ideas are things I took home from your lectures over the previous years. I have a feeling you are speaking about olympic weightlifting when you recommend jumps, and I agree again. When it comes to other lifts though, in over 3 years I have never started a workout with typical "warm up" sets, slowly moving the weight with control. no matter what lift i'm doing I take my warm up sets seriously and move the bar explosively. I'd say learning to do all of this at a very young age can be incredibly beneficial for the aging process.

I find that power and speed movements (like jumps) are immensely helpful in max strength too..do you think you can elaborate on how getting explosive translates to, say something like paused squats? (Which ive been doing, and loving) My max weight moves just as fast as my 50% weight, which I feel I can credit to being very "explosive"


@CT - I have also been thinking alot lately about what I'm doing with my training going forward as forty looms around the corner for me. I've been doing jumps and/or plyo push ups or throws at the start of every training session since you first wrote about explosiveness being one of the first capacities to deteriorate with age.

I've also incorporated heavy bag work at least once and often twice per week as it makes sense to me that maintaining the ability to deliver powerful strikes is a capcity worth holding on to. I typically get in one sprinting session per week as well. Again, the ability to accelerate quickly and reach a decent top speed is something that I'd like to be able to do for as long as possible.

Now to work on getting my strength sessions finished in under 45 minutes.....


CT, I'm also just entering the masters devision, who used to compete in Olympic weightlifting. I recently have been enjoying and making excellent strength gains on the 10 day strength cycle. I now want to focus more on the snatch and cleans and Jerk but still keep some bench in there. I was wondering do you have a suggestion of a similar cycle for the competitive Olympic lifts or a weekly schedule that has a training density that Is suitable for a master lifting keen on getting his numbers up? I totally agree, i find i have less aches and pains, when I train more often. Also would short sprint sessions be suitable to integrate for the master lifter. Thanks you


Are you actually Entering a meet CT, or are you just entering the masters category as far as age is concerned?


Just as age is concerned


an old friend of mine told me many years ago that the legs are the first to go. he was correct.
over the last 20 or so years, i have realized that the explosiveness that comes from the midsection down is the "missing link" so to speak.

with strength, and moreso explosive strength from the lower body, carries over to all other lifts.
weight training by itself will never give you the explosive lower body that jumping, sprinting, sprint drills, etc will give.
i dont know why, but, it's true. i like the idea of jumping. of all the "speed/explosive" drills you can do, jumping is probably the easiest to actually perform- you can do them almost anywhere, almost anytime. And IMO, they will probably yield the best results.
"More bang for your Buck" kind of thing.

as far as density.
i personally need between 10-30 minutes of stretching before i even start my warmups. I wake up, wash, get in the car and go to train.
Heck, i'm not even awake yet when i get to the gym. That's a big reason whay i need more "prep" time. If i go train 2 hours after im out and about, i dont need so much. But, i gotta do what i gotta do.
So, 30-45 minutes of training after "prep" work. Yes, I can go for that. I do that now more or less.

i totally agree with frequency. at what level of intensity, i'm dont know. i have always found that the best way to treat a sore muscle is to work it to some extent. And, for me, i like to keep active. Since i'm not involved with any kind of athletic activity, the gym is where i get my physical activities in. I think for myself, i may need to adjust my levels of intensity to accommodate, all or most of my physical, and psychological needs.
Heck, in a couple months, i wont even have time for the bathroom..LOL.
enjoy your day


As an older lifter (52), I concur with both of your observations. I particularly find that keeping the training short through density is key. This is why I've really enjoyed the Ramp, 5X3 @65%, 5X2 @ 10-20lbs. more, 5X1 @ 10-20lbs. more, 3 rounds of a barbell complex, 30 sec. rest between 5X3, 5X2, and 5X1 sets. Last dead/squat workout was 60 total reps, ramp to a 3RM: ranging from about 280-445, in 35 mins. On dead/squat days I don't add the complex, as the workout is both a strength and conditioning session. I finished feeling absolutely electric, I mean my CNS was really turned on!



I think you make an interesting observation when you say that you felt electric. To me that what you should be shooting for, especially as an older lifter. Feeling drained is the worst state to be in after a workout when speed is a quality that is eroding. You want the nervous system crackling at the end of your sessions. I found this to be one of the best way to preserve power but also to keep metabolic rate high as well as the body's processes more efficient.


I agree with you also Crowbar. I'm also 52 and Thibs tip on the perfect rep combined with little to no grinding and the layer system has helped and changed my training tremendously.

Question for Thibs. What is it about the jumps that keeps the explosiveness if someone is already training his lower body fairly explosive. Is it CNS? I guess my question is what is the mechanism of action.


There is a difference in motor recruitment between lifting fast and moving ballistically. The recruitment pattern is a bit different but mostly the rate of activation of the fast twitch fibers is much faster. So you teach the nervous system to recruit fibers more rapidly which helps build explosiveness independantly of fiber stimulation and development.


Really interesting stuff.

I thought long draining sessions would amplify gains (via volume/total work done) so long as the "gap" was filled by excessive food (burn glycogen, refill glycogen, fuel protein synthesis, etc.). Seems like CT suggests staying fresh, feeling activated CNS wise but still thoroughly thrashing the muscle tissue?

Do you see better physique/body comp gains from this or is this purely for speed, and specifically to prevent age related loss of speed...



UI concur completely, although like yourself I do CrossFit twice a week and those sessions are pretty intense and often run over 60 minutes. It's hard to 'hold back' when your going for RX and I wondered how, if at all this has effected your training week in terms of programming? (Eg you did 3RM cleans at CF would you clean the day after as a main exercise?)

I'm nearly 36 and admit I do love the challenge of CF but also higher training volume. I invested in a proper Oly bar, bumpers, rack and appropriate flooring for my home garage, as well as have some KB's, TRX and Oly rings. I'm a happy chappy.
As always your input is appreciated



Since I'm now focusing on the olympic lifts I do not do crossfit workouts at the moment. I build strength-capacity through the addition of loaded carries twice a week.


  1. I do not "trash" the muscles. That is a very bad mindset that will just leave you with excessive inflammation that will retard the growth process. The key is doing a good amount of high-quality performance work.

  2. A fresher more active CNS is asssociated with a high metabolic rate which can compensate for a lower caloric expenditure during training. A higher density of work is also associated with a higher level of fat-burning hormones.

  3. While using more volume of lifting to "burn more calories" is completely dumb, I believe in heavy loaded carries to build muscle and get leaner.

  4. I see that you have not healed your excessive mindset "illness"


CT, Would you mind giving some insight into how you structure these heavy loaded carries?





CT, one more question if you don't mind. Would doing speed sets for other body parts accomplish this also. For example doing 8x3 on an incline press with 50-60% of your max.


CT wrote: I think you make an interesting observation when you say that you felt electric. To me that what you should be shooting for, especially as an older lifter. Feeling drained is the worst state to be in after a workout when speed is a quality that is eroding. You want the nervous system crackling at the end of your sessions. I found this to be one of the best way to preserve power but also to keep metabolic rate high as well as the body's processes more efficient.

Exactly! The carry over effect is critical to me; after all, as you age you start to see training in a longer term perspective. When I was younger training was more about ego: how much weight can I lift, how F'in big can I get, etc. Now, it's critical that my training enhance and contribute to the rest of my life outside the gym. having a CNS that is fresh and optimally engaged has a TREMENDOUS impact on every other aspect of your life: from memory, to learning, to mood, to strength, to attention span, to libido, etc., etc. The trick that mother nature plays on all of us is having a CNS that can withstand a tremendous amount of stress when we are younger. However, it WILL decline in efficiency as you age and, in my opinion, is one of the primary causes of age related decline in general.

So, I've started doing daily sessions of HRV (heart rate variability) training with a program called Heart Math. The program teaches you to be able to control your CNS to avoid excessive sympathetic input--"sympathetic overdrive". You young guys should really listen to CT and attempt to learn all you can about the CNS. The CNS is, in my opinion, the most important system to understand as you age as a trainer.



very nicely done!