Hard Core Training For Guys Over 50


Here is a great question about strength training for guys over 50 that was sent to me yesterday from HulseStrength.com reader, Gene Burke.

Gene writes…

Hey Elliott,

Great site and information. You seem like a pretty straight shooter so I would like to ask for your opinion about which training path to take. I just turned 50 last week. In the 80’s I competed in some bodybuiling & powerlifting meets, then became invloved in the martial arts for many years and got away from lifting.

Here is my question, I am now 50. I will never be a strongman competitor (besides my age I am only 5’11” and run about 225. As I get older I am worrying more about my long term fitness and health. I run from time to time and to be honest it is a chore, but I think it may be better for my health than lifting.

I see all these ex strongman and bodybuilder guys who after they compete shrink down to normal size (ahola, yates, columbo and so on), so I wonder if trying to get down in weight to say 185 – 190 is better for a man as he gets older than trying to build muscle and try to stay at like 220-225 solid.

This issue is driving me nuts…. which way do you feel is the better way to satay healthy in the long run,  lots of aerobics or lots of weight training?

by the way I love to lift…i will just never be in the league of even local strongman shows level strength….

any insight would be great…


My Answer….

Gene, it’s funny that you ask this question today as I had a lengthy conversation with one of my “over 50″ Strength Camp members this morning after class about the same topic.

The question arises as to whether or not it makes sense for a man over 50 to be concerned with building more muscle mass and decreasing body fat to the point of being “shredded”.

As is typical, I answered from a holistic paradigm… basically, looking at things in our lives with a broader scope and considering that all elements of life are linked.

So, here is the situation… It is common for men over 50 to notice a decrease in testosterone along with a decrease in the ability to build muscle, burn fat and an over-all drop in male virility.  This is normal and natural.

Yes, we do live in a time and in a country where most of our food and water is polluted by Estrogen inducing substances… such as petroleum based / plastic food containers (Xenoestrogens) and a high amount of pesticides designed to incapacitate the reproductive ability of pests (and subsequently HUMANS too).

BUT, as a natural process of individual human evolution… ie. getting old ;), men begin to produce an increased amount of Aromatase, an enzyme that converts or “aromatizes” testosterone into estrogen.

So you may be asking, “Shit! That sucks… why the hell would that happen?”

Here is my humble (that’s up for debate) opinion…

In traditional tribal societies young men would spend much or their time hunting, fishing, climbing, fighting and foraging for food — testosterone driven stuff.  Women typically were the creators and caretakers of the tribe.  In fact, in many Native American societies the women were the real leaders and decision makers.  Being biologically more in tuned with nature, women were often the tribal counselors as well.

Men viewed women as being more “worthy” then them due to their life-giving capacity. As such men designed rights of passive rituals that would emulate the burden of women in order to show God or Nature that we too would like to become “worthy”.  An example of this type of ritual is the Sun Dance Festival that is performed by Lacota men where they would shed blood, as women do, to honor God.  (My little brother Ellis has done this grueling ritual 4 times and has some SICK scars to show for it)

Men and women are MUCH different than many people today would have you believe.  We are mental, emotional and biological opposites.  BUT traditionally, we compliment each other perfectly (although today this no longer the case, as the line between masculinity and femininity is becoming more and more blurred).

Imagine the Ying-Yang symbol for a moment… the opposing images are of contrasting colors (black and white) but within each there is a single spot which holds the color of the opposite side…. the black side has a spot of white and the white side has a spot of black.  — this means that each side contains the potential of the other.  Black has the potential for being white and white has the potential for becoming black.

The same is true for men and women… although we ARE opposites, we each contain the potential for displaying the characteristics of the other.

In nature there are NO extremes, everything is balanced out perfectly.  There is no day without night, there is no cold without hot, there is no winter without summer.  Also, nature has a tendency to correct severe imbalances by swinging the pendulum heavily in the opposite direction.  For example, most people would agree that the sun produces life on earth… getting some sunshine is a good thing.  But there becomes a point where too much sun can COOK everything on the earth and there fore produce the opposite of life… death!

Well, the same happens with our sex hormones.

When a man lives past a certain age, all of his full masculinity becomes feminine, and a women of this particular age become more masculine… thus balancing the equation.

This is SO obvious, all you have to do it look with a discerning eye!

Women’s bodies become harder, their ambitions shift from life-giving to life-protecting.  And men, our bodies become softer and our ambitions shift from life-protecting (hunting and fighting) to life-nurturing (telling stories and sharing wisdom).

God creates this shift in Man and Woman just like He created the shift from day to night…  in order that balance may ensue.

The problem is the WE as human beings are often not satisfied with what natures decree.  We think that things should stay the same…. a women of 50 wants to look and act like she is 20, this is ugly — it is against nature!  Also men, as our testosterone naturally drops so does out ability to build muscle, burn fat and get a “hard-on”.

Peace is achieved ONLY through SUBMISSION.  If we are to evolve peacefully and happily we have to accept and LOVE our personal shifts…  Men as becoming more woman-like and women the opposite.

Gene, the men who you describe above who have SHIFTED from being 300 pounds of muscle to 185 recognized and submitted to natures demand for them to become less testosterone driven and thus smaller, leaner, and I’d bet — much wiser.

So, you’re probably still saying… “Elliott, you dork!  This is not what I wanted to know, can you just tell me if I should do more cardio or weight training?”

You should continue to do what you love to do (lift weights)… BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, recognize that the parameters by which you once got results will change.  You will probably need to use lighter weights (and perhaps stretch more)… but this does not mean that your training intensity should change.

Keep training hard and allow your body and mind to evolve as you age.

Submit.  Accept.  Embrace.  And be GRATEFUL for the changes that you are experiencing!

By the way, here is a great workout program for guys over 5o.  It contains a combination of resistance training and cardio.  ==> http://hulsestrength.com/recommends/EDTTraining – It contains a template of one of the EXACT training routines that I use with my Men’s Fitness Strength Camp members.

Although the site may be down (it was hacked and currently being migrated to a new server), you may be interested in trying out my Strength Camp Workout Free DVD ==> http://www.StrengthCampDVD.com

Meet Roger one of the “old dudes” that uses these types of workouts at my gym…

I have fallen so much in love with this idea of “Hybrid Muscle Training”, combining resistance and cardio in the same exercise, that a friend of mine and I are working on a HUGE project that will expose this type of training and its incredible results… stay tuned!