Powerlifting Over Age 40
You love powerlifting but you've just hit 40. It's time to hang it up, right? A younger poster at Monster Muscle keeps hearing that he won't be able to continue to lift at a high level once he's 40. He says:
I'm 26 and have been lifting weights for 11 years and powerlifting for almost 5. I'm sick and tired of finishing a heavy set of squats or deadlifts and hearing older people (not necessarily powerlifters) say things like "...must be nice to be young" or "...you better enjoy it now because you won't be lifting like that when you are my age". Anyway, my question is how many of you have avoided injury throughout your heavy lifting? I'm particularly curious about your shoulders, knees and backs. How have they managed after all the years of pounding the iron?
The "old" guys respond:
I will be 41 in March. I have been lifting since high school and powerlifting since college. I've suffered two rotator cuff injuries over the years, both of which were surgically repaired (bilaterally). Despite such I have continued to improve over the years...but also gain bodyweight... Gains were definitely faster as a younger lifter... An injury to my back has kept me from competing in the squat and deadlift for many years, although I still train them occasionally with very light weight... As for the age thing, you are right that it does take a toll...BUT I am a lot smarter now than I was back then...I listen to what my body tells me and I adjust to such better. Don't get me wrong...the ego still gets the best of me from time to time...but for the most part common sense wins out and I continue to make slow but steady progress. One thing I have done differently over the years is change my rep scheme as I got older. For me, I was most successful using sets of 5-6 reps as a youth. Over the last 5 years or so, I have concentrated much more on heavy singles at near maximum (90-95%) with good success... It, for me anyway, seemed easier on the joints.
I don't push myself the way the competitors do, and now going back to school[+ work, of course] has put more on my plate so the PLing is down a bit. But I don't get injuries unless it is something like a careless moment/positioning issue. All it takes is 1 wrong movement at the precise time to get hurt. I use a squat suit, straps down to help the hip area.
So PLing has been much more a positive thing for me, and keeps me chugging along better at the ripe old age of 42[in April] than before.
I'm 51. I've had only one real injury from a barbell--to an intrinsic muscle of my left hand when switching to a much wider bench grip. (I didn't even know the name of the muscle until I injured it!)
I've had injuries from a couple of auto accidents and a traumatic injury to the left knee. I've also got some osteoarthritis in the neck and the lumbar spine. In all of these cases, I went to a world-class sports physician, followed my physical therapy regimens religiously, and regarded my lifting as--among other things--advanced rehab.
In the lifting itself, I've sought feedback from people who know how to lift, who are observant, and who can articulate what they observe. They may or may not be the strongest people around, but they are the best coaches. (I always shake my head at people who think that folks who aren't the strongest have no business talking about strength. Deadlifting 800 pounds does not mean you're a good teacher of deadlifting--and it doesn't mean you're not.)
I've tried to avoid heavy lifting on an empty stomach. Ya gotta eat! Lift without enough food and your focus sucks; I guarantee you'll run out of energy at just the wrong moment. Lift heavy with no focus and you'll eventually get hurt. Which leads to another important point: lifting heavy is all about focus and attention. I've had to learn to strangle that mental chatter that runs through our heads.
I've tried to practice what engineers call failure mode analysis. In the simplest terms, you have to think about how a lift can go wrong, and figure out what you're going to do if it does--and you've got to think about this before you're dealing with hundreds of pounds.
To help my back, I practiced abdominal exercises that don't necessarily result in beautiful abs, and I've paid a lot of attention to breath, holding breath, and creating a lot of intrathoracic pressure.
While I don't really emphasize cardio, I don't neglect it. You need some of it. You need it more as the years add up. There were some good iron men who will never be as old as I am now.
Ignore the ignoramuses who tell you you won't be lifting like that at their age. They'll just drag you down. Develop the mindset that says you're in this for a long time. There are guys and gals who are older than I am who are, all things considered, better lifters than I. I've read of eightysomething powerlifters. I've met seventysomething powerlifters and sixtysomething powerlifters. There are people who are lifting like you are who are more than twice your age. Blow off the jerky naysayers, be smart, be careful and be attentive, and 30 years from now you can be one of them.
I am 60 soon to be 61 yrs young and I have more injuries and surgery then most of you guys are old. The bottom line is I love to lift and I also love to compete on the platform, I did not start to really power lift until I was in my fifties so my injuries are from a tough life not from lifting... I love this sport. My motto is I would rather wear out then Rust. Guys trust me when I tell you, don't use your age or genetics or any other excuse that you can't do this. Belief in yourself and you can achieve anything. Train smarter not always harder.Oh Yea... and use any gear that is available and allowed in your fed of choice.
I will be 41 in May...I am stronger now than ever in my life... I Lift smart, eat fairly good, don't drink or smoke, have never done drugs, and take lots of vitamins and supplements. I am not saying I don't hurt from time to time, but I have had no real injuries to speak of from PLing! I love the sport and fully embrace the gear. I do believe it will prolong your career. I am not bashing the raw lifters...it is their choice and I respect it! I just know that as you get older your risk of injury goes up. I plan on setting PRs for at least another 5 to 6 years and being competitive for many more after that. I will get my elite this year, that is something I have wanted since I started this. I get told all the time by people that I shouldn't be lifting heavy at my age...I just tell them thanks for the tip...I will think it over next time I am getting ready to attempt a 600lb bench! Lift hard and get strong!
I am 45 now and have been competing since my late 20's...
Powerlifting has been great to me but I have also suffered injuries involving my sciatic nerve, bulged disc's in the neck, surgery on the left shoulder and will possibly have the same procedure on my right shoulder.
I always thought I would get burned out competing long before I would experience problems with my body. However, my mind still has the desire and intensity (If not more so now!) but my body does not take the pounding as good as it once did. As a result, I have had to change the way I used to prepare for meets (Less sets, reps and eliminate some exercises and add new ones).
Injuries go hand in hand with being an athlete. The athletes that recognize and accept that their bodies will change over time (and make adjustments in their training) will be the ones who will be able to extend their competitive careers over a longer period of time.
More sets, fewer reps, on 3 to 5 exercises.
20 sets per body, not per body part
High reps kill joints
Keep weights fairly heavy
Stop trying to maintain over organized weekly schedules, such as Monday-this, Tuesday-that, etc, 4-5 days a week. Give yourself extra rest days when your body tells you to.
I still train about 3 times in two weeks. I'll be 69 years old Monday.