You’re not getting any younger, and that’s especially true if you’re over 50. That doesn’t mean you have to give up strength training altogether, but it does mean you need to be more careful about the exercises you choose.
Some exercises aren’t as effective for guys over 50 and can even lead to injuries. Once we reach our 40s and 50s, both men and women generally begin to lose elasticity and strength in their tendons and ligaments, causing the joint motion to become more restricted.
Additionally, the cartilage cushioning between bones starts breaking down around this age, resulting in inflammation and one of the most common causes of joint pain: arthritis.
This is why training after your 50s needs different treatment, especially when it comes to strength training.
There are ways to overcome the challenges that come with age, however. For example, using lighter weights and focusing on slow, controlled movements can help minimize joint pain.
Moreover, stretching and foam rolling before and after workouts can help improve flexibility and range of motion.
By adjusting their training routine and choosing the right exercise, people in their 50s can still enjoy the benefits of strength training.
So which exercises should you avoid? This article highlights 5 strength training barbell exercises that men over 50 should skip.
5 Barbell Exercises That Men Over 50 Must Avoid
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” Arnold Schwarzenegger
Strength training is an important part of any fitness routine, but our bodies become more susceptible to injury as we age. This is especially true for men over 50, who may be dealing with declining testosterone levels and a decrease in bone density.
When it comes to strength training, there are certain barbell exercises that men in this age group should avoid, such as:
1. The Bench Press
The bench press is an excellent exercise for young guys looking to build up their chest muscles, but it’s not so great for guys over 50. Why?
The bench press puts a lot of strain on your shoulder joints, which can become increasingly fragile as you age.
Best Alternative: Banded Push-Up
Band-resisted push-ups are just as effective as bench presses. Yet, it lacks the danger of causing excessive internal rotation of the shoulder, which causes pain and inflammation during bench presses.
How to Do it:
- To do the band-resisted push-up, wrap a band around your upper back and insert your fingers (but not your thumbs) from the bottom up.
- With your elbows straight, position your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart. Turn your hands slightly outward, so your fingertips point at approximately 45 degrees.
- Now lower your body to the ground with your elbows above your wrists. As you reach the bottom of each push-up, bend your arms to form a 45-degree angle with your torso, making an arrow shape.
- When your elbows are close to 90 degrees, reverse the motion and return to starting position.
- Don’t finish by squeezing your shoulder blades together when you reach the top of a push-up.
- Instead, keep them apart while ensuring your head-to-toe forms a straight line.
- Not permitting the forehead or hips to dip toward the floor at any point is key.
2. Military Press
The military press is another exercise that can be tough on your shoulders, especially if you have any existing joint problems.
It is best to avoid this exercise and choose an alternative that’s lighter on your joints.
Best Alternative: Arnold Press
How to Do it:
- Sit on a bench with the dumbbells at shoulder height and palms facing you.
- As you press the weights up and over your head, rotate your palms so that by the end of the movement, your palms are facing forward.
- A smooth rotation throughout the lift is the key to performing an Arnold press.
- Do not complete a full palm turn at the start of the lift; instead, do it only when you’ve achieved complete lockout.
3. The Barbell Squat
The squat is everyone’s go-to exercise when it’s about building lower body strength, but not so much for post-50 boys. That’s because the squat puts a lot of stress on your knees, which can become increasingly fragile as you age.
The weight of the barbell can make things even harder. You might as well want to exchange your barbell squat with something soothing for the joints yet challenging for the muscles like the Bulgarian split squat.
Best Alternative: Bulgarian Split Squat
There’s no question that the barbell squat is a powerful exercise for building lower body strength. But for men over 50, split squats may be a better option.
Split squats are easier on the joints, and they work each leg independently, which can help prevent imbalances.
Plus, split squats can be performed with dumbbells or kettlebells, making them a more versatile exercise.
How to Do it:
- Start by standing with your left foot on a table, your right foot in front, and your hands on your hips.
- Then, take a giant step forward with your right foot.
- Lower your body down until your left knee is close to the ground and your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Ensure that your trunk is upright and your front knee is not extending past your toes.
- Once you’re in the proper position, raise yourself back up to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
This move can be challenging at first, but with some practice, you will be nailing it like a pro in no time!
4. Barbell Cleans
The barbell clean is extremely daunting and still is a great exercise for building lower body strength and explosiveness — but it’s also tough on your knees and very technical.
Knees are essential to keep going with normal daily activities, but they are highly fragile too.
If you want to save your knees, exchange the barbell clean for something milder, especially after the 50s.
Best Alternative: Kettlebell Swings
With the kettlebell swing you can still obtain the benefits of strength and explosiveness, all off-loading the knees.
How to Do it:
- Start with the kettlebell in front of you, hinge your hips back and grab the handle.
- Hike it into your hips like a football. As it connects with your thighs, thrust your hips forward, locking out your knees and hips.
- The kettlebell should travel to chest/neck height before returning back to between your thighs.
- Finally, return to the original position by hinging your hips to complete.
- Repeat for 12-15 reps.
5. Barbell Deadlift
The barbell deadlift is perfect for building overall strength, but it’s not ideal for guys over 50. That’s because the deadlift puts a lot of strain on your back, leading to constant backache, and you sure don’t want to take risks with your back, especially after your 50s.
Best Alternative: Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar deadlift is a great exercise for building lower body strength. It’s much easier on the spine and joints compared to a conventional barbell deadlift.
It’s an excellent exercise for strengthening the posterior chain – the muscles that run along the back of the body, from the hamstrings to the trapezius. Strong posterior muscles are essential for good posture and help prevent injuries by keeping the spine in alignment.
Because the trap bar deadlift has a neutral grip and you can orient yourself in the middle of it there is less room for error, therefore injury. Compare this to a conventional barbell deadlift where the weight is in front of you.
How to Do it:
- Step into the middle of the trap bar. Bend your knees and hinge hips and grab the neutral grips alongside you.
- Your spine is straight and your core braced. Take the initial tension out of the bar and begin to extend your knees and hip simultaneously.
- Stand up tall and then proceed to lower the weight the same way you came up with control.
- Repeat for 8-12 reps.
1. How often should a 50-year-old work out?
This is what those over the age of 50 should work towards doing daily: moderate aerobic activity three days a week, full body resistance training three days a week. Two days each week that focus on stability and balance.
2. Is it too late to get in shape at 50?
It’s never too late to start. There are, however, some restrictions on how far you may improve. Workouts aren’t going to turn someone in their 80s, 90s, or 100s into someone who is 40 or 50 years old, but most people can increase their strength, endurance and stability.
3. Can you get ripped after 50?
If you’re willing to put in some effort, you can get ripped after 50. Start with body-weight exercises at a gym or at home using dumbbells.
Try squats, lunges, sit-ups, push-ups, and weight curls. When beginning your workout routine, use 6 to 12 repetitions of 5 to 15-pound dumbbells and choose exercises that go easy on the joints.
4. Is HIIT good for over 50?
It really depends on the type of HIIT training you are doing. Opt for one that has a lower impact on the joints.
For example, instead of doing HIIT sprints on the pavement do the same HIIT intervals on an elliptical. You still receive a very similar training adaptation without the high impact.
5. What is the single most important exercise?
Walking. Cardiovascular exercise, which builds the heart and burns calories, should be a part of any fitness program.
And walking, in addition to being a fantastic form of exercise that can be done anytime and anywhere with only a good pair of shoes, is also low-impact. This means it is perfect for you, even those over 50.
“Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are.” Muhammad Ali
There’s no need to hang up your lifting gloves just because you’re over 50—but you need to be more careful about the exercises you choose. Some exercises aren’t as effective for guys over 50 and can even lead to injuries. So which exercises should you avoid?
Here are 5 strength training barbell exercises that men over 50 should skip: the bench press, military press, squat, barbell cleans, and deadlift. Stick with these guidelines, and you’ll be able to stay strong well into your golden years!