My name is Jeff Consiglio, and I'm a former longtime personal trainer and gym owner. And yep, a dude over 50. I started this website to help other men over 50 get into great shape, via optimized nutritional and exercise strategies. Because, after about age 50 or so, it takes a lot more effort and dedication to get in shape than it did in our younger years. But it can be done! My mission is to help you do exactly that.
High intensity, high rep resistance training, coupled with low impact aerobic exercise, are the foundation of my approach to fitness for men over 50. For aerobic fitness, I recommend 30 to 60 minutes of low impact, brisk walking or bike riding on most days. Aerobic exercise doesn't need to be any more complicated than that. Regarding resistance training, that's a topic I find myself writing and talking about quite a bit more than aerobic exercise. Because, as important as aerobic exercise is, I believe a properly designed resistance training program is even more important and result producing. (You can view my article on the benefits of resistance training for men over 50 here.)
Although I never met the man personally, my approach to resistance training is heavily influenced by the work of the late Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus weight machines. Many of you older guys may recall the Nautilus chain of fitness centers which were very popular back in the day. In addition to manufacturing high quality weight machines, Jones also famously promoted an approach to resistance training that came to be known as HIT, which stands for High Intensity Training. HIT style resistance training workouts emphasize intensity of effort over volume of effort. Which stands in stark contrast to the sort of high volume, marathon workouts promoted in most bodybuilding and fitness magazines. Jones believed in short, intense resistance training workouts, performed no more than 3 times per week. Which I strongly agree with. I don't agree with everything Jones advocated, but his "HIT" philosophy of exercise has had a profound impact on the way I approach resistance training. Like him, I believe training very hard, for short periods of time, is the way to go. Especially for men over 50. Far better than training in an easier, less intense manner, then trying to "make up for" such half-butt training intensity by doing overly long workouts that require you to practically live in a gym.
Of course most men over 50 would like to build some muscle. Which is great, and why my approach to fitness is very focused on developing muscle. However, the style of resistance training I promote is laser focused on generating lean, dense looking muscles, rather than overly bulky muscles that look like swollen water balloons. Put another way, I'm interested in helping guys over 50 look more like a lean, muscular male gymnast than like a steroid abusing bodybuilder, NFL linebacker, or fat powerlifter. I believe such a "look" is not only aesthetically ideal, but also most optimal from the perspective of your strength to bodyweight ratio, cardiovascular health, and overall functional ability.
The #1 rule of resistance training, for men over 50, is to keep it SAFE. Not just today or tomorrow, but across your entire lifespan. Because any resistance training program that turns you into an orthopedic disaster-case is literally worse than worthless. This is especially true for us men over 50, who are far more prone to injury than we were in our younger days.
If you're a dude over 50, one of the most important things you can do to avoid injury during your resistance training workouts is to simply train in a higher rep range than most "gym bros" do. How high a rep range? Well, the exact number of reps performed will likely vary a bit from person to person, and exercise to exercise. However, as a general guideline, I prefer the 12 to 20 rep range for most exercises. With an emphasis on doing those reps in a very smooth and controlled manner, since sloppy reps can get you injured just as easily as using too much weight.
I realize my suggestion to train in the 12 to 20 rep range may seem somewhat counterintuitive to guys who've heard the oft repeated gym mantra that 5 to 12 reps are supposedly "best" for building muscle. But here's the deal...recent science, plus lots of real world results, clearly indicates that somewhat higher reps, with more moderate weights, builds muscle every bit as well as heavier weights, done for fewer reps. At least as long as you do as many reps as you possibly can, with correct exercise technique. Rather than stopping a bunch of reps short of a such an all-out effort. And again, training in a higher rep range, with more moderate weights, will keep you injury-free. Which will help you to stay more consistent with your workouts vs. having to take frequent breaks from training due to exercise related injuries.
Men over 50 don't have the luxury of training like wimps. Whereas, young guys can often get good results with half-butt efforts during their resistance training workouts, us older dudes need to train extremely hard for optimal results. Which is why, for men over 50, I recommend pushing each exercise to the point of technical failure. Which simply means doing as many reps as you possibly can, while maintaining proper, safe exercise technique. When you know the next rep is likely to get dangerously sloppy, you stop the exercise. But ONLY when you reach that point, and NOT waaaay short of that, as so many lazy trainees seem to default to. Pushing each of your resistance training exercises (after a proper warm up) to technical failure sends a clear and unequivocal message to the target muscle that it needs to grow stronger. But stopping way short of such a high effort basically tells your muscles they're already capable of meeting the easy demands being placed upon them, and therefore have no reason to improve. So, ya gotta train very, very hard, by doing as many properly executed reps as you possibly can. Just don't go past that point when, due to extreme muscle fatigue, your exercise technique starts to really deteriorate. Going for extra sloppy reps, towards the end of an exercise, will just get you injured. With no extra benefit. You should train very, very hard, but don't be stupid about it. Simply take each exercise to the point of technical failure, which will deliver all the stimulus your muscles require, while keeping you injury-free.
Because I recommend avoiding super "heavy" resistance training, this may lead some to erroneously conclude that I don't think getting stronger is important. But nothing could be further from the truth. Getting stronger is critically important! Unless you're 100% certain that you're already as strong as your genetics will allow, you should always strive to get stronger. However, my suggestion is to work on getting stronger in the 12 to 20 rep range, rather than the 5 to 12 rep range that's so commonly recommended.
Despite what you may have heard about free weights supposedly being "better" than weight machines, that's simply not true in most cases. First off, weight machines are indisputably much safer than free weights. Which is no small consideration for men over 50, who simply can't afford to incur a serious injury. Additionally, a well designed and properly used weight machine will stimulate your muscles just as well as free weights. Anyone who claims otherwise is just mindlessly parroting outdated gym-lore, or trying to appear more "hardcore" than the average guy. Sure, free weights are admittedly "better" for the very small minority of men who compete in contests which actually involve the lifting of free weights, such as powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting competitions. No argument there. But for the 99% of guys over 50 who are training for overall fitness and physique enhancement purposes, machines are generally a safer, more efficient alternative to free weights. Plus you'll never have to worry about dropping a barbell on your throat, or a falling dumbbell knocking out half your teeth.
If you're performing all your resistance training exercises to technical failure, as I suggest, your workouts will need to be relatively brief and infrequent. You can either train very hard or you can train a lot...But you can NOT train a lot if you're training very hard! For instance, you can only run at an all-out sprint for about 100 yards or so, right? But NOBODY runs at a 100% sprint for an entire marathon. Of course many fitness gurus promote extremely time consuming, marathon resistance training workouts, which are done at a lower level of intensity by necessity. But, even though that does work, it's just so darn time inefficient. As much as I love pumping iron, I'm simply too busy to spend half my life in a gym doing high volume, high frequency, marathon resistance training workouts. And I'll bet you are too. Thus all roads point to efficient, high intensity resistance training workouts that don't take so much time out of your busy life. Which is why I recommend training each muscle group just once every 6 to 7 days, and hitting each muscle group with just 3 to 5 high intensity sets. Trust me, if you're truly training in a high intensity manner, 3 to 5 weekly sets per bodypart is all it takes to generate the sort of leanly muscular and functional looking physique most people prefer.
I've long followed and recommended a lower carb approach to diet. (i.e. eating less sugar and starch than most people do) Especially for those of us over age 50, since our ability to handle a high carbohydrate load tends to diminish with age. Which can lead to unstable blood sugar levels or even full-blown diabetes if we keep inhaling carbs like we did in our younger years. Although most commonly thought of as a way to lose excess weight, lower carb diets offer numerous other benefits beyond mere weight loss. A lower carb diet can help stabilize your blood sugar levels, enhance your energy levels, reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function, raise testosterone levels, greatly improve dental health, normalize appetite, and much more. I'm convinced that following a lower carb diet is perhaps the most important thing a man can do do optimize his overall health and sense of well-being. And yes, eating less starch and sugar (i.e. carbs) will help you look your best too.
There's a saying in the business management world that also applies to getting healthier and more fit. "That which gets tracked and measured gets improved upon." For instance, imagine a business owner that doesn't bother to track sales, labor costs, inventory expenses, etc. They'd be running their business half-blind, right? Probably right into bankruptcy. Well, the same general principle applies to getting more physically fit and healthy. You shouldn't just blindly follow any particular exercise or dietary protocol, and "hope" it's doing something positive for your physique and overall health. You need to track, measure, and quantify your results, in order to see what's working for your body vs. what isn't! This is critically important. I believe data driven health and fitness is the future. It will empower people to take better control of their own health and fitness, rather than just blindly following the (often inaccurate) advice of some celebrity health and fitness guru. For instance, it's now possible to accurately measure all kinds of important biomarkers, right from home. Including how much certain foods raise your blood sugar levels, what your average blood sugar levels have been for the past 3 months, your bodyfat percentage, how much muscle growth a particular training program has generated, various hormone levels, how many steps you're taking each day, etc. Again, don't blindly follow a particular diet or workout program without TRACKING how it's affecting YOUR body. Always be data-driven in order to best optimize your diet and training program, so that it's a good match for your personal genetic makeup.