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Training as a Master Athlete
I asked my friends on Facebook what they wanted me to write about. I received a lot of great requests, but today I am writing about the one that seemed to show up the most. My followers kept asking me to write about training for people over 40-years-old. I am assuming it’s because most of them know that I am 44-years-old. Since turning forty, I have performed the following lifts:
• 700lb Raw Back Squat
• 405lb Bench Press
• 700lb Deadlift
• 135kg/297lb Snatch
• 166kg/365lb Clean & Jerk
• 170kg/374lb Clean
• 182kg/400lb Jerk
• 250kg/550lb Front Squat (done this year)
These aren’t even close to the lifts that I performed earlier in life, but they are still respectable in the strength world. I will admit that it’s fun to lift numbers similar or higher than the studs in my gym. I have some of the strongest men and women in the world training in my gym, so it’s fun to lift with them. It keeps me young to keep up with these beasts.
Is it easy? No it’s not. Obviously there are changes in the body that I have to adapt to. However it’s the changes in life that make things even harder. When I was breaking world records in my youth, my only priority in life was strength. That’s no longer the case. My priorities are to my family, God, and team. Training comes in last after those three important things. For the first time in my life training is a hobby that I enjoy. It’s not what my life revolves around.
I am sure that this is the case for most master lifters that are curious about this subject. So how do I suggest that my fellow master athletes train? Here are a few ideas:
1. Less is More- start with lower volume and work up. I recommend training 2-3 times per week at first. If you are recovering too easily, you can always add a day. However if you start out with a six-day per week volume loaded workout, you could get beat down quickly. When a master athlete gets overtrained, it takes a lot longer to recover from the negative effects.
2. Choose exercises wisely- I stick to the movements that I want to progress (ex. Right now it’s front squat, clean, and bench press), and specific accessory work that encourages proper movement and targets my weaknesses. Once again less is more. I don’t just add in a lot of exercises for the sake of doing more exercises. Here’s a peak:
• Clean: 75% 2×2, 80% for 1×2, 85% 1×1, work to a max double
• Front Squat 3RM, then -10% for 3
• Unilateral RDLs 3 x 6 ea leg
It’s simple and effective. I will add some bodybuilding in sometimes, but I stick with movements that produce a lot of metabolic stress with little muscular damage. Basically that means movements that give you an awesome pump without making you sore. The key is staying away from a lot of exercises that load the muscles maximally while in a stretched position like RDLs or Dumbbell Flies. I love leg extensions and leg curls for legs to add a little hypertrophy. I also love triceps extensions, lateral raises, and banded rows for upper body.
3. Wise work capacity- I use work capacity to actively recover, target weaknesses, encourage movement, and get in shape. I stay away from eccentric contractions, and I try not to load the major joints. I love to pair movements like sled pulls, prowler pushes, and carries with various dynamic mobility movements like bear crawls, bird dogs, and Russian baby makers. I leave these sessions tired, but in about thirty minutes I feel better than when I started.
4. Intensity over volume- In my experience it’s easier on a master lifter to work up to 90% versus piling on the volume in the 80-80% range. As we get older testosterone, growth hormone, and other hormones start to take a dive. That means so does recovery. Hypertrophy becomes a harder process. The one thing that we still have is neuromuscular efficiency. If we get more efficient at the movements, we will get stronger. Don’t get me wrong. We still experience hypertrophy, but the slow recovery makes it a real tough one.
5. Listen to your body- When I was younger, I was going heavy no matter what. That’s not the case at this age. If I am not feeling it, I will alter the workout in mid-set. I might be planning on a max single, but then I will switch to a one-repetition maximum with a seven second pause. That will limit the load, and it will encourage proper mobility.
Other than these principles I will program very similar to when I was younger. If I enter seasons where life isn’t so busy, I normally up the volume right away. I still feel capable of hitting some massive numbers. I just limit the volume, and I put a big focus on recovery especially sleep and nutrition. If I am too busy to get proper sleep, I will either not workout or hit a recovery workout. It’s just not worth it. Training without sleep is driving without gas for the master athlete. It won’t work.
As we get older we should focus on the recovery more than the training. I spend a great deal of research time on recovery. I have the best soft-tissue Chiropractor in the world. Well I think so at least. He has kept me put together since 2004. My nutrition is the best that it has been in my entire life because I know that’s the only way that I am going to be able to train and stay healthy. I suggest that all masters should spend their time understanding recovery and nutrition more so than training. Training is the fun part. That’s the part that all of us want to do. However it’s going to take the mundane things like nutrition, sleep, mobility, and muscular symmetry.
Look we can still lift heavy weights, as we get older. We just have to be a little smarter about it. I have hit some big numbers, and I have plans for some even bigger numbers in the next year or two. However I want to be able to play with my boys and hopefully my grandchildren someday, so I have to be even smarter. If we play it smart, we can lift heavy weights, get in shape, and lose body fat. That should be the goal of all master lifters. Let’s get stronger and in better shape as we get older. Let’s show our children that anything is possible with the proper plan.
Coach Travis Mash
There is one spot left for the Mash Mentorship. I hope to teach you guys about topics like:
• Growing a successful Team
• Growing a successful Gym/Business
• Content Creation
• Marketing, Advertising, and Social Media
• Balancing it all with life and family
Like I said you can find out more here:
Come hang out with me on the Farm, in the Gym, and on our various trips that I have planned. We will finish each day around the fire simply talking with me answering all of your questions. I hope to see you there!