You can avoid these common mistakes made by male bodybuilders over 50. By following these simple strategies you will more easily create a stellar physique and lasting health.
I have been a fitness professional for decades and, in that time, I have witnessed mature bodybuilders – particularly men over the age of fifty – make similar mistakes.
Here are six of the most common mistakes I see male bodybuilders over 50 make again and again.
1. Male Bodybuilders Over 50 with Weak Glutes
Too often, mature men have weak glute muscles. Either they don’t train them specifically enough, or, they don’t train them at all.
Strong glutes are more attractive, yes, but there’s a more important issue here:
- As we age, weak glutes start to mess with pelvic placement, which – in turn – increases risk of lower back injuries and poor posture. (A well-placed pelvis even helps you to better control your urine stream.)
- Strong glutes and a centered pelvis are the foundation upon which healthy vertebrae stack.
I encourage every mature man to run a diagnostic scan of his booty situation. That means looking at yourself naked in the mirror from every angle with objective eyes.
Use your phone to snap pics. Do your glutes look powerful, well-shaped, and gravity-defying?
A mature man doing a workout will typically include leg press, quad extensions, hamstring curls, maybe some squats and deadlifts, and perhaps some perfunctory heel raises at the end.
But dude, you’re not done yet.
You’ve got to do a glute isolation exercise, such as hip thrusters, lunges, jumps, frog pumps, banded bridges, or donkey kicks. Lower within this article, I’ve included a video with exercise ideas that effectively train the glutes.
2. The Problem of the Too-Soft Lower Abdominal Plate
A mature man doing a workout will usually do crunches for his abs.
Crunches are good, but they’re not necessarily the most effective abdominal exercise.
The primary purpose that abdominal muscles serve for the human body is stabilization – not forward flexion. Therefore, it’s wise to add some planks, leg raises, and pelvic scoops into the ab-workout mix.
I’ve noticed that when mature men try to target their lower abdominals – by doing hanging knee raises, for example – they often end up working their hip flexors instead.
The quads and hip flexors will try to hog all the work unless you specifically isolate the lower abdominal plate (which is like an upside-down triangle) located below your navel.
Even just pulling your belly button in tightly is usually not enough to effectively engage the lower abdominal plate. You can use your mind to identify the physical feeling of where your lower abdominal plate sits within your body and then initiate any effort or movement from that area.
The lower abdominal plate is the other piece to the pelvic puzzle:
- Strong lower abs encase and protect your vital lower organs (colon, bladder, prostate).
- Weak lower abs spill outward causing a wonky tilt to the pelvis that then messes up the rest of the torso’s alignment.
Anyone can learn to isolate and engage their lower abs. It just takes a bit of patience, visualization, and practice. Check out this video that contains proven exercises that target your lower abdominal and glute muscles:
By the way, I see many mature men trying to “burn off” their love handles with that oblique, side-bends exercise (in which you hold a pair of heavy dumbbells and then tilt your torso side to side):
- It’s not a bad exercise, but be careful. Do you really want to add muscle thickness to the sides of your waist?
- Remember, the primary purpose of your obliques is stabilization (not flexion).
- A narrow waistline is created more in the kitchen than in the gym (see #4 below).
3. Male Bodybuilders Over 50 Insufficiently Warming-Up (and Ignoring Joint Mobility)
Warming-up is extremely important after the age of 50. Synovial fluid within the joints becomes dry and sticky from underuse.
To relubricate the joints (and therefore prevent injury), it’s helpful to move slowly through the joint’s full range. This needs to be done before lifting weights.
Common areas of tightness are the neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, and ankles:
- A warm-up when you’re a healthy and supple 24-year old might take only 6 minutes. A warm-up when you’re a stiff 54-year old might take as long as the weight-training itself. That’s how important it is.
- I encourage you to stop thinking of warm-ups as perfunctory or extra credit. Your warm-up is the most intelligent part of your workout.
For tight hips I recommend the 90-90 mobility drills, using a rolled-up towel under your stiffest hip (most people have one hip that is significantly tighter than the other).
4. The Problem of Consuming Too Many Inflammatory Foods
Speaking of stiff joints, a primary reason that happens to mature men is that their diets are often nutrient-deficient and too inflammatory.
Most young people can process carbohydrates almost effortlessly; however, the older you get the harder time your body has handling excess carbs.
If you look at your labs from previous yearly physical exams with your doctor, you’ll notice that your fasting glucose has probably climbed each year.
This excess blood sugar – referred to as glycation – can be damaging.
In fact, unofficially, doctors sometimes glance at your fasting glucose number to quickly ascertain how your body is aging on the inside.
The solution? To eat mostly vegetables and lean meat.
If you’re eating something other than a vegetable or clean protein, then you better have earned it through physical activity.
Anecdotally, I can also tell you that there’s something about an inflammatory diet that shows up in the face. After years of training clients, I can usually look at a client’s face and see who’s been eating flour, cheese, or alcohol.
Another benefit to an anti-inflammatory diet is that it has a tendency to reduce those deep visceral fat deposits that line the internal organs. If you want a leaner and more defined midsection, try eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
5. Male Bodybuilders Over 50 with Ratio Disproportion
Often we’re able to see others more clearly than we see ourselves – it’s just the nature of being human.
In training, older men have an unconscious tendency to focus on “mirror muscles,” which are those muscles above the waist and in front of your torso.
Because of this, asymmetry develops.
For example, chests can easily become stronger than backs, or torsos become disproportionately bigger than legs.
Genetic diversity provides some of us with slow-twitch endurance-based muscle cells (these are your marathon runners), while others have more fast-twitch fibers (these are the stocky powerlifters).
This diversity is a good thing; however, you just have to be sure that everything is developing evenly.
For example, I’ve always been a hard-gainer in my legs. My legs are long, lean, and made for running long distances at a slow and steady pace.
In order to stay balanced, I have to resistance-train my legs twice as often as I do my torso.
Over the years, I’ve learned that I must make a concerted effort to look at my physique objectively and shore up the weaker areas.
Each person’s genetic differences provide them with uniquely sized wrist and knee joints. The Golden Ratio is a geometric relationship found in nature that uses those unique sizes of wrist and knee joints as reference points from which to create a highly attractive sense of proportion in the human body:
- According to the formula, flexed arms should be 150% larger than the circumference of the non-dominant wrist (wrist circumference x 2.5).
- Flexed calves should match flexed arms.
- Shoulder circumference should measure 1.618 times larger than the waistline (waist circumference x 1.618).
- Chest circumference should be 550% larger than the circumference of your non-dominant wrist (wrist circumference x 6.5).
- Upper leg circumference should be 75% larger than knee circumference (knee circumference x 1.75).
6. Male Bodybuilders Over 50 Who Don’t Use Cool Down as Prime Opportunity for Improving Flexibility
If you take nothing else from this article, please take this: what makes a man look old and creaky is not how he looks while standing still facing himself in the mirror. A man’s stature is revealed when he moves.
While moving, things become apparent about a man:
- how stiff his neck is
- a kyphotic hump near the upper spine
- slumping shoulders
- a tilted pelvis
- stiff hamstrings and a too-short stride
- legs that rotate outward from the hip too far while walking
- a body that presents as compressed and lacks a youthful fluidity.
A fellow might appear strong and capable for a few seconds while he stands perfectly still, facing forward while forcing posture into a taller position. But the effect can be ruined as soon as the man moves. Improved mobility helps solve this.
Moving is real life. That’s how others see you, from various angles during movement.
Much of these issues can be remedied during your cool-down.
The best time to improve flexibility is directly after a workout when your muscles are heated and your joints are supple.
Why waste this prime opportunity for improved mobility?
Don’t skip your cool down after pumping weights!
Additionally, if you’re a male over 50, I highly recommend you do yoga once a week. The stretches and postures during a weekly yoga session will help you to at least maintain a baseline of flexibility.
Avoid these common mistakes made by male bodybuilders over 50 and you will more easily create a stellar physique with lasting health.
- Strictly speaking, equipment is not necessary to have a highly effective workout that engages the lower abs and glute muscles. However, for variation, it can be interesting to have certain tools on hand – such as an adjustable weight bench, towel, mat, kettlebells, resistance bands, dumbbells, monkey bars or pull-up bar, roller, TRX, and/or a slideboard.
- Jackknife variation on a bench.
- Front squat with kettlebells.
- Birddog Plank.
- Banded donkey kicks.
- Pelvic scoops on an incline bench.
- Bulgarian squat with dumbbells.
- Hanging knee raise.
- Banded Monkees walk.
- Pike with roller.
- Single-leg banded hip thruster.
- Suspended plank (with TRX or Lifeline).
- Suspended pike.
- Jump squat.
- Hollow man ("double straight-leg stretch").
- Bridge with reverse hamstring curl on roller.
- Single-leg step-ups with kettlebell.
- Side sliders ("Olympic skaters").
For optimal glute isolation, hold the peak contraction of the buttock muscle for one or two seconds at the top of each rep as you exhale.
For optimal isolation of the abdominals, practice accessing the lower ab plate (it's shaped like an upside-down triangle) located below the navel. Pull it flat with intensity during each rep, as you exhale.
Above is a printable card with a list of those exercises that specifically target the lower abdominals and glutes. They can make a positive difference!