How to Get After It if You're Older or Injured

Tom Kelso


St. Louis, Illinois, United States

Strength and Conditioning

I love to train just as much as you. However, after many years of getting after it like I was strategically moving through a Las Vegas buffet line, training is not the same as it was back then.


I would love to savor the ability to tolerate the same volumes, resistances, intensities, and consequently butt-kicking workouts I subjected myself to back in the day.



I am still capable of working just as hard as the next guy or gal, but due to sarcopenia - the inevitable age-related loss of muscle mass - I cannot exude the numbers I did back then. Yes, it's a downer, but it's also reality. Eventually you'll be there if you continue to train for many years. So, be prepared.


Similarly, if you're young but injured, you could be experiencing the same situation: you cannot train like a madman or madwoman.


A major debilitating or minor annoying injury limits what you can do. That, too, is frustrating and can be a lesson learned in itself. "I should have recovered longer" or "I shouldn't have attempted that dangerous lift" may be the underpinnings of your situation. Whatever the case, it sucks.


First we’re going to look at the aging process and the reality of training, and then we’ll talk to you rambunctious injured youngsters.


If you want to end up being able to still train when you’re older, there’s some things you need to get a handle on now.


So, if you're like me and have crossed the fifty-yard line and still want to train hard, what should be your approach?



If you're just older according to the calendar but are physically healthy and uninjured, then go for the throat - exude 100% effort relative to your ability. Nothing should change from your younger years regarding your approach.


Train smart, train hard, rest hard, consume sensible foods, and don't do anything that compromises the integrity of your musculoskeletal system. As I alluded to, you will not be able to match the numbers from your younger years but you can still train productively and safely to hang on to whatever you have.


If you’re able to advance forward, even with small increments, that’s fantastic. Progression at an older age means you’re paying attention to all training components.


As an older trainee, what can you do to attempt to maintain physical qualities or hopefully progress while avoiding injury setbacks? Here are some fantastic workouts that are physically challenging and joint-friendly.




Remember, results are contingent upon effort expended. 100% effort can only be realized by exuding it. So, whatever your 100% is, give it on these three exercise sequence options:


Workout 1

  1. Squats with an empty 45 lb. bar across your upper back. Using proper form, go for as many repetitions possible. If 35, 60, or 100+ repetitions are doable, then do it.
  2. Push ups for maximum repetitions. Make sure the upper arms are less than 90 degrees to the torso. Rest for thirty seconds, then repeat for a second set.
  3. Ground or TRX suspension trainer pull ups for maximum repetitions. With your feet on floor, maintain your body at a 45-degree angle. Rest for thirty seconds, then repeat for a second set.


Repeat the above sequence two to three additional times.


Workout 2

  1. Run on grass, sand, or in water, or exercise on a low-impact exercise machine at 100% effort for 1:00.
  2. Overhead push ups (knees on elevated surface) for maximum repetitions.
  3. Bent-over row with an empty 45 lb. bar for maximum repetitions.



Repeat the above sequence three to four additional times.


Workout 3

  1. With a light implement (medicine ball, dumbbell, or exercise bar) perform 20 to 30 squat-to-press movements.
  2. Bicycle crunches for 50 repetitions.
  3. Dumbbell or bar bicep curl (x 3) + bent-over rows (x 6) for three rounds (3 curls, then 6 rows, repeat).


Repeat the above sequence two to three additional times.


No we’re going to move on to the "I'm young, but injured" category. If you're young and injured, one of two things created your situation:


  1. You sustained an acute (immediate) injury due to a specific moment where your musculoskeletal system was compromised. Examples would be rolling an ankle, straining a hamstring, abnormal torque of the knee, low back strain, or subluxation of the shoulder, elbow, or finger. Although you may have been perfectly healthy prior to the incident, these injuries can occur. It may be that you used improper exercise form such as throwing, jerking, or yanking the resistance. Or, you exposed yourself to abnormal compromising external force such as landing on the ground awkwardly or colliding with an opponent oddly. Essentially, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  2. Your injury was a result of chronic (overuse) wear and tear on a specific body part. Examples would be Achilles, knee, elbow, or rotator cuff tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, iliotibial band friction syndrome, or cervical spine degeneration.These come about from being under-recovered (doing too much, too soon), resulting in an accumulation of micro-tears, or, as in point one above, a specific moment that was too much for your already weakened musculoskeletal system to tolerate.


Whatever your situation, you can continue to train around the injury provided you are cautious not to worsen it while it heals. Many options are at hand depending on your training goals.


Obviously you will be limited, but you can still get after it using the guidelines in this downloadable PDF of my injury training chart.


Here's a little preview - the PDF contains much more:


mature athlete, injured athletes, training when injured, mature athlete workouts


Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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