Hail to the Dinosaurs!
I got an email from an older Dino who, like
many older lifters, has sore shoulders that
make it tough to hold a barbell in position for
Instead of squats, he's been doing Trap Bar
deadlifts, which is something that works very
well for many older lifters.
But he missed squatting, so he ordered the Top
Squat from Dave Draper. The Top Squat is a
nifty little beast that holds the bar on your
shoulders and has handles that project to the
front, so you can hold the bar with your hands
to the front and your shoulders and elbows in
a comfortable position. I have one, and I
really like it. Google for Dave's video where
he demonstrates how to use the Top Squat.
Anyhow, our reader -- 65 years old and a life-
long lifter -- is ready to start squatting
He asked me what sort of sets and reps to do.
He said he liked doing sets of five reps, but
sometimes his hip feels a bit "iffy" on
heavy sets, so he wondered if he should do
eight reps sets instead of five rep sets.
And that brings me to the point of today's
discussion -- sensible sets and reps for
A lot of people believe that older trainees
should do high reps because "low reps are
What's dangerous is sloppy form. And your form
gets sloppy when you do too many reps. I prefer
doing low reps in perfect form.
But low reps does not mean you have to train
with super heavy weights. Especially if you're
doing an exercise you haven't done for awhile.
And double especially if you have a sore
hip -- or sore back, sore knees or sore
I suggested that our 65-year old lifter do this:
1. Use his former squatting weight and his current
Trap Bar deadlift to estimate a weight he could
handle for ten reps in the squat. Not a ten rep
maximum or a ten rep death set, but a weight that
made him work to get ten reps.
2. Use 50 percent of the ten rep weight as his top
weight at the beginning of the program.
2A. Not his warm-up weight -- but rather, the weight
he should use in his "work" sets. For example, if the
estimated ten rep weight is 200 pounds, he should use
100 pounds for his working sets. He might do 60 x 5,
80 x 5 and then three x 5 with 100 pounds.
2B. I KNOW that's not very heavy, and I KNOW he could
do more if he pushed himself -- but remember, this is
a 65-year old lifter who's starting to squat again
after a long period of no squats -- and he needs to
be careful not to aggravate that hip. So he needs to
2C. He should continue to do Trap Bar deadlifts. That
will serve as his heavy exercise until he builds his
squat back up.
3. Anyhow, he should do two or three sets of FIVE
reps with this weight. And he should use perfect form
on each and every rep.
4. Gradually, slowly, and sensibly increase the
weight. It may take a year or more to get up to
a reasonably heavy poundage -- but your goal is
to get there, and to do it without hurting your
hip, so give the process plenty of time. Older
lifters are always too eager to pile on the
weight, and they often end up hurting themselves
by doing too much too soon. (I know, I've done it
many times -- all of us over a certain age have
5. Continue to do five rep sets -- but don't try
to go up to a gut-busting set with every last ounce
of weight that you could handle for five reps. At
age 65, you don't need to do that -- and you really
shouldn't. Instead, your top weight for five reps
should be a weight you can handle for eight reps.
6. This is the "leave something in the tank" theory
of lifting -- and it works great for older lifters.
Now, please note -- I'm talking about older lifters
today. This is 55-year old Brooks talking to a 65-
year old Dino who hasn't been squatting for awhile.
The younger Dinos can train harder and heavier.
That's one of the privileges of youth -- so use it
So that's what I want our 65-year old Dino to do.
And I also want him to send some progress reports.
I bet he surprises us a year from now!
As always, thanks for reading and have a great day.
If you train today, make it a good one.
Yours in strength,
P.S. For more information about sensible training for
older lifters, grab a copy of Gray Hair and Black Iron:
P.S. 2. I filmed a heavy workout on my 54th b'day. So
if you want to see what works for an older Dino, grab
a copy of Going Strong at 54:
P.S. 3. My other books and courses are right here:
P.S. 4. Thought for the Day: "The most important thing
is to keep on training." -- Brooks Kubik