Teach The Old Dog New Tricks – Just Be Patient
“I don’t think older people should lift heavy, it can hurt them.” I heard this in a recent certification. That’s discrimination. It’s telling me that the coach doesn’t trust their own ability. People of any age can get strong (er) and reclaim athleticism. There’s a lot of 20-somethings who can’t lift a carton of milk without hurting their rotator cuff. I also know quite a few 50-plus athletes who can back squat their body weight more than 10 times. Since when is age supposed to be an automatic deduction?
As you know from the Athlete Profile, there is more than age to consider when evaluating the readiness of our athletes. It’s true that the older we get, the integrity of tissue, tendons and ligaments can be compromised – IF the athlete has been sedentary for many moons. However, if a 50+ athlete has been an athlete or is stacked Athletic Ready, then be a powerful coach and progress them!
The real issue with a more mature athlete is their ability to adapt. Remember going over the S.A.I.D. principle in the certification? Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. The body will adapt to the demand placed on it. An older/more mature athlete may simply take a bit longer to adapt to the training program. As coaches, we should also monitor their recovery rates and offer up an additional day or two of recovery pending how their body responds to the load factor/intensity.
There is research to support this information. See the recent study from the University of Queensland. It uses one of our favorite movements, the power clean. Note that the study also states that the athletes improved their central nervous system “fitness.” One of the most under-appreciated benefits of older folks training with some load is the opportunity to get some athletic movement and coordination re-ignited.
I’ve never looked at an athlete and treated them differently because of age. I look at the totality of the athlete and carefully balance how to get them to progress as fast as possible while ensuring safety.