Is it really possible to be stronger in your 50's and 60's than it was in your 20's and 30's? Many would just simply dismiss that question as ridiculous, but the people in our gym who are 50+ years old are often asked that question.
Are our powerlifting totals REALLY still improving at our relatively advanced age? The unabashed answer is
"C'mon Ron, you don't TRULY believe that you're stronger at 54 than when you were 24 or 34, do you?"
Again, yes, that's exactly what I mean.
Let me explain.
First of all, when asked if we are really still improving or truly stronger, those reallys and trulys are meant to be qualifiers and it depends on what is being referred to and compared. A powerlifting total of three lifts? Each individual lift? Equipped? Raw? Gym lift or power meet? Single rep or multiple reps? At the same bodyweight? Untrained newbie vs. trained veteran? Etcetera.
For example, if you are comparing your 700 equipped squat of today to your 5550 raw squat years ago you can't say you're stronger now -- you're comparing apples and oranges. Even equipment has improved over the years, and that changes the equation.
We all know of people who say things like, "I benched 500 in the gym," but for some reason only ever manage a strict 440 in a meet. Do you weigh more now than you did then? Using PEDS or using more PEDS? If so, it's difficult to make a valid comparison at all. You get the idea.
To be clear, to validly say you are stronger now than you were then, all of the conditions have to be the same. So when I am asked that question I usually quality it: "Do you mean, is my raw powerlifting total in a sanctioned meet at 181 lbs. better than EVER?"
My honest answer is, "It's about the same today as it was in my 30's (when I had by then been training seriously and competing for 10 years) and this year, at 54, I will achieve my best raw total ever drug free."
I am not the only one doing so. Just in our little gym, in the past year of so Russ Clark and Tom Cencich, both veteran competitive powerlifters of 30 years, have posted their best lifts and total EVER and they are in their early 50's. How about other amazing world class lifters like Brad Gillingham, Jan Wegira, Gordon Santee, Ellen Stein, Tony Harris and Dennis Marts to name a few.
And by the way, isn't it interesting that most of the best masters lifters in the world compete in drug tested federations, at least on an international level? The "international" federations that do not drug test have very few masters lifters at their world chamionships. Gee, maybe there's an important lesson hidden there somewhere.
Granted, there are not a lot of masters lifters out there who are still hitting PR's. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps that's why the professors out there, textbooks in hand, say you can't REALLY get stronger past your 30's, y'know, declining testosterone and all, blah, blah. That's why there are masters divisions with those age categories. It's impossible, right? Yeah, so was running a sub-4:00 minute mile. A 500 lb. clean & jerk. Swimming from Cuba to America. Sometimes it takes the Roger Bannisters, Vasily Alexeevs Diana Nyads (at 64 years of age) to show that it can be dome.
Of course, we all know that we can't keep getting stronger forever, but I think it's high time we take a good look at age, at least in regards to powerlifting, and truly see how far we can push that barrier.
"Yeah, but come on, man, Let's Go Brandon, you can't expect a 60 year old to total the same as a 30 year old, not at an elite level anyway." Here at Virtus Gym we're gonna find out. One of the things we are learning is how far that envelope can be pushed without PEDs in drug tested meets.
Our little garage gym is nothing special, just a crazy bunch who love to train hard and heavy. Maybe the older ones are just a little crazier than most others. These days I get a kick out of reading and hearing about all the young experts and prodigies out there. So you're a "World Champion" at 25? Have some records and an elite total? Proud of you. Now, keep progressing. Stay with it for 30 years. THEN you can approach the Brad Gillinghams and Ellen Steins and brag about how great you are.
So all you older iron warriors out there, don't give up the fight! Who's going to show the world what can be done? Today, more than ever, we masters-aged lifters in America have the means, the opportunity, the time and the know-how. We've even proven we have the will. Now we just need to COMMIT again! If not us, who?!
It's sad and a little disgusting to hear retired lifters say, as I heard at a party this past weekend, things like, "At my age I deserve a little ease and comfort in my life." Poor baby, has you cushy suburban life been all that terribly hard? I feel like shaking these people, "Don't be so weak minded!" You complain about the younger generations "entitlement mentality." What about yours?
I often wonder what those who came before us would say about us . . .
Your Viking ancestors crossed the ocean in basically a big freaking canoe disembarked and proceded to conquer a country. Do you think all of them were 20 years old? My Sicilian immigrant grandfather worked 14 hour days for 60 years and was happy, vibrant, strong and vital until gthe day he died. He would laugh at our lame excuses today. Put down that remote and get out of your recliner! Pick up that barbell and get growing again.
Once you stop trying to improve you start dying. "Too tired"at the end of the day? Understandable. Get up early then and train before work as Ernie O'Hara has done here twice a week at 5:30 a.m. for the past 10 years. He's been squatting and deadlifting one-and-a-half times his body weight for reps -- at 75 years old! Don't tell him all about your little aches and pains and fears. He just had a complete shoulder replacment and was back in the gym six weeks later training as hard and heavy as ever.
It's never too late to start again . . .
Enjoy Your Lifting!