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  • Writer's pictureDana Keilman

Adapt, Don't Ignore: Evolving Strength Training for Adults 40+

Establishing good physical training practices early is beneficial throughout life… but practices that are best for those in their 20s and 30s are not necessarily the best practices for those in their 40s and 50s. So what does that mean for older adults looking to strengthen their bodies?

Mike Lohman photograph holding copy of Mastering Strongman book
Mike Lohman, February 2024. Photo by Dana Keilman

The Need for a Different Approach for Older Adults

An introduction to the weight room as a high school freshman led to a lifelong love of weightlifting for Mike Lohman, now age 55. A high school football player and wrestler who also competed in triathlons as an adult, Mike discovered the sport of Strongman in his early 40s.

Bearded sportsman with muscular body lifting heavy tire in gym

Strongman athletes who are 40+ compete in the Masters division at competitions to maintain a level playing field. The sport, popularized on TV by the dramatic “The World’s Strongest Man” competitions, requires athletes to not only lift weights but also move with the weight, carrying heavy objects such as large sandbags and kegs, flipping tires or loading large concrete stones onto elevated platforms.

The intensity of strongman training can be brutal on an athlete’s body, and Mike saw firsthand the risks associated with Masters athletes in their 40s and 50s who trained as they would have in their 20s or 30s.  In Mike’s experience, many younger coaches are less likely to consider changes to bone density, muscle mass, and hormone levels that older adults naturally experience.

Injuries began to pile up for Mike and some of his Masters peers, and he realized the need for a different training approach.

Mastering Strongman at Any Age

After competing for 10 years, Mike earned several certifications, including one as a personal trainer and strength coach through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. In addition to one-on-one and group training, Mike writes training programs for others to use.

Cover of the book Mastering Strongman: A Training Guide for 40+ Strongman Athletes by Mike Lohman and Ken McClelland

When a friend planted the idea of writing a book about strongman training for masters athletes, Mike was intrigued. He says:

"We recognized the gap, and the need for this book. While there are a few books about how to train for strongman, no one had written about training age 40+ masters athletes."

Focusing on beginners as well as established athletes, Mike partnered with Ken McClelland, a highly accomplished strongman athlete and strength coach. The result is Mastering Strongman, a book written to describe the sport and educate readers about the many different movements and events in the sport, the language/jargon used, and how to define and pursue goals with a disciplined mindset.

The book is intended to help athletes of any age and experience level, as well as coaches, ensure longevity in the sport. Rather than training all athletes as if they’re in their 20s or 30s, Mike and Ken emphasize and encourage readers to plan and prioritize their recovery in addition to their training as a way to avoid injuries and stay active in the sport long after they turn 40.

The Older Adult Fitness Gap

Gym memberships drop off at age 55, according to AARP¹ . Morning Light Strategy believes it’s important to understand why.

senior woman training in home gym with hand weights

While exercise is important throughout life, it can be an added boon for those in their 50s and beyond who want to stay active and healthy. Fitness companies such as gyms, apparel manufacturers, and tech companies could benefit from understanding the needs of the 50+ population and developing solutions to help keep them engaged in the gym.

Above all else, Mike urges older adults to “Just do something.” Yoga, calisthenics, a long walk, or a bike ride are only going to help you continue to move comfortably throughout your life.

Despite a hip replacement likely related to more than 40 years of various athletic pursuits and a long list of injuries, Mike still squats and deadlifts. But he knows the proper technique to keep him safe and that pushing himself would be more detrimental to his health in the long run.

No matter the age, people can push to meet the fitness goals they set, but fitness strategies, services, and equipment are not one-size-fits-all and must be adapted in order to be inclusive of older adults' fitness needs.

¹ AARP The Magazine, Special Edition February/March 2024

Are your fitness offerings "fit" for Adults aged 50+? How can you adapt fitness for age inclusivity?

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About:  Morning Light Strategy is an insights-based strategic consultancy that helps AgeTech, Senior Living, and other senior-focused organizations better develop and market products and services by more deeply understanding the needs, wants and opinions of 50+ adults and their caregivers.  To learn more, visit:


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