Weightlifting Frequency for Seniors: Making New PRs

barbell back squat
Credit: physicalliving.com

I feel sore, but it’s a good sore. Slept pretty well last night. I had a brief moment of not wanting to get out of bed, but the clock said 3:45 a.m. and it’s Thursday, so it’s time to lift.

I really have missed lifting more often, but if this schedule works in promoting longer recovery times and thus increasing my strength, who am I to complain (not that I won’t occasionally)?

Went through my usual morning routine. One cup of coffee, one glass of water, and a banana for carbs (I’ve been doing cardio fasted but I really don’t want to “run out of gas” in the middle of a lift).

The second and last lift day for my 3/3/3+ week. Let’s see what happened.


Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
8x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 130lbs/58.967kg
3x 140lbs/63.5029kg
5x 150lbs/68.0389kg (3+)
3x 160lbs/72.5748kg (joker)
2x 170lbs/77.1107kg (joker)
2x 180lbs/81.6466kg (joker)
2x 185lbs/83.9146kg (joker) PR

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
3x 60lbs/27.2155kg
3x 70lbs/31.7515kg
5x 75lbs/34.0194kg (3+)
3x 80lbs/36.2874kg (joker)
3x 90lbs/40.8233kg (joker)
1x 95lbs/43.0913kg (joker) PR

Assistance Lifts/Core Work

Bodyweight Lunges over mat
x10, x10, x10, x10, x10

Leg Back Raises
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10

bird dog
Photo: markjamantoc.com

Leg Side Raises
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10

Alternating Arm/Leg Raises (Bird Dog)
10x each side
10x each side
10x each side

Balancing on one foot
30 seconds each side

I was kind of worried that not squatting for a week would result in me getting weaker, not stronger. I painted by the numbers, so to speak, and went through my scheduled warm ups and then my 3 working sets. Even my heaviest working set at 150 pounds, though I could feel it in my outer quads, went well. So did the first joker set.

But I had “issues” with squatting with a 170 pound barbell. I did the first rep OK, getting my butt all the way down to the bench and then coming back up, but on the second rep, my rear hit the bench, I started to come up a bit, and then stalled about 2 or 3 inches above the bench.

For a split second, I thought I was going to have to abort. My face was as red as a tomato. Then I pushed down hard through my legs and was able to overcome getting stuck and abandoning the rep.

I called it at that second rep rather than taking a chance on failing a third.

But I didn’t want to stop there. I increased the weight on the bar another 10 pounds and told myself even if I only did a single, it would be OK.

Oddly enough, although it felt heavy, I did 2 reps just fine. Something must have happened on the previous set. Maybe my form or stance was off. Who knows?

I did the third joker set with a 180 pound barbell, which matches my previous PR for 2 reps. Now it was time to test my theory. I put 5 more pounds on the bar and waited.

When I first started out with my squats, I was resting about 60 to 90 seconds between sets. Toward the end, I extended my rest to 2 or more minutes.

overhead press
Photo credit: buffdudes.us/

I got under the barbell when I felt ready, took my grip, lifted and did the walk back, set my stance, and went into my first rep successfully. I could feel I had one more in me and did the second squat for a new PR.

It was terrific.

But could I also do a new PR for my overhead press, or was that too much to ask?

I’d been in the power rack for just over 30 minutes and so far, I didn’t see anyone in the weight room who looked like they’d squat.

Thin, medical professional gal was going through her usual workout, and I saw a guy I didn’t recognize doing some barbell and dumbbell work. Shaved head guy walked in for another “chest day,” but his daughter wasn’t with him.

When I saw them together the other day, I started thinking of them as “Big Daddy” and “Hit Girl” from the film Kick Ass (2010). They don’t have any resemblance to the characters in the movie (played by Nicolas Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz respectively), but that was the first father/daughter team I could think of.

I set the rack up for my overhead press and started my warm up set. It felt easier than I remembered, probably because I was already “warmed up” thanks to squatting. My working sets were still hard but I managed 5 reps in my 3+ set.

My first joker with an 80 pound barbell felt heavy, and I was questioning the wisdom behind trying for a new PR. However, I still wanted to see how far I could push myself. I did 3 reps at 80 pounds and another 3 with a 90 pound bar. That in and of itself would have been a new PR, because I’ve only been able to do 2 reps at 90 pounds before.

But what the heck. I took all of the 10 pound plates and the two 2.5 pounders off the barbell and slapped on a pair of 25s, bringing the weight up to 95 pounds.

Here again, I rested for over 2 minutes, trying to maximize the amount of recovery for my upper body and nervous system.

I saw tall, strong, formerly broken foot guy walk into the weight room, weight lifting belt in hand. He was looking right at me and I could tell he wanted the rack. He was close enough to talk to, so I told him I just had one more set.

He was really friendly about it, smiled, and told me to take my time. Then he set down his equipment and walked out, maybe to use the can or get some water.

overhead press
Photo: kingofthegym.com

I could have taken more time, but at 2 1/2 minutes rest, I felt up to the last joker.

I stepped up, took my grip on the bar, pressed my upper chest against it, lifted and held the weight against me as I did the walk back. I set my right leg behind me for support, and pushed up.

I was moving the barbell up but really slowly. I felt a momentary stall halfway through the move, but kept pouring it on until the barbell went higher above my head. Then I locked out my arms. The barbell was all the way to the top.

I forced myself to lower it as slowly as I could until it was against my chest again, walked forward, and racked the barbell.

Hello new PR. Finally!

I unloaded the barbell and as soon as I stepped out of the rack, the other guy stepped in.

I’d been working out over 45 minutes in the power rack and now I was stuck for an assistance lift.

I had previously considered doing box squats, but I voluntarily gave up the rack after hogging it for the better part of an hour. Time to figure out something else to do.

After setting a new PR for the overhead press, I thought I’d be pushing it with seated dumbbell shoulder presses, so I settled on bodyweight lunges over a mat, since I still suck at them.

And I still suck. Balance is a problem, plus I need to lift my feet high enough to clear the thickness of the mat going forward and back. It seems to help if I step out further than the far edge of the mat rather than just aiming for the other side.

I treated lunges like any other “boring but big” assistance lift, and did 5 sets at 10 reps per set. They were miserable but necessary.

I was sweating so much that I not only had to clean up the mat, but the floor in front of me.

I went through the Kasey the Chiropractor core work, finishing up with balancing on one foot. If I focus on an object right in front of me, say a bolt on one of the racks, I can manage to balance, but the split second I look up at the clock, I nearly fall over.

bench press
Photo credit: bodyworks24.com

I made two new PRs today and it feels great. Yes, my quads, glutes, and lumbar area all ache, especially when I stand after sitting for any length of time, but it’s glorious.

I know it’s kind of quick to judge, but maybe the lifting only twice per week thing is actually working. This week, I’ve made new PRs on deadlifts, squats, and overhead presses. Now I need to find a way to be successful with bench presses (although, according to this article, a successful overhead press might improve my bench press).

That comes next Sunday. Here’s hoping.

It’s not always necessary to be strong, but to feel strong.

Jon Krakauer


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