Strength training is incredibly important for masters-level athletes. 

I’ve written at length about the benefits of strength training for seniors in another article where I go into more detail. 

Strength training is an important part of any fitness program, and it is especially important for senior athletes. Strength training can help senior athletes stay active, improve balance and coordination, a healthy weight, and most importantly perform at the highest level possible. 

In this article, we will discuss the fitness goals, principles, exercises, and nutrition associated with strength training for senior athletes. 

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing your goals wisely and then establishing habits to reach those goals through training is the smartest approach to improving your fitness and performance.
  • Take a “low and slow” approach. Start with low weight and slow movement and then build up. However, if you have been an athlete your whole life and you’ve been lifting, feel free to move more quickly into heavy weights and faster movements. This will largely depend on your experience level.
  • The FITT principle stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type.
  • Progressive overload is the principle of increasing the intensity of lifting (or other activities) over time as your body adapts.

Fitness and Performance Goals

Before beginning a strength training program, it is important to have both short- and long-term performance goals. A long-term goal might be to reduce your risk of injury or to increase your overall strength and endurance for your sport or activity. Short-term goals might include improving your balance, gaining muscle mass, and improving your explosive power. 

There are many different ways to set goals, one of which is SMART goals. SMART goals are great in that they have a systematic way to set goals, however, they fail to teach one how to establish a habit and are woefully insufficient in this case. 

To identify a performance goal, start with what you want your ideal performance to look like. Once you know what that looks like you can then start to build a training plan around that. The secret to success is knowing what you want. 

To then establish the training habit, follow this prompt. B = MAP. B is behavior, M is motivation, A is ability, and P is prompt. 

For the behavior (training) that we want to establish we must have three components; motivation, ability, and a prompt. 

Typically the flow looks something like this; you plan to lift weights twice per week, you put it in the calendar for 9 am on tuesday and thursday, but, you notice that you’re having a hard time sticking to it. 

Use a prompt, such as putting on your workout clothes after you have your coffee, to get you in the workout mood. The ability is are you physically capable of doing the workout, and then the motivation generally comes after you have the prompt and do have the ability. 

If you don’t have the motivation even after prompts and proving you have the ability, even after reducing the scope (decreasing the time), then it might be time for a different style of training. 

I believe that we should learn to fall in love with training. Not be continually grinding, hoping for it to end. 

This is the secret to longevity in training. 

Strength Training Principles

When beginning a strength training program, it is important to understand the principles of strength training. The first principle is progressive overload, which means gradually increasing the intensity of your exercises in order to challenge your body and continue making progress. The second principle is rest and recovery, which is essential for muscle growth and injury prevention. Finally, it is important to individualize your strength training program to meet your specific needs and goals.

I generally follow the FITT principle when programming for my clients. 

F stands for frequency. How many times a week are you doing the activity. 

I stands for Intensity. How heavy is the weight, or how intensely are you running, cycling, etc.

T stands for time. How long are you doing the activity for?

And T again, stands for type. The type would be lifting weights, vs. running.  

Warm-Up Exercises

Before beginning any strength training program, it is important to warm up your body with joint mobility, dynamic stretching, and exercises that are specific to the movements you’ll be performing during the workout. These exercises will help improve your range of motion, reduce the risk of injury, and prepare your body for more intense exercises. 

There isn’t necessarily a ton of literature on injury prevention from warming-up, however, I can tell you that it always feels better to workout once you are actually warmed up vs. not. 

Strength Training Exercises

Once your body is warmed up, you can begin your strength training exercises. Exercises like squats, lunges, deadlifts, and step-ups are all great options for senior athletes. Push-ups are also a great exercise for seniors, as they can help improve upper body strength and stability. 

The different types of exercises that you do are going to largely depend on your sport and your goals within that sport. 

The exercises shared above are good starting points as they are primarily compound movements, meaning they are working through multiple joints and muscle groups. 

Cardiovascular Exercise

In addition to strength training, it is important for senior athletes to include some form of cardiovascular exercise in their fitness program. Cardio can help improve your overall fitness level, reduce your risk of heart disease, and boost your energy levels. When choosing a cardio activity, it is important to consider the intensity, duration, and variety of the activity. 

Nutrition for Senior Athletes

Nutrition is an essential part of any fitness program, and it is especially important for senior athletes. Eating a balanced diet that includes both macronutrients and micronutrients can help you maintain a healthy weight and maximize the benefits of your strength training program. It is also important to stay hydrated to ensure your body is functioning optimally. 

I’d say the most important component of nutrition for you is getting enough protein. If you are strength training vigorously you will want to make sure you are feeding your muscles enough protein to continue to grow and/or maintain. 

Common Mistakes

When beginning a strength training program, it’s important to avoid some common mistakes. Neglecting warm-up exercises can lead to injury (although likely a small risk), and improper form (although form is REALLY variable among the population), can also lead to injury or decreased results. 

Finally, it is important to avoid overtraining, which can lead to fatigue and decreased performance. There has been some controversy about “overtraining,” for a long time. Ultimately if you are consistently feeling fatigued and “burned out,” then it could be due to your training load. 

What i’ve found to be the best solution to this is to take a week or two during a training block and just make it low stress where you are doing 50% of your normal volume and intensity. Most people bounce make really well after this.  


Strength training is an important part of any fitness program, and it is especially important for senior athletes. Strength training can help improve balance, reduce the risk of injury, and maintain a healthy weight while also increasing performance. 

When beginning a strength training program, it is important to have both short- and long-term goals, understand the principles of strength training, warm up your body before exercising, and practice proper nutrition. 

It is also important to avoid common mistakes such as neglecting warm-up exercises, improper form (not as huge of a deal), and overtraining without adequate rest. 


If you are interested in beginning a strength training program, there are many resources available to help you get started. There are many strength training programs designed specifically for seniors, as well as nutrition programs, to help you get the most out of your workouts. Additionally, there are many warm-up exercises you can do before beginning your strength training program.

I’ll link to a few websites below that have done a good job of putting together some additional resources for you!

Thanks for reading!