The Best Workouts For Men Over 50

Last Updated:

All our fitness and training resources are rigorously vetted by our expert team and adhere to our Exercise Advice Guidelines.

Particularly if you’re an older adult who hasn’t been consistently active for some time or is finding that the workout routine you were able to follow in your younger years is no longer supporting your current needs, it can be helpful to have some ideas of what “men over 50 workout plans” should entail.

What are the best workouts for men over 50? Is there a best workout for men over 50?

In this article, we will talk about the importance of exercising as you get older and the best workouts for men over 50.

We will cover: 

  • What Are the Best Workouts for Men Over 50?
  • How to Get Started Exercising for Men Over 50
  • The Best Workouts for Men Over 50

Let’s get started!

A man over 50 running on a trail.

What Are the Best Workouts for Men Over 50?

In fact, although many people naturally start to slow down their physical activity habits as they get older, the guidelines for physical activity for adults remain the same throughout their entire lifespan.

No matter your age, to meet the guidelines for physical activity for adults (age 18+) set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the British Heart Foundation, you must accumulate either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise per week.

These guidelines also specify the need to perform at least two total-body strength training workouts per week.

Flexibility and balance exercises should also be included in your weekly workout routine. 

Although these types of movement are essential for adults of all ages, they become increasingly important in workouts for men over 50 because maintaining flexibility and improving your balance can help reduce the risk of falls and allow you to optimize your functional performance.

A man over 50 doing a plank in the grass.

Most people are aware of the natural decline in muscle strength and muscle mass as we age, which is why resistance training becomes a particularly important workout for men over 50, but flexibility also tends to decline.

Losing flexibility decreases your range of motion around each joint, not only leading you to feel stiffer and less bright and agile but also increasing the risk of injuries. 

If your muscles are tight or your joints have a restricted range of motion that falls below the normal, healthy range of motion, you are more prone to pull a muscle or injure a tendon or ligament during your workout or when performing everyday activities. 

Additionally, if you are inflexible or have a compromised range of motion, it’ll be harder to perform certain exercises, and your athletic performance can suffer.

For example, consider the case of an older man with tight hamstrings.

When your hamstrings have poor flexibility, you often overuse your lower back in order to lift items or bend down to tie your shoes. This may result in straining or pulling a low back muscle or even herniating a disc by using improper lifting mechanics.

Additionally, from an exercise performance standpoint, if you lose flexibility in your hamstrings, your stride length running and walking will be compromised, decreasing your running economy and reducing your potential running speed.

A man over 50 doing a wall sit.

How to Get Started Exercising for Men Over 50

Although it’s always important to check in with your doctor before starting an exercise routine, all men over the age of 40 should seek medical clearance before beginning a fitness program.

Your doctor will evaluate the health of your heart and lungs and perform any additional necessary tests to ensure that you are safe to exercise in an unsupervised environment without restrictions.

Make sure to discuss any pre-existing medical conditions as well as your family history with your doctor.

The Best Workouts for Men Over 50

There is no single best “men over 50 workout”. Rather, the best workouts for men over 50 involve a variety of exercises such that, in sum, a workout routine is well-rounded and includes resistance training, steady-state aerobic training, interval training, flexibility, and recovery. 

Your workout routine must address all five components of health-related physical fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and body composition.

Focusing on just one arm of fitness will not provide your body with the various physical stresses necessary to stimulate adaptations for all aspects of your physical health.

A man doing a bicep barbell curl.

Let’s take a look at each one:

Strength Training for Men Over 50

The best strength training workouts for men over 50 focus on increasing, or at least maintaining, muscle mass and muscle strength.

Numerous studies have found that even very elderly men—well past the age of 50—can increase muscle mass, muscular strength, and muscular power with consistent resistant training.

You should focus on compound, multi-joint exercises, and functional training exercises.

Some of the best exercises for men over 50 include squats, lunges, split squats, deadlifts, step-ups, hip thrusts, glute bridges, leg presses, leg extensions, jump squats, lateral lunges, power cleans, and upper-body exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, bench press, shoulder press, dips, curls, and tricep extensions.

You should also include functional core exercises such as planks, land mines, kettlebell swings, medicine ball chops, reverse crunches, bird dogs, and farmer’s carries.

Lift heavier weights—at least 65% of your 1RM for an exercise—to promote muscle building and increases in strength.

Two middle-aged men doing Tai Chi.

Balance and Flexibility Exercises for Men Over 50

Although this is, of course, a generalization, many men omit dedicated balance exercises in their fitness routine.

However, balance exercises are important even for younger men, but become particularly important exercises for men over 50 in order to reduce the risk of falls. 

Because bone density decreases with age, a fall in your older years can be more serious and may result in a fracture. Additionally, our sense of balance tends to decline with age, so instability training is an excellent way to keep your vestibular system and stabilizing muscles strong.

Balance exercises can be as simple as single-leg balance, or you can take on more dynamic balance exercises like tai chi or instability exercises like performing squats on a BOSU ball, walking lunges with a dumbbell in one hand, or doing biceps curls while standing on one leg. 

Flexibility can include stretching, yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi.

A group of middle-aged men laughing as they are on the sidelines of a basketball game.

Cardio Exercise for Men Over 50

Regarding cardio exercise, the type of exercise you do is somewhat less important than the type of workouts you do.

If you like swimming, cycling, running, or elliptical, for example, any of these types of exercise can be good in your workout routine.

However, there is one important caveat here. You should be doing at least one type of weight-bearing exercise per week, preferably some type of high-impact exercise.

Weight-bearing exercise is necessary for maintaining bone density, and high-impact weight-bearing exercises, such as running and jumping, will help improve bone density.

Doing only non-weight-bearing activities such as swimming or cycling will not provide your bones with the necessary stimulus to increase bone density. 

Although these exercises can constitute a significant portion of the cardio exercise you do per week, make sure that you include at least some high-impact exercise (running, jumping, or sports such as basketball and tennis) or at least weight-bearing low-impact exercise such as walking, elliptical machine, or a stair climbing.

A man over 50 jogging.

The best cardio workouts for men over 50 involve performing at least one endurance-based, steady-state effort per week as well as at least one interval workout, preferably high-intensity interval training.

Aerobic workouts focused on improving your endurance should involve continuous exercise that elevates your heart rate to at least 64% of your age-predicted maximum heart rate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Ideally, you will gradually increase the length of at least one long workout per week to 60 minutes or so, particularly if it is a moderate-intensity effort level.

Interval training involves performing alternating bouts of intense exercise followed by easier recovery periods.

In order to qualify as “high-intensity interval training“ (HIIT), the “hard“ or “on“ intervals must elevate your heart rate to at least 85% of your maximum heart rate, though closer to 90 to 95% of your max heart rate is ideal.

It is necessary to drive your heart rate up to these extreme levels in order to derive many of the demonstrated benefits of HIIT training, such as elevated excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the boost in metabolic rate that can occur after high-intensity exercise.

A man over 50 stretching his leg on a bridge.

The reason that HIIT workouts are one of the best workouts for men over 50 is that this type of training improves your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, cardiovascular health, and can induce favorable metabolic and hormonal changes.

Plus, from a mindset perspective, pushing your body to go “all out” during each interval will help you stay in the game regarding how you view your physical fitness. 

There is a tendency to only do moderate-intensity exercise after age 50 because people feel like they are no longer fit enough to take on more vigorous workouts.

This will result in not only a cardiovascular fitness decline because you are not pushing your body into those harder effort zones, but you will also be subconsciously reinforcing the self-concept or perspective that you can only go fairly easy, and you don’t have those higher “gears,” faster speeds, and powerful bursts in you anymore.

Although lots of research has demonstrated an association between increasing age and decreasing muscle strength, muscle mass, endurance, and VO2 max, it’s important to remember that this is a correlation and not entirely a causation. 

A trainer at the gym shaking hands with his client.

In other words, much of the decline that we see in terms of strength and fitness is due to a natural reduction in activity levels and in the intensity of training.

Older adults tend to become less active, and self-selected workouts for men over 50 are frequently less intense than for younger men.

If you’re lifting less weight or choosing to run slower, for example, you won’t be as strong and fast.

Of course, there are some hormonal changes that do have physiological ramifications as we age. For example, it does become harder for older men to build muscle mass because testosterone levels decrease, but studies have found that even men in their 70s and 80s can build muscle mass with resistance training programs.

Therefore, if you want to stay as fit as possible as you age, throw out any preconceived notions about age being a limiting factor or reason to automatically need to ease up on your fitness routine.

It is important to listen to your body and heed any guidance or limitations imposed by your doctor, physical therapist, personal trainer, or healthcare team, but in the absence of any particular restrictions, do not let your own mindset limit your fitness routine.

We have our very own Strength Training For Over 55 routine for you to check out to get started today!

A man over 50 smiling.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.