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November 09, 2021 8 min read

Have you ever seen an older man exhibit strength that seemingly belongs to a much younger guy? Maybe you lost out to your dad or an older relative in an arm-wrestling match. Whatever your situation, most of us have, at one point or another, looked at an older man and thought to ourselves, "How is he so strong?"

We call this phenomenon "old man strength" or "dad strength." If we are lucky, we all grow up to possess it one day. But how can you start to develop it now? Read on to find out.

What is Old Man Strength?

Old man strength is the ability of older men to retain the strength that they enjoyed during their younger years. The phrase is commonly associated with everyday tasks like lifting furniture, carrying heavy loads, or destroying their sons in arm-wrestling competitions.

Senior fitness man doing biceps curl exercises inside old gym.

In addition to the old man strength evident in our older relatives and friends, there are many examples of older men surpassing records and exhibiting extreme power in competitions and other sporting events. These examples have people everywhere using the phrase "old man strength" to describe more than just their dads.

Is Old Man Strength A Real Thing?

Some people doubt that old man strength really exists, pointing to the number of studies and evidence that tell us our general health declines as we age. But can empirical data convince people who have seen old man strength with their own eyes that this phenomenon is just an illusion?

On the one hand, many studies and evidence show the negative impact of age on physical strength and muscle mass over time. Scientists have coined two terms for this muscle decline in the elderly: Sarcopenia, which refers to muscle mass, and dynapenia, which refers to muscle strength.

So, if we know that sarcopenia and dynapenia occur consistently, how can we believe that old man strength exists? Let's look at the examples that have us swearing that old man strength is real.

For starters, we have the famous Rodney Hahn, who broke the world record for pull-ups in his mid-50s with over 6700 pull-ups in 24 hours! Then we have Mark Felix, the 50-year-old world's strongest man competitor who kept up with the younger men in the competition. Or what about the old guys in your gym who can bench press more than people half his age? Yeah, we all have at least one of those.

And we can't forget the more anecdotal but equally impressive news stories of middle-aged men lifting heavy objects off children, or our anecdotes of the old guys we know who can lift a heavy load of firewood without blinking an eye.

All these examples must have come from somewhere, right? We think it's pretty clear that old man strength is real – and better yet, it's attainable.  

Where Does Old Man Strength Come From?

There are a few potential explanations for the development of old man strength.

  • A lifetime foundation of strength. Some argue that many older men have old man strength because they spent their lives engaging in consistent manual labor, resulting in a foundation of strength and muscle that does not just disappear overnight. Previous generations were much more likely to work blue-collar jobs, such as mechanics or carpenters, which kept them on their feet and worked their muscles every day. With a lifestyle like that, it's no wonder they retain an old man strength that younger men are in awe of today.
  • Adrenaline-Related Hormones. Others believe that old man strength is the product of adrenaline-related hormones that older men release when facing a stressful situation. However, some researchers have attempted to disprove this theory, pointing out that older adults actually have more difficulty than younger adults contracting their muscles after a stressor.
  • Continual Strength Training in Older Men: Many older guys with old man strength continue working out as they age, maintaining as much muscle mass as possible despite their aging bodies. We cannot underemphasize the impact of this continued training. Continuing a balanced workout routine of cardio, big lifts, bodyweight work, and resistance training is undoubtedly why they have maintained their strength as they get older.
  • Muscle Memory: Finally, some argue that the old man strength phenomenon that we see trending in the media and on our social feeds is partially due to an individual's muscle memory of specific tasks honed over decades of effort. For example, a man in his 60s who spent a lifetime as a mason, might lift and move heavy stones with a level of power and coordination that would shock a younger man. However, to that older man, lifting those stones is a particular task that his body has trained for over many years, and his muscle memory helps him get it done. The good news? You can develop that type of muscle memory for lifting weights by being consistent. That way, you can be the old strongman powerlifting in your gym one day.

5 Ways to Develop Old Man Strength

Foundational strength and mobility when you are young are significant contributors to developing old man strength as you age. Even though we might not live a lifetime of manual labor like our ancestors and the older generations, we can still mimic that strength development with proper strength training throughout our youth.

The BEACH BOD STACK can help maximize your workouts and enhance muscle mass while you work towards that old man strength.

1. Don't Replace Resistance Training with Cardio

Don't be tempted to replace your resistance training with cardio-focused activities, such as running or cycling. Resistance training refers to any exercise in which you are working against some force that resists your movement, such as a resistance band or even just gravity in a bodyweight exercise.

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that running alone was not enough to prevent loss of muscle strength associated with getting older. These and other findings emphasize the importance of continuing your strength and resistance training as you age instead of relying primarily on running, walking, or other cardio activities.

Adjust your workout routine by adding more resistance training to keep those muscles strong instead of shifting to cardio-based activities as you get older. Our article on building muscle with resistance bands can help you start incorporating resistance training into your workout routine.

2. Make it a Hobby & Stay Consistent

One of the most important things that you can do to develop old man strength is to stay consistent in your workouts. We recommend creating a schedule that gets you in the gym, not just for one day, one week, or one month, but for years on end. Old man strength does not come from the occasional stint in the gym. It develops from years of consistent effort and strength training all the time.

If you're struggling to get yourself to the gym consistently, one of our favorite suggestions is to find a workout playlist or podcast that gets you fired up to get moving. The right one will have you looking forward to getting to the gym to hit play and work.

3. Focus on Movement Over Muscle with Mobility Training

Incorporate mobility training into your workout routine to maintain your mobility as your get older. Mobility refers to the ability of your muscle to move through its full range of motion. Working on your mobility will help you avoid injury and continue hitting the gym as you age, so it's worth putting in the extra time now to make sure that you can continue putting in the work later.

While there is an extensive range of mobility exercises that you can incorporate into your routine, here are a few of our favorite, simple moves to promote mobility throughout your body.

  • Squat with Fold Forward: Reach down to grasp your toes in a forward fold, bending your knees slightly if necessary. Drop into a squat, lifting your chest and using your elbows to slightly push your knees outward at the bottom of the squat. Lift your booty to return to your forward fold position and repeat.
  • Reverse Lunge with Side Bend: Step back into a reverse lunge and bend to the side, lifting one arm over your head and stretching the other past your belly button. Hold and repeat on the opposite leg.
  • Single-Leg Good Morning with Knee Lift: Stand tall and outstretch one leg behind you, leaning forward until your chest is parallel to the ground. Straighten up while you bring your outstretched leg to the front of your body and grasp your bent knee in front of your chest. Repeat for desired reps and then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Standing Arm Swings: Stand tall with your arms outstretched by your sides. Swing both arms forward until they are as high as they can go without raising your shoulders. Bring your arms back down and repeat.

Not only will these movements keep you strong and prepare you for staying strong into your later years of life, but they will also help you achieve a greater range of motion in the workouts that you complete today. Mobility training is an essential part of any power lifter's workout routine.

4. Concentrate on Well-Rounded Foundational Strength

Focus on foundation strength that will help you get stronger consistently across all your muscle groups. Develop a balanced workout routine that does not skip out on any major muscle groups or focus areas, aiming to hit each target area at least once per week.

Consider the older generations of men that popularized old man strength after decades of hard manual labor. Rather than picking and choosing which machines or trending weightlifting equipment they were going to use each day, they worked everything by, well, working everything. If you want strength like them as an old man, you'll need to train like them, with a well-rounded workout routine.

If you're not sure where to begin developing this type of exercise schedule and do not have a personal trainer at your disposal, check out our weighted home workout routine. It will guide you through a 7-day workout plan using items you probably already have around your house. Hit every muscle - No CrossFit gym required.

5. Allow Yourself Adequate Time to Recover

Skipping out on your recovery stretches and rest time is an excellent way to get injured. Injuries that impact you for years to come can have an even more significant impact as you age, impeding your ability to continue getting stronger and achieve the old man strength you want as you get older.

Active senior man is drinking water after exercising.

Avoid injuries by getting adequate rest and recovery, both between sets and after your workout. Incorporate at least one active rest day weekly, and don't forget to stock up on a good recovery supplement, such as RESTED-AF. A little effort to recover goes a long way in priming your body for your next workout and the later stages of your life.

Why Should You Develop Old Man Strength?

Beyond the obvious benefit of inspiring awe in the younger men and women around you, there are plenty of reasons that you should work to develop old man strength as you get older.

  • Becoming physically weaker as you age can have negative consequences for in the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care journal found that losing muscle as you age is highly associated with mortality and physical disability. Working to maintain your old man strength can help you avoid muscle loss as you get older.
  • Stay looking good. Just because you are getting older doesn't mean that you need to look worse with every passing year. Maintaining your strength and muscle mass will keep you looking trim and strong all the time, even though you are aging.
  • Maintain independence into the later stages of life. Staying strong will help you maintain your independence over time. If you can maintain high levels of physical fitness and old man strength, you will be more likely to keep your ability to move about your home and live without assistance into the later years of your life.

Getting older doesn't have to mean the end of your strength! Now that you know what old man strength is and where it comes from, it's time to get working on developing it for yourself. Stay consistent and focused on a balanced workout routine to one day be a shining example of old man strength.