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The Ultimate Goal: Training Longevity

Posted Oct 12 2010 1:44pm

Today’s new Swole Content is a guest post by Josh Hanagarne, the World’s Strongest Librarian. Please visit him on his blog where he talks about books, strength training , his fight with Tourette’s Syndrome , and much more.

We hear about weight training goals all the time.

  • I want more muscle.
  • I want less fat.
  • I want to look good naked.
  • I want to deadlift more.
  • I want to bench press 500 pounds.

What about training goals that will actually matter when you spot your first gray hair or when you buy your first pair of bifocals? Granted fat loss is always a concern as you age, but what can we, as dedicated strength athletes, focus on NOW that will help us stay healthy as the years tick by?


I am a huge believer in goals and they are the most effective way for me to make constant progress. But I recently had a fascinating conversation with a man in his early 50s who gave me a fascinating perspective that I don’t have yet in my early 30s. He asked me my opinion on the best way to “age well,” in terms of fitness. When I asked him what his goals were, he simply said “I want to age well and maintain as much strength as possible.”

What a wonderful goal! And it was a great experience for me to step outside of the box in which most of my clients operate.

Suddenly I was forced to take the long-view on someone else’s behalf. We all like to say that lifting is about quality of life, but I know my own motivations are often more superficial. It’s fun to be strong, big, and look good. Yes, those things improve my quality of life, but when I hit a new deadlift max, I don’t say to myself, “Wow, this is really going to benefit me 20 years down the road.”

I asked him to give me a week and we’d meet again and talk some more.

We began our first session talking about his training history. He had dabbled in his 20s with bodybuilding and powerlifting. We had that in common. He spent the years between 30 and 50 vacillating between bodybuilding and rehabbing injuries that cropped up with increasing frequency. He had also played around with kettlebells for the most recent five years at a local Crossfit Gym, but he wasn’t doing the Crossfit workouts.

“Of all the training you have done,” I asked, “What did you enjoy the most?”

“I think I probably look forward to kettlebell workouts the best,” he said.

I tried to think of a reason why kettlebells would therefore not be the best way for him to hit his goal of aging well and maintaining strength. I couldn’t find one. It is not because they are the best tool but they may very well be the best tool for him because he stated that he could always look forward to training with them.

If you’ve got a few years of dedicated training behind you (I have about 5 at this point), you know that you could meet most of your physique goals with a variety of implements. Barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags, weight vests, etc.

If you are purely interested in physique and quality of life, I do not believe any one tool is better than any other. If all we had was a wasteland full of heavy rocks, we’d find out who really valued their resistance training, because they would find a zillion ways to train with stones without mourning their dumbbells and TRX trainers.

But if you know what you like to do the most, I would consider that a clue as to what will get you the best results and help you reach your goals. I do best when I’m doing things I enjoy. Most people I know seem to be wired in a similar fashion.

Of course, if you’re a competitive powerlifter, you will need to put in barbell work on the three big lifts.

If you’re a competitive bodybuilder then limiting your training to a sandbag probably wouldn’t get you to the Mr. Olympia competition.

But if you just want to improve your quality of life, age well, and enjoy the time you spend in the gym, I would highly recommend concentrating on the things you already know you like to do. It should do a lot in terms of providing motivation and keeping you excited about your training.

The more years you can spend training, the longer you will benefit from the process. And if you’re having fun in the gym, you are much more unlikely to get out of the habit of training.

As to the gentleman I have talked about in this article, he’s currently hitting kettlebell snatch numbers that all the young guys in the gym could learn a lot from!

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