The Old Man Routine

Updated June 11, 2020

Take a ride in the Wayback Machine…

Remember back to your teens and twenties, you used to hit the weights like a madman. Your body looked good, and you felt great. That was before the pressures of work, children, marriage, and the onset of age kicked in.

Now you are in your late 30’s or beyond, out of shape, sluggish and generally feel like crap. You want to get back into the gym, but don’t know if your body can handle the hardcore programs that flood the bodybuilding forums.

The Old Man Routine is for you.

Some points to think about when beginning The Old Man Routine:

1) Reduced Training Frequency. You need not work each bodypart less than every 6-7 days. Allow time for your aging/aching/out-of-shape joints to recover.

2) Progression. It may take you longer to progress in weight than when you were young, but you must try. Attempt to increase reps and/or weight for each exercises from workout to workout. Because you have had such a long layoff, (or maybe you’ve never trained) you don’t need a fancy routine. Stick with simple progression.

3) 6 Months. Stick with this program for at least 6 months, or more if you are still regularly progressing in poundages. Then, at that time, assess your progress and newly recovered fitness level, and adjust your routine to fit your capabilities and needs.

4) No Failure. Do not train to failure. Train one rep shy of failure at most. You are out of shape, and will make very good progress in the next year. Training to failure only taxes your body unnecessarily, and increases the risk of injury.

5) Nothing Fancy. No heavy duty training. No supersets. No giant sets. No training body parts three times a week. No German volume training. No HST. No powerlifting training. Keep it simple, and get back in lifting shape. Then, when you begin to learn what your body is capable of, alter course as needed.

6) Metabolism. If you want to pack on mass as an old geiser, you must be willing to monitor your caloric intake like a hawk. Your metabolism isn’t what it used to be, and bulking up on calories may lead to rapid fat gain. I recommend purchasing a skin-fold caliper and monitoring your body composition weekly. Try to find a comfort zone, 300-500 calories above maintenance level, that will allow you to gain muscle without gaining fat.

7) Cardio. Perform 20 minutes of cardio a week. Better overall fitness will only increase your lifting and metabolism. This is a great fat-fighting aid for the aging as you attempt to gain muscle.

So, here it is:


Bench Press, 4 sets x 6 reps

DB Bench Press or Incline Bench, 2 sets x 8 reps

DB or Barbell Overhead Press, 3 sets x 6-10 reps

Closegrip Bench Press, Dips, or Seated Overhead Tricep Extensions, 2 sets x 6-10 reps



Alternate (every other workout) Deadlifts (5 sets x 3 reps) with Pendlay Rows (5 sets x 6-10 reps)

T-Bar Rows, Low Pulley Rows, Pullups, or DB Rows, 3 sets x 6-10 reps

DB or Barbell Curling exercise, 3 sets x 6-15 reps



Squats, 4 sets x 5 reps

Front Squats, 2 sets x 6 reps

Still Leg Deadlifts or Leg Curls, 3 sets x 6-12 reps

Calf exercises, 2 sets x 8-20 reps


DAY 7: OFF, or repeat the cycle starting with day 1.


1) Just because this is an Old Man Routine doesn’t mean it’s easy. Ease into the exercises the first couple of months, learning your capabilities.

2) Don’t cheat. Learn proper form and use it. Save your body the wear and tear that comes from abuse.

3) Cardio and Abs can be done on off days.

4) If you need to lose a few pounds of blubber, try eating 300-500 calories less on non-weightliting days.

5) Don’t mess with these exercises. They are heavy compound movements, and work the best. Performing flyes, side laterals or cable crossovers might give you a pump, but they sure as heck won’t help your again body grow mass. Don’t fool yourself.

6) Take care of your shoulders. Any movement with the bar behind your next has the potential to take its toll on your aging body. Warm-up. And if you can’t get your arms behind the bar for squats, purchase Dave Draper’s Top Squat.

7) Wrap your knees during squats. ‘Nuff said.

8) Don’t use a weight belt except for deadlifting. Your abs will get stronger without a belt.

9) Stop whining. You are not to old to deadlift, squat and bench. These are the cornerstone lifts. You must do them. And yes, women, this is a routine for you as well.

10) See a doctor before beginning a lifting plan…blah, blah, blah, you know the drill.

11) And finally, it is a good idea to have a de-load week every 3-4 weeks. During a de-load week, use the same weight as your previous workout, but reduced the sets and reps. This will allow your body to retain its fitness level, and to recover from some of the cumulative fatigue that has built up over the previous weeks. If you performed 4 sets of 6 repswith 200 pounds in the bench press last week, de-load with 3 sets of 3-4 reps with 200 pounds.

I have used this routine for nearly a year, and I am still packing on mass and strength almost weekly as I approach the age of 41.

If your goal is to compete in powerlifting, I still recommend using the Old Man Routine for a year to bring up your lifting numbers. In the past 11 months, I have raised my bench press from 175 to 300, my squat from 225 to 415, and my deadlift from 345 to 495.

Train heavy. {{{—}}}


The author

Steve Shaw
Steve Shaw is the original founder of Muscle and Brawn, an experienced powerlifter with over 31 years experience pumping iron. During competition he’s recorded a 602.5lb squat, 672.5lb deadlift and a 382.5lb bench press.

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