Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 24 2018

Mid-60s Check-in: 5 Ways My Workout Has Changed

By Mark Sisson
52 Comments

I’m 65, and though I’ve been able to stave off the worst of what normally passes for the “aging process”—as can almost anyone by paying attention to how you eat, sleep, train, move, and live—the fact remains that I’m not training like I used to.

It’s not so much that I’m “losing” a step, although it happens to the best of us. It’s that I’ve totally transcended the need or desire to train hard for the sake of training hard. There are no more competitions. My ego is content on the training front. I’m not wrapped up in pounds lifted or miles run.

I get regular questions about what I do for workouts and how they’ve changed over time. Today I thought I’d answer this.

Miami has a fantastic gym culture with impressive facilities to support it. I almost have to go the gym. It’s something I still enjoy. I just make it count.

I’ve managed to compress my time in the gym with “super-sets” for each exercise.

These aren’t always super-sets where you’re bouncing between the squat rack and the bench press every other set. The kind of super-set I’m talking about is a rest-pause super-set. I try to hit between 12-20 total reps—that’s my goal—in three mini-sets with minimal rest. The super-set is broken up into three subsets with very short rest periods.

An example: Deadlift, 9 reps. Rest 30 seconds. Deadlift, 6 reps. Rest 30 seconds. Deadlift, 4 reps. You’re done. That’s a total of 19 reps. Once I hit 20, I’m adding weight.

Why I like this method:

  • Over fast. I get in, get a great workout, and get out.
  • No meandering and wasting time between sets. There are hard rules (30-second rests) that I must follow.
  • Hard to go heavy enough to hurt yourself. If you’re doing 15-20 reps with little rest, by necessity the weight you use needs to be manageable.
  • But heavy and intense enough to produce benefits. I know, I know, feeling sore the next day isn’t a good barometer of how effective the workout was. That’s what they say, but everyone secretly loves and craves the feeling of DOMS. Really makes you feel like you did something worthwhile.

I’ve fallen in love with the trap bar.

At this point in the game, I don’t need to hit PRs on the straight bar deadlift. Trap bars just feel safer, more natural, more versatile. Some great possibilities (many of which I throw in) include:

  • Trap Bar Deadlift With Squat Bias—Deadlifts with more knee flexion, almost a half squat.
  • Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift—Knees soft but mostly straight, almost a straight leg deadlift with or without touching the floor in between reps.
  • Trap Bar Power Shrug—Deadlift at a pretty good clip, explode upward and shrug the bar. Almost like you’re jumping without leaving the ground.
  • Trap Bar Squat—Squat down, grasp bar, stand up, repeat. Stack some weights and stand on them for added range of motion/squat depth.
  • Trap Bar Split Squat—Stand inside the hexagon, place foot on elevated surface (1.5 ft, about) behind you, perform a split squat, wake up sore.
  • Trap Bar Row—Stand inside the hexagon, bend over at the waist, row that bar up toward your belly.

The average person can get 90-95% of the benefits using a trap bar instead of a straight bar. Maybe higher, even.

I lift for a different purpose now.

As for the weights I use, now that my PR days are behind me, I lift to avoid injury now more than anything. That means knowing what “heavy” really is and backing down a hair. I’ll do one or two upper body days, and one leg day each week. That’s it. Two, maximum three strength sessions.

I base my workouts around standup paddling and Ultimate Frisbee games.

Both of these are stressful enough (in a good way) that I want to be rested for (and from) those activities before I engage in a lifting session. Just to be clear, I play Ultimate all-out for up to two hours, so it’s become my sprint day.

The Miami Ultimate Frisbee scene is very high-level. I’ve fallen in with a regular pickup squad, and the level of competition rivals Malibu’s. So, that aspect of my activity hasn’t changed. I’m still getting my one day of Ultimate a week.

If I’m feeling up to it, Miami beaches are fantastic for sprints. You don’t go as fast because the sand is so powdery, but it makes you work even harder.

Miami has also really changed how I spend time with my favorite activity, standup paddling.

In Malibu, it was a bit wilder. I’d head out past the breakers and paddle in any direction. It was huge, free, open, and infinite.

In Miami, you have the ocean side which is great and much calmer than Malibu, but you also have these inland waterways, like huge canals running through Miami. I’ve been spending a ton of time exploring them, checking out the beautiful homes and boats and even the occasional manatee popping up. And because it’s so calm, I can really go hard without worrying about waves. While paddling is fun, I go pretty hard for at least an hour and up to 90 minutes, so it’s a serious aerobic day for me.

I walk more.

I can walk so much more in Miami. In Malibu, I had to drive somewhere to walk, whether it was a trail head for a hike, down to the beach for a stroll, or to Venice or Santa Monica to just wander. In Miami, Carrie and I can walk out the door and go the market, the water, the book store, the cafe, or just wander. It’s integrated into our day, not something we have to schedule. People don’t really think of Miami as a ‘walking city,” and it’s certainly no New York or San Francisco, but it beats the pants off Southern California.

Trap bar, rest-pause sets, and environment aside, what I train hasn’t changed all that much. I’m still lifting heavy things, running really fast, moving frequently at a slow pace, and doing activities I love. But somehow I’m doing a better job of seamlessly integrating them into my daily existence. I’ve minimized the amount of time I spend lifting without compromising my results. I’m using my compressed training to fuel the activities I love doing, giving me more time that’s also higher quality.

A lot of this could be the simple result of moving somewhere new after living in the same city for twenty years, sort of a honeymoon phase. We’ll see. My workouts here are even more a part of my general lifestyle. They’re, for the most part, parts of my life rather than interruptions to it, which is the ancestral model at its modern best maybe. That’s how I choose to see it.

Thanks for stopping by today, folks. I’d love to read your feedback and questions and hear what new routines you’re trying out. Take care.

TAGS:  Aging, mobility

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52 thoughts on “Mid-60s Check-in: 5 Ways My Workout Has Changed”

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  1. I really have been loving your Sundays with Sisson. I have recently gone from Keto to Carnivore (short term experiment) and feel better than ever at 63. I have a blog going chronicling my experiences.

    I like it that you are less political, more positive. Glad some people do it, but I like it that you do little of that. So reading your newsletters is almost like a meditation for me. Actually helps me shut out the noise. I do warriormade workouts three times/week, but the diet has actually helped me build muscle better than anything has since I was in high school. Thanks for doing what you do!

    1. Lynn, I’m glad you’re enjoying them. I’ve had the idea of doing those for a while now, and I’m glad I finally took the plunge. I’ve gotten great feedback on them, and I enjoy the more casual writing compared to the blog articles. Congratulations on your success in making the right transitions for your personal health. The health culture out there downplays the importance of self-experimentation, but it’s always been front and center for me. It’s great that your experiences have led you to a path of continuing health and well-being. — M

      1. Sundays with Sisson sounds like a great read! How do we get the newsletter? 🙂

        1. Jenny C., thanks for your note. All MDA subscribers get the Sunday With Sisson letter. You can subscribe at the end of this blog post (just scroll down until you see the box), or you can use the subscribe option on the homepage. Hope you’ll join us! Best — M

      2. What is Sunday with Sisson?I hadn’t heard of this either until multiple commenters started meantioning it here, and I’m curious. 🙂

        1. JenK, thanks for your note. It’s a letter I send out to all MDA subscribers each Sunday morning. Very different from the newsletter – more personal and casual. No ads. You can subscribe to MDA at the bottom of this post or on the homepage.

    2. Lynn, I love your site… I love your last meal with the bone-in sardines, the shrimp, the butter sauce, the steak. I’ll be back!

      Question, what’s the deal with the LaCroix flavored water? I’ve always been wary of the stuff when people ask me about it. Then, a few weeks ago I see a snippet about LaCroix containing the cockroach insecticide. Surely you’ve looked into this… what gives? Is the stuff really that delicious? Could you just take some regular ‘ol “Sparkling” Mountain Valley Spring Water and add some of your own lemon or lime?

  2. Great post Mark! I’m approaching 40 and have adopted many of these same approaches to training that you mention. My goal isn’t to PR on the deadlift these days, my goal is to still be deadlifting when I’m 70 or 80 years old. I’m willing to take off a few plates so I can minimize risk of injury. My workouts are also short and fairly intense and I have not lost any muscle and I definitely feel better and recover easier. I also love the trap bar and in addition to the exercises you listed, another great trap bar exercise is the trap bar farmers walk—not technically challenging but very effective and low risk for injury. I have emphasized sleep and recovery more than ever and am learning to listen to my body and be ok with skipping a workout if I slept poorly or was under more stress than normal. Nowadays, a walk with my wife and playing ball with my kids “counts” as a play workout and is also very enjoyable and has improved my overall well-being.

  3. Hi Mark,
    We are the same age. My workouts have also changed. I emphasize cardio, but short and sweet.
    I do 40 minutes on a sharp hill profile on the cross trainer step machine. I also walk a lot outside on a hill area. My weght lifting is light and high reps.
    It keeps me energy levels high. I also have cut back on my caloric intake. A type of semi-fasting.
    Best regards

  4. Is it bad that I have adopted your “super set” lifting philosophy at 36? I feel so much better doing these instead of the heavy, crossfit-inspired bar work. Now that I see how long it takes to overcome injuries, I have become very avoidant of exercise like bench press that put unnecessary stress on my joints. Thank you!

  5. Hi Mark,

    Excellent article as always. Thank you for both the information and the possible variables aka honeymoon phase of moving to a new area after 20 years. Looking forward to seeing you at Paleo FX! 🙂

  6. Mark,
    Great post — I’m approaching 60 in less than two months and feel better than ever. I went primal almost two years ago, reduced all my body pain, and now, playing pickleball like an addict! I was 17,000-24,000 steps a day — and most of it is because of that game. So fun and now that you are living in Florida (the epicenter of pickleball) — you should try it! Along with pickleball, I have a personal trainer once a week who works me hard for that session and have just added a milder form of CrossFit with a lot of HIIT — I really only need it about once a week. Thanks for all yo do to keep us healthy!

  7. I’m 73. 2008 had some major family stress and developed hypertension. Started walking to improve blood pressure and avoid medication but overdid it and ended up with heart issues. Lost weight. Found MDA. Moved from the country to an outer city suburb 2013. End of 2017 found an amazing gym. Go there 3 days a week, have a PT on 1 day. (Drs requirement). I’m gaining strength and heart seems to be stronger. I do some cardio but there is more emphasis on balance and resistance training to 1. reduce fall risk and 2. increase strength so that if I fall I’m less likely to break a bone. It showed me that age does not have to be a barrier to improving health and fitness. I’m loving it as is my husband. He’s 79 and I think a bit of a poster boy for the gym. Finding Mark and MDA changed our lives.

  8. Mark,
    Is the dead lift the only weight bearing exercise you do now?
    If not , what others do you do?
    I am 73 and still do your 5×5 routine.

  9. Hi Mark: Great articles and books, I took Your advice from one of Your Sunday with Sisson articles and started doing sprints around the pond at Our community here in Orlando during my morning walks. I’m do 14,500 steps which equals 7.2 miles on myStepz App on my I-phone 5-6 days a week. I sprint like it’s a football field and rest in the end zone and do another lap around the community. We’re the same age and through Your books I’ve lost 40 pounds since March. On the weekends and some during the week I ride about 10 miles for fun.
    Once again thanks for all You do,
    Roger

      1. I thought it was his ultimate frisbee match but sounds like it’s a newsletter thingy.

      2. Jen, thanks for your note. Sunday With Sisson is a letter I send out to all MDA subscribers each Sunday morning. If you aren’t already an MDA subscriber, you can fill out the box at the end of this post (just scroll down a bit) or use the subscribe option on the homepage. If you are a subscriber, be sure to check your older emails and even spam folder in case it got filed there. They’re always titled Sundays With Sisson. Best — M

  10. Hi Mark,
    I really enjoyed the article. I have just come back to exercise after a long period of being sedentary. I am all about strength, I continue to be surprised how much I can work on a Pilates reformer. Cheers

  11. Hey Mark! I loved reading this. I’d love to know your thoughts/practices regarding minimal footwear and especially as it pertains to walking in the city. City walking is great I’m just not sure they’re a good idea for this type of walking. Thanks so much and take care!

  12. If Joe Mercola is doing 3 plates on the trap bar deadlift, it’s time to rethink some things… you know what I”m talking about Mark! Even the silverback gorilla watches over his back.

  13. Great post Mark! I will try your lifting method. I’m ALMOS 57 and have a lifetime of strength behind me and I also get where you’re coming from! I want to stay fit, keep mobility and balance, and feel confident when tackling physical tasks.. Oh yes, and keep up with my 30-something kids in my own way to enjoy many of the activities they enjoy (but not all LOL!)

  14. Just curious, when did you relocate to FL and what prompted the move? Pardon me if you have made mention of this in another post that I did not see.

  15. Wonderful input about your gym time. Your super set idea is great. I’ve gotten over the idea of cheating my workout or somehow being a slacker if I only work out for 20 minutes. Honestly, it was a bit of a struggle and didn’t want to make eye contact with the front desk when leaving!

  16. This is an excellent way of doing it, I love the integrating it into your life rather than having it as an interruption.

  17. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for posting your 60 something workout info.
    The 60 something crowd really appreciates it. You must be overwhelmed with replies, but thanks anyway from a long time observer/user of your methodologies.
    Glenn

  18. I love this! I workout to stay functionally fit: flexible, agile and injury-free. I compete only against myself, not against others. I will have to ‘borrow’ a few of your workouts! Great article!!

  19. Hi!
    Interested to hear why you moved to Miami? Better weather, lower cost of living? Anyway good for you.

  20. Hi I m male weight 121 lbs 5’4″ and have Osterperosis left hip,left nevk thin spine any ideas for excercising properly and help with glutes..Thanks any help woyld be appreciated!

  21. Interesting! I didn’t know you moved to Miami (I’m in St. Augustine). What inspired you to move?

  22. Sundays with Sisson is my favorite day of the week. I’ve been a Mark’s Daily Apple reader for over 10 years and I love the constant improvements and I love that you share things about your life with us. I get so much out of it. Thanks, Mark for all that you do.

  23. Hi Mark,
    You are awesome – I’ve been following you since your first book came out. A simple request – can you put a link to share your posts and content on LinkedIn? I think the business community really needs to hear your message.

    Best,
    Dave Den Bleyker

    1. Dave, thanks for your note and interest in seeing MDA shared in the business community. I’ll talk with my staff about the suggestion. Best — M

  24. I REALLY enjoyed this post. At 53 I’ve finally discovered that light weights, high reps and low rest are best for muscle and I wish I’d known it at 23. Also, check out the Jefferson Squat… Done with a straight bar and no need for squat rack and allows you to get some deadlift+squat benefit. And overall I still lean towards bodyweight calisthenics over weights but do some light weights with cheap home equipment. No gyms for me!

  25. Since good sleep is so critical to recovery could you comment on how/if your sleep has changed as you’ve gotten older?

    Tx

  26. Do you still sprint ?
    Do you consider sprints safe for older athletes?

  27. It was interesting to read yr comments on changes u hv made post-65. I am 79 and counting, and hv lately felt a distinct need to slow down in my regular routine, or develop a different way of doing things.
    Examples:1. I used to walk at an avge of nearly 6 kms /hr. Each 200m takes me abt 5-10 secs longer. I presume I shldn’t fight it.
    2. From doing wts 3 times a week 4-5 yrs ago, I hv come down to once a week.

    I need advice on Qs related to specific problem areas, May I pose them and expect replies?

  28. Mark… living in a downtown high rise, where do you keep/store your paddle board?

  29. Hey Mark,

    Just ordered the update Primal Blueprint book and the digital 21 day transformation package, can’t wait to get started.
    Question about your walking habits, I’m new to this but I believe you recommend 2-5 hours a week. Would a daily step goal of say 10,000 help be an appropriate goal or is that actual time/duration more important then overall steps taken?

    Thanks again for all the help and information

    Jed

    1. Thanks, Jed. Good to have you here. It’s amazing what a few hours a week of basic low-level cardio can do. I’d recommend thinking more in terms of 5 hours if your current health and conditioning allow it. It’s easier than people often imagine. Pedometers are useful because you don’t have to think about tracking anything yourself, but they aren’t necessary either. 10,000 steps a day for most people is a good benchmark for working in low level cardio, provided you discount the steps taken during more rigorous exercise like a run/sprint. Much of those 10,000 steps will be basic stuff like walking from your car to work or shuffling around the house. When you add a good long walk to that you’ll probably land around 10,000. However, if you just want to take frequent breaks to move throughout the day and then fit in a 30- to 45-minute walk in the evening, that can work, too – no device needed. Good luck, and let me know how things are going for you! — M

  30. I’ve been following your blog your blog or 6+ years. Good stuff. In this pic you posted of yourself, you seem to have a left shoulder separation. Is it just my eyes? Question; what does the research show is the best way to improve mobility and viability of the AC joint, especially with age? I’m young; my question is for my future self. After years of rugby what type of damage can I expect?

  31. Mark, I’ve read your blog regularly since you began. I’ve had a trap-bar even longer! I’m 69 and I still use it for farmer walks, in addition to all the movements you noted. Farmer walks are similar to deadlifts insofar as they affect every kinetic chain from your toes to your nose. I am grateful to you, for the extraordinary enrichment to a healthy lifestyle you have brought – and continure working hard to bring – to so so many people. Thank you.

  32. Mark, I’ve read your blog regularly since you began. I’ve had a trap-bar even longer! I’m 69 and I still use it for farmer walks, in addition to all the movements you noted. Farmer walks are similar to deadlifts insofar as they affect every kinetic chain from your toes to your nose. I am grateful to you, for the extraordinary enrichment to a healthy lifestyle you have brought – and continue working hard to bring – to so so many people. Thank you.

  33. Thanks for the suggestion. I appreciate the change, even being closer to 70 than you. Got the weight for the dips and chins spot on but need to add 10 kgs for the next round of dead lifts. (damn). I am jealous of your trap bar,,, our little Mountain Gym in mid Canterbury is a bit more basic. I might mix cleans and squats next go.

  34. Mark, Have you produced a video with the trap bar exercises? I’d love to see you go through a workout using them. Awesome article.

  35. Hi Mark,
    I’m about to hit 64 this January and am a avid Crossfit athlete for the last 7 years. My question to you is, at my age, should I have an expectation of continued PR’s on my lifts? Or am I pushing for something I may not be able to attain given my age?
    I really enjoy the challenge and especially the community aspect of CF but I’m not sure how I should approach future expectations.
    Thanks for any input.
    You have been an excellent resource!
    Dave