Tip: Young vs. Old: Who Wins?

A surprising study looks at the recovery rates of 20-somethings vs. 40-somethings.

You've heard that there comes a time in your life when you have to make provisions to your training for safety and longevity, but this doesn't mean you need to retire your weight belt and take up an Aquafit class. In fact, recent research suggests you might be selling yourself a little short, old man.

Scientists recruited 19 recreationally weight trained men. None had had any "formal" resistance training in the previous 6 months. They were categorized as either young (18-30 years old) or middle-aged (40-59 years old). The men completed 8 sets of 10 knee extensions and scientists measured their recovery (muscle damage and inflammation, soreness, etc.) over 48 hours.

The researchers found no real difference in recovery ability between the young men and the old. This doesn't necessarily mean you can throw caution to the wind and get back to your days of heavy 1 RMs, though. The study only looked at the 48-hour post-training window, which might not correlate with what a middle-aged man encounters over the duration of a full training cycle.

Regardless of age, recovery rates can vary wildly. Some senior clients of mine can manage training volumes that would wipe out some of my 20-something clients. There's a tremendous amount of individual variability which can't really be accounted for in a small study such as this.

At the end of the day, though, this study does provide some evidence that you shouldn't assume your recovery is going to tank as soon as you hit 40.

  1. Gordon 3rd JA et al. Comparisons in the Recovery Response from Resistance Exercise between Young and Middle-Aged Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Dec;31(12):3454-3462. PubMed.
Mitch Calvert is a certified trainer and fat-loss coach. He discovered his love for fitness 14 years ago when he weighed 240 pounds. He now works specifically with men, like his former self, who have weight to lose and confidence to gain. Mitch hosts Mansformation Challenges for guys looking to get over the fat-loss hump.  Follow Mitch Calvert on Facebook