What You Should Know If You Want to Powerlift After Age 50

January 25th 2019

Should you participate in powerlifting after age 50? Should you even consider strength training? I would say so.

In fact, I had a wonderful opportunity to speak with Rudy Kadlub, one of the co-owners of Kabuki Strength. Rudy is currently 69 years old and competes in the 220lbs weight class. Year after year, he continuously challenges the current strength records. More importantly, he continues to improve himself. He has squatted 451lbs with wraps, bench pressed 303lbs and deadlifted 518lbs in competition, about two months ago in November 2018.

One of the topics we discussed is if older people still had the potential to get stronger each year. I was looking on forums online and see that many older folks just hang the towels up after a certain age. I was curious to see what Rudy had to say about this. His answer should be no surprise.

People of all ages have the opportunity to get stronger

That was great to hear. Rudy believes even after age 70, people still have the opportunity to get stronger. Age does not define how strong you can get.

At the same time, it is vital that good fundamentals and principals are ensured and practiced so that your risk of injury is minimized. This is always a golden rule. Lifters should know what training frequency, volume, and intensity they should be doing with respect to their strength goals. Blindly following certain training principles without understanding them may be a recipe for disaster.

So, if you are an older lifter who is interested in powerlifting or strength training, get yourself a good coach if you are not familiar with the barbell movements. Get a mentor to teach you and guide you so that you do not make any careless errors. Begin to understand certain terminology and continue to learn. I guarantee there is always something out there that you do not know.

Having a goal to get stronger

This answer should also not be a surprise. I asked Rudy how he was able to get stronger year after year, despite having some setbacks due to injuries and surgeries.

Rudy pointed out that it just sort of happened that way. In high school, he seemed to always be getting stronger a bit faster than other people. In college, he played college football and also worked out. He went on to become a football coach to eight years after. In between college and his 50s, he spent about 30+ years not really worrying about getting strong. There were simply other priorities in life to take care of.

It was not until a skiing injury in his 50s, he found a new hobby and outlet to get himself moving - gaining strength. He was always a goal oriented person and strives to achieve what he wants. Since he had a background of lifting weights, he did not mind trying to strength train. At this point in time, strength training could be one of his priorities in life. He was looking up the bench press record in Oregon at the time and sought to break that.

His first competition was a push-pull meet, the bench press, and deadlift. A year after that, Rudy was already breaking American Records in his weight class. And the following year after that, Rudy was smashing the All-Time Records in his weight class.

Having a clear and definite goal is probably the only way to make consistent progress. If you do not have a destination to where you want to go towards, you will wander mindlessly. Maybe for casual lifters, this may be an appropriate method to follow. But if you want serious results, you will accomplish way more if you set a goal to achieve, both short term and long term.

Stop comparing yourself unrealistically with others

We all see the impressive feats of strength in the Open Division in strength sports. So, I asked Rudy what motivated him to continue participating in strength sports at his age. Rudy made it clear that he did not really compare himself unrealistically.

He made sure he improved and got stronger. And as he continued to get stronger, that was enough motivation of itself.

This is important because too many lifters will try to compare themselves with other world-class athletes and will be intimidated by their progression. Sometimes, I find myself in that train of thought. But at the same time, it really does not impact me at all. All that is really important, as Rudy stated, is that I kept on getting stronger. If my strength continues to improve over time, that is enough to keep me motivated to push my boundaries.

Injuries happen, what are you going to do about it?

I was very intrigued by Rudy’s injury history as he had multiple surgeries performed on his shoulders. I wondered whether or not he had a difficult time getting back into lifting and continue to smash PRs.

Of course, there is the usual grind of going through physical therapy and to ensure that your joint is healing properly. But throughout our conversation, there seem to be no really major setbacks. Rudy Kadlub had a partial right shoulder replacement in May 2016 and a partial left shoulder replacement in September 2016. He went to a surgeon in the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Anthony Miniaci. Rudy wanted a least invasive procedure, for obvious reasons - to continue to compete in powerlifting and the dangers of total shoulder replacement. After about 1 year later, he was back in the gym in May 2017 and crushing weights.

To me, it really seems as if Rudy was destined to be a strength athlete. To recover the way he did and to continue to improve his Big 3 lifts is very impressive. I’m sure it was not easy in no way shape or form. In fact, Rudy still feels himself recovering from the surgery. Every six months, he feels a dramatic improvement. There is still pain but it is constantly improving as time goes by.

For some people, this is why they stop lifting weights. It is just getting too hard and they do not really want to suffer through the rehab, the pain, etc. This may be a key reason why a lot of older individuals atrophy drastically. They stop moving and they stop doing hard tasks. Without any mental and physical stimulation, your body will adapt to your lack of stress and continue to dwindle in function.

Get your training done

In order to get stronger, you need to train. Not only train hard but train consistently as well. There is no other way around that. I asked Rudy if training now was harder than training back then.

He told me that in fact, training today is even easier. He currently trains where he works so there is no travel time. In the past, there was at least a 20-mile drive to the gym.

So, this answer should also not be a surprise to anyone. Strength training will require dedication and focus. For a long time, Rudy pointed out that strength training was a hobby, where he could train with his group. Over time, it has evolved into something more demanding but he still made sure that he gets his training done.

We all have different life circumstances and situations. However, we all need to keep lifting weights in order to get stronger.

Training with a group

When Rudy first started to get into powerlifting, he trained with Chris Duffin and his friend at Chris’s basement. Though this may not seem like much, the group later expanded and turned into a gym.

Training with like-minded individuals along with stronger people will help you make more progress. The feedback and ideas exchanged are vital for many lifters to improve technique or to make sure certain bad happens do not set in. Programming tips, exercise execution and exercise precision can be monitored and corrected immediately with other experienced eyes. It can also be motivational to have other people root for you during a heavy session.

You may think you are your best critic but the second pair of eyes is always better than one. Having an extra buddy or two can definitely help keep you honest as you continue to get stronger.

Wrapping Up

Overall, age should not be an excuse for why you should not be lifting weights. Your reason to lift weights may be different than someone else’s. It may seem daunting at first but over time, you will get used to the environment. It’s like trying out any other hobby for the very first time. You may suck at first but are willing to stick with it?

Embrace strength training for what it is. If you enjoy accomplishing your goals and continuing to improve your quality of life, strength training and powerlifting may be the sport for you.

I’d like to thank Rudy for allowing me to interview him and to pick his brain about his strength training journey. You can visit his company’s website here.

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