How To Squat Heavy, Even When You Get “Older”


I've heard many tales of how as you get "older" you should stop squats and deadlifts because your body won't be able to handle these exercises anymore.

What age constitutes being "older", anyway? I've heard people call over age 25 or 30 being old. Let's cut the B.S. and kill the excuses, shall we?

Your age will affect you, yes, but, if you why, cry and complain about it then YES, you will drag your sorry ass into a pool of weakness. I know plenty of guys older than me (currently 37) who are stronger, fitter, tougher and more dangerous than I am.

They never let age become a factor because they DECIDED who they are, they didn't allow age to dictate strength or lack of.

Here I am at age 39 breaking records again: Squat PR and Deadlift PR

Now, back to squats and age.

Squats are bar none one of the best, if not the best exercise for you to perform. What I have found is that my body doesn't handle squatting heavy in the same style over and over again.


BUT.... The good news is this:

I can squat heavy with frequency as long as I switch up the style of squats I use, rotating through 2 - 3 week mini cycles. I also rotate where I place squats in my workout, they are not always first.

Here are a few of the Squat variations I use in my training:

- Box Squat (Varied Stances)

- Squats

- Front Squat (Olympic Lifting Style)

- Double Kettlebell Squat

- Barbell Zercher Squats

If you've been using age as excuse to stray from the tried and true lifts or you truly are feeling beat up from hitting squats, then try 2 - 3 week mini cycles with the different squat variations listed above.

I will also utilize bands on my box squats and have invested in a belt squat, the best one on the market.

Final Tip: Don't kill yourself on Squats. Leave a rep or two in the tank with your heaviest sets. This allows you to keep technique in check and allows for steady progress. Avoid grinding reps on the Squat.

As you get older, you simply MUST spend more time and attention to your mobility and warm ups. If you deny this critical aspect of your training you will pay the price.

Got comments / questions for lifters over 35, drop em' below! Thanks!

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65 Responses

  1. Thanks for the encouragement. It’s good to know that being a bit older doesn’t have to mean it’s all over. 🙂

    I especially like you final advice to make sure technique is good and to make steady progress.

  2. Excellent points, Z!
    GOD willing, I’ll be 63 in August and feel strong and healthy.
    Your advice has been very helpful; good hard, smart training and proper rest & recovery.

  3. V McNulty says:

    Couldn’t agree more. At 38 I’ve been squatting for 20 years. Sadly I’m suffering some knee tendinitis however I’ve found with a full warm up some quality knee sleeves using Bulgarian split squats and getting my volume work in using the prowler and the sled I still squat once per week.

    I would advise anyone who is a little older to use sleds and prowlers to get volume work for the lower body.
    Light sleds for speed and heavier for sheer dragging both blow my legs (and lungs) up amazingly well.

    1. I definitely agree with you. Great way to keep the volume up there.

  4. Hey Undergrounders

    As you grow older you start training a lot more efficient and smarter. I think that is the key to all of training. Train smart and put time in for your body to heal (proper rest, daily mobilization exercises, quality food).

    E.g. I cut out completely on sugar, wheat and milk. That really did a whole lot for my body to recover more quickly from straineous training.

    When I see vids of Jake LaMotta shadowboxing at the age of 90 and some other guys doing crazy things well into their 60’s I feel there’s a whole lot more to come. 😉

  5. I’ve always worked to the adage – How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

    In other words, I couldn’t care less about my age (it is 53) and I’m squatting sets of 20×110 kg.

    Love your stuff and follow it regularly… Cheers, Baz

    Ps: You only need an age if you intend to collect social security one day, otherwise it is pretty much a useless statistic!

    1. Casey Tipton says:

      Quote of the year!

  6. Hey Zac love your articles bro I”ll be 51 in July
    the main difference I notice is just recovery time for myself I have noticed lately that more of a grease the groove strategy works pretty well plus Im a PT and that way I have something left in the tank to teach classes ( I like to be interactive I not just sit there and point at the white board ;-)but for the past 2 years off and on I have gotten tendinitis in a weird spot on the top Peroneus Longus muscle where it attaches on the outside of the leg about 3 inches below the knee . Hurts when I go low on the squat probably exasperated by doing jump rope and running? so I have backed off a bit.. have not been able to find any thing on Doctor google about it most folks that get tendonitis of the perroneus longus get it down towards the ankle. wondering have you heard of anyone else getting it there and if you had some advice? I have been foam rolling with a PVC pipe and just trying not to overdo it but feel like Im not getting to the root of the problem

  7. I was working with a VERY active client in his early 70s last week, he’s got NO reasons to slow down… people who play the age card (without any medical reasons) are just making excuses. Of course we have to be smart with our training, and pay strict attention to form and programming… but let’s face it – we should be doing that at any age! 🙂

  8. Great stuff! Do you feel that knee sleeves help? I’m 39, and usually get knee pain after I cool down. No trouble during the lifting portion. I will definitely rotate my squats in 3 week wave. I haven’t done that yet.

  9. Dustin W. says:

    Closing in on 38yo I squat better now than I did in my 20s. I hammered back squats for years and with my knee issues found going to parallel was a death wish. Stuck or knees would give (even with 135#). So I did partials.
    Then I found the safety squat bar. BOOM! That felt good. Being a strongman competitor (older/wiser) I started training lifts that had a better carry over. Front squats! Majority of events are all front loaded. WoW! I was amazed at being able to squat arse to heels with heavy weight. Tire flip and stones was easier, and knees felt awesome.
    YOu can either give in or adapt!
    Good stuff Z!

    1. Dustin Maynard says:

      It is scary how much stuff we got in common in our training. I just turned 25 this month, and over the past three years as I viewed your comments—it is unbelievable how much we have in common with our training.

      The Squat—its the same damn thing for me. My knees get stuck, my groin hurts, plus my shoulder blades are so large, they “touch the spine” So, I have to grip the barbell at tthe very end or grip the top of the 45s. I JUST recently tried out partial squats–going down to about 3/4 or half depending on people’s views–and finally it felt awesome. No pain! And the strength was climbing quick. These days I do a lot of partial squats and carries. I’m happy! AND i too, love strongman.

      1. Dustin W. says:

        Also a great name! Means “Thor’s Stone” in Norse. Austrian/German roots going back to the days of the Barbarians.
        Partials are fine, and work to build the snews (tendons/ligaments-ie-Steve Justa, and all the old school lifters, early 1900s). You still want to bring in full range. I have some severe degenerative knee problems combined with a fused big toe. I find that the front squat, or safety bar squat places the weight in a better biomechanical position to complete full range squats. Otherwise, I would suggest working with a trap bar. You can really hit the legs and back with that beast.

  10. Just turned 50 and I still squat and deadlift. You just have to listen to your body a little more. It will tell when you need to back off a little. I find Wendler’s 5-3-1 program or using a variation like 8-5-3 works great since you vary the loads. Also pay attention to mobility and recovery and you’ll reap great rewards.

    1. I was told several years ago to never squat or deadlift again by several orthopedics, my knees could never handle it because of lack of cartilige in my knee joints. I listened to them and my knees kept getting worse. I was at a point where it was no activity or knee replacements. I thought what the H*** I got nothing to lose. Lo and behold I started squating and deadlifting and within a month my knee pain had diminished, fast forward a year later I could run again. Doc’s mean well and you should listen, but sometimes we have a duty to listen to our bodies and do what God intended us to do. By the way I attended Zach’s USG cert. and I am still stoked and using his methods for my clients and myself.

      1. Pete Johnson says:

        Hey Gary, your experience seems much like my own. About 18 months ago, I was experiencing MILD discomfort in my left knee & couldn’t really run. An x ray revealed I had NO discernible cartilage left – it was bone on bone arthritis. 2 orthopedic surgeons concurred I would need a partial knee replacement soon. They were both shocked I could even walk — & I walk a lot. All I know is the knee discomfort began during a decade-long hiatus from the gym (shame on me) & on a hunch, I too said wth, returned (albeit cautiously) to squatting & pulling. Against all advice & expectations, my knee now not only feels better than it has in years, I’ve returned to my strength levels of about 20 years ago. Clearly, exams by medical professionals – not to mention generally accepted perceptions about “the elderly” – may miss important factors involved. Yes, listen to the docs, note the findings — but listen to your own damn body as well. I’m 63.

  11. Couldnt agree more with your tip of leaving one or two in the tank on heavy squats, it helps recovery and performance incredibly. It is simiilar to eating enough food instead of eating too much food! Great stuff Zach …

  12. Orlando Toro says:

    my tool to stay young and continue lifting heavy is to spend 20-30 minutes daily doing stretching and joint Movility, any body out there over 35 must have a separate routine on joint Movility and stretch and you will be safe no matter your age, Im 45

    all the best
    to everybody in the underground family


  13. Jim DuVall says:

    I just started squats and deadlift at age 48. I am up to around 350 on each for 10 reps. I can’t do that too often as the joints aren’t what they use to be, but I absolutely love the two lifts. It has been great for my core and my knees! Stop making excuses and do it. Find a reason to lift not a reason to sit on the couch.

    1. Jim, how long did it take you to get to 350 for ten, from when you started at age 48? Thanks Tom

  14. Great article I’m 53 and have been squatting for over 30yrs and believe age is just how we mark time.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been squatting and deadlifting for 40 years. I agree with rotating the variations and learning how to really listen to what your body is telling you.

  15. I am 40 and I am doing squats since the past 1.5 years, I am currently doing 150 pounds. I am very careful about increasing reps and resistance, as I have heard horrible stories of injuries.

    1. On the comment left by me above I forgot to mention my age which is 66 yrs old. No excuses, just results….you should never play the age card..there is almost something you can do with weight training to enhance your functional life…..Live the Code no matter how old or young you are.

      1. Gary, YOU are my favorite person!!! I love ya, Dude!!! How is Oklahoma!!!?? I hope we meet again!!

        1. Right back at you Zach!! You are the man. Oklahoma is doing fine, and know one thing my man, you will see at a Level 2 cert. or seminar in the future….The Level 1 is a must but I know there is more to learn and I am in!

        2. I’m 67 and squat twice a week. I vary from 3-5 sets of 10 lighter weight (125) to 4 sets of 5 heavier (180). I take 3-4 days recovery. I do upper body 2 days after lower body.

  16. Have you ever tried one-legged squats? Pistols? What are your opinions on those? Great article btw

    1. They are awesome, there are MANY variations to these, even assisted pistols via rings are great, everyone responds differently, though

  17. Alan McElroy says:

    I’ve been training for many years. At 52, I continue to squat, dead lift, and clean. I’m convinced that training hard keeps me going. I’ve recently attended Zach’s Underground Strength Coach certification and came away with more knowledge on sets and rep schemes that I feel will help me continue training hard. I have now added heavy sled pulls and carries to my workout. Age is just a number. You can’t let age stop you from living.

  18. Team! LOVE all the comments and tips, BIG thnx!!!

    I am always very excited to see we have so many readers past 40 and 50!!! I am honored U trust me to deliver the tips!!

    I won’t let U down!!!

  19. Bernard Wilson says:

    I love squats, unfortunately a month before I started the gladiator project I injured my knee. It won’t allow me to squat anything below 90°. Should l keep squatting partials and stick to the program? Or substitute? Thanks

    1. Yes, or, use box squats. I’ve had 3 knee surgeries and can squat deep NO problem…..Mobility my man, Mobility!

  20. in the picture up top i see him squatting with a 2×4 under his heels…whats that for and whats your opinion on it Z?


  21. great concise blog posts you have on here.

    quick basic rehab info: Wolfe’s Law – increased loading on a bone creates more bone. When a bone experiences increased loading, it remodels itself to adapt and be prepared for the next time that load occurs.
    Everyone has a rate of degeneration. Like if you stop working out, after two weeks you will observe atrophy.

    The rate of degeneration begins to increase after age 30. The abilty to generate still exists. So if you consistently workout (in various ways) you can override the degeneration. or at least keep it at bay. That’s why I am not at all surprised to see 53 year old, and 66 year old men posting their badass regiments on this blog.
    As you get older, work out harder. ha!

  22. 45 here. Do squats and deadlifts twice a week. Feel better than ever. Heavy days and light days. Sore…yes. Back trouble is gone and pain in joints gone.

  23. I am 58 years young and still squat. Been squatting for years albeit mostly double kettlebell front squats these days (2x32kg)but also some back squats mixed in as well. Age is just a thing, you can’t think of yourself as old but think of yourself as young at heart. Keep lifting and your body stays young.

  24. Because I was never athletic when I was younger, squatting (well real squatting that is) was new to me as of about 2 years ago. I now am on a program that has gotten me stronger and more fit than ever, but my goal is to get my squat number moving up to a respectable level. Is it possible at 38 or older to move the squat weight up significantly over say a one year period?

    1. Joel, absolutely, brotha, I know MANY guys in 40s, 50s and even 60s.

      You can still get stronger and perform better

      Don’t try to compare yourself to when you were 18 b/c that’s when we get hurt, train smart!

    2. I’m 67 and squat twice a week. I vary from 3-5 sets of 10 lighter weight (125) to 4 sets of 5 heavier (180). I take 3-4 days recovery. I do upper body 2 days after lower body.

  25. Larry Hassell says:

    I have really, for the first time in My life, started the squats using Dave Drapers “TOP SUAT” and Yes I have rotor cuff problems, but top squat allows Me to squat with out the pain. Its coming along slow but I increase My weight every workout using the 5 x5 system.

  26. Larry Hassell says:

    I have really, for the first time in My life, started the squats using Dave Drapers “TOP SUAT” and Yes I have rotor cuff problems, but top squat allows Me to squat with out the pain. Its coming along slow but I increase My weight every workout using the 5 x5 system. almost forgot . I will be 80 in October.

  27. I am 43 and I have never stopped squatting. I workout my legs twice per week:
    My LIGHT day is some sort of a compound leg machine. ie; leg press, hacksquat, etc. Whatever rep range I do on squats 5 X 5, 4 X 6 is what I do on my light day. And I NEVER go to failure on this day. I also do Romanian deadlifts on this day.
    My HEAVY day is squats at 5 X 5 or 4 X 6 as I mentioned before. I take 2.5 minutes rest between sets and I start off with a weight that I can handle, easily, for about 8 reps but stop at 5 or 6. From there, I just increase 20 or 30 pounds every set. I am only actually going to failure for 1 or 2 sets top. Form is way more important than throwing weight around.
    Of course, leg curls, ham curls, lunges, etc are all done also. For about 2 sets of 12.
    I have no knee problems. I have no back problems. Take your time stretching.

  28. I’m 63 and have been weight training with squats since 1964. In the past, I had stiffness and pain, but now almost none which I attribute to supplementing with minerals in the last several years, particularly magnesium, zinc and copper and iodine in the form of Kelp tablets. Magnesium, in particularly, makes the tissues more supple and flexible. I use the better form like Magnesium citrate in a moderate amount of 400 mg.

  29. Joe Shmow says:

    I’m 53 years old and have been physically active all my life, using weight training primarily as an auxilliary activity for other sports.

    I started squatting properly about 2 years ago. When I first started, I had real trouble avoiding a terrible forward bend and getting to depth, mostly due to poor hamstring and hip flexibility and relatively long legs for my height. Through months of doing squats and variations of squats both with and without weights, I have improved and continue to improve, and feel all the benefits.

    I continue to break personal weight lifting records – something I would have never dreamed possible 20 years ago. So from my perspective, age is no barrier. Most younger lifters I know work out according to a plan such as the Texas plan. I listen to my body more than go by any specific plan. I work out regularly. If I feel stronger on a particular day, I go for more. If I feel weaker, I back off.

    I have the following question.
    Where I work out, I see many youngsters (say, under 30, some as young as 16) who seem to have no problem getting to depth with ease. I also notice that the ball goes between the legs of very few professional baseball infielders under 35, but the same does not hold for older players (remember the 38 year old Bill Buckner.)

    Is there any known correlation between aging and ability or ease to get into a deep squat position, loaded or unloaded?

    1. As we get older we need to spend MORE time on Mobility and warm ups….. I’ve seen this each year.

      There are no 2 ways about it, mobility must be taken seriously.

  30. Steven Risinger says:

    I totally agree. I am 41 no cartilage in my knees 2 knee surgeries same knee two years ago. I squat wait not only do I squat but I squat heavy with good form I film my heavy sets to make sure they are correct and work on technique. 345 for 3 335 for 4 325 for 6 warm ups 225 10, 250 for 10 285 for 8. Your body is a machine it will adapt and become stronger plus working legs heavy is your natural test booster hit them hard speed the word squat heavy your only as old as you let yourself be.

  31. Bevan Greiner says:

    Age has become a mental block for countless lifters (particularly squatters). By God’s grace, I have been squatting for nearly 40 years (I’ll be 60 in October). I still squat up to 495 every single week. The only changes I have made through the years is taking more recovery time between squat sessions and ensuring that I use an excellent belt and j knee sleeves. (Never used wraps or a suit in my life). Stay young at heart gentlemen but DO listen to your body and adjust as needed. All glory to God.

    1. Bevan, WOW, 495 at age 60 every week is AWE INSPIRING!

      I’d love to see Video if you have any, you are inspiring!!!

      1. Bevan Greiner says:

        Thank you kindly brother! I have a 545 lb squat video on YouTube under the username f1loyal. That squat was done in November 2017. (I had just turned 58). Blessings!

      2. Bevan Greiner says:

        Thank you kindly brother. You can view a 545 lb squat I did on youtube. I was 58 at the time, YouTube user name is “f1loyal”. Or you can google “Bevan Greiner” and click videos….should pop up. Blessings to you bro!

      3. Michael Percival says:

        Hi just started reading this page,I am also 62 and just got back up to 495,I used to do more when I was younger,been training 2years,did 20 years training when I was young.I never thought I would get up to this weight again at my age,but if you believe you can you will.

  32. chris mellon says:

    Once again!! u nailed this article! it is soo true. the more u focus on the squat the more it benefits your entire body. I actually have just learned that. Since turning the big 5-0 I have really appreciated the benefits of it

  33. I absolutely love reading these stories!!! I am a 51 year old man and I have been squatting since 17. The other night I squatted 410 for an easy single! On my regular squat night I usually squat 345 for 8. I could not agree more with the comments I have read here. If you respect your body and feed it well it WILL take great care of you!!! I have always been a natural lifter and I have always lived healthy and strong!!! To all the men who believe you are too old to lift…….that is complete nonsense!!!!!! Keep on lifting you animals!!!!!

    1. Jimmy, thanks for the positive note, my man!

      It is GREAT to see us “older men” getting after it and
      living the code 365!

  34. Former collegiate hockey player here.

    About five years ago, I had a two-level lumbar fusion (L-4 to S1). I made a full recovery and returned to both the gym and the ice. However, I’m still not confident enough to train my lower body like I used to, even though I was given the green light by my surgeon a long time ago.

    Most of the movements I’ve been utilizing for lower- body are unilateral (Bulgarian split squats, step-ups, etc) so they are a lot lighter and not really allowing me to build that heavy-barbell-compound-movement-strength that I used to build with squats and deadlifts.

    My main question is:

    Should I just suck it up and start squatting heavy again? Or am I just being afraid of getting hurt because it’s a mental thing?

    Any advice would be appreciated.


    1. Zack – Hey brother, Great questions and I like what you’re doing already to strengthen legs.

      Do you implement unilateral carries? Offset carries?


      I’d like to see you get a belt squat or rig one up.

      Then, transition to: goblet squats, front squats, zercher squats and finally LIGHT back squats.

      Don’t rush and Build your TRUNK big time before loading the spine again. Read the book ‘Gift of Injury’ as well

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