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What the Heck is a Master Athlete?

What the Heck is a Master Athlete?

If you’ve followed any competitive athletics before, you may have come across the term “Master Athlete”. I remember when I thought that a master athlete was someone who had mastered their skill. How wrong I was. 

Let's start by looking at Webster Dictionary's definition:

athlete (n.): a person who trains in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina

A master athlete is an athlete who competes in a particular sport or discipline at a high level of proficiency, usually after the age of 35. The age limit can vary depending on the sport, but the age typically starts at 35. It’s basically a bracket for the middle aged athletes to be able to compete in and they are usually bracketed into 5 year age groups. A master athlete is also sometimes called a veteran athlete. 

There are a number of competitive sports that recognize Master Athletes, and we’re going to visit a few of them below. 

Track and Field

A master athlete in track and field is someone who competes in events such as running, jumping, and throwing. These athletes may have backgrounds in distance running, sprinting, or other track and field events, and they may continue to compete in these events at a high level even after the age of 35.


A master triathlete is someone who competes in events that consist of swimming, cycling, and running. The bracket for a Masters triathlete starts at age 40 with the oldest being Madonna Buder who finished at the age of 82. 


A marathon master is an athlete over 40 with a grandmaster being over the age of 60, although some races consider an athlete over the age of 50 a grandmaster. If this is something you’re interested in, check your race rules to see what their specific running age requirements are as they differ from race to race. 


Powerlifting has 4 categories when it comes to the masters divisions. Masters 1 is 40-49, Masters 2 is 50-59, Masters 3 is 60-69 and Masters 4 is 70+.  


A master athlete in CrossFit is someone who competes in events that involve a variety of functional fitness movements, such as weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardio. These athletes are over 35 years of age. 

Olympic Weightlifting

A master athlete in Olympic weightlifting is someone who competes in events that involve the snatch and clean and jerk lifts and is over 35. Olympic weight lifting should not be confused with powerlifting or bodybuilding or general weight training. It is a very specific sport and one that requires tremendous strength. 


 A master athlete in Spartan is someone who competes in obstacle course racing events that involve a variety of physical challenges. These athletes may have backgrounds in endurance sports or other activities that involve functional fitness, and they may continue to compete in Spartan events even after the age of 35.


A master athlete in cycling is someone who competes in events that involve riding a bicycle over various distances and terrain. These athletes may have backgrounds in road cycling, mountain biking, or other cycling disciplines, and they may continue to compete in cycling events even after the age of 35.


If you’re the world's strongest and you’re over 40, then the Strongman Masters competition is where you belong. You’ll get to perform exercises like the log press, the sandbag toss, the truck pull,the deadlift, and the farmer’s walk. Unlike bodybuilding, the Strongman is not based on body composition or aesthetic. It’s solely based on brute strength. 


When it comes to bodybuilding, there are several different divisions for women including bodybuilding, physique, figure, wellness, fitness, and bikini. Typically a masters competitor division will begin at 35 but it can vary depending on the show and division you choose. 

Arm Wrestling

Arm wrestling isn’t a sport you hear much about but surprisingly enough it has its divisions just like every other sport. To compete as a masters athlete, you must be 40 or over. 


Taking up boxing as a Master’s Athlete means you need to be over the age of 35. If you’re over the age of 40 you are required to pass an exercise EKG to ensure your heart is up to the task. 

There are a multitude of other sports that include a masters division for competition such as hockey, tennis, surfing, softball, skiing, brazilian jiu-jitsu, archery, figure skating, pickleball, surfing, ninja warrior,  gymnastics, Highland Games, rowing, orienteering, billiards, and so many more. Always be sure to check what the age range is for your specific sport as they do vary quite a bit. For instance, a rowing masters athlete is anyone over the age of 27 whereas many others start at the age of 40. 

The beautiful thing about Masters divisions is that it gives the middle aged individual an opportunity to compete and even place in the sport of their choice. Just because we aren’t 22 anymore doesn’t mean we don’t still have it in us to compete! Find your sport, train your heart out and then sign up for a competition. You may just find your new passion in the process.

Old Lady Gains What is a Masters Athlete blog two female masters athletes
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