It’s true. When you hit your 40s there’s a good chance you start finding it harder to put on muscle and stay lean.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. A lot of the reason it gets harder as you get older is because of the choices you make, not because you are physically incapable of crushing it in the gym.
And let’s face it. You still want to crush it. And even though you’re old enough to be one of their parents, you still want to lift more and look better than all the 20 something kids working out beside you, right?
And the good news is, you still can. You just have to be smarter about it than you were 20 years ago when you could make every mistake in the book and still make progress.
Plus you have an advantage. You’re smarter now. You can actually think about what you are doing. And you probably have more disposable income now too. Which means you can judiciously invest in your fitness when required.
Below you’ll discover the 5 most important rules for folks over 40 who want to kill it in the gym and never give an inch to their younger counterparts.
And because it panned out — and because it’s kinda the trendy thing to do — these essentials are organized as the “Five Ps” of training for guys over 40… 😉
The “Five-Ps” To Never Give An Inch To The Younger Guys At The Gym
So you used to be able to walk into the gym, hit a couple light sets of your first exercise, and launch into your workout.
Well that’s not gonna cut it anymore. You have to get your body temperature up, your range of motion dialed in, and your nervous system cranked up. Here’s the plan…
Step 1: Heat. Use any kind of steady state exercise — bike, rower, jump rope, jog, etc — to get your body temperature up. Aim for about 5 minutes at a moderate pace.
Step 2: Mobilize. Once your body temperature is up, take some time to mobilize the muscles and joints you’ll be using in your workout, or any areas that are chronically tight. You can use a foam roller or massage ball to get into these areas and pulp them up. If you find a painful knot, stop there and keep pressure on that area for 30-40 seconds to coax the tension to release.
Step 3: Move. Now that you’ve prepared your soft tissue, it’s time to start taking it through the ranges of motion that you’ll be experiencing in the workout. You can use a lightweight circuit of movements that mimic your main exercises for the day as a great way to get your joints and your nervous system prepared.
Step 4: Ramp. Now you’re ready to hit your main movements. But don’t go balls to the walls on your first set. Start at 60-70% of your maximum weight and gradually ramp up to your work sets so you give your nervous system time to start fully firing before your big sets.
As much as I hate to admit it, when you hit your 40s it’s true that it takes longer to recover from injuries.
That means two things. First, you need to actively prevent injuries from happening. Second, you need to react immediately as soon as you feel the slightest pain.
These are both part of your prehab — prehabilitation instead of rehabilitation.
For the first part — preventing injury — it means you need to first identify where your weak links are and start working to fix them. Generally your weak links will fall into two categories: movement restrictions and strength limitations.
Ideally you should have this professionally assessed. This is one of the places where being older and having some disposable income come in handy.
Find a kinesiologist or very highly qualified personal trainer and hire them to take you through a movement screen and battery of basic strength tests. Get him or her to give you a detailed analysis and suggestions to work on your weaknesses.
If getting professional help just isn’t in the cards, you can go by intuition. What feels tight. What exercises do you feel weak on. Make yourself a list of things you want to improve and spend 5-10 minutes a day on them.
For the second part — reacting quickly when you experience pain — there is just no substitute for having a top notch physiotherapist that can quickly assess the cause and set you on the path to getting back to 100%. Believe me, a quick reaction and a couple weeks of treatment will prevent months of pain and frustration.
The easiest way to leave your millenial gym mates in the dust is to follow a properly periodized training program. That simply means that your program cycles through stages of varying reps, sets, weights and exercises.
If you do it right, for starters you’ll avoid the repetitive stress injuries that leave your younger, dumber counterparts sidelined for weeks on end.
However the real benefit is the compounding results you get from stacking the right training modalities in the right order.
There are a ton of different ways to periodize your training. And choosing the best one for you comes down to your current level, your training experience, injuries and your goals.
By far the very best approach is to have a personal coach who creates a custom program for you. Again… the advantage of disposable income.
Yet there are also a ton of very good “stock” plans out there to fit any goal you might have.
4- Proper Form
Although it may be tempting to hike and twist that shoulder a bit to eek out an extra 5 lbs on your bench press, don’t do it.
You used to be able to get away with that stuff, but not anymore. At 40 years and older, tendinitis is no joke. So learn the most anatomically correct form for each exercise and perform it religiously. Period.
That means a neutral spine at all times. It means perfectly positioned shoulders. It means knees out and toes forward. Take the time to study proper form. Get coached if you can. Because proper execution is worth its weight in gold.
5- Power Sleep
OK, so I had to fudge this one to get it to fit with the “5 Ps” theme… but it still works!
I can’t overemphasize enough how important sleep is for folks over 40 who want to crush it in the gym. Listen: you can still push hard and recover like the young kids, but ONLY if you optimize your sleep.
A good night’s sleep helps to keep your hormone levels optimized, especially growth hormone. It accelerates the repair of the micro-trauma you create through your training so that you can super-compensate and become stronger. And it allows your nervous system to recover and recharge so you can hit it hard again the next time you are in the gym.
Remember, you have just as much potential to crush your workouts, lift heavy, and look amazing as the kids in the gym 20 years your junior. Sure, you have to be smarter about it. But heck… you’ve got a much better head on your shoulders than those young bucks anyway. So go ahead and show them who’s boss!