Do you want to slow down aging, and look younger through your 40s, 50s, and beyond? (Who doesn’t?!) Science has already proven time and time again that strength training for older people is vital to a healthy lifestyle. It promotes bone health, prevents injury, and keeps you looking and feeling active. The benefits of strength training for people over 40 cannot be overemphasized.
Are you over 40 and ready to start a strength workout plan that is safe, effective, and challenging in all the right ways? Perhaps you’ve perused a few fitness magazines or books. Maybe you’ve watched a few YouTube videos, joined a gym, or even tried a few new workouts.
Getting fit over 40 doesn’t have to feel like an uphill task, even if you are entering the gym for the very first time. Let’s explore the best workouts for you. The workouts that will help you to shed weight, improve brain function, and increase your metabolism.
Getting Started with Strength Training: The Ultimate Guide for First-timers
For someone who has never done strength training before, it can feel daunting to get started. You might be intimidated at the gym by people who seem to know more than you, or who look different than you do. If that sounds like you, just remember:
Even the fittest person you see on the streets was a newbie once!
Here are a few key tips to help you get started with a strength training regimen:
1. You can (and should) begin with your body-weight to understand the fundamental movement patterns first
If you are new to strength training, body-weight workouts are a great place to begin! Learning the basic movement patterns before you include additional weights like dumbbells will allow you to learn the technique properly first. As you build and develop your strength training plan over time, having good technique will help you lift more weight and minimize your risk of injury.
2. Learn appropriate form and stick to the basics
Doing any workout without the proper form can lead to injury. However, when doing any strength training for over 40 while using weights, the injuries sustained can be more overwhelming.
To stay safe, fitness experts recommend that you start small, with light weights, and that you stick with basic strength training exercises. These exercises help you build strength, and learn your body’s limits while you get more comfortable with the gym. Great basic exercises to start with include:
- Squats, sumo squats, & split squats
- Tricep curls
- Bicep Curls
Though these are simple exercises, have no fear! They are still highly effective! These exercises work on several joints and muscle groups simultaneously, strengthening large muscles and maximizing your time at the gym.
Also, while reading magazines and watching YouTube videos can help you learn proper form, a certified personal trainer can work with you to ensure you are doing every move correctly, and reduce your chance of injury. Even just a few sessions with a certified trainer can be beneficial to your health and technique!
3. Start Slow and Set Realistic Goals
Strength and resistance training with weights is definitely an efficient way to gain muscle for anyone – including people over 40. But you should definitely start small and build on your fitness goals step by step to prevent injury.
Think of it as a muscle marathon, not a sprint. If you lift weights that are too heavy or do too much, you risk injury, which will only sideline you while you wait for your body to recover. Instead, go slow, and trust that the results will come.
You should set realistic expectations on how quickly you will achieve your desired outcome. Our bodies don’t change overnight, no matter how old we are, and our metabolism slows about 5% for every decade after 40.
This doesn’t mean you can’t look better than ever after 40 – it just means you need to be patient with yourself, and stick with your fitness regimen. After all, fitness isn’t an end goal, it’s a way of life.
Best Full Body Strength Training Workouts for People over 40 to build Lean Muscle
If you want to gain lean muscle at 40, then full body strength training exercises are a great place to start. Full body workouts help you gain muscle and burn fat at the same time. You can work out frequently and still allow your body time to recover between training sessions.
Designing full body workouts for fat loss can feel overwhelming. Where do you start? What kind of programs do you build? What exercises are safe and effective? Especially if you participate in other kinds of physical activities, like jogging, cycling, or other outdoor sports, you want to be careful with keeping your body safe, and challenging yourself, but not overloading your workout plan or your weight bar.
Here are three simple full body workouts variations that people over 40 can try:
Low Volume Compound Workouts
These are exercises that target to maintain the muscle without depleting too much glycogen – the stored energy within your muscle tissue. In fact, this is the best approach because it will not drain your muscles.
One advantage of this low volume compound workout is the high frequency nature of this exercise. Some of the best low volume compound workouts include bench press, squats, leg raises, and deadlifts.
You should always consult your doctor before starting any new kind of fitness plan, but here’s what a low-volume compound workout might look like:
- Barbell deadlifts: 3 sets, 5-6 reps
- Barbell incline bench press (medium grip): 3 sets, 6-8 reps
- Wide-grip lat pulldown: 3 sets, 6-8 reps
- Lateral raise – with bands: 2 sets, 6-8 reps
- Standing calf raises: 2 sets, 8-10 reps
- Superman: 2 sets, 8-10 reps
This kind of workout plan would be followed by a strength training plan that targets different muscle groups, sometime in the following days.
Depletion Full Body Workout
These are workouts that aim to deplete the glycogen stores in your body. There are most effective when done once in a while to boost the fat-burning enzyme activities in your body.
For most people, depletion full-body workouts are most effective if you save them for once a week, boosting your fat-burning potential while also giving your body time to recover in between depletion workouts. In the day or days following a depletion workout, you can balance out your challenging routine with some light cardio.
So what is a depletion workout? It’s working muscles back-to-back that you wouldn’t normally group together in a workout. Some say this “shocks” the muscles and invigorates you in the gym by shaking things up.
You should always consult your doctor before starting any new kind of fitness plan, but here’s what a depletion workout might look like:
- Leg press: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Barbell bench press (medium grip): 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Seated cable rows: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Barbell shoulder press: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Butterfly: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Wide-grip lat pulldown: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Side lateral raise: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Standing calf raises: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Dumbbell bicep curl: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Pushups: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
- Hanging leg raise: 2 sets, 10-15 reps
The Best Workout Plan for Men & Women Over 40
As you age, your muscle mass changes and so should your approach to life. This absolutely doesn’t mean you have to compromise your fitness goals. It just means you can celebrate every workout: Each workout isn’t a punishment or a harsh plan to make your body look a certain way. Instead, it’s a way to make you feel healthier, sleep better, feel stronger, and feel more confident.
Here is a simple workout plan for men & women over 40 divided into three different phases:
Phase One: Warm Ups
A good warm-up will increase your heart rate, blood flow, core temperature, and prepare you for greater workout times ahead. This can include light cardio, like jogging on a treadmill, using an elliptical machine, a stair climber, or a stationary bike. The key here is to find something you enjoy doing and start to break a sweat.
When you are doing a strength training workout, your goal isn’t to kill yourself with cardio. You just want to do enough that your muscles are warm, your lungs are full, and you are less susceptible to injury because your blood is flowing. This also makes your muscles feel alert and ready.
Phase Two: Weight Selection
Start with a weight exercise that you feel comfortable doing. It helps to have a plan for your day’s workout, so you can be focused and productive during your gym session.
So what weight should you choose? You want to pick something challenging to you, but also something that you can safely lift more than once. If each set has a high number of reps, you will want to take that into account as you choose your weights.
And if you pick the wrong weight? That’s okay! It’s totally fine to switch to a higher or lower weight if you need to. You want to feel challenged without compromising form or safety.
Phase Three: Rest
You need to take a good rest in between each set to help your muscles relax and recover, and you also need to rest in between exercises. Even a minute or two between sets or exercises can restore your energy and have you feeling more ready than ever to take on the next set, grow stronger, and feel better, Your muscles need this time to recover, and so do you.
Phase Four: Repeat Steps Two and Three
Once you’ve completed an exercise, it’s time to rest, and then move onto the next exercise! Again, you want to make sure you’ve given your body some time to recover. A minute or two will do.
You might see some people waiting several minutes between exercises at the gym. They will also probably be there much longer, and won’t do much more than you! You only need a minute or so to recover. You’ll challenge yourself more, and you’ll be in and out of the gym much faster too!
Phase Five: Cooldown
People want to skip this step all the time, but it’s crucial to your body’s recovery. Take a few minutes to slightly stretch all the muscle groups you worked during your training session. This will keep your muscles from feeling too stiff the next morning, and it will help you stay limber.
If you skip the cooldown, you’re denying your body the extra recovery it needs. Even 5 minutes of stretching can be beneficial to your tired muscles. Reward yourself for the work you’ve done in the gym with the great feeling you get from a good stretch!
Don’t forget to read our blog on “Restoring Your Mobility and Strength after Age 50“