Strength Training Over 40: 6 Tips from the Pros
There is no reason why you can’t continue strength training over 40. In fact, if you have been consistently training over the years, then you have set yourself up for success in your 40’s because you have already set the foundation of strength that guys in their 20’s are just gearing up for.
With that in mind, there are changes your body goes through that affects how your body reacts to the strain of working out and the recovery time needed before hitting the gym again. As your body ages, it naturally goes through changes that affect the level of testosterone you produce, the density of your bones, and even your muscles begin a slow deterioration. Though there is no way to fully fend off your biology, there are simple adjustments you can make to your lifestyle and workouts that will keep you meeting your gains and showing the young bucks how it’s done.
We’ve put our years of experience of personal training in Vancouver and working with people of all ages to give you 5 solid tips to help you to continue strength training over the age of 40.
6 Tips for Strength Training Over 40
The most crucial form of rest your body needs is sleep. Getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night gives your body the time it needs to physically recover. But, getting your 8 hours in isn’t the only way to get proper rest. It is equally important for you to stick to a regular sleep schedule that has you going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. This will keep you in sync with your natural circadian rhythm. This is the internal clock that signals your body for physical, mental, and behavioural changes (including sleep and hormone production) based on the time of day. In this cycle, during a typical 8 hours of sleep your body does its physical repairs in the first hours (10 pm – 2 am) and then mental recovery in the remaining hours (2 am – 6 am).
During the physical repair hours, your body is tending to your muscles and restoring hormone levels you lost during your workout. This is the time your body needs to restore your depleted testosterone levels. As we’re sure you already know, your body synthesizes testosterone to stimulate muscle growth. At older ages, your body naturally slows down in its testosterone production. Since this is the case, you need to maximize your recovery time so your body can fully replenish your testosterone stores before hitting the gym again.
Eating a balanced diet of whole foods and calculating your macros for your goals is a no brainer for maintaining a healthy physique or pushing yourself to new levels. Eating this way is a guaranteed method of getting a full range of vitamins and minerals but it is still a good idea to take supplements to ensure you are getting your recommended doses. There are a few vitamins and minerals that can be taken to help your body easily recover after a workout and fight the signs of ageing.
Bone density can become an issue as you get older. Magnesium helps maintain bone formation and makes it easier for your body to absorb calcium. B12 is a key player in muscle growth. It will help with your post-workout recovery because it helps your body produce red blood cells, the deliverers of oxygen to your muscles.
Our in-house nutrition coach at Precision Athletics can work with you to ensure your diet matches the goals you have set for your fitness level and make suggestions of supplements you should take to enrich your diet.
3) Warm Up
Warming up is always an important step when starting any workout. This is especially true as you age because your muscles and joints tend to stiffen up through the years. Warming up gives your body and chance to loosen the joints and increase blood flow to your muscles. This will drastically decrease the chance of injury or the risk of overstraining your body. There are several reasons why you’d want to avoid injury but specifically related to this post, in our older years, it takes longer for your body to recover from injuries. So, take your time when warming up. Focus on increasing your heart rate and warming up the parts of your body you’ll be working on that day. You’ll regret it if you don’t, trust us!
4) Cool Down
Just as important as the warm-up is the cooldown. We recommend taking time for some self-care with a foam roller, stretching, and even taking a yoga class.
You may feel like a fool the first few times you find yourself rolling around a foam roller but studies have shown that people who foam roll after a workout heal much quicker than people who skip it. Foam rolling alleviated tenderness by releasing myofascial buildup on our soft tissues. Pinpointing tight spots will loosen knots and improve the flow of blood to our muscles.
Don’t skip out on giving your body a good stretch after your workout. This time is just as important as warming up because stretching will help eliminate fatigued and sore post-workout muscles. Focus on the muscles groups you have been working on with gentle stretches that will constrict and contract the muscles back to their relaxed state. This motion will also help eliminate lactic acid (a major contributor to stiff and sore muscles) that’s been building up in your body. How about taking a weekly Hatha or yin yoga class? It’s going to be a change of pass to your usual heavy lifting at the gym but a change of pace in a relaxed environment is exactly what your body needs for a proper recovery.
5) Periodization Training
Now may be a good time for you to shift your workouts to a periodized training program. We’re sure you’re at least a little familiar with the workout style, but just to refresh your memory, periodization is a training plan that gradually increases the intensity and decreases the volume in cycles (called mesocycles) over a period of time.
Here’s a typical example of a 17-week periodization cycle we’d have a client on for their deadlift:
Week #1 5 x 5 (5 sets of 5 reps) @ 70% of 1 RM
Week #2 5 x 3 @ 75%
Week #3 5 x 1 @ 80%
Week #4 OFF
Week #5 5 x 5 @ 75%
Week #6 5 x 3 @ 80%
Week #7 5 x 1 @ 85%
Week #8 OFF
Week #9 4 x 5 @ 80%
Week #10 4 x 3 @ 85%
Week #11 4 x 1 @ 90%
Week #12 OFF
Week #13 3 x 5 @ 85%
Week #14 3 x 3 @ 90%
Week #15 3 x 1 @ 95%
Week #16 OFF
Week #17 – test new 1 RM then base the same %’s off new 1 RM
People who start periodized training see a greater increase in strength, speed, and endurance over time compared to people training with alternative programs. It’s a beneficial long term training plan because it promotes long term training and performance improvements. Most importantly, because it uses undulating intensity and rest periods, it allows for your body to adapt to the physical stress of training as you prepare for heavier lifts.
Interested in incorporating periodized training into your workout? Contact us at Precision to work with one of our Vancouver personal trainers to develop a fitness plan that will maximize your gains.
6) Strength Training with Compound Exercises
Through your years of training, we’re sure you’ve come to know the barbell and its superiority. There are a countless number of fancy exercises and workout plans out there but most trainers agree that the core barbell exercises (bench press, squats, deadlift, etc.) are the essential foundation for any workout. That is because these are compound workouts that recruit multiple muscles and joints to complete the exercise, giving you a full body workout. Other exercises, such as single arm preacher curls, it will put excessive force on your body by targeting only one muscle group. This increases your risk of injury from overstraining the muscle group. Correct form while performing compound exercises is paramount to maximizing your results and limiting your injuries. As we already covered, it’s best to avoid injuries because of the prolonged healing time you’ll likely experience with age. Work with one of our Vancouver personal trainers to ensure you are doing these exercises with proper form.
On top of the foundation benefits of compound exercises, numerous studies have shown that full-body strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss by kicking bone forming cells into high gear.
Strength Training Over 40? No Problem!
There is no reason why strength training over age 40 should cause a problem for men who have maintained a healthy level of fitness over the years. With some slight adjustments to your warm-up, routine, and post-workout, you can continue to increase your muscle mass and even start fighting back against the natural stages of ageing.
At Precision Athletics we are here to help and guide you through all phases of your fitness journey. Contact us at the gym for any of our services in personal training, group fitness, or nutrition coaching.
Want to increase your speed and strength? Read our last post Power Training: Increase Your Speed and Strength.