Workouts for men over 40 don’t have to be an enfeebled version of the workouts you were doing when half your age. Just a few tweaks will have you able to hit it and not quit it when you value your joints and your physique.
You’ve no doubt heard about high-intensity interval training (HIIT) but put a microscope over all the research and you’ll note that most of it is done on trained athletes usually in their twenties. So, what does that mean for the guy with a more mature vintage?
Expert – Kevin Kearns
is a nutrition consultant, author of Always Picked Last and a strength and conditioning coach specializing in aging (burnwithkearns.com).
Before your HIIT class
Regardless of age, this training gets and keeps your heart rate up and helps burn more fat in less time. While massively effective, care must be taken when you HIIT over 40. This training is rigorous and not for the faint of heart, so here’s how to make it work in the long term so you gain as many benefits as the young bloods
Set realistic expectations
If you have multiple injuries and weigh 40lb more than you should, it’s not practical to include 100 burpees in the sprint section of your intervals.
Check out a class first
If you’ve been out of the gym market for a while, and have never seen a HIIT class, you may want to watch it first. This gives your brain a chance to learn and accept what’s expected.3. Observe the teacher’s style
Observe the teacher’s style
Figure out if they offer ‘mod-squad’ options, which is a safe word for people in the class who may need a modification on a certain exercise. If burpees are too hard for you, or you don’t have lower back flexibility, you should be placing your arms on a Bosu ball on the ground and then step back with your feet. This means you get to participate in the drill, without the embarrassment of pulling out.
Listen to your body
If it hurts like hell, or you’re puffing like an asthmatic in an attic, slow down. Then in every class, build up your tolerance a little. Even if you’ve got the mind of junior, avoid pretending you’ve got the body of a teen: your brain will pump the brakes.
Learn your edge – then go a little beyond it
This is a concept I picked up from nine years of yoga twice a week. It’s good to know your limitations, then try and go a little beyond them. In yoga, they always use the ‘mod-squad’ option and will give lower intensity to balancing-on-your-eyelashes moves. The big takeaway: at least try.
There is no such thing as a bad workout
Whether you make it all the way through class or not, at least you showed up – and that is up to 90%
of it. The rest is all judgment on your part. So what if you had to stop at 30 push-ups during one of the drills? It’s better than 29 push-ups. Next week, you might be able to 40 push-ups during the same time period. Throughout it all, the shoulda, coulda and I-suck-at-that, you got to the class and improved your training mojo.
If you’ve got bros, you will go. Training is like a business because the more people you have in your camp, the better. You may never know when your energy will suddenly be down and the friend you grabbed lunch with after last week’s session is someone who’ll energize your efforts.
In the beginning, it’ll be a lot of work and a bit uncomfortable, but it eventually becomes part of you. Finding the fun in any workout will up your enthusiasm and make you work harder for bigger gains, too.
Train hard, eat smarter
Don’t eat a cheeseburger and chili fries the night before HIIT. Fat like that takes longer to digest and you will pay for it in a class. Fruit or a small protein shake before a workout works well, especially for this style of training. Unless you want to end up in the bathroom multiple times?
Remember it’s just for now
The biggest mistake people make during hard training is forgetting to breathe. You can survive 30 days without food, three without water and breathing? That’s like two minutes if you’re lucky. Don’t hold it in!
Wisdom comes with age – the workouts for men over 40 playbook
1 Take a one-minute breather after each set of compound moves that’s followed by a cardio move. Recuperation is just as important as the work rate, so try to do two-four sets on each compound move before the next one.
2 Avoid pairing exercises that work the same muscle groups. So don’t pair a dumbbell curl and press with rowing, or your muscles will fatigue too quickly.
3 Stay on a new program for at least four-six weeks. It takes two weeks just to build the neural pathways you need to start seeing results.
4 Think outside the box. If it’s a beautiful day, use yard work as part of your intervals and do some compound moves in your garage.
5 Try a new move or new angle. If you like push-ups, try lateral push-ups or rotational push-ups. Don’t be afraid to look a little goofy from time to time, because it will make you stronger.
HIIT and compound moves
One of the most effective ways of working HIIT into a regular training program is to combine it with compound moves. This is a great way to keep high muscle mass as you get older, as well as increase muscle endurance for Type 2a fibers. These fibers are also known as intermediate fibers, a mix of type I and type IIx, with comparable tension.
Able to use both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, these fibers have a higher oxidative capacity and fatigue slower than type IIx. These are both strong and can be explosive when need be. The fun part is that these fibers can be enhanced with this style of training, particularly in older guys, because they don’t age as quickly as the rest.
These are both strong and can be explosive when need be. The fun part is that these fibers can be enhanced with this style of training, particularly in older guys, because they don’t age as quickly as the rest.
The formula is simple: take five to 10 compound movements (such as squats, bench presses or deadlifts) and superset them with a HIIT exercise (such as jump rope, push-ups or rowing). This is also a great way to break up the staleness of waiting for your next set, and will make sure you finish your workout in record time.
That should score you some points with the boss (or both bosses!), and also gives you more flexibility in your workouts, so if a piece of gym equipment is tied up, you still have a list of drills in your head that you can pull from. Use the example below to formulate your own workouts for men over 40 using your favorite moves.
|Compound moves (8-10 reps)||HIIT drill (45 seconds)|
|Barbell squats||Lateral jumps|
|Flat bench press||Sprawls with medicine ball|
|Pull-ups||Overhead med ball slams|
|Dumbbell curl and press||Mountain climbers with a bosu|
|Bent over dumbbell rows||Rotational medicine ball toss|
|Dips or bench dips||Jumping jacks|
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