People claiming that weight training is a young man’s game couldn’t be more wrong. Still, we can’t argue that a 47-year-old-man can train the same as a 22-year-old guy. We must all deal with aging, and there is no way to avoid its drawbacks.
Luckily, getting older doesn’t mean your body is a fragile mess that will break from the slightest amount of stress. So long as you follow a few rules, you can make fantastic progress well into your forties, fifties, and beyond.
Rule 1: Periodize Your Training
Doing the same volume and intensity for long periods might work well while you’re young, but things change as you age.
Working out in your forties and beyond requires periodizing your training to vary the stress you’re causing and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
Periodization simply refers to the change in training variables (exercise selection, loads used, sets, weekly sessions, etc.) in the long run. For instance, you can include blocks of heavier training, but you should also have periods of lighter training for more reps.
Here is an example of a 5-month periodized program:
- Weeks 1 to 6: Lighter training for more reps
- Week 7: Deload week (light training, fewer sets, active recovery)
- Weeks 8 to 12: Heavier training for fewer reps with more compound movements
- Week 13: Deload week
- Weeks 14 to 20: Lighter training for more reps
Rule 2: Focus on Stability
Stability is the foundation you need to develop your fitness: power, strength, speed, explosiveness, etc. Having stable joints and being able to maintain your position when training is crucial for performing at your best, making progress, and reducing your injury risk.
Good stability is even more critical for people in their forties and beyond. Many of these individuals come from a sedentary lifestyle and struggle to maintain their balance during most gym activities.
Here are several ways to focus on stability in your training:
- Perform slower reps, emphasizing tempo overload
- Do unilateral training – work one side of your body at a time
- Include isometric exercises where you hold a position for an extended period (plank, dead hang, etc.)
Rule 3: Focus on Time Under Tension
Building upon the previous point, focus on time under tension instead of mindlessly doing repetitions. Slowing down your tempo is a great way to improve your mind-muscle connection, maintain proper technique, and cause the same stimulus with fewer reps.
For instance, instead of lifting and lowering the weight for one to two seconds, lift for three seconds, hold the contraction for a second, and lower for another three seconds.
Rule 4: Avoid Injuries
Avoiding injuries is a rule to live by at any age because you might have to spend months outside the gym and struggle to recover fully. Picking up nagging aches becomes increasingly common as you get older, and these minor issues can become debilitating injuries if ignored.
Competing with the youngsters can be fun, but they can handle more physical stress and recover well. The problem is that injuries take longer to heal in your forties and fifties, and you must be more careful with your training.
What matters most is that you train consistently and make steady progress. There is no need to push yourself to your limits and increase the risk of injuries.
Speaking of injury prevention:
Rule 5: Make Warming Up Your Best Friend
Warming up well before training should be your number one priority. A good warm-up is necessary for getting in the mood for training, improving your performance, and reducing the injury risk.
For example, warm-up sets are beneficial for detecting aches early on and resolving them before they turn into bigger issues. Similarly, preparing your body for each workout makes you feel better, improves your mobility, and allows you to make good progress.
We recommend spending up to ten minutes, starting with some light cardio, moving to dynamic stretches, and finishing with warm-up sets.
Rule 6: Add Variety to Your Training
Adding variety to your training is an excellent way to keep aches and overuse injuries at bay. Rotating through numerous exercises and intensity ranges allows you to change the type of physical stress you cause.
Rule 7: Quality Over Quantity
People in their forties and beyond don’t need to leverage countless intensity techniques and exercises to make good fitness progress. A much better approach is to pick four to five exercises for each workout and focus on progressive overload.
You should also make each repetition count, feel the correct muscles activate, and maintain a consistent tempo. Doing more reps doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make good progress if each is of lower quality.
Rule 8: Be More Active Outside The Gym
Fitness should be a lifestyle and a mindset toward life. Hitting the gym is an excellent step in the right direction, but you should strive to be active. Doing so can bring many benefits, including weight loss, well-being, superior recovery after training, and more.
You don’t have to move all the time but make an effort to be active. Take a walk with your spouse and kids, go hiking on the weekend, take the stairs instead of an elevator, ditch the car and take the bike.
Rule 9: Be Mindful of Spinal Loading
Doing all lower-back-intensive exercises in one workout is a great way to allow the area to recover well before training it again. Examples of such activities include back squats, deadlifts, glute-ham raises, and hip thrusts.
Performing such exercises twice weekly might leave your lower back slightly under-recovered, increasing the risk of nagging aches.
Rule 10: Take Care of Your Conditioning
Maintaining good cardiovascular health is crucial for your gym performance and longevity.
As discussed previously, being more active outside the gym offers benefits related to active recovery. Moving your body is also good for boosting your conditioning and developing your tolerance for physical work.
Your three primary ways to emphasize conditioning are to push yourself harder at the gym (e.g., take shorter breaks between sets), be more active outside the gym, or include specific conditioning sessions alongside your gym workouts.
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