Like it or not, our bodies change as we mature and enter our forties, fifties, and beyond. This is true even for those of us who stay active and continue fitness programs that were effective in our younger years. It can be very frustrating and discouraging to train the way we used to in our twenties and thirties, and still see our physiques change for the worse. It’s true that we don’t have any control over getting older, but we certainly do have some control over how we age—even if it sometimes feels like we don’t. After 40, it’s necessary to refocus your exercise habits.
I often joke that strength training is the fountain of youth, and for good reason. As we age we lose muscle and therefore our body compositions change. Even if the weight on the scale reads the same, your physique may look and feel much softer and less fit due to a decrease in muscle mass. So it’s imperative to add strength training to your programs, even if you’re already active and performing cardio regularly.
FITNESS AFTER 40: LIFT WEIGHTS! AND DON’T LIFT TOO LIGHT
While lifting lighter weights for more repetitions is great for cardio and warmup sets, it’s important to challenge your muscles and body with heavier weights if your goal is a fit, firm physique. A good guideline is performing exercises in the 6-12 rep range using heavy weights or body weight. You want to pick a weight that you can handle safely and with proper form, but make sure it’s heavy enough that you struggle during the last reps. If you’re about to finish your set and feel that you can still perform more reps, that’s an indicator that you should increase the weight you’re using.
ALSO, DON’T FORGET ABOUT COMPOUND EXERCISES
Compound exercises—like the squat and benchpress—use more than one joint and one muscle group at a time. They are essential for a complete fitness regimen. These types of moves should be incorporated into your program plan, if they’re not already. They are staple exercises that are excellent for increasing muscle mass and are also a very efficient use of time in the gym. You’re able to work more in less time, and these exercises boost metabolism more than isolation exercises such as the bicep curl.
WHAT’S THE BEST TRAINING SPLIT?
There are endless options for putting this all together into a well-designed training split. If you are pressed for time and make it to the gym only a few times a week, you can choose to do a full-body training split. This means you perform a series of exercises that hit different muscle groups, one after the other, before taking a break. Not only do you challenge and work muscles all over the body, but you also get an intense cardiovascular workout from this kind of split.
If, on the other hand, you work out most days of the week, it’s crucial to design your split with recovery in mind. You shouldn’t do two leg days in a row, for example. You might choose to perform upper body exercises on certain days of the week, and the lower body on others. Another option is assigning specific body parts to days of the week. This is my personal preference, and it’s how I design my own training split. It’s also how the programs in 28 Days to Strong are designed.
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