When I turned 40, I started reading a number of over-40s workouts and training tips. It left me feeling deflated and old. I was still in good physical condition and wanted to keep training hard. I couldn’t understand why, just because I had reached 40, the recommended workouts avoided ‘dangerous’ exercises and treated me like I needed wrapping in cotton wool.
My relationship with lifting was changing. But this didn’t necessarily mean I was ready to completely succumb to lightweight, boring workouts. Here are some things I have learnt from turning 40 and changing my relationship with weights.
THESE SAFE WAYS TO LIFT PROVE THAT 40 IS JUST A NUMBER
JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE OVER 40 DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T SQUAT, DEADLIFT OR BENCH PRESS
The big compound exercises are great for building lean muscle. This doesn’t magically change when you reach 40. They are still a pillar of my workouts. However, technique becomes more important with age. In my 20s, my body was forgiving with flawed technique. In my 40s, my technique has to be near perfect. If it isn’t, I know about it.
At the slightest hint of pain, stop. If your body is telling you not to do something, don’t do it. Struggling through the pain to complete that last set, isn’t as important as preserving your ability to lift for another year, so there is no point. Just do the required reps and no more.
Make sure you are properly warmed up. I find myself having to include more warm-up sets than I used to before I start my working sets of squats, deadlifts or chest press.
I also won’t make a big lift exercise my first exercise of the workout. I ease into it with something else before I get started on the big compound exercise. So, by the time I am attempting bigger weights, my body is totally prepared and the risk of injury is greatly reduced.
Lastly, to avoid an injury from repetitive use, I do plenty of variations of these types of lifts. This also gives you more balanced workouts. But for instance, if I am doing deadlift one week, the following week I will do straight legged deadlift; the following week, a dumbbell deadlift; the following week, a sumo deadlift. The risk of an overuse injury heightens with age, so ensuring you aren’t doing the same movement every workout is important.
ISOLATION EXERCISES ARE STILL IMPORTANT
Some blokes over 40 forgo their isolation exercises in order to save energy for their compound, big exercises. This is also silly. If you are struggling for energy, doing a set of preacher curls is not going to be the thing that knocks you for six, it is going to be that set of squats you just smashed out.
Isolation work has its merits, besides just boosting a specific muscle for aesthetic purposes. Having a weaker body part can lead to a bad technique. Ensuring your whole body is getting stronger is key to maintaining good form in the compound exercises. This means, biceps, triceps, rear delts, all these smaller muscles make up the bigger picture and need to be worked on as well as your chest back and legs.
Because isolation lifts aren’t as strenuous on the body as big exercises like squats and deadlifts, you can do these to failure. I am not saying if you have limited time you should focus on isolated exercises over big lifts. But cutting them out altogether to save your energy for your set of squats or deadlifts is nonsense.