How to workout over 40

Right, you’re over 40 - what do you need to do differently in your gym training programme?

Well, the answer to this is…nothing much!

Ok, probably not exactly the right answer, so I’ll elaborate a little.
Since the day I first started gym training to the present, the fundamentals of training haven’t changed. Progressive overload (making the exercise a little harder each time) is the key to forcing the muscles to adapt and change, and thus as a result - the body changes. From my personal experiences, over 90% of people who come to the gym want to change their body in some way. This can be achieved with the correct exercise program combined with a good eating plan.

So, are there any exercises that I need to avoid when I’m over 40?

Not really, but what we do have to do is take a few more precautions and train smarter.
By this I mean, when you are slightly younger, your body can repair itself faster, and it can handle a little more stress than it does as we get older. So, a thorough and proper warm up is essential. All too often injuries occur mainly through lack of a proper warm up.
Your warm up should be specific to the workout you are about to do. For example, if you are going to weight train, then first, perform some mobility exercises. By loosening the joints, particularly shoulders, hips, knees, and elbows, it will enable them to secrete a fluid much like oil to those joints, making them move better and more safely. Then you will need to perform a light set of the exercise you are about to do. This is to enable blood to flow to that muscle in preparation. It’s not meant to be a working set, just enough to direct blood there.

Cardio and HIIT after 40

If you’re performing cardio or HIIT exercises, then a gradual pulse raiser is required. You shouldn’t just go straight into working hard. Remember, the heart is a muscle like all the rest, it needs warming up a little. A nice walk or slow jog would be a good idea. A few mobility moves would also help, particularly to mobilise the hips.

Be smart with your fitness training

When performing the actual exercises, we need to be smart. We need better control and tempo. Heavy weights (6-8 reps sets) if performed wrong or too often will lead to joint problems. As an older trainer (49yrs) I cycle my training, with maybe 1 week heavy training then 3 weeks lighter (12-15 rep sets). This gives the joints ample recovery time and often I’m stronger when I return to my heavy sets.
Also, tempo is crucial. We need more control over our lifts. I usually use a count of 3 seconds to lower and 2 seconds to push. You’ll definitely find slowing down the exercise much much harder, and that means you won’t have to lift as heavy to get a better result!

Stretch after a workout

The post training session is where you do your static stretching. All the muscles need to be returned to their pre-exercise length. This is because when you work a muscle it becomes shorter and thicker, and it will stay this way over time if you don’t stretch it. Hamstrings, quads, triceps, back, shoulders and chest stretches are a must. Again, lots of injuries occur due to tight muscles. Particularly in the lower back, where the flexibility of the hamstrings is absolutely crucial.

Its important to rest

Scheduling recovery days is also something to think about. The actual training session is where muscle fibres are broken down, but the body adapts and changes in the periods of recovery, so rest days are equally as important as the training itself.
As we get older, we may need more recovery time, so this is something that is individual to you and needs trial and error.

Its important to sleep and reduce stress

Finally, better sleep and reducing your stress levels are so important. As a teen you could go all night and then get up and go again after only a few hours sleep! I can’t get away with this anymore! Or the late night junk food!

So, essentially everything I have described above, we should ideally all be doing, regardless of our age. Realistically, we don’t tend to do this when we are younger, but it’s imperative as we age. Train slower, smarter and recover well.


That said, I have never enjoyed my training as much as I do now, much more so than as a 20 something year old! And I’ve not had half as many injuries or problems.

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