Try as you might, working out the same way you did years ago starts to become harder and harder once you reach your 40s. To continue making progress, you have to curtail certain bad habits that you used to be able to get away with and pick up some good ones for the long term.
The way to view this is as a preventive maintenance measure, and not giving in to anything is the key to success in the gym. If you refuse to face the obvious, then a likely result will be suffering an injury and risk missing valuable gym time. That’s the last thing you want since a steady fitness program is the most important part of what you have to do in order to stay in shape once you hit that "over 40" category.
Here are 10 important points that you should factor in as a bodybuilder now that you have hit what some consider "middle age."
1. Reassess The Situation
You’ll know when the time comes to take a long look at what your goals are fitness-wise. Are you a competitive bodybuilder? If so, then you may want to enter less shows than you did in your 20s and 30s, as the entire dieting down process can be very taxing on the human body.
Depleting yourself of carbohydrates and water and then reintroducing carbs is not the healthiest thing for you. But if you love getting up and posing on the stage, then by all means continue to go for it. Just pick and choose your battles so that you are at full strength when you decide that a particular contest is the right one for you to enter.
But for the vast majority of us, we are using weight training and cardio as ways to stay in shape either for playing sports or just for ourselves. You’re doing it to stay healthy, so it is counter productive to overdo it and wind up on the shelf.
You can still train as many times as you always have, but should consider doing so in a manner where you are training smarter more than you are harder.
2. Intensity Level
There are always those days when you feel as if you're on autopilot and work out like a man/woman possessed. You're in "the zone" and every rep and set is filled with high intensity. One or more of these happened every week for you years ago and the gap was widened between them as you aged.
Something else has even occurred to you of late – when you did blast through an intense training session like this, you paid the price the next day with soreness that didn’t feel good like the old "no pain, no gain" mantra we all live by.
All is not lost, though. You should still hit the weights like an animal and get everything that you can out of them. But try to be cognizant of a certain pace that is attainable for the entire session. This will no doubt be a tad lighter than you used to do and would like to still do, and this may take some time until you find the right formula. Be patient and you’ll eventually find your comfort zone.
3. Drop The Weight A Bit
This is probably the single most important aspect of this entire article but was chosen to be introduced here after explaining the first two, as they will impact this one. Once you identify your goals and realize that you have to take it a little easier, it’s time to figure out what kind of weight you will be lifting.
It’s an ego thing, for sure, but you have to get past that. Normal wear and tear on your joints after years and years of pumping iron will make lifting heavy weight not only a difficult chore, but also detrimental to you. A bad knee, shoulder or elbow is pretty much a given and even surgical intervention will not fix the problem entirely. Arthritis sets in and even when cleaned out by a doctor, it will eventually come back.
Do yourself a favor and strip the weight down about 20-to-30 percent. If you were pushing up some significant weight before, this won’t be that much of a drop off for you.
4. Increase The Reps
Make up for dropping the weight by adding a few more reps to each set, doing a minimum of 12. Your aching shoulder will thank you for using less weight and pay you back by allowing you to bang out sets of 15 or more for certain exercises.
This will also increase your time under tension and that is really the name of the game when it’s all said and done. Compare doing four reps with less than perfect form with heavy weight to 12 or more strictly with something a little lighter. Which do you think will be better off in the long run, growth wise and health wise? (Hint: choose the latter.)
5. Implement Drop Down And Super Sets
Another way to keep your muscles pumped when decreasing the weight is to mix things up a bit by testing your stamina with drop down or super sets. These work great with isolation movements such as side lateral raises, concentration curls and triceps kickbacks.
6. Slightly Longer Rest Periods
Using a one-minute rest period is ideal, but it is better to add another 30-to-60 seconds to that and do your next set at full strength than to rush into it and have to do less reps because you didn’t recover enough yet. Now that doesn’t mean to whip out the cell phone and text for 10 minutes, either. Stay in the workout physically and mentally.
7. The Importance Of Cardio
Some people only did cardio during contest prep and totally blew it off during their offseason, while the non-competitor pretty much ignored it entirely. But cardio becomes a vital weapon for you once you turn 40 and can really help as a tool for your overall health. You should be doing cardio a minimum of three days a week.
8. Turn The Page On Your Bad Habits
The gym isn't even half the battle and one of the big changes that you have to make if you’re serious about fitness is to say goodbye to the late nights, heavy drinking, and recreational drug use. When you were 22, you could go out partying to 4 AM, get a power nap in and meet the same buddy at the gym for a two-hour workout.
Try that now, big guy. If you’re even able to drag your butt out of bed, the hangover will make your workout a total waste of time and end up with you vomiting in the locker room.
It’s time to grow up and forget about that lifestyle. Sure, you can go out and enjoy yourself every now and then. But do so in moderation and not lose the entire next day for a few hours of fun.
9. Side Of Vegetables
Replace those french fries with steamed vegetables. They may not taste as good but are certainly much better for you. One to two servings every day and the greener, the better. This may sound like a slight change, but it is one that will add up and make a big difference over time.
10. Adequate Sleep
In order to have the energy to train as often and at the level you want to, get six-to-eight hours of sleep every night. Your body grows during the rest and recovery periods and getting enough of both will make you feel better all day long, in and outside of the gym. And treat yourself every once in a while by sleeping in on a day off to get approximately 12 hours.
Your body will thank you the next time that you’re throwing the weights around.