The majority of personal trainers are in their 20’s, myself included. Sometimes this can blur the lines of how to most effectively strength train.
What works for people in their 20’s isn’t optimal for those in their 40’s.
I’ve seen it too many times, a young trainer has an older client do the same program they’re doing - it got them gunz and abz, so it will work for the client too right? Not necessarily. Nine times out of ten the client ends up injured, demotivated and back to square one.
To avoid this situation, I’d like to share some considerations for people 40+ who want to get into strength training.
1. Bring Yourself up to a Boiling Point
The more milage your body has, the longer it takes to ‘get going’. There are two critical factors to consider here.
Never skip your warm up.
It only has to be 5-10 minutes of light cardio, a few stretches and mobilisations, with a light warm up set of your first exercise.
My favourite thing to do with clients is to have them perform the same individualised warm up routine every session. Along with warming them up, it also acts as a transition from work-mode to training-mode.
Don’t follow traditional exercise programs.
Traditional exercise programs place the heavier and more demanding lifts at the beginning of a session when you’re feeling fresh and energetic. This is a mistake for people over 40.
It takes a longer time for the muscles and brain to warm up than young people in their twenties. Jumping straight into a heavy set of barbell bench press as your first exercise after 3-hours of office meetings is asking for a shoulder blow out.
Instead, flip the script and reverse the exercise order. Do your lighter, higher rep supplementary work first.
This, combined with a warm up will completely minimise any risk of injury.
2. Tempo Work is Your Secret Weapon
Tempo is the speed in which you perform each rep. For new and older lifters, a slow tempo should be used for almost every exercise, such as 4 seconds down with a 1 second pause than 1 second up.
Using slower tempos cleans up bad form and improves mind-muscle connection, so the right muscles are doing the job. It also lengthens time under tension (the length of a set) which is an important variable for strength and muscle gain.
Who will get more out of an exercise?
The person who jerks and bounces the weight of their chest and has done 10 reps in 3.5 seconds, almost wrenching the joints out of their sockets.
The person who lowers a weight slow and controlled, aware of breathing and joint position, pauses, then lifts back up with a strong contraction. They take 40 seconds to do their 10 reps.
Person one won’t last long.
3. Always Leave Reps in the Tank
Lifting to failure is a young man’s game. Hell, I’m only 27 and pushing the limits in the gym is becoming a thing of the past.
I’m not saying never train hard. You should almost always train hard, just intelligently.
There’s a point called ‘technical failure’, the point where your form breaks down. Sure you could probably bust out two more reps but they’d be ugly as sin. The pros of chasing those last two ugly reps don’t even come close to outweighing the risk of injury you’d place yourself under.
With clients, I commonly use what’s called ‘Repetitions In Reserve’. Instead of setting a rep goal (like do 10 reps) I’ll ask a client to keep going until they feel like they could only do 1 more rep, then stop.
4. Address the Fact You Have a Life Outside of the Gym
The program designed by a 23-year-old Instagram star who eats 4000 calories of his parents food a day, sleeps 11 hours a night and can train 6 days a week for 2-hours at a time.
Sure, he may look the part, but that program will ruin you.
You have responsibilities and obligations to contend with. Kids, your work, a mortgage, pets, friends, travel, meetings, getting the car booked in for a service… it’s a constant juggling game. Training is just part of the equation - not you’re entire life.
Being able to match your expectations with your exercise and look beyond only the aesthetic benefits is crucial for long-term health.
Training can be done safely and effectively over 40 years old. It just requires a little more thought than when you were stomping around the gym in your 20's.
Hope this helped!
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