3 Biggest Mistakes Men Over 40 Make at the Gym
Living a healthy lifestyle becomes critically important in a man’s 40s because it sets the path he is going to roll through as he transitions from middle age to his senior years. It is at this stage where a man has to take things like working out and eating healthy more seriously because the risk of chronic health conditions begin to show their ugly faces. However, being a personal trainer that spends a lot of time inside a gym, these are the 3 most common mistakes that I see way too often, especially from guys over 40. Just by correcting these 3 mistakes, you can make your journey to better health a much smoother path.
Letting the Ego Take the Wheel
One of the biggest mistakes that men over 40 make whenever they go to the gym is to let the ego get the better of them. You really have to learn to check the ego at the door before entering the gym because it can save you from so many unnecessary injuries, and also making yourself look like a damn fool! Being a personal trainer, I usually have to tell my male clients to slow things down and be patient when it comes to lifting heavy. The fact of the matter is that most people at the gym really don’t care about how much you’re lifting.
Trying to lift more than capable is one of the most common causes of injury for men over 40. It is not uncommon for these men to take extended breaks from the gym, and a lot of this has to do with life getting in the way, such as raising kids and progressing in their careers. Once these men return to the gym after their hiatus, they usually try lifting what they did in their heyday, but, unfortunately, their muscles have weakened during the time spent away from the gym, and this includes the tendons and ligaments, too.
I get it, going into a gym filled with guys in their 20s and early 30s, and being able to lift more than them is a great feeling, but chasing this feeling all of the time may be doing more harm to your body than good. You have to remind yourself to stay within your means because, as I’ve mentioned many times before, people really don’t care about how much you’re lifting.
While letting the ego getting carried away is one of the most common reasons men over 40 suffer unnecessary injuries at the gym, the most effective way to prevent this from happening is to have a plan. By drawing out your training plan, or having you training plan drawn out by your personal trainer, you will go into the gym already knowing what exercises to do and how much you’re going to be lifting. If you remain disciplined and stick with the plan, and only making moderate changes with the lifts that are too easy for you, this can be a helpful key in controlling your ego.
Exercises that are Too Advanced
People in general, regardless of their age or gender, have the tendency of wanting to copy some of the things that they see on social media without really considering their own skill level nor if the exercise appropriate for them. For men over 40, it’s usually the exercises that they see on TV, such as heavy deadlifts. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very strong advocate for deadlifts, but an even stronger advocate for making sure one has learned to do them with perfect technique, first.
Before any guy over age 40 even considers performing an advanced lift, like a deadlift or power clean, he must first ask himself if he really has to do the exercise. Deadlifts are excellent in strengthening the posterior chain, particularly the glutes and hamstrings, but men over 40 with preexisting back injuries run a very serious risk of aggravating the injury if they increase the intensity too soon. As for power cleans, they’re great for improving power, but having a preexisting shoulder injury can make this exercise problematic for men over 40. If you are intent on adding these exercises to your workout plan, it’s imperative that you take your time when learning how to perform them and ease yourself into increasing the intensity.
The main reason why I preach so much caution to men over 40 about performing advanced lifts is that rehabbing from an injury caused by these exercises takes a lot longer to heal than in their 20s. By sticking with the basics and knowing your limitations, you can avoid these unnecessary injuries to continue making progress in your health and wellness.
Failure to Track
Besides letting the ego getting carried away, probably the biggest mistake that men over 40 make at the gym is failing to keep track of their workouts. Long before I started working as a personal trainer (in fact, I believe it goes back to my freshman year in college in 2001!), I noticed that I was just spinning my wheels by forgetting how much I lifted in the previous workout. Because of this, I would either put myself in a situation where I was lifting too much or not enough, so to prevent this from happening, I started bringing a small notebook with me, which had my training plan and allowed me to record my progress.
Since I’m a big time analytical type, it didn’t take long for me to totally fall in love with keeping track of my training progress in a notebook because it gives me a clear visual of the workouts where I was making steady gains and those where I was totally stuck in a plateau. In my opinion, keeping a training log can be a massive help for most men over 40 at the gym because it shines a light where changes need to be made. If you feel like a total geek carrying around a notebook in the gym, you can use a spreadsheet app in your phone like Google Sheets (which is totally free) or Microsoft Excel.
If you have been logging your workouts for a while and you notice that you haven’t been making any progress for an exercise or two, you can make changes, such as using bands or chains, changing tempos, isometrics, etc. to get you out of that plateau. This is why I think it is such a big mistake for men over 40 to bypass keeping track of their progress with a training log because most recreational lifters at Planet Fitness, Gold’s Gym, or wherever, are oblivious to their plateau. Not only that, just by having a record of your previous lifts can keep you disciplined and serve as motivation to push yourself to make incremental increases in the amount of weight or number of repetitions compared to what you lifted in previous weeks or months — it’s kind of like you’re competing with yourself. Just remember that I said “incremental” changes.
Before I turned 40, myself, I always thought it was an exaggeration of how time passes so fast, but now that I’m here, those people were right! Luckily, we are no longer in the stone age where turning 40 probably meant that you were probably past the normal life expectancy and you knew your time was coming up, so you still have time to make changes to your health and wellness. For men over 40, while you are not ancient and still able-bodied, it is still critical that you be more intelligent about your nutrition and fitness training because, at this age, it’s going to take more time to recover from injuries and you’re no longer a kid. By keeping your ego in check, staying within your skill level, and keeping track of your lifts with a logbook, you can start seeing your progress make big improvements and set your self on a path for a better life in the future.