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Changing Your Workout After Age 40

Turning 40 is a strange time — I know this because I’m 40, right now. You still feel like you’re capable of doing a lot of the things that you used to do in your 20s, but you can’t deny that you have been slowing down, not to mention the times when you catch yourself letting out a relaxing exhale when you sit down on your couch after a long day at work. But, the reality is that you’re no longer in your 20s, and if you have taken an extended break from working out, you should, most definitely, not even try training like you did back in your 20s.

I came upon this article that was published by the New York Times and written by Danielle Friedman, titled “How You Should Change Your Workout Once You Hit 40”. I’m going to give my takes on the article’s strengths and discuss some of the things that I would like to add that will benefit the folks that are in their 40s. Let’s get it started!


Folks that have not been particularly consistent with their workouts for quite some time and just getting back into the gym while in their 40s, they are sure to find out that their balance is no longer as good as it once was, especially for those working sedentary jobs, such as attorneys, accountants, and administrative professionals. Just about every time I get a new client like this, assuming that they don’t have complications concerning their lower body, I like to test them with the stationary bodyweight split squat. If they’re struggling to perform the exercise, I’ll instruct them to hold onto a nearby machine. As I tell my clients, reteaching yourself to stay balanced while in a staggered stance will get easier with practice, so don’t fret if you’re not doing too well, right now.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to go back to the gym for aesthetic purposes when you’re in your 40s, such as an upcoming wedding or vacation, but, as I do with my personal training clients, I still want you to do compound workouts, as well. By compound workouts, I mean those that employ multiple muscle groups, such as the squat and deadlift. While I still use the leg extension and leg curl machines to specifically target the quadriceps and hamstrings, I do have a real affinity with squats and deadlifts because of their demands on the entire body to be able to do them safely. Including squats and deadlifts can also be really helpful when helping your kids move into their college dorm rooms because you are more likely to be familiar with lifting heavy objects off the floor than if you only did machine exercises.

Do you know what Dr. Lynass if referring to when she mentions “progressive overload”? This basically means that once your strength improves and using the same weight has become easier, you are going to increase the weight. For example, if you were bench pressing 100 pounds for 10 repetitions, and you are now able to perform more than 12 repetitions, you can add more weight to where you’re back to only performing 10 repetitions. Not only can this training strategy help you to increase muscular strength, but it is also effective in maintaining and growing muscle mass.

Things to Add

The writer of this New York Times article briefly mentions that muscle mass is lost by about 3-8% per 10 years after age 30. While lifting weights is helpful in reducing muscle loss, it cannot stop it, outright. In other words, even if you’ve been lifting like a savage every week from age 30 to age 70, you are still going to be physically vulnerable when in your 70s. Nevertheless, you will be in a much better place if you did train like that versus not training at all.

After age 40, it becomes more difficult for you to lose fat and skin will be losing its tightness. Exercising can help manage body fat and maintain muscle mass, which can allow you to keep a younger appearance longer than folks that don’t exercise at all.

When it comes to your workouts after age 40, I can’t stress enough the importance for you to know your goals and be honest about your limitations. For example, if you have been sedentary for over a decade, don’t even dare to try performing compound lifts, like the deadlift, without seeking the help of a qualified professional to observe your technique. If you cannot afford working with a personal trainer, film yourself from the side view and compare it to training books or instructional videos from exercise specialists (someone with a CSCS certification is a pretty good sign). Also, if you want me to take a gander at your technique and tell you where you can improve, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Personally, one of the biggest changes with training after turning 40 is not so much about the workouts, but the pre-workout meals and snacks. No longer am I able to do whatever workout I wanted to do, regardless of what I ate prior to starting my day’s workout. I noticed this back in my 30s, and had to start taking mental notes of what was making me feel bloated or lethargic. Now that I’m in my 40s, I’m having to carefully plan what is okay to eat based on how much time I have available before going to the gym; for example, if I only have an hour before my workout, I’ll just have a banana, and if it’s closer to three hours, I can have what I usually eat, but make sure I limit some of the more fibrous foods, such as brown rice, since that tends to make me feel more bloated.


For you young folks, when you hear us older folks talking about how much it sucks that we have to age, we are not lying. On that same note, younger folks, make sure you pay attention to instructions given by your coach because doing things like skipping your pre-workout warm-ups is going to come back and bite you in the butt when you get older — for some, this is probably going to happen in your 30s, and for others, it might even happen before you even turn 30!


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