Reaching 40 is a milestone which brings to us many life changes. Once you hit that tipping point which places you in the “over the hill” crowd, it is like some unseen hand waves a wand and everything in life magically becomes more difficult.
Though this is normally the point in life when everyone begins to make some sort of changes to diet, exercise routines, sleeping habits, etc, it is certainly a time for those involved in hardcore fitness to make some workout modifications. When we’re younger, we can load up on the weights without noticeable damage and recover quickly. Not so when the gray hairs start showing! Therefore, armed with (hopefully) greater intelligence and life experience, those over 40 should make the necessary adjustments to their heavy exercise routines.
Increase Warm-Up Periods
Walking into the gym, slamming half your weight limit and calling it a warm-up may have worked when you were young and spry, but when you’re hovering around the 40 year mark you need longer periods of gentler warm-ups in order to avoid injury. Start with light calisthenics to get the blood moving and then move slowly into stretching exercises. Muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints all need more time to become mobile so incorporate additional warm-up exercises that loosen up hips, knees, shoulders and other vulnerable sites. You should spend a good 10 to 15 minutes at warming up before diving into your weightlifting program.
Protect Your Spine
Spinal injuries often take long periods of time to heal with some never fully recovering to 100%. The older crowd is even more susceptible to such injuries which take even more time to heal. Therefore, it is prudent to lessen spinal loads and reduce the days of the week that you participate in intense workouts that put a great deal of stress on the lower back and spine. A good practice is to move such exercises as deadlifts, squats and Olympic lifts to the same day so that your body has plenty of time to recover over the week.
Reduce Heavy Pressing
Heavy pressing is another exercise which should be moved to one day a week. Weight training for the triceps, shoulders and chest places a great deal of pressure on the rotator cuffs which can be easily damaged as you grow older. Besides limiting these exercises to fewer days per week, it is also recommended to lessen the amount of weights, or even move to variations of upper body workouts that place less stress on the shoulder joints. Dumbbell presses and suspended pushups are good alternatives for the upper body.
Take Care of Your Lower Body
Knee, hip and ankle joints also become more susceptible to heavy weight training as you age. Lower body weight sessions should therefore be reduced to one or two days per week in order to avoid joint injury. However, it remains vital to substitute other exercises which keep the muscles taut and are good for cardiovascular health. You can take up cycling, running hills and stairs and jumping rope to maintain lower body strength.
Avoid Low-Rep Sessions
Bodybuilders enjoy low-rep training because it builds both muscle mass and strength. However, those lower repetitions of heavy weight amounts take a toll on your body as you grow older. It may even be tempting to increase such workouts because older lifters naturally lose mass. It is much better on your joints to make adjustments by dropping down to moderate weight and doing more reps. You will discover that doing so will cause much less pain and reduce recovery time while still allowing you to maintain your muscle mass. Risking injury that can knock you out of training for good just isn’t worth it. By adjusting your weight training program to coincide with your age, you will not only be applying smarter workout techniques, but you will also save yourself from many of the pains and injuries that come with aging.