Bodybuilding Over 40 Years Old
Time to Jumpstart Your Training
As you grip a dumbbell in your forty-year-old hand and glance in the mirror at a physique that shows no sign of progress, you wonder, is it still worth it? Can my body reach the heights of its youth? Or am I doomed to go spiralling downward as age creeps up? Thankfully, the figure you’ve always wanted is a realistic possibility. You just need to convince yourself and learn how training at this age takes a slightly different approach. So, let’s turn off that middle-aged slump and transform our workouts to suit this stage of life.
Start With the Basics
There’s no doubt that training has evolved since the golden era of bodybuilding. The choice of training programs available, technology and equipment are on the up. It can be daunting if you’re just starting after a lengthy break from the weights; watching youngsters rep-up on exercises you never knew existed. But you’ve got to remember, whatever worked for bodybuilders decades ago, will still build muscle today. Don’t be afraid to include the basic bench press, squats or barbell curls in your routine—the pros still use them.
Preventing Injury Is More Crucial Than Ever
In your earlier training years, you likely went into most sessions without any thought or fear of injury. If it happened, you recovered and bounced back in no time. The older you get, the easier it is to pick up an injury, and quite often the longer it will take to recover from one. So, when it comes to training at this age, you should be taking all steps to prevent damage to the body.
A warm-up will be a key part of any workout, and you should be doing at least fifteen minutes of gentle exercise before your session. Keep it simple and use a treadmill, elliptical machine or exercise bike to get the heart working. This will be enough to get the blood moving around the body and reduce the chance of injury.
When lifting weights, your technique and posture should be spot on. It only takes one bad rep—where you lose concentration, or your mind wanders—to put you in pain and keep you on the sidelines. You should also consider mixing a few machine-based exercises to your workouts. It’s easier to hold good form and far less testing on the joints.
Although you still need to lift reasonably heavy weights to build muscle, don’t overdo things. Going too heavy can place unwanted tension on ligaments and joints. By keeping the rep range in the 8-12 area or above, you’re helping to ensure the weight is controlled. Take extra care in protecting the most injury-prone parts of the body, like the shoulders and back.
Keep Up the Cardio
At this age, you should be looking to do some cardio even if you’re not bodybuilding as it helps to keep the heart ticking well. As a bodybuilder, to stay in shape and keep fat levels down, cardio is vital. With metabolism tending to slow as you age, cardio will help to give a toned look and show off the muscles. Again, to protect the joints, avoid high impact exercises like outdoor running on hard ground, which will be hugely challenging to the knees. A few, lower-intensity sessions a week will be effective and not as punishing.
Diet Is Key to Success
Having complete control over what you eat is important at any age of a bodybuilder’s life; for someone who is over forty, it will make or break you. When bulking, you’ll need to be more precise in finding a daily calorie intake that will make you bigger but will also limit the level of fat you put on. No more brainless big eating—instead, limit large carbs and focus on getting high-quality protein and healthy fats. The carbohydrates you do eat must be healthy options like brown rice and pasta and should be consumed near workouts. It’s harder to burn off fat at this age, so don’t put much on in the first place.
Remember to Rest and Recover
Finally, we must not forget the importance of rest and recuperation. Although the amount of sleep needed doesn’t change too much as we age, our bodies need a longer time to recover from exercise. To make sure you’re giving muscles enough time to repair and recover for the next workout, you might have to cut down on the number of gym visits per week—or risk burning out.
Don’t let anyone convince you that being over forty is the end of your physique, just take a look at Dexter Jackson’s physique at age 50+ for some inspiration. It’s possible to stay in good shape even beyond these years. Just wise-up how you go about training, eating and resting. You’ll have to accept that your body cannot do what it used to, but get passed that hurdle and you’ll be well equipped for a lifetime of fitness.