What Are the Best Workouts for Men Over 40?

The best workouts for men over 40 are compound movements that train 2-3 muscle groups at once and get the job done in half the time.

Not only are compound movements superior for increasing lean muscle tissue, but they also have a profound effect on our hormonal system, boosting testosterone, a key player in the development of increased muscle and reduction in body fat.

Strength training is the most important thing a man over 40 can do if he wants to get lean, the increased lean muscle will give you that truly awesome “men’s health” look, broad shoulders, defined chest, tight waist and powerful back.

When you focus your efforts on building lean muscle, your metabolism will run quicker all the time and burning fat will become effortless.

Combine that with the correct nutrition that supports optimal health and hormonal functioning and you’re on your way to getting your leanest and strongest physique yet.

Yes, you might be over 40, but you’re still capable of getting stronger and you’re still capable of losing body fat. If you focus on the right exercises and smarter workouts, you can easily make the next decade of your life the best yet.

What are the best exercises for physique improvements?

The best exercises to improve your physique are exercises such as presses, pull-ups, deadlifts and squat variations using a combination of barbells and dumbbells.

These exercises will trigger lean muscle growth and do it in half the time of conventional workouts.

The mistake a lot of men make in their 40’s make is resorting to higher rep, light weight pumping exercises that neglect the fat burning and hormonal effect of compound exercises.

Isolation exercises do very little for men over 40, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t incorporate some of them, but the majority don’t have any effect on building lean muscle or stimulating the hormonal system.

Although we’re in our 40’s getting stronger still needs to be a priority. The stronger you are, the denser, leaner muscle you’ll build and the more you’ll stimulate the fat burning and muscle building hormones needed to get that lean body.

Granted you might not be able to get as strong as in your twenties or thirties, but you can still get pretty dam strong if you train correctly.

If you maintain perfect form on all exercises and add weight slowly using a single progression or double progression method, you should be able to build some awesome strength on a gradual basis.

Maintaining your strength into your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond is important for preserving lean muscle tissue!

To maintain and even build muscle you don’t need a lot of volume. In fact, excessive volume is the number one reason why many guys in their 40’s struggle to get lean in first place.

They think fat burning is all about light weight pumping exercises and cardio, but that approach will fail to get you the body you want.

What are the best set and rep formats for men over 40?

A mistake I see all the time is excessive volume, too many sets and too many reps. Multiple sets of low reps work best for men over 40, they’re far safer, have the most impact on body composition, allow you to focus on the exercise better and don’t over tax your recovery ability.

Some examples of multiple sets of low reps could be 3 x 6 or 5 x 5. After proper warm-ups, these are the set and rep formats you should be aiming for.

What is the best training frequency?

People find it hard to believe that I built my physique off 3 weight training workouts per week, but it wasn’t until I switched from 5 weights workouts down to 3 that I noticed a big change in my body composition.

Not only that, I didn’t feel over trained all the time which is a very common problem amongst men who are lifting 5 or more times per week.

The fact that you’re training naturally AND are over 40 means you’ll have limited recovery ability, if you train hard on the exercises that matter, you can’t weight train more than three times per week.

And I’ve experimented with 2 workouts per week with even better results, again it’s NOT about how many gym hours you’re capable of clocking up each week.

In fact, if you’re currently doing more than 3 strength training workouts per week I challenge you to do less and reap the benefits of increased recovery and better strength.

It’s just hard to get into your head that less is more when we’ve all been brainwashed to go hard all the time.

Remember it takes very little volume to build lean muscle if you’re training correctly and very little volume to preserve lean muscle once you’ve built it.

How many cardio sessions?

The best strategy for men over 40 is to have one or two drill sessions that consist of bodyweight exercises, kettlebells and barbell complexes. This will burn extra bodyfat and compliment your weight training without stripping away the lean muscle that you’ve worked so hard to build.

A drill session could also be replaced with a total body movement such as the cross trainer or doing what I do and going for a walk in the country at the weekends. Walking will burn extra calories and again, compliment your weight training.

Exercises to avoid for men over 40

There are compound movements and their variations that do more harm than good for men over 40, if any exercise causes you pain then it’s not going to do you any good no matter how productive it’s supposed to be.

Weighted dips

Weighted dips are a great exercise for many, but for those who’ve benefited from the exercise, just as many have wrecked their shoulders. Why take the chance when there are other safer, productive alternatives?

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

The stiff-legged deadlift can cause you to over stretch resulting in a lower back injury, its much safer to stick to the conventional deadlift using perfect form or the trap bar deadlift which is easier to execute and takes the stress off the lower back.

Pull-downs behind the neck

Pull-downs behind the neck over stress the shoulders, leading to injury and there are much safer alternatives such as the pull-down to the chest or pull-up.

Bent over row

Performing the bent over row can place excessive stress on the lower back resulting in injury. There are far more effective and safer alternatives.

Press behind the neck

The press behind the neck can cause severe shoulder problems and there are much safer alternative exercises.

Barbell or dumbbell pullover

The barbell or dumbbell pullover has limited value for strength and muscle and is a potential shoulder wrecker.

Dumbbell bench presses with too much stretch

Dumbbell presses and incline variations are a great exercise, but if you overly stretch on the exercise it can place excessive stress on the shoulders.

Preacher bench curls

The preacher bench curl places tremendous stress on the inner elbow to the extended position of the exercise.

T-bar rows

It’s very easy to go too heavy with this exercise placing strain on the lower back. It’s also an inferior exercise not needed to build a wide and powerful back.

Good mornings

This exercise is done with a weight on the shoulders and bending at the hips. It’s a recipe for lower back problems and there are much safer lower back exercises.

Triceps extensions and French presses

Both exercises hyperextend the arms making them elbow wreckers. It’s much better to train triceps with the close grip bench press or triceps pushdowns.

Leg presses on a vertical leg machine

This exercise places excessive stress on the lower back and just isn’t needed to build lean, strong legs. Stick to the back squat instead.

To your success!

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    6 replies to "What Are the Best Workouts for Men Over 40?"

    • Vishaljeet

      “Isoltaion exercises do very little for men over 40” ??
      Are you serious ? Please don’t post such comments as part of an otherwise seemingly informative article.
      Whether it’s men who are starting out on their fitness journey after crossing 40 or those who have been exercising and are now above 40, it’s absolutely imperative and very beneficial if they do include isolation movements in their workout regimen. With the right tempo and rep range, isolation movements will help build up the type 2 muscle fibres and also strengthen the ligaments and tendons which otherwise start to weaken with age.

      • Rob Richley

        Hi Vishaljeet,

        Conventional training wisdom will tell you that isolation exercises are needed, and some can be beneficial i.e. the L-fly will help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and protect against shoulder injury if you’re performing the bench press.

        But for the most part, isolation exercises cause more harm than good, and many isolation exercises will put exaggerated stress on the muscles, hamper recovery and plain hinder progress especially for older lifters.

        Older lifters need to be very careful what exercises they choose, abbreviated training workouts are the way to go, but you need to choose the very best and safest exercises that allow proper recovery and progression to take place.



    • Jay

      Thx for this info it certainly helps me out

      • Rob Richley

        Hi Jay,

        Glad to hear it.



    • Sidney Wood

      Excellent article.

      • Rob Richley

        Thanks Sidney,

        keep checking back to the website, plenty more information for men over 40 on its way!



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