What do Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Bartolo Colón and Vince Carter have in common? They’re all top-performing athletes who are in their 40s. They’re not the only ones, either. There are plenty of athletes who aren’t exactly warming the benches as they reach “geriatric” status in their respective sports, past and present. These men have managed to beat Father Time at his own game, but for many men who hit the 40-mark, fitness really starts to take a toll, sometimes to the point where even everyday tasks are hard to do.
The phrase “use it or lose it” becomes real as soon as men turn 40, the age at which men begin to lose muscle mass. In addition, the effect increases 3 to 5 percent each decade if you’re not active. While most Americans begin to gain weight during midlife — gaining about three to four pounds a year — men’s propensity to lose muscle at this time period means all that extra weight tends to be fat. Because excess body fat has been shown to increase the risk of multiple health issues, the physical changes men see in the mirror may be frightening to them but the health issues that may be lurking under the surface could be a much scarier ordeal.
As grim as it may sound, no man can stop the hands of time. These changes happen to even the healthiest of men. Yes, even the athletes listed above. That being said, exercise can help prevent some of the unwanted side effects of aging.
The Fit After 40 series aims to pinpoint health and fitness issues facing men over the age of 40 so they can stave off the negative effects of aging, inside and out. With professional advice and workout plans from physical trainers at various Texas Health Fitness Centers across the metroplex, we hope we can kickstart your fitness routine or help you maintain the routine you already have so you can keep achieving as you age, whether you’re a weekend warrior or not.
Logan Collins, a certified personal trainer and fitness center coordinator at Texas Health Prosper, says he is frequently approached by men in their 40s and beyond who are starting to feel, and see, the effects of aging on their bodies but are confused about how to get active again. The following workout is specially created to get you back to the basics while targeting common age-prone areas of the body.
Back to Basics: A Total Body Workout
Collins suggests following this workout routine two to three times a week, resting for about a minute between sets and about a minute and a half between each exercise. While many of these exercises can be done with or without weight, if you’re going to add weight, Collins suggests starting light to focus on technique and avoid injury.
Three sets, holding the position for 30 seconds each set.
Start by lying flat on the ground then raise up on your hands, forming a plank. Keep back and bottom flat and level; no piking up into a V.
Three sets of eight reps each (24 reps total).
Position shoulders back and down. Start with hands forward and lift hands into designated Y, T or W position in one controlled smooth motion. Squeeze shoulder blades back and down with each “letter.” Do your best not to extend at your low back. This can be performed standing or in a squat (as pictured).
The Main Event
Three sets of 10 reps.
Stand with your head facing forward and your chest held up and out. Place your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Extend your hands straight out in front of you to help keep your balance. For more of a challenge, you can place your hands behind your head (as pictured above). Lower down so your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible, with your knees over your ankles. Press your weight back into your heels. Keeping your core tight, push through your heels to bring yourself back to standing.
“The squat is the best exercise out there and gives us the most ‘bang for the buck,’” Collins says. “The more muscle groups we can work at once, the more calories we burn and the bigger the changes to our bodies and no exercise works more than the squat! It is so effective you will even find it in a number of rehab programs for those that are going through physical therapy for a lower-body injury.”
Need an alternative? Collins suggests trying the leg press machine for a more challenging exercise.
3 sets of 8 reps.
Lie on the bench with your eyes under the bar. Grab the bar with a medium grip-width, placing thumbs around the bar. Unrack the bar by straightening your arms then lower the bar to your mid-chest. Pause then press the bar back up until your arms are straight. Pause again before lower the bar back down.
“The bench press primarily works your chest, shoulders and triceps, so we get a lot out of this exercise,” Collins says.
Need an alternative? Try a dumbbell bench press or smith machine bench press.
Bent Over Barbell Rows
3 sets of 12 reps
Holding a barbell with palms facing down, bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward by bending at the waist. Keep your back straight until it is almost parallel to the floor. While keeping the torso stationary, breath out and lift the barbell to you. Keep elbows close to the body and only use the forearms to hold the weight. At the top of the row, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a brief pause. Inhale and slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
“Balance is key to our bodies. The bent over barbell row is to our back what the bench press is to our chest,” Collins says. “Not only will it give you a more well-rounded physique, but it will also help keep your joints healthy and stave off injuries by keeping you balanced.”
Need an alternative? Try seated cable rows or single arm dumbbell rows instead.
Around the Worlds
3 sets of 8 reps
Lie down on a bench holding a dumbbell in each hand with the palms of your hands facing up towards the ceiling. Move the dumbbells by creating a semi-circle as you displace them from the initial position to over the head. Breathe in as you perform this portion of the movement. Reverse the movement to return the weigh to the starting position as you exhale.
“Shoulders are often neglected in most fitness programs,” Collins says. “The around the world exercise helps us hit every part of that area in one smooth, fluid movement!”
Need an alternative? Lateral raises and bent over lateral raises work just as well to target the shoulders.
*OPTIONAL* EZ Bar Curls
3 sets of 15 reps.
Stand up straight while holding an EZ curl bar at the wide outer handle. The palms of your hands should be facing forward and slightly tilted inward. Keeping your upper arms stationary, exhale and curl the weights forward while contracting the biceps. Continue to raise the bar until your biceps are fully contracted and the bar is at shoulder level. Pause for a moment, squeezing the biceps. Inhale then slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
“This is optional to add at the end of your workout if you feel like you need some extra work to get those arm muscles brought up to speed,” Collins says. “Curls will definitely help!”
For an alternative try alternating dumbbell curls.
These basic exercises may be a great way to get back into the swing of things, but Collins adds that learning appropriate form and technique is most important for getting an effective workout, athlete or not.
Texas Health fitness centers not only provide a wide variety of gym equipment, but staff members can help explain and demonstrate how to properly use a piece of equipment or how to perform a certain exercise, giving you the base knowledge you need to make the most of your workout.
At a Texas Health fitness center, you don’t need a perfect body, and you don’t need fancy attire. All you need is the determination to feel and look your best. To learn more about the fitness programs at our hospital-based centers, visit TexasHealth.org/Fitness.