“You’re either going to make excuses or you’re going to make progress, you can’t do both” -Thane Hean
You’ve either reached the 40-year milestone already or you someday will. In either case, it’s worth noting that, around the age of 40, a man’s body begins to change. I’m not just talking about grey hairs sprouting from our ears and our willies experiencing the occasional performance anxiety (though these certainly keep life interesting. Some changes are more subtle and we are made aware of them only by understanding the physiology/science of aging.
When I turned 40, nothing happened. I still had all my hair, my eye sight was 20/20 and I could still train in the gym every day for 90min with men half my age. But, by the time I was 43, I required reading glasses, had a bald patch around my crown, my knees hurt just walking up stairs and I always looked like I was in my second trimester.
It was time for change!
You’re a man of the world, you probably don’t even need to read articles like “25 Sex Tips for Men” (though it wouldn’t hurt), and your conversation skills are polished. You’ve even acquired a new partner or you just want to hang on to your current one. Well, you’ve come to the right place, and may I say congratulations for deciding to look great even as the ear hairs begin to emerge and back hair starts turning grey.
What happens to a man’s body when he approaches 40?
Besides the obvious physical aesthetic changes, when we (us Men) approach the age of 40, Our testosterone levels sputter, our bone density decreases and our muscles begin to fade away.
I don’t know about you, but 2 of the above challenges had me feeling like taking a long walk off a short pier. What the hell use am I without muscles and how will I enjoy life with a soldier that isn’t willing to solute in the heat of battle?!
This was until a doctor friend of mine, who I occasionally trained with, sat me down and offered me some practical advice on how to best mitigate the inevitable and even make gains well into my 40’s and beyond.
5 Tips for Making Gains through 40 and beyond
Tip 1: Make Training a habit
Life becomes busy as we get older (haven’t you noticed). There are jobs and partners and kids with homework and partners with kids with homework and, let’s face it, we’re just lazy.
It’s such a mission just to get to the gym. We say we’ll train 4 times a week, and that’s great. But, inevitably, something comes up and we skip a day. We think we’ll catch it up later in the week, but that gets pushed to the next week and so on.
So, this is how I overcome the problem of skipping a day or not wanting to go to the gym because it takes too much time.
The first thing I do is I make sure I have a few weights lying around at home so, if I can’t get to the gym, I know I still have weights at home along with a good home training programme like “23 Exercises to Build Muscle at Home”
Whether in the gym or at home, I break up my body into 5 parts. This way, I only train for 45 minutes a day and I can’t miss a day because then I miss a body part:
I end each of these days with 5 min of sit-ups and a 10min fast-run on the treadmill to ensure my heart gets a little kick in the pants too.
Besides spending less time at the gym, this way of training offers each body part ample time to recover.
For men who still think 45min a day is too long to train for, I say this: How badly do you want to stay in shape, avoid depression, remain attractive to your partner, enjoy a “always ready erection” and prevent strokes, heart disease, muscle degeneration and brittle bones in your twilight years?! Get up an hour earlier, go during your lunch break.
You cannot afford NOT to train!!
Some of my friends prefer to jog or cycle every day, and that’s great for your health and fitness, but this blog is about how to keep and grow muscle. How many times have you heard of a woman being left breathless at the beach after seeing a 50-year-old marathon runner take off his shirt? Never!
You train 5 days a week and eat correctly and you will be taking off your shirt at 55 while enjoying the respect and admiration of all around you.
Make it a habit. You brush your teeth 2 times a day and you train every week day, no excuses.
Tip 2: Train “Smart” to Avoid Injury
The days of benching and squatting 140 kgs (308 lbs) are a thing of the past. In fact, unless you were a competing power lifter or bodybuilder, these kinds of weights are just silly because the wear and tear factor will definitely come knocking as you move through your 40’s.
So, for those who have not yet reached 40, stop doing very heavy weights. I promise you; it will catch up to you and you will feel like a proper plonker hobbling around at 50 while those who never stepped into a gym a day in their lives go skipping by (skinny as they will surely be though).
If you are in your 40’s and beyond you will definitely have all sorts of aches and pains, that’s normal. The trick is to not avoid training because of wear and tear aches and pains but to Stop training if these pains get worse during your work-outs.
Warm up properly:
I recall being in high school and my surfing coach urging me to stretch and warm up before entering the water for a heat. I thought he was nuts. Stretch and warm up? For what? The stretching and warming up would happen as I paddled out.
But I am not in high school anymore. I have torn, hurt, broken and ripped so many bones and muscles that I’ve lost count. The few minutes it takes to stretch and warm up properly are nothing when compared with the pain and expense of physical therapy when something goes wrong.
The below pic was taken during one of 34 one-hour sessions, twice a week, when my physio would use a muscle hammer before sticking needles into parts of my bicep tendon because I’d injured it by not warming up.
Besides all the pain and expense, I couldn’t train the top half of my body for 6 months which left me looking like an anorexic twig insect from the waist up.
Ensure you spend your 1st 5 minutes stretching the muscle you are about to train for each exercise you do, ensure it’s a set of very light weight with around 40 reps to get the muscle nice and warm. After each set, ensure you stretch the muscle a little too. Don’t bounce or flick your appendages apart when stretching. Do it with slow deliberate manoeuvres.
Tip 3: Alternate Between Fast & Slow Twitch Muscles
Skeletal muscles are made up of specific muscle fibres, but not all of these muscle fibres are the same. There are two main types, fast-twitch and slow-twitch, and they each have different functions. They cause us all to look and feel different and possess diverse skills of power and endurance.
Slow-twitch muscle fibres are generally fatigue resistant (calf muscles are a good example). They are difficult to build and are used for focused sustained, smaller movements and postural control. These muscles contain more mitochondria and myoglobin and are aerobic in nature compared to fast-twitch fibres. Slow twitch fibres are also sometimes called type 1 or red fibres because of their blood supply.
Fast-twitch muscle fibres provide bigger and more powerful forces, but for shorter durations and they fatigue quickly (think quadricep / thigh muscle). They are more anaerobic with less blood supply; hence they are sometimes referred to as white fibres or type 2.
All of our skeletal muscles contain both types of fibres, but the ratios can differ depending on a variety of factors including genetics, muscle function, age and training.
No matter which of these muscles are more prevalent on your body, you need to train both of them. The easiest way to do this is to train each of these types of muscles on alternating weeks (1 week fast 1 week slow)
On the week you train slow twitch muscles, you want to do more sets and reps with lower weights (around 6 sets per exercise with between 30 to 50 reps per set). You will find a really good pump and your muscles will burn like crazy. On the following week, when you train fast twitch muscles, you can do the exact same exercises, if you like, but this time you do few sets and reps but you go heavier with the weight (please note, I said heavier not heavy, your heavy days are over if you know what’s good for you).
Another benefit this type of training has is that, on the weeks you go lighter, it gives your tendons a break and time to recover fully from the heavier work-outs). Most injuries men over 40 pick up while weight training, are tendon strains and tears.
Tip 4: Ensure Control & Focus Always
When we’re young, we throw the weights around, huffing and puffing, trying to go as heavy and as fast as we can. This type of activity will lead us directly to the scene of an injury if attempted by men over 40.
The key now is control and focus. It’s not about moving the weight from point A to point B. Moving the weight is just a by-product of the primary activity of training the muscle.
In the case of fast twitch muscle training (heavier weights), you need to do your best to move in such a way as to allow you to feel the muscle contracting and stretching in a slow and controlled manner. The longer a rep takes to be completed, the more muscle fibres are called upon to complete the task and the better gains you can expect. When you contract the muscle, stop for half a second and when you stretch the muscle, you do the same.
In the case of slow twitch muscles (lighter weight training), you need to execute both parts of the rep (down and up/in and out) at the same controlled speed. You don’t want to be flinging it back and forth just because the weight is lighter.
With the lighter weights one doesn’t need to pause at both ends of the rep but you do want to get a full stretch to also ensure those tendons are kept in great shape.
Tip 5: Keep Yourself Motivated
An often-overlooked part of training is how to stay motivated. Motivation for training is key. Without motivation, none of the above will happen so it’s worth spending a little time outlining some ideas.
Changing up your workout and keeping it fresh with different exercises helps to keep your muscles worked from every angle (which makes them look great) and it also stops your workouts feeling mundane.
Everyone has a different way of getting and keeping themselves motivated. For some, it’s reading magazines or watching videos about training before the gym, others use music and some choose a partner to ensure they are always at the gym and pushing each other.
I began training when I was 13. I had dreams of bodybuilding and having the build of a young Arnold. That was until reality struck and I realised one had to be gifted with super genetics to look like Arnold or Ronnie Coleman. But I never stopped training. I’ve been training every week (barring the odd hospital stay here and there) for the past 31 years and, the one thing I found to keep me the most motivated, was a good training partner.
Some of the guys I have trained with over the years have become my nearest and dearest friends. I am still in touch will all of them even though I live all over the world. So, get yourself a good training partner and your gym sessions will be something you look forward to all day.
With all of that said, living in a different country every few months does make it impossible to have a regular training partner. I have pictures on my phone of bodybuilders showcasing a certain part in each pic. Legs, biceps, calves etc, and I look at these a few times during the day before training.
Because of multiple fractures in my feet and legs, I find training my lower half a little more challenging, especially as I get older. So, before every leg workout, I look at as many pics of people training legs as I can find. I even have pics of women cyclists and bodybuilders training their legs which really motivates me. I think to myself, “if I could just get my legs looking like this woman’s legs, I’d be very happy”
6. Get Your Diet Right
You can do each of the 5 tips above perfectly, but if you don’t get you’re diet right, you might as well do nothing. Your diet is 80% of your success while training (and in life in general). Even people who just want to stay slim and healthy will find that you can ‘out eat’ a poor gym routine, but you can’t ‘out train’ a bad diet.
Don’t kill yourself counting calories and making specific meals a week in advance (unless you are really trying to get into amazing shape). For most of us who have an average build, just include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet (or my super smoothie you’ll find below) and include protein in your meals. The less sugar you have, the better, sugar is poison (though i still go crazy at the weekends on chocolates).
If you are overweight or carrying extra weight, cut out sugar, cut out breads and simple carbs (carbs will make you fat, it’s that simple). Our bodies need carbs but to survive but we can get good moderate carbs from healthy food. Too many carbs will make us overweight.
It’s best to eat 5 to 6 small meals a day instead of 3 heavy ones. Don’t skip breakfast. I begin my day with 3 scrambled eggs and hit my smoothie an hour later, then a light lunch a couple hours after that. If you don’t work for yourself then you can do 2 things, Firstly, eat your 3 normal meals a day but snack around 10am and 3pm with beef jerky or fruit to keep up your metabolism. Secondly, read my article 4 Online Business Ideas (because you should be working for yourself and making your own money my friend).
Fats are good. Drink only full cream milk, do not consume anything that says “low Fat” on it. because it will have added sugars to make it taste better. Eating fat does not make you fat. don’t throw away the skin from your chicken. Don’t cut the far off your steak, all of these are healthy.
Here is a little motivation from a man who is almost 50 years old..
Forget everything you’ve ever read or heard about men’s bodies falling apart after 40. Those stories are for men who don’t train and eat like they should. If you keep up your training, avoid injury and stay motivated, you will keep packing on muscle well into your 40’s, 50’s and beyond.
And for those of you who have never trained and are in your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, get your asses into the gym and watch how, with a little dedication and effort, you can transform your physique and life and have the best build possible. You will look amazing no matter what you wear as well as when you wear nothing at all. What other motivation do you need?
If you require any other tips about training or dieting, please feel free to contact me and I’ll gladly assist.
Thanks for reading..
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