Training after 40 is different. Like it or not, you’re going to lose muscle mass as you get older, and recovery can also be different than when you’re in your twenties.
Staying strong and lifting safe means accounting for your aging body. Jeff Cavaliere, C.S.C.S., a physical therapist and strength coach best known on social media for his Athlean-X training program, spent a whole video detailing eight muscle-gaining mistakes that are important for men over 40 to avoid.
First, he says, don’t skip your warm up. At 20, you might jump right into training; at 40, you need to tailor a warmup that fits your regimen. Don’t turn it into a workout, though—break a sweat, but don’t overdo it.
Mistake number two, Cavaliere says, is building strength “responsibly.” Rather than trying to stack plates, focus on quality form and controlled movements; pause at the bottom of a bench press and at the bottom of a squat. Stop worrying about the numbers and focus on quality work. That’s what will serve you in the future.
Relatedly, Cavaliere reiterates the importance of the mind-muscle connection. Mistake number three, he says, is not focusing on controlled reps and movements, which are the foundation for building strength.
He also emphasizes metabolic training, because it’s also an important driver of muscle growth, especially for men over 40. Using lighter weights and more reps leaves you less sore and hastens recovery between workouts, so mistake number four would be only training as heavy as possible at all times. Cavaliere calls metabolic training after 40 “mandatory.”
Mistake number five, Cavaliere says, is not training like an athlete. “Use it or lose it” is especially relevant for men over 40. So on top of carefully planning your strength training, work in some athletic movements and activities, and train for a specific goal beyond just strength and size.
And don’t forget corrective exercises, he says. “All muscles matter”—and even if it seems silly to target smaller ones, doing so keeps you balanced, preserving a strong foundation for your gains. Skipping out on movements, like facepulls, is number six.
Mistake number seven is only doing long steady state cardio. Cavaliere recommends “sparing cardio” instead. That means exercises like battle ropes, carries, or sled pushes, that elevate your heart rate while sparing unnecessary strain on joints.
Finally, because your metabolism slows down after 40, nutrition is especially important. A consistent, high-quality diet means carrying less body fat in the gym, and more productive workouts. Mistake number eight would be totally ignoring the important place your meal plan has for building muscle.
Overall, Cavaliere says, these are fundamental tips for weight training at any age. But for guys over 40, they’re not just recommended—they’re mandatory.
Want even more guidance on training after 40? Check out our Muscle After 40 program for even more tips and routines to follow to keep your workouts strong as you get older.
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