By a strange coincidence, most of my customers these days are over 50 years old. They have all led very active lives – golf, swimming and running have long been their passions. One of them did quite a bit of weight training as well. Years of playing sports and an active life have left their mark on their bodies. Most have knee, shoulder or back problems. The exerciser who has the most strength training experience and who is an insane golfer has had his back and neck upset – as a result of a bad car accident! But surprisingly, none of them have any of the lifestyle health states associated with middle age and beyond. Maybe because they didn’t ignore their bodies.
Training after the age of 40
First of all, congratulations if you’re over 40 and you’ve still got it behind you in the gym or on the sports field. Also let me say that if you are over 40 and have just started or are planning on getting fit, don’t think it’s too late to start. It is never too late to take care of your health and improve your fitness. Just follow the steps I’m going to list in this column and you’ll be fine. Let’s look at some of the problems an older trainee may face while pursuing their fitness goals.
• Recovery is probably the biggest problem for the older trainee. Hard training is not a problem, but recovery from training is not a given. Avoid exercising two days in a row. If you have to exercise two days in a row, the second day should be a restful, easy day.
• Avoid too much volume. Lots of exercises, large numbers of sets cause too much fatigue, which can make it difficult to recover and return to the gym. Focus on a few large exercises and very few smaller exercises.
• Don’t skimp on warming up. As we get older, joints take a lot more time to move smoothly. Do the warm type of groove technique with body weight circles. Of course, don’t spend so much time and energy warming up that your subsequent workout will suffer.
• Muscle building or hypertrophy training for the older trainee is armor building. More muscle mass, stronger bones and faster metabolism. And you’d look and feel a lot better. It’s a win-win situation for me. Although muscle tissue is much harder to build as we age, it can still be done.
• Avoid ego lifting like the plague. Leave the dingy, ugly looking lifts to the young meatheads. An older trainee cannot afford to get injured as injuries take much longer to heal and fitness is quickly lost during the discharge period. I am not saying that you shouldn’t have goals, but rather be smart and move more slowly.
• Remember, you are no longer twenty.
Training plan for the older trainee
Use weights that you can lift in the range of five to ten reps (Shutterstock)
This is a general template that sets out some principles rather than listing specific exercises, sets, and repetitions per exercise. Find exercises that work for you, cause no pain, and let you increase the load over a period of time.
1. Exercise on alternate days. Keep the training session short – no more than 45 minutes. This does not include warming up and cooling down.
2. Push, pull and legs is an ideal split. Another option would be an upper and lower body split. For example, do a lower body workout on Monday, a second lower body workout on Friday, and a second upper body workout the next Monday. The entire body is trained twice in eight days. This division gives enough time to relax and work hard without overdoing it.
3. Use weights that you can lift in the range of five to ten repetitions. Trying to make heavy single, double or triple bets should be very infrequent. Testing yourself from time to time is fine, but it shouldn’t be a regular feature.
4. Make sure you are getting enough protein, otherwise it will be very difficult to build and maintain muscle. The recommended protein intake should be 2 grams per kg of body weight.
5. Do simple cardio such as fast walking two days a week. Don’t make the mistake of adding high-intensity interval workouts while trying to get strong in the gym. Recovery will be quite impossible for the older exerciser while doing weights and HIIT.
That’s it. Now go do it.
Kamal Singh is a certified strength and conditioning specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
From HT Brunch, July 11, 2021
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us at facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch