Bodybuilding FAQ - How Should Bodybuilders Who Are Over 40 Train?

Mature man shoulder pressing
learn what training modifications bodybuilders over 40 years old should be aware of. Erik Isakson / Getty Images

I'm a 45-year-old bodybuilder and I am wondering if there is anything at all that I should be doing differently with my training?

For the over 40 bodybuilder, and even over 30, I would recommend training smart. No longer are we teenage kids who load up the bar with 225-lbs and bench press it without a warm-up, living to tell about it. Our joints can no longer handle that. So here are some training recommendations that I want to share with the over 40 crowd:

  • Use The Right Training Routine: a well-periodized training routine that alternates between periods of higher volume/higher repetition (10-15 reps) work with periods of lower repetition/heavier weights (5-8 reps) will work best. Active recovery phases where training volume is dramatically reduced should also be incorporated. The training routine should not be more than 60 minutes long and frequency of body part training will depend upon individual recovery. Generally, teens and those in their twenties can train a body part every 48-72 hours (so twice a week). Thirty-year-olds and those in their forties benefit more from once every five days. Fifty-year-old and older, once every seven days.
  • Use Proper Warm-Ups: warming up is extremely important, and it becomes more important as we age. While in my opinion, we only need to thoroughly warm up for the first exercise of a body part, not doing so puts you at the risk of injury. To properly warm up, if you know you will be doing 225-lbs on the incline bench for 10 repetitions, the first set I would just do 135-lbs for ten controlled slow repetitions. Then I would increase the weight to 185 for ten reps and only after that second set I would go up to 225-lbs and that would be my first work set. However, if working out ​ni a cold climate, besides wearing warm clothing, I may ride a stationary bike first for 6-10 minutes, not in search of aerobic conditioning but with the goal of increasing my core body temperature. Alternatively, I’ve also used abdominal training as a way to increase my core body temperature as well.
  • Perform The Right Exercise Techniques With The Proper Weight: Proper execution of exercise and proper lifting speed is crucial. The exercise form should never be sacrificed in the name of adding weight. Nothing good has ever come out of that combination. In addition, jerking the weight up and down not only affects how much the muscle is actually stimulated (so your muscle building results will be less), but also puts much of the stress on the joints, leading to unnecessary micro-trauma. So always choose a weight that allows for full control of the weight and a lifting speed that is steady and controlled on the way up and slower on the way down. Contracting the muscles at the top position also helps to provide maximum stimulation without unnecessarily having to use super heavy weights. For more information about focusing on the muscle as you train, please take a look at James Villepigue article on Mind Over Muscle and the Zone Tone Method.​
  • Ensure Rotator Cuff Health: One of the most common injuries in weight training is that of the rotator cuff. The reason for this is that as the shoulder muscle gets stronger, the rotator cuff gets weaker unless you train it directly with 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions of rotator cuff exercises. Some external rotations at the end of your chest or back workout will do the trick.