Making Improvements and Staying Fit as you age

This blog is more geared toward those that are 40 years of age and up but a lot of the information is applicable to athletes of any age.  So that doesn't mean stop reading if you are under 40 years old because you will be someday.  And, that doesn't mean that those of you out there that are 40+ need to treat this like the gospel -- they are just some general guidelines that can be applied as you see fit. 

Tip #1 - Make sure you warm up

Do NOT use your training for a warm-up.  For example, when you walk into the gym for a squat session a proper warm up is not putting a barbell on your back and starting to squat.  Pay particular attention to soft tissue work (foam rolling, using a lacrosse ball, etc).  

A good warm-up would be soft tissue work on your problem areas, followed by some calisthenics or a dynamic warm-up (i.e. active stretching: high knees, butt kicks, knee hugs, lunges, etc), mobility drills, and lastly some central nervous system activation drills (med ball toss, 10 yard sprints, 100m row, etc.).  A proper warm-up should be somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes. 

Tip #2 - Do NOT train to failure often

Everyone loves to work hard but when you go all-out day in and day out you fatigue your central nervous system.  When you go to failure you make it difficult to recover and increase your chances of getting injured.  I am not saying you shouldn't push yourself, I just recommend leaving 1 or 2 reps in the tank most of the time when training.  This will allow you to recover better, which will help you see better results. This is enough of a stimulus to make you stronger and improve your figure.  

Tip #3 - Reduce the volume of direct spinal loading

In other words, reduce barbell squatting.  Don't get me wrong, I love barbell squatting and it is one of the best exercises if done properly, however there are people out there that like to squat multiple times per week.  As you get up there in years, I would limit barbell squatting to one or two times per week which limits the amount of compression on your spine.  You have already accumulated years of compression on your spine from the large amount of standing, sitting at work, sitting in your car, etc. 

If you are looking for movements to stimulate your legs I suggest trying: goblet squats, sled drags, sled pushes, step ups, lunges... 

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Tip #4 - Incorporate isometrics and eccentrics

This will make exercises more difficult and will help you progress them.  Most people get caught up in the idea that the only way to progress an exercise is by increasing load or reps.  However, eccentrics and isometrics will make the exercises more difficult and in turn improve your performance. 

For example, you might be doing 5 sets of 5 back squats at 135lbs.  One way to increase the difficulty rather than just increasing the weight would be to pause at the bottom of the movement.  This will dramatically increase the difficulty of the movement without putting more strain on your joints.  

Tip #5 - Plan your recovery

Most of the time we are too concentrated on the 'working out' portion of the workout and we forget about the recovery portion.  Recovery is just as important as the stimulus created during your time in the gym.  We need to realize that we make our gains when we are outside of the gym when we are sleeping, when we are eating, ...  

One thing you might want to consider trying -- Deload week: reduce the volume and intensity.  For example if you have been doing 10 reps maybe you could cut it back to 5 reps or decrease your weight by half.  This is a great way to continue to go to the gym and get a workout in or a sweat on without continually overloading your body.  Note: Deload weeks are typically programmed to occur every fourth week during a strict training cycle.  These are meant for athletes who are following a prescriptive strength and conditioning program that can last up to few months. 

Tip #6 - Supplements

Most of us take some sort of supplement to improve our performance in the gym or improve our body composition.  When you go to buy a supplement make sure you ask yourself "is this going to make me healthier?"  If you cannot say 'yes' to this, put that supplement down or ask someone who you know can trust. 

Tip #7 - Have Fun

 Thanks Chris Evans for the awesome picture!

Thanks Chris Evans for the awesome picture!