5 Fantastic Exercises You Should Be Doing After 40
For many of us, finding time to train the way we would like to dwindles as family and career responsibilities continue to grow as we get older. Without a doubt, life gets more awesome, but we also find ourselves scrapping for some personal time as schedules become increasingly busy.
So, here are five fantastic exercises - and how to do them - to help you maximize your time. These movements optimize shoulder health and posterior chain function. They also increase balance, coordination and trunk strength; keep your legs strong; and make sure your colon stays happy. (Yay!)
Turkish Get Ups
The Turkish get up (TGU) challenges mobility, balance, agility, coordination, and strength. It is a full-body core-to-extremity movement that exposes any athlete’s weak links. There is no place to hide in a properly executed TGU. It challenges everything.
The movement has a few moving parts that can often make it seem complicated. In truth, it isn’t complicated, but it is often executed inefficiently. Don’t be that athlete.
- Beginner: Put this in your training toolbox as a warm up once a week. 3 minutes of Turkish get ups, alternating arms every 2 reps, at a light to medium weight.
- Intermediate: Work up to a heavy single (per arm) in 15 minutes.
- Expert: As many TGUs as possible in 6 minutes, alternating arms at 70% of your 1RM.
Strengthening your spinal erectors and keeping your hamstrings strong and supple is important for any athletic person, but even more so for those of us who find ourselves relegated to a desk as we take on different career opportunities or are still in the field and doing “the backbone work” at middle age.
"Make your training about simplicity, economy, discipline, and fun. Know your 'why.'"
This movement is simple, but as most of us over forty have learned, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes a barbell and the desire to execute the movement properly in order to make it matter. When done well, it’s a fantastic exercise to keep the low back, posture and hamstrings healthy and functioning properly.
- Beginner: Use this movement in your warm up once a week (usually on a leg or pull day). 3x12 with a light weight, broomstick, or PVC pipe.
- Intermediate: Use this as accessory work after a squat, clean, or deadlift day. 3x12 at medium weight. 2:00 active rest (walk around or combine it with something not hamstring, hip, spinal erector or upper back related) between efforts.
- Expert: Work up to 1RM.
Squats are the one of most misunderstood movements in fitness. And the most argued. But a properly executed box squat works for a ninety-year-old newbie as much as it does a thousand -pound squatter. It also quickly cleans up terrible technique; is safe on the knee, hip, and ankle joints; and guarantees the proper depth needed for a person to make optimal use of the squat in real life.
So, why don’t we see more of them? I have no idea. Avoid the common pitfalls by performing them correctly.
- Beginner: Set a box to parallel (hip crease in line with knee) and squat to that for the time being. After three weeks, set the box to below parallel (hip crease just below knee). After three weeks of that, remove the box and go back to using it only one time per week.
- Intermediate: Once a month work to a parallel sumo (or wide) stance box squat 2RM for six months.
- Expert: Each minute on the minute for 10 minutes, perform 2 reps at 55% of your sumo stance box squat 1RM on Week 1, 60% on Week 2, 65% on Week 3 with accommodating resistance (bands or chains on the barbell). The accommodating resistance should add another 20% of weight at the top of the squat. (55% +20% of accommodating resistance = 75% at the top of the squat. This is a good thing.) Squat heavy on Monday (box or no box) and put these dynamic effort box squats into your regimen on Friday. See Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell or the conjugate method for more information.
Bent Over Rows
Your training program should have pull ups in them. You have no excuse for not having them unless you are missing both arms from the shoulder down, and even then there are some incredible adaptive athletes out there who still would figure out how to do pull ups. So, if you’re not doing pull ups, start doing pull ups. There are many articles and videos out there on how to begin.
"Remember, as you mature, optimizing your training becomes the secret."
That said, the bent over row can help you be more effective with your pull ups, picking things up off the ground, developing a healthier upper back, and keeping your posture upright for all the desk warriors out there.
- Beginner: Warm up. 3x12 bent over rows with a light weight, broomstick, or PVC.
- Intermediate: Use as accessory work after a workout that was heavy in either pressing, pulling, or front squatting. 3x12 at a medium weight.
- Expert: For Time: 21-15-9 front squats and bent over rows. Weights are 155lbs for men, 105lbs for women. An efficient athlete will get this done in under 7:00.
Learning how to engage your body in an upended situation improves cognition (some even say mood - you get happier!), upper body strength, and body control. Getting inverted has also been shown to keep our colons happy and alleviate irritable bowel syndrome by stimulating the pituitary gland and loosening up some stuck bits down there. So, if you want to be your optimal self, change up the scenery.
- Beginner: 0:15 headstands each minute on the minute for 7:00 once a week as a warm-up or cool down.
- Intermediate: 3:00 freestanding headstand hold
- Expert: 3:00 freestanding handstand hold
It's All About Doing More With Less
Remember, as you mature, optimizing your training becomes the secret. Less is more only if the “less” you are doing gives you the most return on your investment of practice and time - which are both in short supply as schedules become more hectic.
Make your training about simplicity, economy, discipline, and fun. Know your “why.” The rest will take care of itself. Your choices will result in an ability to improve, rather than find you stagnating in the desire for a quick-fix solution.
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