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Best workout for the over 40's

Comprehensive superb new article by trainer of champions Jim Dulson

By LA Muscle on 18.01.2009 11:23 am


Jim DulsonBy: Jim Dulson, trainer of champions

There are plenty of men and women over the age of 40 either trying to build/maintain their physique, or trying to achieve that once young and youthful physique. In addition to maintaining or creating a great physique recovery time is now more of an issue than before.

If you are over the age of forty, looking to train harder, feel better, and gain more muscle mass, then this article is for you! I take that back, anyone can benefit from this workout!

What is the best workout for people over 40? Be specific.

Look, I am not going to make this complicated. We don't need to be getting too technical here. We are going to work off of a four day split. I chose this because most of you have a regular 9-5 job, working at least 5 days a week. I want to make a workout for you that will allow you optimum results and also have time for family and friends. Let's delve into this!

Monday- Back and Calves

Barbell Dead Lift
2 sets of 10 reps (light)
2 sets of 8 reps
2 sets of 5 reps

One Arm Dumbbell Rows
3 sets of 8 reps

V Bar Pull Downs
3 sets of 12 reps

Wide Grip Pull Downs
3 sets of 10 reps

Standing Calf Raises (Machine or Dumbbell)
4 sets of 12 reps

Calf Presses on Leg Press
4 sets of 8 reps

First day of the week, and we are starting with back and calves. This will be a very challenging workout for sure. I chose to give back it's own day, because your back is a huge muscle group, and it deserves to have your full attention without the interruption or strain of any other muscle groups. I did throw calves in with it, just because calves do not take a lot of energy, not nearly as much as back does. I also chose the barbell dead lift as our first and primary lift for the day. I chose this lift because it is a giant, compound lift, that will excrete tons of growth factor for optimal growth! Let's shuttle into our next workout.

Tuesday- Chest and Shoulders

Dumbbell Flat Bench Press
4 sets of 8 reps

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
3 sets of 12 reps

Decline Flyes
4 sets of 15 reps

Barbell Military Press
4 sets of 8 reps

Rear Delt Raises (dumbbell)
3 sets of 12 reps

Side Lateral Raises (dumbbell)
3 sets of 12 reps

No nonsense today. This is a simple workout, that will have you sweating bullets. We are going for simple hypertrophy today. The key is we need to get in here, pound out these sets, and leave. That's what we're going to do. I chose dumbbell bench press to allow a great stretch in the pectorals, and a deep contraction. Secondly, we are going to load our shoulders with a few sets of heavy military presses. This workout may look simple, but give it a try and tell me how easy it is!

Thursday- Biceps, Triceps, and Traps

Cable Straight Bar Curls
3 sets of 12 reps

Straight Barbell Curls
3 sets of 8 reps

Dumbbell Triceps Extensions
3 sets of 8 reps

Parallel Bar Dips or Machine Dips
3 sets to failure (if doing parallel bar)

4 sets of 12-15 reps (if using machine)

Barbell Shrugs
4 sets of 12 reps

Dumbbell Shrugs
3 sets of 8 reps

You may be asking yourself, "Why only two exercises for biceps and triceps?" I will answer this question by telling you that you do not need to kill these muscle groups for results. I am a big advocate for stimulating muscle, not destroying it. As you get older, your body can not repair as fast as it used to be able to, either. These muscle groups will respond to minimal usage. I firmly believe that by stimulating these tissues with moderate to heavy reps with moderate to low reps, you will see substantial growth. Lastly, we will shrug our traps with fury! Doing a total of 7 sets for our traps will leave you staggering out of the gym with a pump. Speaking of a pump, feel free to superset your biceps and triceps when need be! This will not only give you a huge pump in your arms, but will cut down on time spent in the gym! Let's recuperate and get ready for Friday!

Friday- Legs

Oh how today may be dreaded by many. Leg workouts vary greatly from person to person. I am going to list a couple of different workouts and alternatives to meet your capability!

Barbell Full Squats
2 sets of 10 reps (light)
2 sets of 8 reps
2 sets of 4 reps


Leg Press
2 sets of 10 reps (light)
4 sets of 8 reps

Dumbbell Walking Lunges
3 sets of 12 reps


Bodyweight Walking Lunges
3 sets of 12 reps OR to failure

Leg Extensions
3 sets of 15 reps

Lying Leg Curls
3 sets of 15 reps


Standing Leg Curls
3 sets of 15 reps


Seated Leg Curls
3 sets of 15 reps

There you have it, your leg workout. Nothing too extreme, right? Well, do the workout and see how you feel afterwards! I chose to give many alternatives in this area to accommodate YOUR needs and capabilities. Not everyone can do a full barbell squat in life. There are healthy alternatives though, that will give you results just the same. Let's talk a little about cardio now…

Cardiovascular Health

I did not specify any cardio workouts in this workout. I focused mainly on building muscle and working on endurance. Cardiovascular health is vital at ANY age in life. I have chosen to make an entire section dedicated to this.

A healthy cardiovascular system will allow you to work faster, shuttle nutrients into muscle faster, and recover faster. Cardio is needed in our workouts, the question is, where do we put it? I always recommend light cardio before a workout, between 10 and 15 minutes of jogging. This will get blood flowing, and warm your entire body's muscular system for optimum performance. I recommend doing hard cardio either:

A. Off days

Doing your cardio on off days will put less stress on your body after the workout and allow for greater growth. This of course varies from person-to-person, that is why we have the other option…

B. After workouts

Some feel more energized after a workout than before. This is due to the great output of hormones and adrenaline that make you feel this way. Some benefits of doing cardio after a workout are you don't have to warm up. By the time you get done with your workout you are thoroughly warm and do not need an additional stair-step warm up.

Why Is This Important For Me?

For anyone and everyone, especially at the age of forty or above, it is critical to have a healthy heart! Though strength training has many benefits, supplementing cardio will make you healthier overall and speed fat loss. Remember not to over train your body either. This is when planning on WHEN you are going to do your cardio becomes important. I would recommend at least twice during the week, which would mean at least once after a workout. And then once on the weekend. When I say cardio, I do not mean you have to go and run a mile here. On the weekend what I would most recommend is going on a walk with a son, daughter, or spouse. Even a nice bike ride around the subdivision would be great! Of course a lot of these options are limited right now with it being winter, but as soon as it begins warming up, start going for walks and bike rides with your family or friends.

Cardio doesn't have to be done on the treadmill either! Play basketball, play catch, play tag, be young again and have fun! Doing such activities with your children is a GREAT way of incorporating your workout in with life! Too many people get caught up in their workouts and bodybuilding lifestyles and forget to live life. Don't give up those precious moments that you can never get back again. Go outside and have fun! This will make you feel and look young once again!

Stretching and Warming Up

It was not until relatively recently that I began realizing just how important stretching and warming up really is. I spend up to 15 or 20 minutes just stretching out. Some many think this is a little extreme or unnecessary, but I believe there is no such thing as TOO much stretching. Especially on days when you are going to be doing a large compound lift such as squatting or dead lifting, stretching is more important than ever in these cases. You do not want to wind up with an injury at any time in your life. All this will cause is setting you back. It's like taking one step forward and two steps back. You do not want to end up out of the gym.

Warming up is just as important as stretching as well. I always warm up with light weights. For example, if I am doing barbell bench press, I will warm up with somewhere between 50% and 70% of the weight I am going to be doing. This allows to stretch out your muscles even more, and begin pumping them with blood. The more blood you have in your muscles the more nutrients that will be shuttled, which means the more muscle that will be built! Are you convinced? If not, read it again!

How does a workout routine differ from someone who is over 40 compared to someone younger?


Aside from the time that you spend at work or with your family, we do not want to spend a lot of time in the gym. For anyone, at any age, after a prolonged amount of time spent in the gym, your muscle building hormone levels such as male hormone and growth factor begin dropping, and your catabolic hormones such as cortisol begin elevating. As you get older, these factors are even MORE important than ever before to take into account. You can not allow yourself to spend more than one hour in the gym. In this case, TIME IS MUSCLE and you have to remain focused to accomplish this.


This ties in with my first bullet. As depressing as it may be, as you get older, your male hormone levels are slowly declining. When you look at a teen, their muscle building hormones are so high, they do not need to worry (as much) about how long they're in the gym or if they pull a muscle. We will take a look later at how you can maximize your male hormone and muscle building hormones without the usage of illegal implements.

Safety is another thing that I love to stress. Keeping good form is much more important than how much weight you're pushing. As you get older, even with a proper diet, you are still susceptible to injury. Pulling or tearing a muscle is not what you want happening. When you were younger you may have been able to walk in cold and bench 315, but as I said earlier in my stretching and warming up bullet, this is asking for injury and setting you back even further.


Now that we're in our forties, most of us aren't competing in sports any longer. Some of us may not even single any longer. We are no longer trying to get stronger for a sport, or trying to show off for the girls. Reality check.

Now we have families we have to support. We have a wife that we are still trying to impress. We have lives that we need to maintain so we're there for our children at their weddings. I have a lot of friends and I see their parents drinking, smoking, living lifestyles as though they do not care what happens to them tomorrow. I believe that people overlook at that working out and living healthy lifestyles is not only for yourself, but for your family. Be a good parent, and live healthy. Be a good influence for your children, and do what makes you happy. I do not believe that anyone who works out can tell me it does not make them happy and feel accomplished. You will feel better, look better, and have more energy if you follow the steps that I have given you. It is your job to begin walking up those steps, to the level of accomplishment.

What are some good supplements for people over 40?

Hey, we're all looking for that miracle supplement to increase male hormone and build pounds of muscle. First, we have to go back to the basics.


I'm not talking about those chewable Flintstone vitamins here. I am talking about a multivitamin that is specifically geared towards bodybuilders and athletes.

100% Whey Protein

This of course is an absolute must for those who go to the gym looking to build muscle. Whey protein is very quickly absorbed into the body, speeding recovery and growth! I personally use LA Muscle 100% LA Whey Protein.

Branched Chain Amino Acids

Not a lot of fitness enthusiasts are familiar with this amazing product. Branched chain amino acids, often referred to as BCAA's are critical for muscle growth, protein synthesis, and recovery. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, so why not supplement them into your diet?!


While there are many rumors floating around about creatine, it is important to know that creatine is a must for the bodybuilder or athlete. Creatine is a natural amino acid, found primarily in red meats. It essentially pulls water in muscle tissue, hydrating, and assisting with muscle contraction. Some experience rapid weight gain, and strength gains with creatine. I have personally used LA Explosive Creatine. I have never experienced weight gain or bloating, but I love this product because it has dextrose in it to replenish glycogen levels rapidly, which is vital for growth and repair.


Before I began using glutamine, all I heard was criticism. How it doesn't do much, and people considered it garbage. I have to say the complete opposite. I have done much reading on glutamine, and ever since I began taking it, I have noticed a great difference in recovery, delayed onset muscle soreness, and strength. I highly recommend glutamine for anyone looking to feel healthier, get stronger, and look better! If you couldn't tell by now, I prefer the powder form of supplements opposed to capsules.

Joint Care

For anyone and everyone who puts a lot of stress on their body, it is never too soon or too late to supplement for joint health! Though a healthy diet should help keep your joints lubricated and in good working order, sometimes additional supplementation helps reduce soreness, aching, and increase joint strength. There are many products out there that say they will do just this, I would choose a good all-around product for supplementation. These products supply many of the nutrients that will keep your joints healthy!

Wait, Do I Need All Of These?

The answer to this question is No. I simply have put together a list of recommended supplements that may help you through your voyage. The only few that I would say are absolutely necessary at all times are the multivitamins and protein. Other than that, you can obtain everything that you need through food.

Remember that a healthy diet should consist of lots of whole protein (chicken, steak, fish), lots of whole, complex carbohydrates (100% whole wheat bread, whole wheat spaghetti, brown rice), and plenty of healthy fats (Olive Oil, Natural Peanut Butter, Flax Seed).

A sample diet may look something like this:

Upon waking up
1 cup oatmeal, 3 eggs, glass of orange juice with multivitamin

Apple and handful of nuts

Sandwich made with whole wheat bread, chicken and fat free cheese
1 cup of fat free yogurt
1 Banana
1 Cup Skim milk

Pre- Workout
LA Whey Protein Shake
311 BCAAs

During Workout

Post Workout
100% Whey Protein Shake
311 BCAAs
Explosive Creatine

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
Baked Potato
Side of vegetables

Before Bed
½ cup cottage cheese
1 cup of skim milk
Norateen Heavyweight II

There you have it. I did not list all of the supplements that I recommended, and I did not specify doses and servings because it varies from product to product. That is a simple sample diet though. I hope that it may help guide you in the right direction. Always strive to eat every 2-3 hours, eating small meals and snacks to keep your metabolism charged!

In The End

I hope that through these steps, you can reach your goal. Whether you are trying to gain muscle, lose fat, or maintain, I feel all of the steps that I have left can help you achieve your goals. Remember to remain focused, stay motivated, and keep your eyes on the prize!



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