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How Often Should I Work Out If I’m Over 40? - Tucson Personal Training Blog

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How Often Should I Work Out If I’m Over 40? - Tucson Personal Training Blog

By: Jerry Trubman, Owner and Founder

 

Today’s post comes from the FAQ file. There are many conflicting opinions on this topic. My answer comes from many years and thousands of test subjects… plus my own experiences. So, yes, my answer to this question is anecdotal. But anecdotal based on lots and lots of evidence. Enjoy…

Let’s start with the TL:DR version of this post. If you’re over 40, you probably need to train every day.

Are they gone?

Ok… now that the unwashed masses have clicked off of this post, we can get to the good stuff…

When I was a young man, my training regimen was three times per week. Three hard, balls-to-the-wall training sessions. Most of them were followed by 24-48 hours of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness AKA: needing assistance to get off the toilet). “Recovery days” in between training sessions was just a fancy way of saying “do very little until the DOMS goes away” days.

The best part of training when you’re young/novice? Everything works (at least for a little while). You can do stupid stuff and still receive benefit.

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Fast forward to today… I’ve discovered two things that really suck: First, I just can’t beat myself up multiple times per week like I used to. Once in a while? Yes. But certainly not as a general rule. Second (and worst of all), if I take a day off and do nothing, I feel like crap.

“Your body is concrete waiting to harden. Motion is lotion.” – Mark Reifkind

My wife, who by most standards is “too old to still make gains" yet still does, completely agrees. 

Perhaps we’re in better shape than your average couple of old farts, and some may say what works on higher-level folks doesn’t apply to general populations, but in this case, I strongly disagree. I think most people walk around feeling like crap all too frequently and just don’t realize it. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean this is ok. I’ve had success with numerous students who simply started walking 30 minutes each day (trying to never to miss one day), and within a month had a major change in how they feel.

Some other benefits to the ‘train everyday’ shift…

  1. Workouts are more enjoyable. Over 40 lifters need to treat their bodies like bank accounts… lots of deposits, fewer withdrawals. Tough workouts are withdrawals; they leave you drained and tired. Easier workouts are deposits, you walk away feeling energized and great. Only youngsters think it’s cool to overdraft the account.

     

  2. Variety is the spice of life. Doing ‘something’ every day affords one the ability to sprinkle in wide varieties of movements… a few days of lifting, a day for a long walk/jog, a few days of cycling, etc. Although I’m not one to advocate variety for varieties sake, I’ve seen too many lifters not take the time expand a wider range of their physical capacities. Remember, specializing is for specialists. The older you are, the better it is to be a generalist. What good is a 700-pound squat if you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without wheezing?

     

  3. Injury risk mitigation. Riddle me this: Who is less likely to get hurt while exercising… Someone who goes ‘beast mode’ three days per week, or someone who trains 7 days per week at 50%-70%? Obviously, the latter. Moderate loads/rep ranges are not only easier to replicate over and over without excessive fatigue, but they also allow focus on flawless technique. Both of these things are a recipe for not getting hurt.

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Sample training regimen

The following is the basic regimen that my wife and I follow. Is this training advice for the masses? Probably not. The intention is to serve as a template to see what I’m trying to describe in action.

Monday – Moderate kettlebell session. I’m a fan of the Kettlebell Rite Of Passage program, and I’ve done some variation of this program every single Monday for years. I always add pullups, as well as a lower body lift to the ladders (usually single leg work). You can learn more about ROP straight from the source by picking up this book

In case you feel like you’ve read the above paragraph wrong, you’re didn’t. I’ve LITERALLY done the same basic workout every Monday for years. It’s almost meditative at this point. I'm a firm believer in, "If it's important, do it all the time. If it's not, don't do it at all."

Tuesday – Steady-state row day. Anywhere from 30-75 minutes on the rower at a moderate pace. This used to be pretty boring until I subscribed to the Tucson Rowing Club newsletter (click here to do that). They send out several workouts per month and the steady-state workouts do a great job of breaking up the monotony of sitting on the ERG for long periods of time. Cardio isn’t everything… but it is something. You can’t let your aerobic system go to hell. The side effects are harmful.

Wednesday – Barbell day. This is my ‘heavy lifting’ day. I focus on the big lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press) and cycle between them frequently. I usually only work on two lifts in each program (except when prepping for a meet where I do all three powerlifts). Again, you’re reading that right… I come in, warm up, hit a few working sets of two lifts, and go on with my day. Most of the training cycle is in the 60%-80% range. I ‘max out’ once per year… on the platform.

Thursday – Steady-state Jog. This can vary from person to person. It can be a walk, hike, bike ride, etc. Personally, I’m a closet jogger (don’t tell anyone… I’ll never admit it publicly). Four to six miles is my sweet spot. Don’t let this sound like something that it’s not: Under Armor is not waiting there when I get home to offer me an endorsement deal… this jog is really slow. I can maintain conversation while doing it, and I come home feeling like I can take a quick shower and go conquer the world. Again, it’s somewhat meditative; some of the best thinking I do all week is during that run.

Friday – Conditioning day. This is workout is brief and intense, baby! Using kettlebells, bodyweight, and small handful of other toys, I put together a workout that is under 30 minutes (sometimes under 20, other times less than ten) and produces a good sweat.

Saturday – Bonus day. Saturday’s workout can vary depending on what I’m working on at the time. I just finished writing some programming for our advanced kettlebell class that was temporarily retired during the lockdowns, but is now running again! (Friday nights at 5:30pm if you’re interested).

Currently, the Concept 2 website has a rowing challenge that runs from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. I’ve been doing this every year for the past 4 years and my goal is to row 100,000 meters within those dates. I’m sure I’m the only one who has this experience, but the holidays have a bad habit putting a couple extra pounds on me. Every since I started this challenge, it hasn’t happened.

Sunday – Active Recovery Day. This can mean different things for different people, but for Marie and I, it’s our FUN day. Lately, it’s been climbing. But we’ll also do long bike rides, hikes, etc. (yes, I know I’m sounding like a dating app. My wife and I are one of those weird couples that actually likes doing stuff together. Deal with it.) Sunday used to be my yoga day for many years, and I’m looking forward to seeing those places reopen.

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I’ve been asked this question many times in classes. My answer is usually something quick, so I thought I’d take some time to flesh it out.

What about you? If you’re over 40 and active, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Until next time,   

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached "Team Protocol" to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife, Marie. To subscribe to his blog, click here.

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