Compound exercises have always been a popular way of building muscle. However, which ones would work for people over 40?
Some of the best compound exercises for people over 40 include squats, loaded carry, barbell deadlift, dumbbell bench press, bench step-ups, lunges, inverted bodyweight rows, push-ups, chin-ups and pull-ups, and bodyweight dips.
All of these are suitable for people over 40, especially when done properly and with the help of a professional trainer. If you want to know more about compound exercises, why they are great for you, and more, read on.
What Are Compound Exercises?
Compound exercises include any type of exercise that works on several muscles at once. They are generally more efficient and can help you reach your goals faster. Some of the most common examples of compound exercises are squats and push-ups.
These workouts are great because they also require your natural range of motion and balance. It’s the type of strength that you can actually apply in real life. For example, lifting heavy weight or pulling your own weight up, as well as being more stable in various situations that require strength.
You can do them with or without props like dumbbells, weights, barbells, etc. However, these help, especially if you want to make your workout a bit tougher.
Here are some benefits of compound exercises:
They improve the strength of your muscles
They boost your fat burning process
Improve your coordination
Work on your balancing skills
They boost your heart rate
Are Compound Exercises Better Than Isolation Exercises?
As you likely know, there are also isolation exercises. These include any workouts that only engage one muscle. For example, a calf raise.
With these, you would need more time in the gym to work on all of your muscles. On the other hand, compound exercises are more time-efficient, and you can do way more with them in an hour than with isolation exercises.
Isolation exercises are functional for toning your muscles or fixing an imbalance. But, whenever you can, aim for compound exercise. Especially when just starting out, you need to build actual strength in order to do some more advanced exercises and actually see results.
Below you’ll find a list of exercises that are great for people over 40. They are also aligned in an order in which you should master them — starting with squats or loaded carries, which are simple and easy and ending with bodyweight dips, which are not as easy.
Once you master one — and find that you are doing it with ease — move to the next level. For instance, you should practice an inverted bodyweight row and then start doing pull-ups or chin-ups.
Squats are excellent because they target quadriceps, calves, and glutes while staying simple and easy for beginners to do. Here’s how to do them properly:
Keep your feet a bit wider than the width of your hips with your toes turned out.
Open your chest up and keep it like that while engaging your core.
Start lowering yourself until your thighs become parallel to the ground.
Tighten your abdominal muscles and stand back up, then squeeze your glutes and repeat.
It’s best to repeat this exercise in 3 sets, each containing ten repeats. If you want to make this exercise harder, you can do it with dumbbells in your hands, holding a dumbbell in a “goblet” position, carrying a barbell on your back, etc.
However, make sure that you are not stressing your body too much and don’t get a barbell straight away. Get your body adapted to regular squats and later on add more weight.
Loaded carry is another excellent exercise for beginners as it’s very simple — you just pick something heavy up, and you walk. At the same time, this easy exercise works on your legs, lower back, upper back, and core muscles. Here’s how to do them:
Pick up two dumbbells of suitable weight.
Stand while holding them (palms turned to your body).
Squeeze your abdominal muscles.
Walk for 20 or 30 seconds with this weight as fast as you can.
To make this exercise easier, you can do a “suitcase carry” where you carry a dumbbell in just one hand and then switch each set.
To make it a bit harder, do it with hands overhead and two dumbbells — remember to keep your back straight and your core engaged.
The barbell deadlift is also simple to do — you pick something heavy up, and you put it down. It engages your glutes, core, entire back, and forearms. Here’s how to do it:
Stand with your feet apart and a barbell in front of you.
Keep your back neutral and your core engaged as you push down while looking straight ahead.
Pick up the bar while adhering to the rules above.
Pull the bar up at the same speed you are pulling your hips up.
The bar should reach your thighs as you squeeze the glutes and put it back down.
Repeat this ten times (or more) and rest for at least 60 seconds between sets.
It’s best if you do three sets of this. If you have back problems, you can do the same exercise with dumbbells and make the strain disappear with similar results. You can also do bent-over rows instead.
Dumbbell Bench Press
This is similar to the barbell bench press, but it’s better for people over 40 as it can help them avoid injuries — similarly to replacing barbells with dumbbells in the previous examples. Even with dumbbells, this exercise is excellent because it engages your entire upper body and each muscle in it.
Lie on a bench with dumbbells above your chest.
Your feet should be on the floor, and your abdominal muscles should also be engaged.
Push the dumbbells down slowly while still keeping the core engaged.
Put the dumbbells to the side of your chest and repeat.
You can use a barbell instead to add more stability to this exercise, but this will be a strain on you, and it won’t engage as many muscles as dumbbells do. Furthermore, you can add extra exercise for your pecs by tilting the bench to 30 degrees.
Bench step-ups work on your thighs and glutes, maybe even arms if you do them with weights or dumbbells. Here’s how to do them:
Your head should be up, looking straight ahead with your lower back arched.
Keep your back straight as you push up.
Step down and repeat with the other leg.
Remember to raise the bar as high as you can handle, as it does even more for your muscles.
Other Compound Exercises to Try
These have been some of the simplest yet effective compound exercises that you can do even at home and on your own. However, there are others which can be your next level, especially if you haven’t exercised before.
Here are some of the best intermediate to advanced compound exercises:
Inverted Bodyweight Row
Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups
As you can see, compound exercises are excellent for your body. Of course, you have to learn proper form, and for that, it’s best to work with a trainer. This will help you avoid injuries. Remember to stretch and do a bit of cardio before doing compound exercises.
Furthermore, you should avoid doing versions of these workouts that are meant for your age or skills. For example, your body may not be prepared for barbell bench press, but a dumbbell bench press is something you can do. Also, don’t rush to do things you’re not ready for. Good luck!
Menno Henselmans: Compound vs. isolation exercises: which is best? [Study review]
Pub Med: The Effect of Short-Term Strength Training on Human Skeletal Muscle: The Importance of Physiologically Elevated Hormone Levels
Pub Med: Dose-response Relationship Between Weekly Resistance Training Volume and Increases in Muscle Mass: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Verywell Fit: How to Do Dumbbell Lunges
Men’s Health: Pull Your Way to a Bigger Back With the Inverted Row
Healthline: Pushups and Tips for Beginners
Nerd Fitness: How to Do a Proper Pull-up & Chin-up, Step By Step
Nerd Fitness: How to Do a Proper Dip: Get Strong With the Dip Exercise.