Just because you’re not in your 20s or 30s anymore doesn’t mean that you still can’t build muscle and strength. It’s just going to take a little bit of a unique approach to your workouts to guarantee the gains you’re looking for.
Thinking about getting stronger in your 40s? Here are a few tips:
Focus on building lean muscle to lower your risk of injuries and boost your metabolism.
Strength training will trigger neural adaptations to enhance your performance and gains.
Properly warming up and staying in tune with your body will prevent injury and keep you in the gym longer.
Alright, it’s time to build muscle and make some serious strength gains. So, we’re going to be reviewing the importance of building lean muscle, how neural adaptations boost your gains, and some ways to prevent injury while exercising.
Why Lean Muscle Is Important
Once you become a dad, your discretionary time takes a big hit! Maybe you’ve gone through that period where your time in the gym has shrunk to zero…but now you are ready to get back.
Building lean muscle mass is great for improving your physique and giving you a more muscular appearance. At the same time, having a greater amount of lean muscle mass can actually help you to prevent several types of injury and improve your metabolism.
Let’s go over exactly how lean muscle mass can lead to these results.
Resistance training, in general, is a great way to improve the strength of just about every connective tissue within the body, including bones and muscles.
When you build up the strength and thickness of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your body, you’re also reducing the risk of injuries like strains and sprains that might occur during an intense workout. Your body will be able to withstand heavier loads and swifter movements without buckling under and causing an injury.
However, the benefits don’t just end in the gym.
With a greater amount of muscle mass, you can reduce your chances of a musculoskeletal injury, even in the outside world. That means greater muscle mass can improve your agility and balance while reducing already-existing muscle pain.
The ratio of body fat to lean muscle is important to you because you’re looking to improve your body composition. However, did you know that having more muscle mass can actually help you to burn more fat and calories?
That’s all because muscle tends to burn a greater amount of calories than fat, meaning greater muscle mass can enhance your metabolism. With a faster metabolism, you can burn more calories every single minute of the day, even when you’re not exercising or at the gym.
In essence, the more muscle you build, the more fat you ultimately lose!
Neural Adaptations & Strength Gains
Neural adaptations are changes that occur within the brain and the nervous system as a response to strength training. Ultimately, your body and mind begin to work as one to determine how to use and activate the muscles more efficiently during a resistance training session.
When this happens, your muscles are able to produce an even greater amount of power and strength. This process causes an increase in muscle mass and greater strength overall. But, there are also a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to guaranteeing strength gains.
Principle of Progressive Overload
The only way you can continue to build muscle and strength is by increasing the load that you’re putting on your muscles. After all, you can’t expect to lift the same weight for the same number of reps every workout and see improvements.
This is known as the principle of progressive overload. In short, you need to add weight or resistance when an exercise becomes too easy in order to continue making progress in terms of muscle mass and gains.
Too easy means it’s not producing the results you want!
You should only increase the amount of resistance when you can lift a certain amount of weight for two extra reps per set for two workouts straight. This is known as the “two for two rule.”
So, don’t just add new plates to the bar whenever you feel it’s necessary. Since you’re in your 40s, it might take you a little more time to improve your strength.
When you undergo neural adaptations due to a consistent exercise routine, you’re also enhancing your performance during workouts. Your body is basically doing whatever it can to adapt to your workout routines and make it easier on your body. In the process, this can improve your physique and your performance.
Neural adaptations to exercise include:
Improved muscle mass (muscle fiber size)
Greater strength, power, speed, or endurance (depends on your muscle fiber type)
Greater efficiency of your muscles during a workout
Improved ability to withstand heavy loads for extended periods of time or more reps
Avoiding Injuries When Working Out
No matter what age you are or how well-versed you are in the gym, you need to be taking extra measures to guarantee safety during your workouts. Otherwise, you might just end up with a muscle, bone, or joint injury that keeps you out of the gym and halts your gains for a little while.
Let’s go over a few ways that you can prevent injuries in the gym when you’re in your 40s.
Even if you feel mentally ready to get into the gym and start lifting, you need to take at least a few minutes to get a nice warm-up in. This provides greater blood flow to your muscles and also reduces your risk of pulling a muscle or injuring a joint during a workout.
The ideal warm-up would be a dynamic warm-up, meaning you need to incorporate movement-related exercises rather than simply focusing on static stretching. These warm-up activities might include a light jog, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, or even crunches.
Your warm-up should last anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. Better yet, focus on the areas of the body that you plan on using during your session.
Being in Tune With Your Body
As much as you want to power through your workout in order to see the best gains, you need to keep an eye on what your body is telling you. If something doesn’t feel right with your muscles or joints, then something might actually be wrong.
The more you push your muscles, joints, and bones past their limit, the greater the chance of actually injuring yourself during the workout.
It’s better to cut your workout short or use a lighter weight during an exercise than to force your body to undergo stress and resistance that it might not be ready for. If you experience pain or discomfort constantly during your workouts, it would be a good idea to go to a medical professional to get checked out.
Otherwise, you might find yourself sidelined for weeks or months and definitely not seeing any type of gains.
Keeping Proper Form
Though you definitely want to keep improving your 1RMs and setting new PRs at the gym, remember how important it is to keep good form during workouts. Slipping on your form can definitely help you to put bigger weights up, but it also puts you at greater risk for injury.
Think about it.
Let’s say you’re doing a bicep curl. The only part of your body that should be moving is your elbow, bringing the weight up and down.
When you begin using momentum by swinging your arm or lurching your upper back backward, you’re putting unusual stress on different areas of your body. This can lead you to strain a muscle or sprain a ligament or a tendon.
If you don’t know how to properly do an exercise, look it up or ask a pro at the gym.
Working out in your 40s is definitely important if you value a great physique and having a greater amount of strength. At the same time, you can’t expect to make strength or muscle gains as quickly as you did a few decades ago.
Make sure you’re getting a proper warm-up and doing your best to keep good form during exercises. Also, work to improve the amount of resistance that you’re working against in order to see the greatest results.
ACSM: Resistance Training and Injury Prevention
Mayo Clinic: Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories
NIH: Neural adaptation to resistance training
Wikipedia: Progressive Overload
Bodybuilding: When Should You Increase The Amount Of Weight You Lift
PT Direct: Neuromuscular Adaptations to Exercise
American Heart Association: Warm Up, Cool Down