The 20 Best Exercises For Men Over 40 – Get Fit, Stay Strong, Be Healthy!
What Are The Best Exercises For Men Over 40?
By Stuart Carter, Head Trainer & Men’s Health Coach, The Fit Father Project
Stick around, I’ve got you covered.
In this article, I’m going to show you the 5 best exercises for men over 40 in each of the categories of weights, bodyweight, dynamic cardio and core.
I will also provide a workout routine for each training type, so you can choose the one that suits you and get on it!
In fact, you can choose more than just one. Use them all and mix up your training throughout the week.
Here at the Fit Father Project, we encourage 30 minutes of daily activity as one of the key steps to losing weight.
So, give them all a go and see which fits best into your daily schedule.
Let’s jump in and I’ll start off by showing you the best 5 exercises for men over 40, when using weights.
Exercises For Men Over 40 – Weighted Exercises
These are the exercises you should do if you have access to weights at home, or if you train at a gym.
The ability to continuously increase the resistance makes these great exercises for men over 40, to build overall strength and muscle size.
Dumbbell bench press
‘Dumbbell bench press?’ ‘Why not Barbell bench press?’ I hear you shout!
The reason I advise using dumbbells for your bench press is that it doesn’t cause as much stress to your shoulder joints as barbells.
Dumbbells also engage more stabilizer muscles to keep the weight steady as you go through the motion of the exercise.
As we are here to help you improve your overall health and look after your body, we want to give you the safest and most effective way of exercising.
Bench press is a perfect exercise for whatever result you are after.
You can gain muscle size, strength and definition in your chest through using a variety of different rep and set ranges.
As well as different rep and set ranges, you can also use different angles of the bench to target different areas of your chest.
The higher the incline, the more you work your upper chest and the lower the decline, the more you work your lower chest.
Declining the bench is actually another way to save stress on your shoulders, due to the position of your body and the dumbbell.
It will keep your shoulders more out of the equation, so as well as giving you a better pump in the chest muscle, it will, more importantly, keep your shoulders safer.
Barbell Bent-over row
Barbell bent over row is an overlooked back exercise that is often passed over for the lat pull-down machine.
Although lat pull-down is a valid back exercise, the barbell bent over row is extremely good for your whole body due to the position you need to hold throughout the movement.
As you complete this exercise, you will need to engage your core muscles by pulling your belly button inwards as if sucking it towards your spine.
You should also make sure you do not jerk the bar upwards.
You should use a weight that allows you to pull through a slow, controlled movement, squeezing your shoulder blades and back muscles as you do it.
There are a few variations of the row, but to keep with the topic of the article, I want to give you the best, which in my opinion is the barbell bent over row.
Dumbbell/Kettlebell shoulder press
The dumbbell or Kettle-bell shoulder press is great for sculpting powerful looking shoulders and strengthening your upper body.
Similar to the dumbbell bench press above, it is better to do with dumbbells, rather than a barbell to avoid unnecessary stress to your shoulder joint and to engage stabiliser muscles throughout the movement.
I would strongly recommend never to do this exercise seated. Studies show that the pressure applied to your lower back in seated presses can cause injury.
Another bonus to doing this exercise standing is the engagement of your core muscles and abs. Keeping to correct form will mean avoiding ‘swinging’ your body to push the weight up.
If you get to the point where you need an extra push to raise your final rep or two, then take a slight drive from your knees before you execute the press part of the move.
If you find you are doing this for more than the final 2 reps, I would recommend you lower your weight slightly.
Can you guess why I am recommending Dumbbells/Kettlebells for this exercise? You got it.
Barbells cause unnecessary stress to your shoulder joints when your arms are placed in an unnatural position, especially under loading.
Recommendation – If your only option is a barbell, I would recommend using a front squat, to avoid having your shoulder joint protracted.
Squats are a staple exercise in any strength training program and works muscles throughout your entire body, including Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Hip Flexors, Lower back and Core.
From that alone, I think it’s safe to say that this is rightly high on the list of 20 best exercises for men over 40.
It is an incredibly efficient exercise that has you covered.
If there were a champion of exercises for men over 40, the deadlift would be it.
It’s the Daddy of functional exercises and one of my personal favourites.
Some people will avoid it because it uses muscles in your lower back to pull the bar to the top position.
Done with correct form however (as per our video instruction below) and a manageable weight, you will have no problems.
As you feel comfortable, be sure to raise your weight as you would with any other exercise, to make it challenging within your rep range.
As long as you keep your chest up and your spine neutral, you’re golden.
The deadlift, similar to the squat, works muscles across your whole body and therefore strengthens everything south of your chin. (Shoulders and forearms will be incorporated into this exercise too).
A full-body weights routine, whatever you’re training for
- Dumbbell Bench Press – 2 x 12-15 reps
- Kettlebell/Dumbbell Squat – 2 x 15-20 reps
- Barbell Bent Over Row – 2 x 12-15 reps
- Deadlift – 2 x 15-20 reps
- Dumbbell/Kettlebell Shoulder Press – 2 x 12-15 reps
Exercises For Men Over 40 – Body Weight Exercises
You can use these exercises if you prefer to train at home, or you don’t have access to a gym.
These exercises can be done anywhere you have enough space to stand up or lay down.
They are extremely versatile and great for getting a quick workout in, when time is of the essence.
The push up is an exercise that probably has its roots going to back to Adam in the garden of Eden.
Since men have known that pressing themselves up from the floor has made them strong and have a great, chiselled chest, they have been doing push ups.
This is the most basic, but one of the most fundamental exercises for men over 40 in body weight training programs.
It’s easy, straightforward and gets results.
Push ups works throughout your upper body and includes mainly the muscles in your Chest, Shoulders and Triceps.
Similar to the press up, the pull up has probably been around since the birth of man.
You can do pull ups on anything that solidly hangs overhead and I’m sure you’ve given them a go on a solid branch once or twice!
Pull ups works multiple muscles throughout your upper body, including back, shoulders and biceps.
This makes our top 20 due to this multi-muscle effect combined with its simplicity.
*As pull-ups can be difficult to start, you can use the lat pulldown machine to build up your strength first.
We have a video below for this, showing the correct technique.
Bench dips is another great but underrated exercise that works your triceps.
This may be an isolation exercise, but is included in this list because of how intense an exercise it is and how well it can be used to exhaust your triceps at the end of a workout.
The important thing with bench dips is to isolate your triceps by pinning your shoulders back.
Also, make sure your feet are far enough forward to make sure you do not push up from your feet.
There are various levels of difficulty that is mainly controlled by the position of your feet.
They could be slightly forward of your hips, fully extended, or raised on another bench.
Bench dips were advocated by Arnold Schwarzenegger as an exercise to increase overall arm development.
As the triceps has 3 heads, to the biceps 2, Arnold recommended hitting the triceps from all angles, with bench dips being a great exercise to achieve this.
‘What, squats again?’
Yes, but bodyweight squats are very different to weighted squats in the diversity in which they can be used in your training.
When you start off, just concentrate on the form of a basic air squat and get that dialled in.
Once you are used to the form, you can get a bit more playful with it (As long as you stay safe).
You can make the squats more intense by trying squat jumps, sumo squats and pistol squats (Single legged).
These variations bring some variety into your training, but also hit your muscles in different ways and from different angles.
The jump squats are also great when included in HIIT routines as they will raise your heart rate pretty damn quick.
Ahh, lunges. What can I say about lunges that you won’t already know even if you have only tried them once?
Lunges are possibly one of the most kick-ass exercises for men over 40 I have included in this list.
They are tough, but the reward from doing them is far greater than the effort you put in to complete a few sets of these bad boys.
They are a multi-muscle lower body exercise and can be mixed up with other exercises once you know the basic concept of correct form.
I’ll include variations in another article, so come back and visit us regularly.
An example bodyweight routine for you to try out
As your legs are generally much stronger than your upper body, I have limited the Squats and Lunges to 25 reps.
With upper body, especially when you start out, you may only be able to do a few reps. For this reason, I have advised to go to failure.
- Push-ups – 3 x failure (or 25 reps)
- Bodyweight Squats – 3 x 25 reps
- Pull-ups – 3 x failure (or 25 reps) *Alternatively, use 3 x 12-15 reps on the Lat Pulldown
- Bodyweight lunges – 3 x 25 reps on each leg
- Bench Dips – 3 x failure (or 25 reps)
Exercises For Men Over 40 – Cardio Exercises
These cardio exercises are quite different to your usual cardio machine session.
These are much more dynamic and will push your heart rate and lung power, as well as using muscles all over your body.
Burpees are an all body monster of an exercise that will get you conditioned like a marine private in no time.
This all rounder, military favourite, works your cardio system as well as chest, shoulders, triceps, hip flexors, abs, lower back, quads and hamstrings.
There is probably no other exercise like it when it comes to efficiency and overall physical benefit.
Burpees can be combined with other exercises to increase the intensity of your workouts, but for now, just stick to some straight up sets and reps to get into the flow.
Mountain climbers are my nemesis in the gym and I hate them as much as I love them.
They are an awesome strength exercise as well as cardio exercise due to the static, isometric hold you need to employ as you complete the exercise.
Holding a push up position whilst you bounce your legs backwards and forwards is not easy, but will help strengthen your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs and core.
To engage your core, make sure you are sucking your belly button towards your spine throughout the movement, but don’t forget to breath as you do them.
Squat thrusts are another military favourite and a great all rounder for pushing your cardio system to its limit whilst strengthening your body through a mix of static and dynamic movement.
Your upper body will be the controlled muscles here, meaning that you will increase strength in your chest, shoulders and arms.
Your lower body will be the dynamic, where the main muscles being worked here are hip flexors, lower abs and calves.
Step ups are a great exercise to do for leg endurance as well as cardio. They can also be done at any level.
If you are an absolute beginner, you can do as suggested and step up, but if you re a bit further along in your training, you can jog up, run up or sprint up.
Step ups can also be done as a weighted exercise, holding dumbbells in each hand.
There’s plenty of versatility in this exercise, which makes them a very welcome addition to our top 20 list.
Main muscles used will be quads, hamstrings and calves, so a good all rounder for legs.
Shuttle runs are a favourite for cardio, especially within sports training and fitness assessment.
If you’ve ever completed the ‘bleep test’, you have done shuttle runs.
Very basic, running from point A to point B and back, as fast as you can.
This can be done from beginner to advanced trainers, with its simplicity being its overarching appeal.
As with quite a few of these exercises, you can literally do them anywhere.
The distance between points is not prescribed, so just keep running ‘til you can’t run no more.
Here’s an example routine to change up your cardio workouts
Try the below as a circuit, with 30 secs on, 30 secs off for each exercise and a 60 sec rest before completing the next circuit.
- Burpees – 30 secs
- Shuttle runs – 30 secs
- Mountain Climbers – 30 secs
- Step-ups – 30 secs
- Squat thrusts – 30 secs
Complete the circuit 3-5 times for a great alternative cardio workout.
Exercises For Men Over 40 – Ab/Core Exercises
Lastly, I’m going to show you my favourite 5 Ab/Core exercises for men over 40.
These are to help with posture and core strength which is important across many aspects of general life and activity.
The RKC (or ‘Russian Kettlebell Challenge’) plank is only slightly varied to the normal plank you may have seen and even tried before.
These slight changes, however, have been proven to increase lower ab activation by four times, external obliques by three times and internal obliques by two times.
The differences are:
- Place your arms slightly further in front of you.
- Bring your elbows closer together.
- Squeeze your Quad and Glute muscles as hard as possible.
Although these changes do not sound too taxing, don’t be surprised if you can only hold the RKC plank about half the time you would hold a normal plank.
The side plank works your underlying abdominal muscles and your obliques.
It is a static hold exercise, so works on building up strength in your core and postural muscles.
The exercise can be done anywhere with enough space to lay down and has a few variations that can make it easier or harder, depending on your training level.
This is a perfect exercise if you play sports that require an explosive twisting motion, like golf or tennis.
Having a strong core and obliques will allow you to swing more effectively and strongly.
2 point superman
The 2 point superman is another postural exercise, but is slightly more dynamic than the RKC plank or side plank.
If you have ever taken a Pilates class or been given a Pilates exercise for back pain, you will know that the movements are very slight.
In this case it is simply raising 1 arm and the opposite leg off the ground while maintaining your body position, with a neutral spine.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? Give it a go for 10 reps and let us know how you went. 🙂
Swiss ball crunch
The Swiss ball crunch is the more sophisticated cousin of the basic sit-up but is safer and more precise.
As you can lean back over the ball on the negative portion of the movement, you pull your muscles through a larger range of motion through the positive portion.
The additional range of motion incorporates more muscle fibres and offers an overall more efficient exercise than basic sit-ups.
The other bonus is protection of your lower back.
Make sure your lower back is pressed into the ball throughout so you do not need to engage your lower back muscles, which could lead to back strain.
Ab Wheel Rollout
The Ab wheel rollout is one of the most effective core exercises that works both your ‘6-pack’ abs (Rectus Abdominis) and your underlying core muscles (Transverse Abdominis).
By controlling your core muscles throughout the entire movement, you are able to roll out as far as you can, whilst keeping a flat position through your back.
Pulling yourself back to the start point will require a good squeeze in your main ab muscles.
You need to make sure that your back does not bow as you perform this exercise, as that could lead to lower back stress.
Here’s a sample Abs circuit you can use in your workouts.
This Abs circuit can be used in combination with the cardio circuit above, or as a standalone workout to really blast your abs.
- RKC plank – 20-30 reps
- Swiss ball curl – 20-30 reps
- Side plank – 20-30 reps
- Ab wheel rollout – 20-30 reps
- 2-point superman – 20-30 reps
Complete the circuit 3 times, with a 15-second rest between exercises and a 60-second rest between circuits.
Remember, we’re here to help!
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Our mission is to help as many men as possible each year, with a main goal of 100,000 men by 2020.
Until next time, I wish you every success in your exercise goals.
Your new friend & health coach,
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project
Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide’, Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.
*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on the best exercise for men over 40.