Best Exercises For Middle Aged Men

January 11, 2024

I've become increasingly convinced that the best workout for middle-aged men focuses on muscle exercises, especially compound movements. As we enter our middle years, muscle loss becomes a noticeable issue, particularly in the upper body area like the chest and shoulders.

Compound exercises are excellent in addressing this, helping to maintain and build muscle strength in these critical areas. This approach to fitness not only combats natural muscle degradation but also promotes overall health and physical resilience during these years.

Best Exercises For Middle Aged Men

Did You Know?

  • Heart Health: Regular exercise can reduce a man's risk of heart disease by up to 50%.
  • Weight Management: About 75% of men over the age of 40 are overweight or obese, and exercise is key in managing weight.
  • Diabetes Prevention: Engaging in moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 40%.
  • Mental Health: Exercise reduces symptoms of depression by about 30% in middle-aged men.
  • Muscle Loss: After age 30, men can lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade, but regular strength training can significantly reduce this loss.

Cardio for Middle-Aged Men: The Upsides

Cardiovascular exercise, often simply known as cardio, is any exercise that raises your heart rate. For middle-aged men, it offers several benefits:

  • Heart Health: Cardio boosts heart health. As you age, keeping your heart strong and efficient is crucial. Activities like jogging, swimming, or cycling keep the heart pumping and the blood flowing.

  • Weight Management: Many guys notice their metabolism slowing down in middle age. Regular cardio can be a great way to manage weight. It burns calories and can help prevent the extra pounds from creeping up.

  • Mood Enhancement: Exercise releases endorphins, those feel-good hormones. A good cardio session can lead to a more positive mood and reduce stress. Isn't it great to finish a workout feeling uplifted?

  • Improved Sleep: Cardio can lead to better sleep quality. Many middle-aged men struggle with sleep, and a regular cardio routine can help set your body's clock.

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The Flip Side: Cons of Cardio for Middle-Aged Men

Despite its benefits, cardio can have downsides, especially for men in their middle years:

  • Risk of Injury: As we age, our bodies are not as resilient. High-impact cardio activities can increase the risk of joint injuries. Running, for instance, can be tough on knees and ankles.
  • Overdoing It: There's a risk of overtraining. When you push too hard in cardio exercises, it can lead to exhaustion or even heart strain, especially if you're not used to intense physical activity.
  • Time Consuming: Effective cardio requires time. For busy middle-aged men, finding an hour or more several times a week can be challenging.
  • Can be Monotonous: Let's face it, cardio can sometimes be boring. Running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike for long periods isn't always the most exciting activity.
Best Exercises For Middle Aged Men

Cardio and Muscle Mass

This is a particular point of consideration for middle-aged men:

  • Potential Muscle Loss: Excessive cardio can lead to muscle loss, which is already a concern for men in this age group. While cardio is good, it's vital to balance it with strength training.
  • Energy Drain: Intense cardio can leave you feeling drained, potentially taking energy away from other activities or exercises that also contribute to overall fitness.

Cardio's Impact on Flexibility and Mobility

Another aspect to think about is how cardio affects your body's flexibility and mobility:

  • May Neglect Flexibility: Often, cardio routines don't include stretching or flexibility exercises. For middle-aged men, maintaining flexibility is crucial to prevent injuries.
  • Limited Range of Motion: Some cardio forms, like cycling, don't involve a full range of motion, which can lead to decreased mobility over time if not complemented with other forms of exercise.

Did You Know?

  • Bone Density: Weight-bearing exercises increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis by up to 50%.
  • Hypertension: Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension by an average of 5 to 8 mmHg.
  • Cholesterol Levels: Physical activity can increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels by up to 5%.
  • Life Expectancy: Men who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40% lower risk of dying early compared to those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.
  • Cancer Risk: Regular exercise reduces the risk of developing colon cancer by up to 24% in men.

Cardio's Role in Long-term Health

Finally, it's worth considering the long-term impact:

  • Endurance Benefits: Regular cardio can improve endurance, which is great for long-term health. You're more likely to stay active and enjoy a range of activities as you age.
  • Risk of Overlooked Health Issues: Middle-aged men sometimes ignore underlying health conditions. Engaging in intense cardio without a doctor's consultation can be risky, especially if there are undiagnosed heart conditions.

Rebuilding Muscles

The solution to that is muscle workouts, inevitably. Push-ups and sit-up crunches do the job up to certain levels. In fact I'd been doing those for years too. But what you could do by just using your own body weight is limited.

So this is where you need a gym equipment. Weight lifting - barbells and dumbbells, at least. For a regular gym user, that wouldn't be a problem. All the equipment is there. You'd just change your routine. Less use of the running machine and focus on your muscles.

You know how time consuming that is!

What is? To go to the gym!

We Don't Have Time To Do Anything!

Doesn't time just zoom by? The older we get, the more it seems like there aren't enough hours in the day. I bet you feel the same! Think about this: hitting the gym for 1.5 hours after work, three times a week? That's a tall order!

Tonight, I've got to wash my car. Tomorrow, it's fixing the bathroom cabinet and remembering to pick up WD40. There's just so much going on!

Feeling Wiped Out at Bedtime

You might be wondering where I'm going with this. How about setting up a little gym at home? It's been a game-changer for me. Just a few minutes of muscle exercises, and wow, they're intense! I'm talking 10 minutes max, and I'm totally spent. It's a real energy burner. Hey, I'm 51, not 21 or even 41. After a quick session with the weights, my mind just shuts off. Then, it's dinner time, a shower, a quick email check, and off to bed. And guess what? I sleep like a baby.

Best Exercises For Middle Aged Men - Compound Exercises

Compound Exercises Bench Press

I have mentioned about compound exercises before, as recommended by my friend Conor. A compound exercise uses more than one major muscle group at a time.

An isolation exercise on the other hand, uses one major muscle group like bicep curls and incline/decline flyes. Isolation exercises should be avoided if (a) you're a beginner or (b) your primary goal is performance related.

So here are five best compound exercises, here we go; (1) Bench Press (2) Deadlift (3) Squat (4) Pull-up and (5) Dips.

1. Bench Press

The bench press is a classic. It's like the bread and butter of compound exercises, working your chest, arms, and shoulders.

The step-by-step:

  • Start by lying flat on a bench. Grip the barbell with hands just wider than shoulder-width.
  • Lift the bar from the rack and hold it straight over your chest. This is your starting position.
  • Now, lower the bar slowly until it touches your mid-chest. Keep your elbows at about a 45-degree angle from your body.
  • Push the bar back up to the starting position, focusing on using your chest muscles.
  • Repeat for your chosen number of reps.

Remember to breathe in as you lower the bar and breathe out as you lift it.

Did You Know?

  • Sleep Quality: 70% of men report improved sleep quality with regular exercise.
  • Stress Reduction: Physical activity reduces stress levels and anxiety in over 60% of participants in a given study.
  • Flexibility: Engaging in flexibility exercises can reduce the risk of injury and improve overall mobility.
  • Metabolic Rate: Regular exercise increases the metabolic rate, helping middle-aged men burn more calories even at rest.
  • Cognitive Function: Men who exercise regularly have a 20% lower risk of cognitive decline as they age.

2. Deadlift

The deadlift is a powerhouse move. It hits your back, legs, and core.

The step-by-step:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with the barbell over your feet.
  • Bend at your hips and knees, and grab the bar with an overhand grip.
  • Keep your back straight, chest up, and your gaze forward as you lift the bar.
  • Use your legs and hips to stand up, lifting the barbell. Your arms should just be holding the bar, not lifting it.
  • Once you're standing with the barbell, hold it for a second. Then, lower it back to the ground, keeping it close to your body.

It's vital to keep your back straight to avoid injury.

HIIT Jump Squats

HIIT Jump Squats

3. Squat

Squats are great for your legs and lower back.

The step-by-step:

  • Stand with your feet a bit wider than hip-width, toes pointing slightly out.
  • Hold a barbell across your upper back, not your neck.
  • Now, bend at your hips and knees as if you're sitting back into a chair.
  • Go down as far as you can without losing the natural arch in your lower back.
  • Push through your heels to stand back up.

Keep your head up and back straight throughout the move.

4. Pull-Up

Pull-ups are amazing for your upper body, especially your back.

The step-by-step:

  • Grip the pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing away from you.
  • Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended.
  • Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, focusing on using your back muscles.
  • Lower back down slowly to the starting position.

Don't swing your legs or use momentum to get up – it's all about that upper body strength.

Did You Know?

  • Testosterone Levels: Regular physical activity can help maintain or slightly increase testosterone levels, which naturally decline with age.
  • Back Pain: Up to 80% of individuals can alleviate chronic back pain with regular exercise.
  • Social Benefits: Joining exercise groups or clubs can improve social connections and mental health.
  • Energy Levels: Over 75% of men report higher energy levels with regular physical activity.
  • Healthcare Costs: Men who maintain a regular exercise routine have up to 30% lower healthcare costs compared to their sedentary counterparts.

5. Dips

Dips target your triceps, shoulders, and chest.

The step-by-step:

  • Use parallel bars, gripping them with your hands at about shoulder-width.
  • Hoist yourself up, arms straight, keeping your body as vertical as possible.
  • Lower your body by bending your elbows until they're at about a 90-degree angle. Your elbows should point behind you, not out to the sides.
  • Push back up to the starting position.

Dips can be challenging, so don't worry if you can't do many at first. Practice makes perfect!

Risk of Injury

Risk of Injury

A middle-aged man diving into compound exercises... The risk of injury is greater, obviously. These exercises work multiple muscle groups at once and can be pretty demanding. If you're not careful with your form or if you push too hard, it can lead to injuries like strains, sprains, or even more serious issues.

Joints, tendons, and muscles aren't as forgiving as they used to be, and they need a bit more care and attention, aren't they? A wrong move or too much weight can easily lead to an unwanted trip to the doctor.

Increased Recovery Time

At this stage in life, the body's recovery time isn't what it used to be. After a heavy session of compound exercises, your muscles need time to repair and strengthen. If you're not careful about giving your body the rest it needs, you might find yourself dealing with prolonged soreness or fatigue. It's not just the muscles, either.

Your overall energy levels might take a hit if you're constantly pushing the limits without adequate recovery.

Potential for Overtraining

There's a fine line between a challenging workout and overdoing it. For middle-aged men, the eagerness to get back in shape or build strength can lead to overtraining. This is when you exercise too much without proper rest, and it can backfire.

Overtraining can lead to exhaustion, decreased performance, sleep disturbances, and even mood swings. It's easy to fall into this trap when you're enthusiastic about your fitness goals, but your body might not be able to keep up like it used to.

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Joint Stress and Wear

Compound exercises can be tough on your joints, especially if they're already showing signs of wear and tear. Movements like squats and deadlifts put a lot of pressure on your knees, hips, and lower back.

Without proper form and technique, this pressure can exacerbate joint problems or lead to new ones. It's something to be aware of, as joint issues can severely limit your ability to exercise and maintain an active lifestyle.

Coordination Challenges

As you age, balance and coordination can become more challenging. This is crucial to consider when doing compound exercises, which often require a good deal of both. If you're not careful, you might find yourself struggling to maintain balance, leading to falls or injuries.

Exercises that seemed simple enough at a younger age can now present a new set of challenges. It's all part of the body's natural aging process, but it does mean you need to be more cautious.

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About the author 

Ray Dioactive

Driven by dreams, grounded by reality, taking revenge on life's challenges. Whatever you say, I stand strong. I'm kind-hearted, though unapologetically true to myself. I stumble but I rise. I am who I am , no excuse.

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  1. I totally agree with yout post.

    As middle aged men exercise is probably THE most important thing we can do to stave off the effects of age.

    We’ve got to keep moving or we’ll seize up!

    Apart from the obvious benefits of losing weight, and being fitter, a good regular dose of activity will…

    Keep you flexible
    Lower stress levels
    Lift your mood
    Increase your general energy levels
    Increase Metabolism
    Increase Oxygen take up
    Strengthen your bones
    Improve your sleep patterns

    1. Hi Mario, thanks for the great comment, and the list of things that are improved by regular exercises. Increasing oxygen take-up is an interesting one. That on its own will improve your metabolism, lift your mood, energy levels and keep your brain cells alive too. Thanks again, I appreciate your input greatly!

  2. Hi Raymundo,

    What a good post about best exercises for middle aged men! Yes, Building muscle workouts like compound exercises will help middle men to improve appearance and sleep especially! I have friends been doing that and they look great. I also agree with you that getting a home gym equipment is a good choice for we are busy! Though this post is towards the middle aged men ,thank you for helping me to decide that cardio exercises will go harder and harder, I will only get strong legs but not a good body shape. I want to loose some tummy and shoulder fats and I think doing push ups and using dumb bells will be apt. Do you know which home gym equipment is good for ladies in their 30’s?I am about 5 feet tall and 46kg.

    1. Hi Jenna, thanks for your comment. Actually until I was in my late 30’s I was swimming everyday and never needed to think about any other ways to keep me in shape or getting a gym equipment. I loved swimming, but switched to running for its handiness – step out of the house and straight for the exercise.

      I’m not a fitness expert, so I don’t know about the women’s fitness unfortunately – sorry. One of my female friends is in her 30’s and she loves running though. Try skipping rope? That’s so powerful to get rid of excess fat in a short period of time. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Great article.
    I’m well past middle age and I’ve found the best way to workout at any age is “Burst” training. It’s short bursts of high-intensity style exercise for 15 to 60 seconds followed by a short recovery period.

    It’s the way we used to play when we were kids, we would run as fast as we could until we were out of breath and then we would stop until we had caught our breath, then run again.

    Burst training works if you’re running, swimming or doing resistance training. The theory is that you can workout long or hard, but not both. If you’re working out for more than 15 minutes, you’re probably not working out at a High-Intensity level, and probably wasting your time.

    Do you know anyone with Too Much Time? But, I’ll bet you’ve heard the excuse, “I just don’t have time to make it to the gym.” Everybody has 10 to 15 minutes three times a week, and that’s all you need.

    Phil

    1. Hi Phil, thanks for your comment. I just looked at your site. Yes it sounds EZ!

      This is actually a great reminder for me. Although I didn’t know about “burst training”, I used to try that when I was younger while running. Run as fast as you can for 15 seconds, go easy for the next 15 seconds and repeat…I can’t seem to be able to (or not bothered to) do that anymore, I get too tired, so I’m running continuously for the same speed for 20 minutes. As you say I’m probably wasting my time.

      Thanks again Phil, it’s great to know.

  4. Ray, What you’re not doing is Burning Fat, or releasing Human Growth Hormone. (HGH) to be building as much muscle as possible.

    Think of it as the difference between a Sprinter and a Marathoner.
    Phil

    1. I see, yes you need to be able to release adequate level of HGH, and if the burst exercise helps with that, it really is essential as we get older!

  5. Yikes, reading this makes me not look forward to my later years. But I’m doing a lot of these compound exercises now at 27. Hopefully by continually doing these regularly, I’ll stave off a lot of the lost that most men experience at that age.

    For cardio, have you considered HIIT? I think it’s the perfect cardio given the time it saves vs traditional cardio. It also PRESERVES muscle while attacking fat deposits.

    1. Hi Wing, thanks for your comment. Yes I’m doing something similar to HIIT (High-intensity interval training), I naturally like running but I’m more focused on how I feel exhausted at the end of the day “effectively” – yes that’s right, the older you get, the more you feel tired to do anything in the evening after the workouts! Then I’d rather preserve my muscles and keep in shape by using less time.No, never look forward to your later years lol!

  6. Good article here, a lot of it made sense to me as I am approaching middle age…not quite there yet.

    I know what you say about compounding weight lifting exercises. Actually they feel much harder to do than isolation exercise but I know I’ve had a good work out when I’ve finished.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Yes compounding exercises are much harder, aren’t they. And it seems to get harder & harder every year to me! I’m not complaining, I think they key is to be persistent especially in my age. As I continue exercising on a daily basis I naturally find a way to ease off so that my body’s coping with the fair amount of sprints and pumps.

  7. It gets harder & harder, but I never stop exercising. I need my adrenaline every day. I didn’t know about compound exercise. I must try.

    1. Thanks Burke for your comment. It does get harder as you get older…! But like you say, physical exercises keep you mentally strong. I think the difference it makes becomes more dramatic as I get older too – if I don’t run & do my weights I do get depressed for the rest of the day. The best way to keep my sanity really is to exercise in the morning. Thanks for your visit!

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