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West Liberty, IA 52776



Exercising Over 40

What exercises should I be doing if I’m over 40? This is a question I get asked regularly at the clinic and the easy answer is “it depends”.  Depends on what? It depends on how old you are, what your fitness level is like etc., most importantly it depends on what your goals are. Any exercise program should be specific to your particular goals and therefore there is no one size fits all exercise program.

Over 40

If you are over 40, your goals and sensibilities around exercise are probably different then when you were in your 20s.  The time you have to devote to exercise is maybe less than when you were younger yet you recognize that the importance of making time is greater than when you were younger.

If this sounds like you, you want to get the best return on your time and effort investment. To do this there are some basic guidelines.

HIIT Training

HIIT training stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and over the past several years it has become the go-to recommendation for exercise for those over 40 and for those who are interested in modifying or maintaining a leaner body composition.  

There are several ways to structure a HIIT style of workout but the thing they all have in common are short burst periods of difficult to very difficult of activity followed by a period of rest or recovery.  One Common formula is as follows: 20 seconds of intense (nearly all out) exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Do this for 8-16 rounds which adds up to a total of a 4-8 min program. Sounds easy right? If you are doing it right it is a long 4-8 min.

The nice thing about this formula is that it doesn’t matter what your 20 seconds of exercise is.  Running, stairs, burpees, mountain climbers, boxing, etc… Almost any exercise can be incorporated in the HIIT formula.

Resistance Training

Although cardiovascular exercises are important, resistance type exercises will help you reach your goals. According to renown exercise coach Dan John, there are 5 essential movements that you need to be able to do throughout your life: Push, Pull, Squat, Hip Hinge, and Carry. If you design a resistance program around these 5 essential movements you are off to an excellent start.


Good examples of push exercises would be: bench press, pushups, overhead press (if your shoulders are healthy)


Good pull exercises would be any of the following including: pull-ups,  bent over rows, seated rows, renegade rows etc.


I can think of more squat variations than almost any of the other movement patterns. Basic ones would be: body weight squats, goblet squats, rear leg elevated split squats (Bulgarian split squats), sumo squats, etc.

Hip Hinge

This is one of the most important of the patterns especially for those with sore backs and disc issues. A good hip hinge will allow you to bend at the waist and pick stuff up safely. Ironically I find this is often one of the hardest movements to help people get right. Some exercises that help are deadlifts, one-legged deadlifts (Romanian deadlifts), good mornings, and kettlebell swings.


This sounds simple but is so very important for activities of daily lifting because a good carrying exercise also trains your grip. Examples would be: suitcase carries, farmer walks, rack carries and waiter carries.

Designing a program around these 5 basic movement patterns and consistently implementing it can help ensure that you can function and move well for years to come, play with the grandkids, get up and down off the floor independently, get in and out of the tub without a pull support, go up the stairs when the elevator breaks and so on and so on. If you are in need of additonal assistance with a plan, we offer functional assessments looking for biomechanical dysfunction. Our recommendations are tailored to your needs. Happy exercising!