Fitness After 40 & Beyond

A lot of people have a much harder time staying in shape after celebrating their 40th birthday. Even lifelong adherents of regular exercise notice a difference, Mr. Natural Olympia John Hansen included. After feeling decades of heavy resistance training in his joints especially his knees during squats he had to rethink his approach for a new older body. Varying resistance remains a big part of John's effort to stay fit, built and strong. Only now there's a greater emphasis on rest duration and volume. His thinking is that a person can only lift so much weight, but you can increase the intensity of the workout by shortening the rest interval, and adding more reps and sets to increase total volume.

Then there's diet. Any bodybuilder will tell you that all the heavy lifting in the world won't build a better body without strict attention to nutrition. Bodybuilders refer to this discipline as a 'dialed in' diet. After John turned 40, friends and family members warned him that it would take extra effort to stay trim. At first, he laughed these comments off. He'd been working out religiously since his high school years, so this mid-life metabolic slow-down had to be someone else's problem. When John noticed more thickness on his waistline the need to re-dial in his diet became apparent. The changes were subtle, like substituting water for milk in his whey shakes. But those small adjustments helped him stay lean and muscular.

Of course, we all respond to diet and exercise in our own unique ways. Take Andy Bostinto, founder and president of the National Gym Association (NGA). A professional fitness trainer for over 40 years, Andy wrote the book on trainer certification literally. The NGA's Personal Trainer's Fitness Certification Training Program established industry standards decades ago. The information was honed from Andy's 20+ years of fitness instruction and testing for both the U.S. Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force. Andy's methodology helped him bring home the 1977 Senior Mr. America trophy when he was in his 50s, and it continues to serve him well today.

Andy's approach differs from the advice you'd get from many sources. His diet strategy is simple: Eat fewer calories than you burn. He has always adhered to a healthy, balanced diet with reasonable portion sizes, but he's not consumed with carb or calorie counting. Andy uses the example of a bank account to illustrate the point: "If you put in more than you take out, you'll gain."

To say that Andy makes regular withdrawals from his metabolic bank account is an understatement. He works out with weights for several hours a day every day. He doesn't bother doing any cardio. To put it in Andy's words, "Gymnasts train for many hours every day. That's why they have big muscles and a lean frame." By doing a large number of reps and sets, he's essentially doing resistance and cardio training simultaneously. And while this may not build huge muscles, that was never Andy's motivation. "I have a 47-inch chest and pretty impressive arms. My goal is muscle symmetry."

This takes us back to Andy's fitness origins, which were shaped watching neighborhood teenagers do high bar routines in Brooklyn parks during the 1930s. He started training on the high-bar during the day, working out with weights at night. Before long, he was cranking out as many as 1000 reps of dips and chin ups. Where does a workout like that get you? Today, in his 80s, Andy Bostinto weighs 188 lean, muscular pounds. "I don't need calipers to measure body fat," Andy exclaims. "All I have to do is look in the mirror."

Dr. Bob Gajda, the only man to win the titles Mr. America, Mr. USA and Mr. Universe the Triple Crown of bodybuilding has said that he has the body of a 18 year old with the face of someone who's 67. His wisdom on the subject of keeping fit in later years can be summed up with the comment, "Exercise is the answer to everything," which he delivered at a televised anti-aging forum.

Bob's legendary Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) training program was used by everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Olympic volleyball players. Structured for injury prevention and performance enhancement, PHA also provides greater cardiovascular benefits than other resistance training techniques. His diet strategy for keeping fit in advancing years will be familiar to any serious bodybuilder or strength athlete. It's the 6-meal-a-day plan that places emphasis on proteins and healthy fats, and has been used for decades to build lean mass. It's comforting to know that what works will continue to work as long as we eat right, stay active and make adaptive changes.

Leave a Comment
Penny Newgard
Jan 02, 2009
SO Cool!!! So motivating! Might be even better w/ attached links to specific goals/ages/sexes, and the products best suited to each...