6 Weight-Training Hacks for Over 40’s

Posted by Beni Cook

No one wants to admit that they’re slowing down because of their age, but it’s a very common occurrence. Some people push on past their limits, risking injury and fail to make any progress. Others think they’re down for the count forever. But what if you could still hit the gym, stay in shape, and gain muscle, all without hurting yourself? It IS possible. You just need to know how. Here are 6 adjustments you can make to your weight-training regime when you’re over 40.



The go-to exercise for strengthening leg muscles, squats are a fitness staple – but they’re also a common reason for knee and back pain. Did you know that getting pain in your knees and back while squatting can actually be a sign of limited ankle mobility? When you have poor ankle mobility, you end up with limited movement ability, which in turn can lead to stress on your knees and spine.

So, how can you keep the squat reps up without further damaging your knees, or straightening up groaning in pain? At a minimum, start by stretching out your ankles daily to increase your range of movement. Then, when you’re doing your squats, squat with your heels elevated on a plate so that there are less movement restrictions on your ankle. If they’re still causing you pain, try front or split squats for a change of pace.


Leg Press

If squats aren’t your thing, the leg press might be more your speed. Unfortunately, the leg-press can cause just as many back and knee issues as squats. A common mistake on this machine is bringing your legs down too far, curling your lower back. Do this at the wrong time and you’re in for serious pain, especially if you’ve packed on the plates. Knee pain is also common on the leg-press because of the stress caused to your tendons when you push through your toes.

The biggest risk with the leg-press is carrying too heavy a load. You might think you can handle as many plates as you can fit, but if your lower back is curling less is probably better. Avoid lower back and knee pain by keeping contact with the pad at all times after you sit down, and make sure to push through your heels.


Bench Press

Much like the squat, the bench press has a similar reputation for providing results. This time you may be facing pain in your shoulders and elbows. Sometimes caused due to poor technique, the best thing you can do at the bench is make sure you’re doing everything by the book. One common mistake is angling your elbows too wide while in the bottom position, which can put your shoulder at risk of injury.

Avoid shoulder and elbow pain by angling your upper arms 45 degrees from your torso, and having the bar touch the lower portion of your pecs. This will stabilise your shoulder and decrease the chance of injury. If you’re still having pain on the bench even with proper technique, do away with the barbell and instead try dumbbells, using the same 45-degree angle for your upper arms.



A popular exercise to show off your full-body strength, the deadlift is the ‘winner takes all’ exercise of the weight-lifting world. While you might be tempted to keep going at your top weight, deadlifts can take a huge toll on your spine, especially when your technique is less than ideal.

If you want to develop a strong posterior chain without the risk of throwing your back out, try romanian deadlifts or rack pulls. Both exercises train the hip hinge movement with much less strain on your lower back – and trust us, they’re still a solid workout!


Shoulder Press

Shoulder presses are a real fundamental exercise for functional weight training. But, if you’ve got bad shoulder joints they’ll soon be screaming at you to stop. Whether you’re standing or sitting, barbell shoulder presses simply aren’t a good match for someone with ongoing shoulder issues.

Keep shoulder presses in your regime by maintaining healthy shoulder mobility with Brettzel’s, pec stretches and straight arm hangs. Use a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other). Your elbows should be pointing forward instead of to the sides, which are their natural position. This will put less strain on your shoulder joints while giving them a safer plane of motion.



There’s no denying that pull-ups are a difficult exercise, with many lifters flat out refusing to do them because they’re too hard. A great muscle-builder and functional movement, pull-ups are a fantastic exercise to add into your regime – and it’s possible to do so without hurting your shoulders.

You’re probably used to doing pull-ups by opening up your chest and pointing your elbows out to the side – the same movement that sets your shoulder joints screaming with shoulder presses. Use the same trick here to perfect the pull-up without causing pain in your shoulders. As you pull up, contract your abs and point your elbows forward, using a neutral grip. Instead of pressing upwards in a shoulder press, you’re now pulling upwards with the same motion – voila, you’re doing pull-ups without putting so much strain on your shoulders.


As you get older, there’s some exercises you may need to adjust plus you will need to consider your recovery strategies – but that doesn’t mean you need to stop working out completely. Make sure your fitness regime is right for you by working with one of our specialist personal trainers. You’d be surprised just how much you can keep in your regime with some simple adjustments. Get in touch today to find out more.

Beni Cook
Beni Cook is the Head Personal Trainer and Founder of Beyond Best. Beni is a health and fitness expert who develops individualised exercise programs that will meet your own short and long-term objectives, while providing information, advice and encouragement that will enable you to lead your healthiest life, every day.

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