Getting In Shape After The Age Of 40

Can you feel the buzz of the upcoming competitive season in the air? Check out some of these awesome questions and answers from babyboomers...

Can you feel the buzz of the upcoming competitive season in the air? From offers to man the booths at the Arnold, to planning workouts around the crowds in the gym, we are in contact with many fellow lifting buddies preparing for the competitive season.

But, what does it take to prepare for the contest stage when the era of youth is decades behind us? How can a baby boomer prepare to be competitive while fighting the normal physiological changes associated with aging?

One of our readers recently contacted us on this subject.

Hello Fitnessgirl,

My name is Bill. I am forty years old, 41 in February. I to started bodybuilding in my early teens and have been in 14 shows over the years, placed many times in the Mr. Michigan contest. My last show was when I was 25 years old, I then stopped lifting for many years. I got back into training around 2 years ago I am now probably the biggest I have ever been. I will be competing in the Michigan men's over forty in March of 06.

My biggest problem seems to be that I always carry around that little lower ab fat at all times no matter how my diet is. I am afraid I just may not be able to get cut any more, I do have a hypothyroidism as well. I look good in my bulk state around 255 not bad for someone who is only 5' 10" tall. I am just afraid I am not going to be able to cut - any ideas?


Dear William,

Diane asked me to respond to your e-mail. I just love the fact that you have decided to get back into training and are even considering competing in the Masters Mr. Michigan.

If have hypothyroidism, you may not be able to get cut without addressing that problem. You don't say whether the doctor has you on thyroxin or some other corrective pharmaceutical or not. Let's just assume you are, and the doctor is satisfied that your hypothyroidism is under control.

I don't think age is the problem here. I certainly had no problem getting ripped at 40. As your metabolism slows down in your 50s, this may become more of a problem. However, with a solid nutrition program that eliminates all empty calorie foods, this obstacle can be overcome.

Both Diane and I, as fellow baby boomers in the quest to redefine aging, are not going to tell you that accomplishing fitness goals is easy after the age of 40, but rather, achievable with determination, commitment and effort.

The major problem I see over and over again with competitors is that they carry too much fat, period. In the quest for size (and bodybuilders are getting bigger and bigger) too many carry more fat than muscle.

Most of us carry pockets of fat in certain areas of our body that remain when other parts look great. It seems that there are differences in just where the stubborn fat appears between the sexes (women tending to carry fat in the thighs, triceps, and butt; men in the waist, especially in the lower back area) and even races (whites tending to carry it in the waist, blacks in the butt and Orientals more evenly distributed over the body).

The only way to get rid of the fat in these troublesome areas is to take the body-fat level down until the pocket disappears and then gradually back up so that muscle weight is mostly gained and the pockets don't refill with fat. I think this is the approach you must take to rid yourself of that lower ab fat.

As you prepare for the contest, have someone check your percentage of body-fat and above all take photos! We can sometimes fool ourselves looking in the mirror, but it's much harder to do so when confronted with photos. As we used to say, "You can't flex fat," and you are going to have to do a lot of flexing in that contest.

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I wish you the best of luck and sincerely hope you reach your physical goals.

Happy training,

While Bill has been competing since his youth, Robin Crews on the ladies side started competing just three years ago.


Hi. My name is Robyn Clews, I am 42 years of age and into my 3rd year of competing in the physique class.

About 12 years ago I lost 27kg in weight. During this time I took up weight training at the gym and absolutely loved it, I had only myself to depend on and compete against.

I returned home to New Zealand and in 1996 I had a nasty accident and this caused major 3rd degree burns to my left thigh. I was told by my surgeon never to return to the gym as I was having major problems with my knee after being in a zimmer splint for 12 months.

I couldn't live with this and returned about two years later and competed for the first time 3 years ago. I needed that goal to live for.

I am only a little lady, 4ft 11 inches and weigh 48kg off season. I adored the stage work and presenting the huge difference in my body.

I love this sport and looking forward to your upcoming articles and would love to be involved. I have overcoming a disability and have had to push myself passed the pain threshold to survive at the other side.

It takes dedication, determination and courage and this has helped me in all facets of my life.

Robin Clews

Hi Robin,

You've hit upon the keys to success in several of your statements. First of all, you mention that you only had yourself to depend upon for success in your weight loss. How often do we hear people blame other people or factors for failure?

We only have to look as far as this week's newspaper to see that once again McDonalds is being sued for causing obesity. Robin understands that regardless of temptation, she is responsible for her actions, and therefore, successful in achieving her goals.

Efforts towards gaining ground fighting the world-wide obesity battle will prove unrealized until individuals start to take responsibility for their individual actions.

Another key to success for Robin is that she was determined to get back to the gym even after a debilitating injury. No excuses for this successful baby boomer. We can hear the commitment to a goal and success when Robin states that she could not live without retuning to the gym.

Richard has faced many debilitating surgeries in the past few years to repair tendons and nerves. And just like Robin, it is his conviction, dedication and inability to sit on the couch that gets him back to the gym shortly after surgery. While recovery periods will not produce gains and growth in a baby boomer body, the simple process of working out creates an aura of control that provides positive benefits to the psyche.

Diane, is a full decade younger than that Baldwin character, has only had to recover from the one major shoulder injury, but acknowledges the importance of determination towards overall success. In hindsight, I realize that I was basically spinning my wheels while lifting one-handed with my shoulder and armed pinned to my body in the weeks following surgery. However, getting into a regular gym routine helped my mental outlook.

Robin also mentioned courage, a necessary element in the mix of overall success. Often we hear from readers that get so close to a goal, but then give up. Achieving a legendary physique while battling and redefining the aging process takes an enormous amount of courage. We are glad that Robin chose to share her story of courage and that she can inspire other baby boomers to go after their own goals with purpose, dedication, commitment and courage.

Make it a legendary week,
Richard and Diane

Robin's Workout Plan:
5 day split.

Day 1 - Chest & Biceps

(Normally with all exercises 15 reps, 12 reps, 10, 8, while increasing weight each time).
Flat Bench Press
Incline Bench Press with dumbbells
Decline Bench with dumbbells
Flyes on Cable Machine
Bicep curls with EZ bar
Hammer curls
Cable curls

Day 2 - Legs

Squat on Smith Machine
Leg press
Walking lunges
Hamstring curls
Bent over deadlifts
Calf raises

Day 3 - Off

Day 4 - Shoulders & Triceps

Shoulder Press with Dumbbell
Front Raises with Plate
Side lateral raises
Tricep Pushdown
Tricep on cables 1 armed
Tricep over head

Day 5 - Back

(Normally break this into 2 work outs, as I need to widen my lats)

First Workout:
Chin ups
Pull downs
1 arm Rows
Pull downs to Front
Bent over Rows

Second Workout:
Cable pulldowns, to front, reverse grip on floor
Standing straight press

Most Evening Days At Home - Abs

Hanging leg raises,
Flat leg lifts
Crunches, feet high

Cardio is done 3 x week, normally first thing in morning on days not training. Other than that do 30 minutes on treadmill or crosstrainer. Running and interval training closer to competition time. 1 - 2 hour daily. Mainly incline walking.