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Lean-Body Workouts Everyone Over 40 Should Do, Says Trainer

Add these to your weekly rotation for best results.

There are a few universal truths that we can expect from life: boredom and long waits at the DMV, paying taxes, and getting older. But unlike the first two on that list, getting older doesn't deserve the bad reputation it has in our youth-obsessed culture. In fact, you can continue to stay strong and active as you age with regular exercise and a healthy diet.

That said, our bodies begin naturally slowing down a tad as we start to enter our 40s. If we don't stay active, our metabolism naturally decreases and we lose lean muscle mass and aerobic capacity. Hormonal changes in perimenopausal women (aka the period before menopause) can also further impact metabolism, bone strength, and more. These factors can make it harder for older adults to maintain a healthy weight, get lean, and stay active.

Thankfully, many of these changes can be combatted with regular exercising—especially strength training. Everyone over 40 should be doing some kind of strength training, whether it's lifting weights or incorporating bodyweight exercises on your walks, to build muscle and get lean. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all adults should do some form of strength training two times per week in addition to 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.

As a trainer, I especially recommend compound movement exercises, meaning moves that work more than one muscle group at a time. These moves force your body to use more muscle groups at once, which burns more calories, trains multiple parts of your body simultaneously, and helps you get leaner faster. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), compound exercises also promote better balance and muscle coordination, because different muscle groups are working together to achieve a goal. (Plus, it's more time-effective than just working one muscle group at a time.)

Not sure exactly where to start with weight lifting? I created two workouts that everyone over 40 should do to stay strong and get lean. They're perfect to do at the gym or at home with some equipment modifications. You'll need dumbbells, a bench, a lat bar, and some kind of suspension (like rings or a resistance band wrapped around a pull-up bar). Rotate these into your strength-training routine, and you'll be strong and lean in no time. And for more age-appropriate workouts, check out: Want to Get Lean After 40? Do These Exercises, Say Experts.

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Workout 1: Deadlift, 3x 6 reps


how-to-do-a-deadlift
Tim Liu

Get into position by standing in front of the weight with your chest tall and shoulders back. Push your hips back, then squat down to grab the bar or handles. Keeping your core tight and lats pulled back, pick up the weight by driving through your heels and hips. Stand tall at the top, squeezing your glutes, then lower the weight back down to the ground before performing another rep. (Want a workout perfect for busy mornings? Try: These 8-Minute Pre-Breakfast Workouts Will Help You Get Lean, Says Trainer.)

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Workout 2: Dumbbell bench press, 3x 10-12 reps

how-to-do-dumbbell-bench-press
Tim Liu

Start by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and sitting down on a flat bench. Lay back and position the dumbbells up with your arms fully extended. Pull your shoulder blades back and down into the bench and begin lowering the weight down towards your chest. Get a good chest stretch, and then press it back up, squeezing your pecs and triceps at the top. Want more lean-body workout secrets? Don't miss: Exercise Tricks That Will Help You Slim Down Faster, Says Trainer.

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Workout 1: Lat pulldowns, 3x 10-12 reps

how-to-do-lat-pulldowns
Tim Liu

Grip the lat pulldown bar with your palms facing away from you just outside your shoulders. Lean back slightly and pull the bar down towards your sternum with your elbows, squeezing your lats at the very bottom of the movement. Resist on the way up, maintaining tension in your lats. Get a good stretch at the very top by letting your shoulder blades come up before performing another rep.

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Workout 1: Bulgarian split squat, 3x 10 reps each leg

how-to-do-bulgarian-split-squat
Tim Liu

Position your back foot up on a bench with either the top of your foot or on the ball of your foot and step out about 2-3 feet. Once in position, lower yourself down under control while keeping the back knee bent as you descend. Drive through with your front heel to return to standing and repeat. (Only have a few minutes to work out right now? Try this instead: This 5-Minute Full-Body Blast Will Pack on Muscle and Melt Fat Fast.)

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Workout 1: Dumbbell hammer curls, 3×10-12 reps

how-to-do-dumbbell-hammer-curls
Tim Liu

Grab a pair of dumbbells with both hands facing each other in a neutral grip. Keeping your shoulders pulled back, curl the weight up, flexing your forearms and biceps the entire time. Squeeze hard at the top, then resist on the way down.

Looking for a slightly different workout option? Keep reading for the second workout that I put together for people who are 40 and over to get lean. And don't miss: Do These Exercises for a Toned and Healthy Summer Body, Says Trainer.

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Workout 2: Dumbbell front squat, 10-12 reps

dumbbell-front-squat-how-to
Tim Liu

Begin by holding a pair of dumbbells up to your shoulders. Keeping your core tight, push your hips back and squat down until your hips are parallel to the ground. Drive through the heels and hips to stand back up, flexing your quads and glutes to finish. And speaking of squats, This Is What Doing Squats Does to Your Body, According to Science.

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Workout 2: Bodyweight rows (rings, suspension, bar), 15-20 reps

how-to-do-bodyweight-rows
Tim Liu

To perform the bodyweight row, grab the equipment that is available to you. It can be rings (as I have here), it can be a bar, or it can be a TRX/suspension strap—whatever you've got. If you're using a strap, make sure to use a neutral grip (palms facing you). If you have a bar, you can either use the pronated (palms overhand) or supinated (underhand) grip.

Stick your feet forward and lean back slightly to at least 45 degrees. Keeping your core tight and hips high, pull yourself in by driving with your elbows towards your hips. Squeeze your lats and upper back hard to finish, then straighten your arms fully until your shoulder blades stretch at the bottom before performing another rep.

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Workout 2: Single leg hip thrust, 10-15 reps each leg

how-to-do-single-leg-hip-thrust
Tim Liu

Start the movement by placing a dumbbell on the working leg. Keeping your core tight, extend your hip up by pushing through your heel. Squeeze hard at the top for two seconds, and then lower your leg under control before performing another rep. And here are some more Exercise Tricks for Reducing Stubborn Body Fat, Say Experts.

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Workout 2: Dumbbell shoulder press, 8-10 reps

how-to-do-dumbbell-shoulder-press
Tim Liu

Start by having the dumbbells up next to your shoulders. Keeping your core tight and glutes squeezed, press the dumbbells up, flexing your shoulders and triceps at the top. Lower the weight under control before performing another rep. Need more workout ideas? Check out: Build Muscle and Get Lean with This 4-Move At-Home Workout.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.
Tim Liu is a fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles. Read more