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Secret Exercise Tricks for Getting a Leaner, Fitter Body After 40

For a better physique after 40, you need strength training and cardio—plus two handy exercise tricks.

So many things change when you reach the age of 40. Sure, your body changes—including your hormones, your muscle mass, and your metabolism—but so do your interests and your responsibilities. If you're in the corporate world, maybe you're having to focus more of your attention on perfecting your management skills than your creative ones. If you love to eat, maybe you're learning how to elevate your healthier home-chef skills to feel better. If you need edification from pop culture, you may find that you're getting more out of watching documentaries than superhero films.

As a professional trainer who has made a career out of helping people achieve the bodies they've always wanted, I can tell you that the same applies to your training. It always needs to evolve for you to experience the best results for you. Now, in order to get a lean, fit body after 40, there's no getting around the basics—strength training regularly, getting in regular cardio, eating a healthy diet at a calorie deficit, getting plenty of sleep, and drinking tons of water—but you also need to make subtle but meaningful shifts to your training to get more out of them.

One amazing trick you can do to boost your lean-body efforts after 40 is to take advantage of a simple strength-training technique known as "Time Under Tension" (TUT). TUT refers to the amount of time that you activate a muscle during an exercise. Simply put: By activating your muscles for longer and by slowing down the eccentric—or lowering phase—of an exercise, you can reap some great benefits. In fact, according to one study published in 2016, volunteers who doubled the amount of time that they lowered the weight down on a bench press exercise compared to the time they pushed it up experienced a better workout overall. The study found that merely adding two seconds to the lowering phase made the whole movement more effective. Given that you're losing muscle mass after 40, this technique will help you get it back—and then some.

A simple way to increase TUT is to have a controlled tempo during your lifts. I prefer using a "30X0" or "40X0" tempo. The first number represents the eccentric or lowering phase of the movement. The second means amount of time where you're pausing at the bottom. The third is the concentric portion, and the fourth is the amount of time paused at the top. So in this case, 30X0 and 40X0 means to take either 3 seconds or 4 seconds (respectively) to lower the weight slowly, with no pause at the bottom, and "X" means to explode up with no pause at the top.

The second amazing trick you can do to get lean and fit after 40 is to incorporate cardio conditioning into your training. As we age, so does our mitochondria, the little organelles in your cells that are responsible for actually burning calories. The best way to get them to multiply and be strong again is to do some intense anaerobic work at the gym. For anaerobic conditioning, I recommend HIIT-style training on your favorite pieces of cardio equipment. I love a rowing machine and a spin bike.

If you apply this to your training, it's one of the surest ways to get the lean and fit body you've always wanted. What follow are four great examples of this method put to work in a single workout, which you can do as described 2-3 times per week. So read on, and for some easier ways to start working your muscles more every day, don't miss The Secret Trick for Getting Fit Using Your Toothbrush.

Flat Dumbbell Bench Press (8-10 reps, 30X0 tempo)

1 flat dumbbell bench press

Start by sitting down on a bench with a pair of dumbbells. Lay back and press the weights up. Start the motion by lowering them both evenly with the elbows slightly tucked. Go down enough to where you get a nice chest stretch before pressing the weights up, flexing your pecs and triceps to finish. And for more some great workouts to try, learn why These 5-Minute Exercises Will Make You Sleep Like a Teenager.

Goblet Squat (10 reps, 30X0 tempo)

2 goblet squat

Grab yourself a dumbbell and hold it with both hands underneath the handle. Keeping your torso as upright as you can, push your hips back and squat down to where your hips are parallel to the floor. Drive through your heels and stand back up, flexing your glutes and quads to finish.

Rowing Machine (20 seconds work, 60 seconds active recovery)

3 rowing machine

For both of the cardio conditioning elements of this routine, I recommend that you start with 20 seconds of hard work, then follow it up with 60 seconds of active recovery, meaning to go at an easier pace that you can maintain while you catch your breath and get your heart rate down.

On the erg, start by sitting on the seat and strapping your feet in. Keeping your chest tall, grip the handle of the rower, drive through your legs, and finish the movement by pulling your elbows back. Come all the way forward until the handle is touching the rower before performing another rep.

Bike Sprints (x20 seconds work, 60 seconds active recovery)

4 bike sprints

Get on your favorite exercise bike and strap your feet in. Holding the handles, lean forward and begin peddling hard.

Besides eating a healthy diet to lose body fat, achieving a leaner and fit body after 40 requires you to build lean muscle and to improve your cardio conditioning. Incorporate these techniques into your routine and you'll be on your way to getting the body you desire. And for more life-changing exercise advice, see here for the Secret Exercise Tricks for Keeping Your Weight Down for Good.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S., CSCS
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim