By MTNTOUGH Trainer Jimmy Alsobrook Jr.
For those of us over 40, maintaining consistent fitness habits is the most important thing we can do to stay in shape and reduce injury. Our bodies may not bounce back like they used to, but it doesn’t mean we need to resign ourselves to a lower level of performance. There is no reason you can’t be in the best shape of your life as you age, but it’s going to take a little more vigilance than it used to. I train many athletes in their 40s and 50s who are in better shape than they’ve ever been, and they routinely compete with men who are decades younger. They all have one thing in common: they stick with their workouts week in and week out, month after month, year after year.
As you age you need to adapt your weight to always maintain full range of motion. For example, it is significantly more beneficial to do a deep full range 200lb back squat versus a shallow 225lb rep. Forget your ego and focus on practical, consistent workouts that you can maintain. Ease yourself back into it and be patient. Don’t be frustrated if results don’t come as fast as they used to. It will get better, but the longer you’ve been out of shape the longer it takes to get back in shape. Once you do get back into a rhythm, don’t let off the gas. Consistency is key.
There are a few key areas to pay attention to, and we’ve developed some great techniques and fitness routines to help aging mountain athletes stay at the top of their game. While we definitely incorporate strength building, our priority is maintaining a great range of motion. If you’re incorporating weight, make sure you aren’t lifting so much that you don’t get a full range of motion out of your reps.
One additional component we always incorporate for hunters is weighted pack training. Put your pack on before September. This not only gives you the benefit of dialing in your pack before you hunt, but it’s going to build critical strength and flexibility to prepare you to easily carry your pack as you navigate deadfall, low branches, and steep terrain. Walking lunges, step-ups, lateral lunges, and time on the treadmill all benefit from the addition of a weighted pack.
If you’ve had an injury, some of these rules might not apply but you can still push yourself further than you think and gain as much mobility and strength as your body will handle. Above all, listen to your body and don’t push an injury too far. We highly recommend working with a personal trainer to find the right routines that will challenge you without further aggravating your injury.
Here are the exercises I like to focus on, which we also broke down into a video for easy reference.
Toe Squats & Lunges
Flexibility in your knees and ankles is by far one of the most important conditions to maintain as an older athlete, especially for hunters. Scrambling up and down steep, rocky slopes and then going from long stationary periods to intense moments of activity asks a lot out of our knees and ankles. Older athletes have a much higher likelihood of injuring these joints, and plate squat and knee-above-toe lunge routines will help to keep you limber.
I like to hit the resistance training hard here, focusing on front-loaded squats and lots of lunges as a primary strength-building exercise. A lot of guys will shy away from resistance training as they get older, but that’s when it’s most important. I use some weight on toe squats but not so much that you can’t get a full range of motion on your squat. Again, flexibility is our focus. On lunges, get your knee above your toe on every lunge and don’t be afraid to go heavy on these since there is less risk for injury on this exercise. Even three to six weeks of lunges and squats can make a huge difference.
Again, stay with a weight that is functional. You can go heavy, but just stay within your means. There is no need to take unnecessary risk here. We recommend four to five sets of five to eight reps on deadlifts. Start out moderately and work your way up.
Shoulder Work: Y’s & T’s
Older athletes also tend to lose flexibility in our shoulders, and this is another area you always need to be working on. I focus on TRX Y’s and T’s. Since they’re a bodyweight exercise, you can easily scoot in or out to increase or decrease the resistance of your reps. It’s really important to go through these exercises slowly and deliberately. Make sure you’re really squeezing as you grip, and work yourself on the way down as well as the way up. Try starting with 10 reps and work your way up to 20 if you can for both Y’s and T’s. These simple exercises do amazing things for your anterior and posterior deltoids.
This is basically a prone military press, but it’s great for keeping your lower back and rear delts strong. Keep your arms up high as you move them in and out, and do this exercise for 10 to 20 reps. It’s a low-risk exercise that you can go big on, and back strength is absolutely essential to maintain as we age.