Workout plan for men over 40: top 15 exercises (fitness routine)

Is it possible to be in shape when you are older than 40? YES, absolutely! With the right workout routine, exercises, nutrition and mindset you can be in the best shape of your life after 40. And this article will help you with that. It provides a free workout plan for men over 40 and includes the top 15 exercises that you need to be doing to get in shape!


This article explains:

  • The physical differences between older and younger men
  • The right workout approach for men over 40
  • Top 15 exercises for men over 40
  • A 3-day full body workout plan
  • The 40 STRONG workout program
  • Nutrition and supplement tips for men over 40
workout plan men over 40

Male over 40 workout plan

Things in life change when you are getting older. Your hangovers after a night out are getting worse and there is always a part of your body that seems to hurt. But there are upsides as well: more life experience and wisdom than in your 20’s and 30’s.


But fact of the matter is that your body is changing as you get older. Therefore, you need to have a smarter and more ‘thought out’ approach when it comes to working out. You have to be more careful now compared to when you were 21.


What are some important physical differences between older and younger men that impact workout approach?

  • Firstly, as you get older your hormone levels decrease. Approximately 30% of older men are estimated to have low testosterone (source: NCBI, “Low Serum Testosterone and Mortality in Older Men”).

  • Secondly, rest becomes more important. The older you get the longer it takes for your body to recover from a workout. Therefore, you should include extra rest days in your workout schedule. Going to the gym 7 days a week like some of the 20 year olds are doing is no longer an option when you are over 40.

  • Lastly, listen to your heart. It’s important to keep track of your heart rate in order to get the maximum result from your workout. Your target heart rate tells you when you hit the sweet spot. Your heart rate is defined by the number of beats per minute (BPM). A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 BPM.

As you get older both your heart rate and target heart rate decrease, as the table below clearly shows:


age and heart rate target heart rate

Target heart rate during moderate intensity activities is about 50-70% of maximum heart rate, while during vigorous physical activity it’s about 70-85% of maximum (source:, "Know Your Target Heart Rates for Exercise, Losing Weight and Health").


The numbers above are averages. Consult an expert to determine what your target heart rate is. Other factors such as stress and medication can impact your heart rate.


differences in workout plan

So what are the exact differences between a workout plan for men in their 20’s and 30’s and for men over 40?

  • Warming up. Your warm up is more important than ever. Quick, explosive movements can put a lot of stress on the muscles and joints and lead to injuries. Perform a thorough warm up before each workout session! This video will get you started:
  • Number of reps. Move away from super heavy 1 or 2 rep sets and start focusing on performing medium rep ranges (8 to 15 reps). There will be less peak-impact and stress on the joints so less chances of getting injured.

  • Exercises. Perform exercises with a large range of motion. Focus exercises that target only a single muscle are better suited for younger men. Your body will benefit from ‘large’ exercises such as kettlebell swings, pull ups, squats and deadlifts.

  • Rest. As stated above, your body needs more time to recover as you get older. Therefore, include enough rest days in your workout schedule. Here are 3 examples of workout plans with a different number of workout days per week:
  • Cardio. Don't make any concessions when it comes to cardio exercises. Cardiovascular health is important at any age, and certainly when you are over 40. Finish each workout with a medium-heavy 15 to 20 minute cardio routine. Jogging or cycling is a great way to end your training and work on improving your cardiovascular health.

  • Stretch. Stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm. Because your muscles tighten during your workout it’s important to stretch and bring them back in shape. This stretch routine targets every muscle group:

(Source: "7 stretches")

Top 15 exercises

As stated above, you should include exercises with a large range of motion. These are so called compound exercises that target multiple muscles at the same time. Especially your biggest muscle groups (legs, chest and back) benefit from compound exercises. When performing compound exercises you target your smaller muscle groups (biceps, triceps, shoulders and abs) as well.


When you train your chest you target your triceps as well. They are both push exercises; the muscles are being trained when the weight is pushed away from your body. An effective push exercise is the bench press.


When you train your back you target your biceps as well. Both muscle groups are trained via pull exercises; the muscles are being trained when the weight is pulled towards your body. Deadlift and lat pulldown are effective back pull exercises.


After performing compound exercises with a large range of motion you can end your workout with some focus exercises for the smaller muscle groups, such as dumbbell curls (biceps), plank (abs), cable pushdown variations (triceps) and dumbbell press (shoulders).


This is an overview of 15 of the most effective exercises categorized per muscle group for men over 40:



leg exercises squat

1. Squat

  • Place your legs at hip-width.
  • Let the barbell rest on your upper back.
  • Tilt your pelvis and lower your buttocks as you bend your knees.
  • Keep your back straight and squat as deep as possible.
  • Stretch your legs and come back to starting position.
leg exercises leg press

2. Leg press

  • Sit down on the leg press with your back against the backrest.
  • Place your feet against the platform in front of you at shoulder-width.
  • Then bend your knees and bring your buttocks towards your heels.
  • Squat as deep as possible and stretch your legs to come back to starting position.
leg exercises hip thrust

3. Hip thrust

  • For this exercise you use a bench. Sit on the floor in front of the bench. Place your upper back on the bench while your feet remain flat on the floor.
  • Your legs form a 90 degree angle; your upper legs form a horizontal line with your upper body.
  • Your body has two contact points: your feet on the ground and your upper back on the bench.
  • Place a barbell on your lower abdomen/hips.
  • Lower your buttocks to the ground and then bring the weight up again by raising your hips. 
leg exercises leg extension

4. Leg extension

  • Sit down on the machine with your back against the backrest.
  • Place your feet under the foot pad. Use the handles on the side of the seat to hold on to.
  • Bring the weight up by raising your legs and pushing the foot pad in the air. When your legs are fully stretched you should be able to feel pressure on your quadriceps.
  • Then slowly let your legs come down again back to starting position.


chest exercise bench press

5. Bench press

  • Put the bench in a horizontal position. Lay on your back and put your feet flat and firmly on the ground. Arch your back during the entire exercise.
  • Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Unrack and lower the bar towards the sternum.
  • Make sure that when you press up you don’t lock your elbows. Ensure constant tension on the chest muscle by always keeping your elbows slightly bent when performing the press.
chest exercise dumbbell chest press

6. Dumbbell press

  • You perform the dumbbell press in the same way that you perform the bench press with a bar. Put the bench in a horizontal position. Lay on your back and put your feet flat and firmly on the ground.
  • Press the dumbbells up, bring them together above your sternum.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells. When your arms are in a 90 degree angle press the dumbbells up again. Lower the dumbbells until you feel your chest muscle being stretched.
machine chest fly chest exercise

7. Machine fly

  • Take a seat on the machine, straighten your back and push your chest out.
  • Grab both handles. Make sure that your elbows are on the same height as your shoulders.
  • Push your arms towards each other. Feel the stretch in your pecs. Just before your hands touch slowly bring them back to starting position.


back exercises deadlift

8. Deadlift

  • Place your feet at hip-width, grab the bar via an underhand grip and stretch out to an upright position.
  • Bring your hips and buttocks backwards and bend your knees, as if you want to sit down.
  • Your back remains straight during the exercise.
  • When the bar almost touches the ground you stretch out from your legs and back to bring yourself back to starting position.
back exercises cable row

9. Cable row

  • Sit up straight, place your feet in front on you on the feet rest and grab the cable with both hands. 
  • Pull the cable towards your body. Your elbows stay as close to your body as possible.
  • Pull the cable towards your navel.
  • Then slowly bring yourself back to starting position.


10. Standing dumbbell curl

  • Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width, your knees slightly bent and arms next to your body. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing forward.
  • Bend your arms and bring the dumbbell towards your shoulder. Your elbow and upper arm remain in the same place during the curl.
  • When the dumbbells almost touches your shoulder slowly lower it back to starting position.


11. Seated hammer curl

  • Put the bench in an upright position.
  • Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing each other.
  • Move the dumbbells towards your shoulders. Your elbows remain in the same place.
  • When the dumbbell almost touches your shoulder slowly lower it back to starting position.


tricep exercise machine dip dips

12. Machine dip

  • Take a seat on the machine. Grab both handles on the side of the seat.
  • Push the handles down while keeping your elbows as close to your body as possible.
  • Stretch your arms as far as possible to put maximum tension on the triceps, then let them come slowly back to starting position.


triceps exercise 1 hand cable extension

13. 1-arm cable extension

  • You perform this exercise at a cable station. Place your feet next to each other and keep your back straight.
  • Your elbow is positioned next to your body and should remain in the same position during the entire exercise.
  • Grab the cable and push it down. Stretch your arm all the way out so that you feel tension on your triceps. Then slowly bring the cable back to starting position.


shoulder workout seated shoulder dumbbell press

14. Seated dumbbell press

  • Sit down on a bench. Grab the dumbbells with your palms facing forward and bring them up next to your head.
  • Your arms form a 90 degree angle, your upper arms are on the same horizontal line.
  • Press the dumbbells up.
  • Bring both dumbbells together above your head but don’t let them touch. Then slowly lower them back to starting position.
shoulder workout dumbbell front raise

15. Dumbbell front raise

  • Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width. Grab the dumbbells with your palms facing your body.
  • Bring one dumbbell forward with a straight arm.
  • When your arm is straight and reaches shoulder height keep the weight still for a moment and then slowly lower it back to starting position.
  • Move the dumbbell next to your body without touching your leg. Perform the same movement with the other arm.

You might be thinking ‘where are the exercises for my abdominals’? There are no focus exercises included for your abs. When you perform compound exercises like the squat, deadlift and bench press you are targeting your abs as well. Very efficient right?


Here is a free workout program that include some of the most effective exercises specially designed for men over 40 (based on a 3-day workout routine).


Day 1 Chest & triceps

  • Warm up: 7 minutes rowing machine
  • Bench press: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Incline push up: 3 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Dips: 2 sets x 10 reps
  • Dumbbell fly: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Cable bar pushdown: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Dumbbell press (horizontal): 2 sets x 8 - 10 reps
  • 1-arm cable pushdown: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Cardio: 15 minutes jogging


Day 2 Legs & abs

  • Warm up: squat 1 set (bodyweight) 30 reps
  • Squat: 3 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Walking lunges: 2 sets x 12 steps (each leg)
  • Plank: 3 sets x 45 seconds
  • Leg extension: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Leg press: 1 set x 15 reps
  • Side plank: 2 sets x 30 seconds
  • Cardio: 15 minutes cycling


Day 3 Back, biceps & shoulders

  • Warm up: 7 minutes cross-trainer
  • Cable row: 3 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Seated dumbbell curl: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Dumbbell press: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Deadlift: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Seated hammer curl: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Dumbbell row: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Lat pulldown: 2 sets x 10 - 15 reps
  • Close grip pull up: 1 set x max.
  • Cardio: 10 minutes rowing machine

Download this workout plan here:


Workout plan (3-day routine)
Workout plan.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 210.0 KB


As stated above, it’s possible to make your 40’s your best decade ever. As long as you adopt the right approach. Putting together your own workout plan is possible but it requires a lot of in-depth knowledge. But to make your life easy, there are programs available that you can download and use straight away.


One of the most well-known workout program suppliers is Critical Bench. They are known for developing high quality programs which are among the best of the industry. And the last program they have developed is specifically aimed at men over 40 called "40 STRONG".


40 strong workout program

The 40 STRONG program has been specially developed to:

  • Increase your muscle strength
  • Fight off weight gain
  • Boost your energy
  • Halt the aging process

What separates the 40 STRONG program from all the other workout programs is that they developed it especially for men over 40. It focuses on your overall physical and mental health and how you can turn your 40s into your best decade ever.


As you have read above, the right workout approach is crucial to achieve results after your fortieth! The 40 STRONG workout program has tailored the intensity of the workouts and the exercises perfectly to your specific needs.

What I find particularly useful is all the (digital) material that they make available. There is extensive information about the theory and philosophy of the program. It's a step by step blueprint to guide you through every workout. The photo below shows you an example of one of the training day schedules:


You don’t have to develop your own workout plan or make your own training schedules, the people from critical bench provide you with everything. All you have to do is stick to the program and the results will come! They also give away a free book about nutrition that explains how you can build muscle and shed body fat without having to give up the foods you like!


This is what some of the men that have recently followed the program said about it:

"40 Strong is much more than a complete guide to getting a fit, strong body for guys over 40- it is a guide to living as a man should live. Do what it says and you will be shocked by how great you will look, feel and perform in very little time."


Bruce Krahn

Author Trouble Spot Fat Loss

Click HERE to see more reviews.


The program promises that your body and mind transform in less than 60 days. Click HERE if you want to get more information about the 40 STRONG workout program.

40 strong workout program

Nutrition and supplements

A balanced and healthy diet is important at any age and especially when you are over 40. Certain minerals and vitamins become even more important because they prevent deceases, support your digestive system, strengthen your bones, control your cholesterol levels, keep your brain young and improve your vascular system.


Whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, oats and (sweet) potatoes are just a couple of examples of foods that need to be included in your diet. This is a list of important vitamins and minerals for men over 40 that of which you are probably not reaching your Recommended Daily Intake (RDI).


vitamins minerals diet

The list of foods presented above is not exhaustive, there are other products that contain important vitamins and minerals as well. If you want to know exactly what the best diet is for you personally consult a dietitian or other nutrition expert.



Taking in enough protein is important because protein contains amino acids. Amino acids act as building blocks for your body. They are essential in building and restoring muscle mass and strength. There are essential and non-essential amino acids. Your body can produce non-essential amino acids itself. The essential amino acids have to be taken in via your diet or a supplement.


In total there are 22 different types of amino acids of which 9 are essential. The 3 main essential amino acids are leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids are called BCAAs: Branched Chain Amino Acids.


The most complete form of protein is whey protein. Whey proteins come in 3 different types: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate and whey protein hydrolyzate. The most pure form, and with that the best variant, is the hydrolyzate. Whey hydrolyzate consists for 99% out of pure proteins.


One of the biggest online supplement stores is bodybuilding.comThey sell every kind of whey protein that's out their on the market right now. See their entire offer for yourself: