Whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or older…we have the workout for you
The way you age is determined by more than just your DNA. The latest research reveals that exercise can help delay and even reverse aging’s debilitating effects on your muscles, heart, and brain. The only side effect? You will also look your best.
Men’s Health talked to the world’s leading cardiologists, neuroscientists, nutritionists, and trainers to create this master plan for your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. It can help you anticipate your body’s physiological shifts, and then guide you through critical adjustments to your workout and diet to match them. Yes, you will grow older, but you’ll also grow stronger and even smarter.
Feel Great in Your 20s
“In your 20s, you have a wonderful ability to execute intense, heavy, frequent exercise,” says Alexander Koch, Ph.D., an associate professor of exercise sciences at Truman State University. “Don’t blow the opportunity.”
The reason for that ability: a high tide of human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone—currents that spur growth of the muscle fibers that ignite explosive lifts, sprints, jumps, and swings. “A man’s HGH levels drop from 6 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) when he’s 20 to 3 ng/ml when he’s 40,” says Koch. Your 20s represent the best time to build muscular power, which consists of generating maximum force as quickly as possible. (Muscular strength, by contrast, consists of force with no regard to time.)
To exploit this moment, you should head straight for the heavy weights, says Mike Boyle, A.T.C., the elite trainer who created the exclusive decade-by-decade workouts for this story. “You don’t need much cardio because your metabolism still vaporizes pizza on contact. And you don’t have to worry about flexibility because your joints are healthy and your range of motion doesn’t need priming—yet.”
Tips for Your 20s
Master the Muscle Trinity
There”s no faster way to build muscle than with low-rep, heavy-resistance routines based on the fundamental strength exercises: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift, says Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S., an Indianapolis-based trainer. Use these tips to do each exercise better. Squat: Keep your chest up and back naturally arched, and turn your knees out during the movement. Bench press: As you push the weight up, keep your shoulder blades back and down, and tighten your leg muscles. Tuck your elbows close to your sides. Deadlift: Keep your chest up and back flat, squeeze your glutes, and push from your heels on the lift.
Accelerate Strength Gains
Power is a function of strength and speed working in concert, so when you”re in your 20s, your training should also include plyometric exercises, or explosive movements. “Jumps allow strength to be converted to power,” says Boyle. “Think of it this way: Jumps train mainly your nerves, while weights train your muscles.” In fact, along with helping you gain speed and power, doing plyometrics also builds new muscle, according to a 2008 Danish study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.