The Aches & Pains of Training After Forty: Tips to Keep Going

By Cameron Mitchell, C.F.T. (image by Pat Lee)

If you are anything like me, you’ve been going through life at 100mph​ ​​– playing multiple sports, working long and crazy hours, training like a mad man/woman,​ ​and partying like a rock star. One day, however, you slam into the proverbial wall​ ​that is… THE FORTIES. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love being 43! However, my body​ ​doesn’t seem to feel the same way about it. Those minor aches and pains that I​ ​once shrugged off are not so minor these days. Several surgeries and a couple major​ ​health scares later, I’ve come to realize “they” weren’t kidding. When they​ ​said, “wait until you’re in your 40’s! You won’t think it’s so easy then!” I used to​ ​laugh at “them” and tell them they were just lazy or lacking the physical toughness​ ​needed to be as studly as me. Well, guess what? The joke is on me. I’m sure “they”​ ​would be laughing their asses off if they were around to witness my chronic aches and pains.

I have had to alter how I train in order to continue on with my life long​ ​passion for bodybuilding. Chances are you won’t see me using 500lbs+ on​ ​squats and deadlifts these days — and that’s totally ok. There are plenty of other ways​ ​to stress the muscle into growing and that’s what I’m going to discuss here.

Before I get started, I must say if you are training heavy and have no issues with​ ​joint pain or nagging injuries — then this doesn’t apply to you (… yet). If it’s not broke,​ ​don’t fix it. I have clients close to fifty and beyond that out-work and out-lift their​ ​twenty something counterparts. However, you can help prevent future injuries by​ ​following my Top 5 list.

Being the stubborn meathead that I am, it took me awhile​ ​to accept that my body could no longer take the beating I put it through to achieve​ ​my goals. It actually took a major cervical spinal injury that sidelined my training​ ​​for almost a year to get me thinking outside of the box. I wasn’t able to do​ ​traditional bodybuilding workouts which forced me to try alternative training​ ​methods. I returned to familiar territory with bodyweight exercises that were​ ​often utilized in the team sports I played and while in the USMC. During my​ ​research, I stumbled upon TRX suspension training and it made a huge difference​ ​in my recovery and ability to train with moderate intensity while rehabilitating my​ ​body. Suspension training incorporates traditional and non-traditional bodyweight​ ​exercises then uses gravity and angles to increase or decrease difficulty. With​ ​suspension training you are encouraged to train in all three planes of movement​ ​which in itself is an injury prevention tool. I found it also improved my​ ​bodybuilding training once I was able to return. My range of motion improved, my​ ​balance improved and my strength increased past where it was prior to the spinal​ ​injury.

From that point I have been diligent about finding ways to train around injuries,​ ​not only my own but my clients as well. My top list of things that you can​ ​incorporate into your training and daily lives to help keep you injury free and in the​ ​gym training are to begin with dynamic warm-ups, train through all three planes of motion,​ ​utilize super and giant sets, finish with static-stretching, and monthly massage therapy.

1) Dynamic Warm-ups – This is basically any movement done in order to raise the​ ​heart rate to approx. 110-115 bpm (beat per minute) (which is said to be optimal heart​ ​rate range to start training/exercise) You generally want to do something that’s​ ​somewhat like the training​ ​you’re going to be doing. For example, if you plan on​ ​training legs then bodyweight squats,lunges, jumping jacks, box jumps, exercise bike​ ​are all good choices for warming up. A quick run through on the foam roller isn’t a​ ​bad idea either (just don’t over-do it).

2) Training through all 3 planes of​ ​motion – There are 3 planes of​ ​motion in human movement.​ ​​Frontal, sagittal and transverse.​ ​Frontal plane movements are​ ​primarily adduction, abduction​ ​and lateral flexion. Sagittal plane​ ​movements are primarily flexion​ ​and extension while transverse​ ​plane movements are primarily​ ​pronation,supination and rotation​ ​on a vertical axis. Most physique​ ​type training is done in the sagittal​ ​plane (bench press, squats, bent over​ ​rows) and some in the​ ​frontal (lateral dumbbell raise, side​ ​lunge.) The transverse plane is​ ​rarely used in bodybuilding but it​ ​should be included in your training.​ ​The “wood chop” or “golf swing”​ exercises with cables, “mason​ ​twists” with a med ball, “lunge with​ ​trunk rotation” and many more exercises should be a part of your program – while they won’t give you crazy​ ​pumps, they will help strengthen your body’s ability to avoid injury.


3)​ ​Utilizing Super/Giant Sets – This one has been a major help to me with my own​ ​training. They enable you to get in a high-volume, high-intensity training session​ ​without the need for maximal poundages. If you string 2,3,4 or more exercises​ ​together in a row with 10-12 reps for each and only the amount of time it takes you​ ​to switch exercises as rest, you will find your ass to be kicked. Great pumps and a​ ​much higher caloric burn off. The weight you can use to perform the exercises​ ​correctly is considerably lower than what you can use to complete just one exercise​ ​which gives your joints a break but the muscle is still being majorly challenged. An​ ​example of a giant set would be, Lat pull downs for 12 reps then immediately switch​ ​to Seated rows for 12 reps then immediately switch to low-cable rows for 12 reps.​ ​Rest 45-60 seconds then repeat. Do 3-4 sets then switch to the next super or giant​ ​set.

4) Static Stretching – This is your basic stretches such as toe touches, hurdlers​ ​stretch, splits,etc. A flexible body is more protected from injury that one that is all​ ​bound up. Take 15-30 minutes each day to stretch. If you have time immediately​ ​after training this would be ideal. If not, no worries. Stretch while watching your​ ​favorite tv show before bed or while listening to an audio book. This is also a great​ ​time to work on meditation. If you have extra time, take a yoga class a few times a​ ​week.

5) Monthly Massage Therapy – I can’t tell you enough how important this is to those​ ​of us that train often and intensely. Keeping the muscle tissue healthy will not only​ ​make you feel better but it will relieve pressure put on the joints by knotted up​ ​muscle, allow movement patterns to be done correctly instead of compensating​ ​which leads to injuries and removes toxins from the body. Be sure to note, I’m not​ ​talking about Swedish massage or light “feel-good” massages. I’m referring to deep​ ​tissue, active release therapy, rolfing, etc. I recommend doing research for a local​ ​therapist that has a history of working with the muscular clients and one that’s​ ​certified in the therapies I mentioned. If the massage is done incorrectly , it can cause more​ ​harm than good.

Listening to your body has always been important but we could get away with​ ​ignoring it from time to time when we were younger. That’s not the case these days.​ ​A “no pain, no gain” mentality is about as stupid as it gets. Sure, you can still push​ ​the limits and “go hard” but if there’s pain outside of the normal burn then that is​ ​your body telling you something is wrong. There are so many ways around injuries​ ​that there’s no need to train through the pain. Don’t know how? Hire a respected​ ​and knowledgable personal trainer to show you how. Not all trainers are glorified​ ​rep counters. Some of us actually care about our clients, continue researching and​ ​educating ourselves and know what we are doing.

So, keep kicking ass and showing​ ​these young bucks who the real bull in the yard is. 

Cameron Mitchell, C.F.T. is a life-long fitness enthusiast and bodybuilding professional based in Chicago.  JnC Fitness is BEyondLimITz.

Learn more online at BYLTFIT.COM

Cameron offers both online and in-person training programs and meal planning. For those starting out and wanting to get in shape but not sure how to train properly or what to eat to those that are advanced but wanting to step things up to the next level. Contest preparation coaching for figure,physique and bodybuilding. Experienced with both men and women competitors.

By phone 773-726-0100 or email Cameron directly at

2 Comments on The Aches & Pains of Training After Forty: Tips to Keep Going

  1. Zack Taylor Thompson // February 13, 2016 at 9:49 pm // Reply

    Great article :)

  2. Awesome article!! ??

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.