How many times have you heard the phrase “it all goes downhill after 30?”.
I’ve lost count of the number of times other guys have said this to me… is it true though?
Getting older rarely leads to improvements in our bodies.
Wrinkles, grey hair, sagginess, loss of libido, baldness (I know about this one all too well!) are just part of the game.
There are many physiological process which slow down and change as we get older. Ultimately, these changes are unavoidable.
From a physique perspective, each decade after age 30, people who don’t train can lose 3-5% of their muscle mass. 3-5%!
That can make a huge to difference to how you look and feel. Just the mere fact of muscle loss will slow down your metabolism and make it easier for you to gain fat.
So not only do we have Father Time to contend with, but for most people entering their 30s, there are a whole bunch of other things too.
Financial security and climbing the career ladder become priority. Some guys are married and have young children that take up their time. Some guys are in serious relationships and their girlfriends won’t let them go out 😳.
The point is, fitness and health starts to be seen as a luxury and isn’t given the attention it needs. You slowly see the stomach getting fatter and the previous 25 year old you fading away.
Who’s that guy in the holiday pictures again?
I turned 30 in 2016 and I have definitely noticed subtle shifts in my body.
I feel training sessions more. My joints are creakier. Staying lean is more challenging. It’s harder to recover from a late night like during my 20s (now I have a migraine for 3 days after.)
In my whole life playing sports and lifting weights, I’ve only ever had one injury, a minor hamstring pull.
Once I entered my 30s, I’ve had back and knee injuries that kept me out for months.
Just look at someone like David Haye.
The decline in his speed and reflexes in the space of 5 years is very obvious. The multiple injuries accumulated as he’s aged have pretty much destroyed his career. (He’s still a physical specimen though).
So yeah, it’s inevitable that your body will change. But you can slow down and maybe even halt this decline.
There are no excuses for letting yourself go. Getting older is not a choice, but maintaining self respect is.
So here are the strategies to avoid ‘dad-bod’ and stay in shape.
Focus on posture
I always harp on about posture.
As you get older, you start to hunch over. Hours spent on the computer and phone, as well as the tightening of the chest muscles will make you look like Quasimodo.
Having a good posture makes you look taller and younger.
You can include face pulls, band pull aparts, and rear delt flyes in to your training pretty much every day. Sets of 10-20 are good and will build up the small muscles in the back.
You will need a band for pull-aparts, get it here
As well as that, add in lots of horizontal rowing movements, such as TRX rows, cable rows, incline rows, and bent over rows, TRX rows.
Do lots of work in the 8-15 rep range and really focus on feeling the muscles in the back working.
If you can’t squeeze the weight at the top of the movement for at least 2 seconds, it’s probably too heavy (thanks Jay Ferruggia).
Minimalist, express workouts
You have shit to do, so don’t waste your time.
You can achieve excellent results in just 3-4 days, 30-45 minutes per session if you are really good!
One way to really condense workout time is to use ‘non-competing supersets’.
For example, you may superset an upper body movement with a lower body one. Or an upper body push with an upper body pull.
The idea is that these movements don’t interfere with one another, so you can still push hard and get the most out of each one.
Also, instead of just resting after the exercise, you get more work in. This will cut down your workout time and ensure you hit your muscles hard during the short time you have.
If you have three days, ‘Push/Pull/Legs’ is a great split for you. You could also do ‘Upper/Lower/Full’.
Most of my male clients past the beginner stage are on some variation of the above.
Now what about if you don’t want to just lift, but enjoy other activities such as boxing, sprinting, or jiu jitsu?
You can and should still lift, but may need to reduce the volume (i.e. drop the frequency down).
If you need help with programming and want me to give you step by step guidance, consider signing up for online coaching.
This becomes even more pertinent once you hit your 30s, even though it should always be a consideration.
You need to plan in recovery sessions/activities in between weight training sessions.
Taking a walk, swimming, sitting in nature, yoga, meditation, massages, low intensity cardio, sled dragging sessions, and band work are all good for you.
These things keep your stress levels down and your joints healthy.
You may find yourself tighter and needing to stretch more often the older you get. Keep yourself mobile, because getting tight makes you old.
Hips and chest/shoulders are the key.
These 90/90 hip stretches from Andrea Spina are money.
Modify lifts that don’t agree with you
If a flat barbell bench press is what you’ve done for 10 years but now causes you pain, it’s time to swap it for something else my brother.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop benching. You could just swap it for a more shoulder friendly version, such as an incline bench press or a DB bench where your hands can rotate naturally.
Time to start working with your body rather then against it.
(That said, if you can do certain lifts without a problem, then go for it.)
Some good swaps you can make:
Swap ‘Flat barbell bench press’ for ‘incline barbell bench press’ or ‘neutral grip barbell bench press’ or ‘ DB bench press’.
Swap ‘barbell back squat’ for ‘front squat’ or ‘box squat’ or ‘goblet squat’.
Swap ‘straight bar deadlift’ for ‘trap bar deadlift’ or ‘rack pull’.
Start thinking ‘health’ rather than simply physique. You’re in this for the long term.
You can look good but be very unhealthy. Being at 6% body fat probably isn’t healthy because your hormones will be completely shot. Having huge muscles but eating massive amounts of food the whole day isn’t healthy either.
As you get in to the dirty thirties, your metabolism will probably slow a little bit, so you need to compensate by eating a little less.
The likelihood of getting diabetes also increases as you get older and fatter, so another smart approach may be to adopt a low carb diet, which I have found works brilliantly for getting leaner.
Note: low carb, not no carb.
Precision Nutrition’s infographic below is very simple but excellent for helping you understand what a low carb diet looks like.
There are two versions – one for any time of day, and one for after workouts.
For those that drink, alcohol tolerance will also most likely change. This can result in serious fatness if you try to keep drinking the same way you did in your youth.
Accept that you probably won’t be as slim like you did at 20.
This doesn’t mean you accept being overweight and losing all your pride. Not at all. It just means you recognise that your 20s and 30s are not the same.
But you can make your 30 year old self an even better version if you stick to what’s written above. it’s all about smart and efficient training.