5 Exercises To Get You Looking JACKED In Your 40s (2024)

Only a couple of things are guaranteed in life: we are getting older, and rice cakes taste like cardboard. As we get older, it will start to get harder to get in shape and even harder to get jacked.

So, suppose you want to build an eye-bulging physique that commands the attention of everyone around you. In that case, you need to focus on developing some key muscle groups that make you stronger and look jacked, juicy, and overall more muscular. If you're in your 40s or even older, then you know that focusing too much on training volume can wreak havoc on your joints and leave you sore for way longer than it used to when you were younger.

That's why I want to focus more on five efficient, effective movements that also lower the risks of injury. That way, you won't spend hours in the gym torturing the same muscle group.

Now that is out of the way, let's dive into the only five exercises you need to look jacked in your 40s.

Table of Contents

  • Exercise #1: Upright Rows
  • Exercise #2: Seated Cable Rows
  • Exercise #3: Lat Pulldowns
  • Exercise #4: Incline Bench Press
  • Exercise #5: Trap Bar Deadlifts
  • Outro

Exercise #1: Upright Rows

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Having broad shoulders automatically makes you look wider and more muscular. While the shoulders play a significant role in upper body width, the mid delts contribute the most to broader shoulders.

While the front and rear delts are mostly targeted through the pushing and pulling exercises you're already doing, the mid delts tend to get neglected during most compound lifts. That's why training them directly, effectively, and efficiently is important.

Since the primary function of the mid-delt is horizontal abduction, it's no secret that they're best trained with some form of lateral raise, especially cable lateral raises. However, I believe upright rows are another exercise that can be just as effective.

You engage these muscles throughout the movement by pulling a weight vertically toward your chin. The biggest thing people get wrong when doing upright rows is that they don't optimize their technique, which can lead to other muscles being more engaged throughout the exercise.

Try using a wider grip on the barbell or dumbbells during upright rows for maximum mid-delt activation. This wider grip increases the range of motion and emphasizes the mid-delts and traps. I also recommend maintaining a neutral wrist position throughout the movement, which helps further improve muscle recruitment.

Onestudycompared different grips and found that increased grip width increased deltoid and trap activity. Therefore, your hand positioning does play an important role in how effective upright rows can be for side delt growth.¹

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Figure 1:McAllister, Matthew J., et al. (2013)

I have found that lifting the weight in line with your body's natural plane of motion, rather than directly beside you, can also improve the effectiveness of the exercise. By slightly angling the lift forward, around 30 to 45 degrees from your body, you place the mid delts in a more mechanically advantageous position, allowing for better shoulder abduction.

How To Upright Row

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell in front of you with an overhand grip (palms facing your body) at about hip-width apart. Your arms should be fully extended, and the weight should be resting against your thighs.
  2. Keeping your back straight and core engaged, exhale and slowly lift the weight upward towards your chin by bending your elbows. As you lift the weight, your elbows should point outward and remain higher than your forearms throughout the movement.
  3. Aim to bring the weight just below your chin level. Avoid pulling the weight too high, as this can strain your shoulders unnecessarily.
  4. Once you reach the top of the movement, pause briefly and squeeze your shoulder muscles to maximize contraction.
  5. Lower the weight slowly down to the starting position, allowing your arms to extend fully.

Exercise #2: Seated Cable Rows

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Just compare someone with well-developed upper back muscles to someone with underdeveloped ones; the differences in appearance can be pretty easy to notice. Theupper backis made up of the rear deltoid (back of the shoulder), latissimus dorsi, the rhomboids and trapezius (back of the neck), teres major and minor, and the infraspinatus.

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Despite what many believe, the upper back muscles do not run just up and down; some also have a diagonal orientation. Applying force at an angle can maximize tension, leading to greater muscle activation throughout certain movements.

Since many deep upper back muscles attach horizontally to the scapula, it makes more sense to train them in a way that follows this orientation.Researchproves that horizontal pulling exercises, like the seated cable row, train your entire back and may be a bit better than vertical moving exercises.²

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Figure 2:Lehman, Gregory J, et al. (2004)

Unlike many other compound back exercises, such as bar row and deadlift, the seated cable row doesn't place too much load on your spine when performed correctly. Utilizing a seated position and a cable machine also allows for a more controlled movement, ensuring that the shoulder blades can protract fully without compensating.

During the concentric phase, I have found that concentrating on retracting the scapula and squeezing the shoulder blades as close to the spine as possible can increase the range of motion, making the exercise more effective in targeting the upper back muscles to get that massive look.

There are several different handle attachments for the cable seated row. These allow you to vary grip orientation (which way your palms face), the width of the movement, and which muscles will get emphasized the most.

The one you will use most often is the V-bar attachment, which places your hands about 6 to 8 inches apart with your palms facing each other. However, I recommend experimenting with different grips to find what works best for you and keep things fresh.

How To Do Seated Cable Rows

  1. Sit on the bench towards the cable machine, ensuring the pulley is set at a height where you can comfortably reach it while seated.
  2. Sit on the bench with your feet flat, knees bent, and legs slightly apart. Grasp the handle or attachment with both hands. Keep your arms fully extended in front of you, your shoulders relaxed (but not rolled forward), and your chest up.
  3. Pull the handle towards your lower abdomen by driving your elbows back. Keep your chest up and back straight throughout the movement. Try squeezing your shoulder blades as you pull the handle towards you.
  4. Once you reach the fully contracted position with the handle close to your lower abdomen, pause briefly and squeeze your back muscles to maximize the contraction.
  5. Slowly return the handle to the starting position, allowing your arms to extend while maintaining full muscle tension.

  • If you find it challenging to maintain proper form or feel discomfort in your lower back, adjust the seat position or the weight resistance accordingly.

    Exercise #3: Lat Pulldowns

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    The lats are one of the upper body's largest, most visible muscles. When developed correctly, the lats create a V-shape that makes your upper body appear wider, giving you a more muscular appearance and making your waist look smaller.

    Since their main function is horizontal adduction (bringing your arms down at your sides), it's no surprise that lat pulldowns are one of the best ways to build them. Onestudycompared different grips on the lat pulldown. The results found that a pronated, medium-width grip variation led to the highest activation in the lats.³

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    Figure 3:Andersen, Vidar, et al. (2014)

    So, when applied to a lat pulldown or a pull-up, which is essentially the same movement pattern, the research seems to support using a medium grip over a narrow or wider grip due to more activation on the eccentric portion of the exercise. Since all exercise variables remain the same in the study, choosing the correct hand position can significantly influence how many muscle fibers are recruited.

    I like adding lat pulldowns in workouts with a higher rep count and pull-ups in workouts that focus more on bodyweight movements. But what if you can't do pull-ups?

    It's no big deal, as most people can't! Check out this article,The Ultimate Pull-Up Progression Plan For Beginners, to learn how to do a pull-up and more advanced variations.

    How To Do Lat Pulldowns

    1. Sit on the butt pad and adjust the thigh pads to rest comfortably against your thighs, securing your body in place. If needed, adjust the height of the pulley so that it's above your head, just barely within arm's reach.
    2. Grab the bar with palms facing away from you and shoulder-width apart. Sit tall with your chest up, shoulders down, and back, and a slight arch in your lower back.
    3. Engage your lats and pull towards your chest in a smooth and controlled motion. To maximize lat activation, focus on pulling with your elbows rather than your hands.
    4. Once the bar reaches your chest, pause for a second and squeeze your shoulder blades together to contract in your lats fully.
    5. Slowly allow the bar to return to the starting position, extending your arms fully while maintaining muscle tension.

    Exercise #4: Incline Bench Press

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    If I had to pick one exercise that could aid your quest for a massive chest, it would have to be an incline bench press. While the traditional bench press is a great upper body builder, onestudyfound that at a 30-degree angle, the activation of the anterior delts and upper pec fibers was more effective.

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    Figure 4:Rodríguez-Ridao, David, et al. (2020)

    The traditional flat bench was the best option for the lower and middle fibers, and there was little to no difference in tricep stimulation across all the incline angles tested. The research also shows that 15 degrees is great for hitting all pec fibers and requires more activation of the deltoids.

    Most people will notice that they can do substantially more weight on a flat bench than on the more common 45-degree incline, so using the low-incline variation gives you the best of both worlds.

    While using a barbell for an incline or flat bench press is common, dumbbells allow you to have a greater range of motion, resulting in greater muscle activation and growth. Not only can using dumbbells increase your range of motion, but you can also vary the angle of the press and adjust grip width.

    This can help reduce the risk of muscle impingement and relieve some stress on the shoulders. Keeping the shoulders healthy is key to long-term muscle progression and allows one to maintain a healthy lifestyle as you age.

    How To Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

    1. Adjust the bench to a 15-degree incline angle. Lie back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and your back supported against the bench.
    2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing away from you at shoulder width. Start with the dumbbells positioned above your chest, elbows slightly bent.
    3. Engage your core muscles, squeeze your glutes, and press your lower back into the bench. Ensure your shoulders are relaxed and pulled back. The chest should be up.
    4. Inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbells towards your upper chest, keeping your elbows at a slight angle to your body. Lower the dumbbells under control until your elbows are slightly below the bench's level or until you feel a comfortable stretch in your chest and shoulders.
    5. Exhale as you press the dumbbells back up to the starting position, extending your arms fully but never locking out your elbows.
    6. At the top of the movement, squeeze your chest muscles to get the most out of the muscle contraction.

    Exercise #5: Trap Bar Deadlifts

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    The trap bar deadlift is excellent for building lower body strength and muscle mass by targeting the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. According to onestudy, it reduces horizontal displacement away from the body by roughly 75 percent, resulting in less back strain.

    5 Exercises To Get You Looking JACKED In Your 40s (11)

    Figure 6:Swinton, Paul A, et al. (2011)

    This makes it a practical and safer option than the traditional deadlift for individuals with a history of lower back pain or in the final stages of rehabilitation. Keep in mind that the trap bar deadlift variation performed in the study was with the hips high, making it more targeted toward activating the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors.

    So, if you enjoydeadliftingwith heavier loads and putting a greater mechanical demand on your body but don't enjoy the potential back pain, a high hip trap bar deadlift is a great alternative. If you want to target the quads more, then perform trap bar deadlifts with the hips lower.

    Trap bar deadlifts are just as effective as some other more popular lower body movements, and they are a relatively safer exercise than traditional barbell lifts like squats and deadlifts.

    How To Trap Bar Deadlift:

    1. Position the trap bar on the ground in front of you so that the handles are parallel to your body.
    2. Stand in the center of the trap bar with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be pointing forward or just slightly outward.
    3. Bend at the hips and knees to lower yourself down to grab the handles of the trap bar. Use a neutral grip (palms facing each other), and make sure that your grip is even on both sides.
    4. Brace your core muscles and straighten your spine by pulling your shoulder blades back and down. Keep your chest lifted and your gaze forward throughout the movement.
    5. Take a deep breath in, then drive through your heels and stand up tall, lifting the trap bar off the ground in a straight line.
    6. As you stand up, focus on driving your hips forward to extend them fully at the top of the movement. Squeeze your glutes at the top to fully engage the posterior chain.
    7. Slowly lower the trap bar back to the ground, maintaining control of the weight throughout the descent; do not drop it.


    It may sound cliche, but age is really just a number, and with the right strategy, you can look jacked in your 40s. How do you do it?

    It's simple: craft a smart training plan, use the five exercises listed above, and show up day in and day out. Or you could use our hypertrophy program which has all of the exercises above in it, along with so much more. With this winning formula, you'll be well on your way to ajacked physiquethat exceeds your wildest expectations, even as the years tick by.

    5 Exercises To Get You Looking JACKED In Your 40s (12)

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    1. McAllister, Matthew J., et al. “Effect of Grip Width on Electromyographic Activity during the Upright Row.”The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, vol. 27, no. 1, 1 Jan. 2013, pp. 181–187, journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2013/01000/Effect_of_Grip_Width_on_Electromyographic_Activity.25.aspx, https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824f23ad.
    2. Lehman, Gregory J, et al. “Variations in Muscle Activation Levels during Traditional Latissimus Dorsi Weight Training Exercises: An Experimental Study.”Dynamic Medicine, vol. 3, no. 1, 2004, p. 4, https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-5918-3-4.
    3. Andersen, Vidar, et al. “Effects of Grip Width on Muscle Strength and Activation in the Lat Pull-Down.”Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 28, no. 4, Apr. 2014, pp. 1135–1142, https://doi.org/10.1097/jsc.0000000000000232.
    4. Rodríguez-Ridao, David, et al. “Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise.”International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 19, 8 Oct. 2020, p. 7339, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17197339.
    5. Swinton, Paul A, et al. “A Biomechanical Analysis of Straight and Hexagonal Barbell Deadlifts Using Submaximal Loads.”Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 25, no. 7, July 2011, pp. 2000–2009, https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181e73f87.
    5 Exercises To Get You Looking JACKED In Your 40s (2024)


    How to get jacked in your 40s? ›

    “To make the body leaner, a low-calorie diet coupled with regular general exercise is a must. You're more likely to improve your muscle-to-fat ratio if you have a HIIT session at least twice a week, to improve your overall fitness, and weight sessions at least three times a week to build your muscle mass.

    What are the five exercises for over 40? ›

    The five key movements to getting you there are: box squat, front squat, deadlift, standing press, and bench press. And while none of these core five exercises are exotic, they are ruthlessly efficient in getting you the strength gains you want. “Each of these allow you to progress infinitely,” Starrett says.

    Can I reshape my body at 40? ›

    The new study says it's never too late to get in shape and improve our health outcomes, so what's stopping so many of us? Bezich says the chief barrier to success is mindset. “Most can't even keep their New Year's resolution for more than a month or two,” he said.

    Can you still build muscle at 40? ›

    Yep. Even though gains might come slower as you age, it's not impossible to build muscle. Consistent strength training in your 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond can prevent and even reverse the gradual loss of muscle mass, strength, and power that typically kicks in after age 30 (4).

    Can I get ripped at 45? ›

    If you are sitting at your computer, thinking "I am too old to get a model body," or" I am not even athletic," then change your way of thinking. This can be done at home or the gym, and with the right attitude and hard work, you can get ripped, even after 40.

    Is 40 too late to get jacked? ›

    No matter how old you are, you can still build muscle and improve your health through resistance training. One systematic review of studies found that you can even gain strength into your 70s and 80s.

    How many times a week should a 40 year old work out? ›

    Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week for adults up to age 64. (1,2) That works out to about 30 minutes a day, five to seven days a week.

    What is the best exercise for age 40? ›

    You don't need to work out for hours on end every day. Try brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week. If you have less time but can do more intense exercises, such as jogging or running, the CDC says 75 minutes per week is sufficient.

    How often should a 45 year old exercise? ›

    Adults (18-64 years)

    At least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking.

    Can you get a flat stomach after 40? ›

    Losing belly fat after 40 can certainly be done healthfully, through lifestyle habits such as exercise or pelvic health physical therapy.

    Is weight lifting better than cardio after 40? ›

    While cardio is important for overall heart health, lifting weights is the best option for mitigating the middle age weight gain. It's never too late. I hear women say it all the time, feeling as if they are too old to start lifting weights now, but it's actually the exact opposite.

    Can I transform my body at 42? ›

    No matter what your age, you can improve your fitness.

    If it's been a long time since you've exercised and you're feeling less than fit, you might think that it's too late to make a change. But you're wrong.

    How many days a week should a 40 year old lift weights? ›

    It is recommended that adults aged 40 and over lift weights at least two to three times a week. Each session should last between 30-60 minutes, with 8-10 exercises focusing on all major muscle groups. Start with light weights and gradually increase the weight as you become stronger.

    What to eat to gain muscle? ›

    To maximize muscle growth, a clean bulk is better than simply eating high calorie foods. This may include a well-balanced diet of healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Some foods include chicken, shrimp, eggs, salmon, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and fruits.

    What food makes your muscles grow faster? ›

    To help gain muscle mass, combine the following foods with fruit and vegetables:
    • Lean meat. Animal products are usually a great source of protein, especially lean meats like chicken and turkey [2]. ...
    • Eggs. ...
    • Dairy products.
    • Fish. ...
    • Whole grains. ...
    • Beans and lentils. ...
    • Whey protein.

    Can a 40 year old get shredded? ›

    Theoretically, there is no reason why a 40-year-old man can't get in as amazing of shape as a 30-year-old or even a 20-year-old. Granted it would take more effort, and a smarter approach, every small advantage would have to be maximized but it is possible.

    Can I get a six pack in my 40s? ›

    Luckily, things don't change much as we get old. When it comes to fitness, most of the same rules apply to all ages. If you grow your abdominal muscles through heavy compound weight lifting and through proper nutrition, six-pack abs in your 40s and beyond can be an achievable reality.

    What should a 40 year old man eat to get ripped? ›

    Eat: Meat, fatty fish, eggs, butter and cream, cheese, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, avocados, low-carb vegetables, herbs, and spices. Avoid: Sugary foods, grains or starches, all fruit. Beans or legumes, root vegetables, low fat, sugar-free, or diet products, some condiments or sauces, unhealthy fats, and alcohol.

    How do I stop losing muscle after 40? ›

    Combinations of aerobic exercise, resistance training and balance training can prevent and even reverse muscle loss. At least two to four exercise sessions weekly may be required to achieve these benefits ( 20 ). All types of exercise are beneficial, but some more than others.

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