#1 Exercise For Fitness Past Forty

The Best Exercise You Can Do In The Gym

#1 Exercise For Fitness Past Forty the Back Squat

Short on time

If you’re over forty (and if you’re reading this then I hope you are) you probably have increased responsibilities at work and commitments at home vying for your time. 

Spending hours in the gym on a daily basis might have been something that you got away with in your 20s. But now it has become increasingly difficult to carve out time for yourself to devote to fitness. 

So when you actually do get to the gym you want to make sure that you spend your time wisely and that includes figuring out which exercises or movements give you the biggest return on your time investment.

It should come as no surprise that I believe that Squats are #1 exercise for fitness past forty. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find any exercise that delivers more than the squats.

Let’s take a look at a largely forgotten old school training programme and book.

Super Squats

Entire books have been devoted to this king of movements and I was lucky enough to be introduced to one of them when I was quite young.

Super Squats by Randall J. Strossen Ph.D is an amazingly simple yet devastatingly effective training protocol.

Super Squats Original Routine

Press Behind Neck – 3 sets x 12 reps

Squat – 1 sets x 20 reps supersetted with Pullovers – 1 set x 20 reps

Bench Press – 3 sets x 12 reps

Bentover Rows- 3 sets x 15 reps

Stiff-Leg Deadlift – 1 sets x 15 reps Pullovers – 1 set x 20 reps

You can buy the book here>>>

This book recommended hard work on the squat albeit only for one set, but what a set. 

“Pick a weight that you can do ten reps with… now perform twenty reps!”

Old School Trainer – Author Unknwn

Ok perhaps that’s a little too much for you. Pick a weight that you can do at least 12 – 15 comfortable reps with and then force out the last five reps rest pause style if you need to.

Perform these squats on a regular basis each week and watch your progress take off. In my twenties I started off with 100kg and worked up to a set of 140kg for 20 rep followed by a back off set of 12 reps.

At 50 I probably couldn’t do that now but I have worked up to 122.5kg last summer see video above.

Steve Devine PT Tunbrige Wells squats 122.5kg for 18 reps

3 Squat myths

  • Knees shouldn’t go past the toes. This happens during almost every set of squats that I perform and doesn’t cause any problems. The caveats to this are using appropriate resistance and using good form.
  • Never squat below parallel. This is also nonsense. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve you may not wish to squat all the way down ‘ATG’ Ass To Grass but it’s pointless to adhere to dogma that prohibits their performance. 
  • Look up when you’re rising out of the hole. Cranking your neck is never going to be a good idea and especially not when you have 100kg on your back. Find a point on the wall in front that allows you to maintain a neutral spine. As a general rule of thumb where the head goes the body follows and so it’s probably not a great idea to look down at the floor either. 

Build overall strength

As an overall mass builder the squat is second to none and involves almost the entire body in its performance. The deadlift might give it a run for its money here but for me the squat wins out as I’ve seen so many guys mess their backs up lifting weights that they just weren’t capable of.

Squatting on the other hand elicits a certain amount of fear as nobody wants to get stuck in the ‘hole’ the bottom of the movement.

Whilst the squat certainly taxes the muscles of the legs and hips it also has an indirect effect on the rest of the body, notably the core where you’re forced to brace in order to prevent the midsection crumbling under the weight. Your abs and deep core musculature are heavily involved in making sure that this does not happen.

Transfer to other exercises

Strength transfer to other exercises is great and if you participate in Crossfit or Olympic Weightlifting then these benefits should already be pretty clear.

Having travelled to work out at Europa Weightlifting Club a few years ago I came to understand just how crucial squats were to Oly Lifting. The snatch is fundamentally an Overhead Squat whilst the Clean is a Front Squat.

There is also a transfer of strength to other movements such as the deadlift. The patterns are similar but not identical. But squats are similar enough to assist with building a respectable deadlift too. 

Squatting Past Forty

Having been around gyms and fitness for over thirty years I’ve used so many different pieces of leg equipment and by and large they never produced the same results as squats do. Also I’ve found them difficult to use in some cases they really aggravate my knees. I no longer even attempt to use hack squats or machines that force my legs to operate over a fixed plane of motion.

Perhaps squats just aren’t for you and you prefer the leg extension and leg press. That’s entirely fine I’ve put my case for squats across and encourage everyone to give them a fair shake as to remove them deprives you of the amazing results they produce.

All hail Squats King of exercises.

About the Author Stephen Devine

Steve not just a skilled Crossfit Coach, but a top-tier CrossFit Competitor who's ranked in the top 1% worldwide in the 2023 Crossfit Open! And this is despite spending six weeks on crutches following surgery to fix a broken ankle just a year ago. He's Qualified as a Crossfit L1 Coach, Crossfit Gymnastics, and is also a qualified Olympic Weightlifting Coach.

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