Men Over 40 Can Use This Powerful Exercise to Build Strong Lower Bodies

Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.

Some of my older clients and I put a high premium on cardio exercises for heart health, so we’re always concerned about over doing it and losing lower body muscle mass. It’s easy to fall into the trap of skipping out on strength-focused workouts to save your legs for running, but it’s absolutely necessary that we get our butts, quads, calves and hamstrings some resistance training for muscle building and maintenance. For older guys, sarcopenia becomes more of a progressive concern as we age, so you’ll want to address the problem head-on with plenty of work to maintain your muscles.

One exercise I recommend clients include in their program is the hip thrust. It’s a posterior chain exercise that works your glutes (yep, your butt). We can all use more butt power as we age to prevent back problems. A stronger butt also helps us squat, run, and jump better.

To set up for the hip thrust, find a weight bench at your gym or something sturdy at home at about the same height. Sit on the floor with your shoulder blades pressed against the bench and your feet flat on the floor, a little wider than shoulder width apart, and your knees bent. Direct your gaze to the wall or an object in front of you at about a 45-degree angle up, and keep your eyes glued on that spot throughout the movement. Squeeze your glutes to drive your hips upward, forming a bridge position. You should feel your heels digging into the floor, with your shins perpendicular to the ground. In this top position of the hip thrust, squeeze your glutes as much as possible while keeping your head and eyes locked in position.

Now that you’ve perfected the position, you can add a load to the exercise. If you can, find a shorter barbell like an EZ bar, not an Olympic sized one, so you don’t have to work as hard to balance it as you thrust upward. The barbell should be positioned across your body, a little higher than your pelvis. Hold it with an overhand grip to balance it.

One key to the exercise to be mindful of is that you don’t want your head or shoulders to be flat on the bench (in a neutral position) in the down or up position of the hip thrust. The movement should be driven by the glutes. Another key is to keep your knees pushed apart. They should not fall together as you thrust upward or lower downward. Keeping them wide will promote hip abduction and fire your glutes even more. Lastly, don’t be overly concerned about how high you raise your hips. Most likely they will be slightly lower than shoulder and knee height in the up position.

But if you can’t handle the weight, doing the hip thrust without a barbell can still be highly effective. To start, I recommend doing 3 sets of 5 repetitions, with a five-second glute squeeze in the up position. To make it more challenging, add weight and progress higher.

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