The Secret to Feeling Better, AND Seeing Results - The Answer May Surprise You - By: Ethon Burns

aaron guyett ethon burns May 19, 2020

Scouring through fitness articles, social media posts and fitness click bait, I keep seeing titles on “Training over 40”. What is so special about 40? Why is training over 40 different? What if I were to tell you that if everyone, at all training ages, trained like they were over 40 they would be healthier, happier people when they actually reached 40? Let's take at look! 


If you are in the age range of over 40 and you’re athletic (or at least been working out regularly) you probably started when you were in your late teens or early 20’s. At that time, everyone knew exercise was important for a healthy lifestyle and developing a more aesthetically pleasing exterior, but the information provided was fairly sparse. The internet was either non existent or very new and you got your info from magazines or from gym rats who were next up the chain of the aesthetically pleasing. Most were on a steady diet of Whey Protein and Bro Science. Monday rolls around (oh boy! It’s chest day!) and you would walk in the door and shake your arms out, throw a couple of plates on a barbell and “bench press here I come!” Warm ups were nonexistent or minimal. Cool downs were a drive home. Body part splits left you lacking the “gainz” you wanted and any change in aesthetic happened so slowly over such a long period of time that steroids seemed like the only answer if you wanted to see something happening. Does this sound familiar? Heck, Even with all the availability of info now, this is still a common problem! Alright, let’s get back to “our friend” here…

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Fast forward 20 or so years. 

Your joints ache most days. You have this “back thing” or a “knee thing” or a “insert joint name here” that keeps you from feeling good about training. You never really achieved any of the aesthetic goals you had, but all you know is that you had your hay day back when you were 20 but you really aren’t sure why. You were just better then. Deadlifts hurt. Squats hurt. You avoid them. Bench press hurts, but you still do it despite your achey shoulders. Bicep curls are your best friend. 

Regardless of your age, If this is you and you’re happy with where you are, bless you and carry on my wayward gym goer! If this is you and you’re NOT happy, I have a new path for you! Common points for training over 40: 

  • Longer more intentional warm ups.
  • Using more joint friendly movements.
  • Lower impact lifting.
  • Use sub maximal loads more frequently.
  • Test maximal strength less frequently.
  • Adding cool downs to your workout days.
  • Add recovery days to your training regimen.

You might be saying to yourself: “Gee! This sounds like a better training regimen for everyone, not just the over 40 crowd!” Ding ding! Winner winner, chicken dinner! Open door number one and show our contestant what they have won! It’s a brand new training regimen!

All joking aside, let’s break this down a little further. The purpose behind a longer, more intentional warmup is to not only warm the muscles and lube the joints up for movement prep, but to also palpate the CNS (central nervous system) and PNS (peripheral nervous system). Why is this important? Have you ever been walking along and then jogged up a set of stairs only to find yourself breathless and thinking your out of shape? It is simply caused by the sudden change in activity and you hit oxygen depletion and it takes a second for the body to catch back up. This sort of phenomenon happens quite often in the gym. It is avoided with a decent warm up. What about starting to move and you get a little “zinger” in your knee, or elbow, or back and it progressively gets more intense as your session continues? These sorts of joint contusions can be avoided with adequate mobility and activation in your warm up. Are we seeing a pattern yet?

This fits right in line with the idea of using more joint friendly movements. Let’s avoid (for now) the concept of why someone would use movements that aren’t joint friendly to begin with and take a shallow dive into some warm up concepts. I get that traditional warm ups aren’t “sexy” and seem to just take up our precious time that we could be getting something else “more effective” done in. So, let’s look at movement first. If your squat is hampered due to muscle or joint tightness, adding load exacerbates any flaw in movement. Push ups, the staple for any athletes program, are executed poorly by MOST exercise enthusiasts. (If you think yours is perfect, I can guarantee this means you!) If your proprioception in something as pillar supporting as a pushup is less than ideal, do you really think you will be able to bench press/ dumbbell press/ single arm chest press effectively? So, an excellent place to put the rehearsals of these movements would be in your warm ups! This also saves your standing with your workout pals, so they won’t think you’ve gone soft and lift like Grandma Helen. 

Let’s take a look at your accessory (or supplemental) work at end of your workout. Enthusiasts most commonly fill the lower lines of their page with single joint movements or lighter load movements to wear themselves out after the meat and potatoes of their workout. If you look at (place famous body builders name here) workout book, “this is the way”. Let’s shake the ground your standing on with this…what if you put that accessory work in your warm up BEFORE the meat and potatoes? WHAT?!? You can’t have your pudding if you haven’t eaten your meat!! There is NO science proving that! …and no, bro science doesn’t count. Aside from the fact that (arguably) if you haven’t gotten enough stimulus in the meat and potatoes of your workout then your stimulus was less than adequate, this will increase your stimulus, give you a “pre exhaustion” feeling and make your meat and potatoes FEEL more effective. Oh, and it also makes your warm ups look sexier on paper.

For now, we’re going to skip the meat and potatoes work of your workouts and we’ll get directly to the cool downs. These are disregarded even more frequently than warm ups. There’s nothing quite like the cool down of driving a victory lap around the gym drinking your finely crafted post workout shake, right? Well, there were a couple of things you drove right past as you left the gym. Remember the CNS and PNS systems we mentioned earlier? They worked hard to allow you to move great through your workout and now they need a little love too! Something as simple as a nice brisk walk or a swift bike ride for a few minutes can allow a slower return to normal for that PNS and allow a better hormonal reset. This will actually make you feel better as well! Weird! How about a little stretching? Earlier we mentioned some joint aches and tightness along with some possible muscular imbalances. While the CNS is still revved up and allowing you to move more freely, how about we aim to find some new end ranges for those joints? The less tightness we can leave with the better for those imbalances. We may even be able to, with a little time and consistency, convince the CNS that those new end ranges are appropriate. Meaning less joint tightness and a healthier joint movement. Maybe even be able to avoid some of that bursitis (and possibly arthritis) that plagues many humans. How cool is that?

This would be a great time to mention recovery days. You know, those days when you are sore and tired…and you avoid working out by successfully sitting on the couch or tying yourself to your computer chair. Yeah, those. How about we just take some of those cool down protocols we just covered and apply those to these days. A nice brisk walk or bike ride, maybe for 60 min or so instead of a few minutes just to give a nice, soft, loving palpation to those CNS and PNS systems. While they’re happy, we head through some of those stretches we talked about just to further solidify those healthier joints. It will also make you feel better (Still weird?) and help you reset some of those hormonal responses and flush some of the left over garbage in your muscular system for a cleaner, fresher feeling you! Wow!

For the Full Length Interview with Ethon Burns 

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Just for a quick recap, let’s write out a quick workout outline (remember…this is an example! There are no hard or solid rules given here!)


  1. Show up at training location dressed for the occasion, hydrated and well rested.
  2. General warmup with lots of light motion (body weight/ bands/ light weights) to help get the lungs moving and prep joints. 
  3. Specific warmup with perfect movement rehearsals with little to no resistance. Making sure body moves appropriately. Fix movement flaws.
  4. Possible new location for some of your “Formerly known as accessory work”.
  5. Meat and potatoes work
  6. Possible location for your “also known as accessory work”.
  7. Swift walk/jog/bike to cool down.
  8. Stretching and libations (aka protein shake)

I know, I know…it seems like a lot to digest in one sitting. Like most things, it may take a little time for you to become more efficient with this. It may even force you to get a little more efficient with your meat and potatoes work. Bonus! I promise that if you stick with it you will be far happier and feel far better in the long run. Regardless of your age, this will keep you far healthier and injury free. If you're 40 and over, this will help you enjoy training again. If you’re younger than that, this will keep you from being broken and unhappy when you get there!

If you are interested in more from Ethon Burns, check him out at:

@ethonburns & @alchemystrength on Instagram


For the Full Length Interview with Ethon Burns 

& Aaron Guyett Subscribe Below.


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