I just turned 40 and need to make some changes. What’s the best way to lose weight, without losing a lot of strength? My bench drops like a rock whenever I lose weight.
My first thought is losing weight isn’t a good idea. Losing fat is, so let’s make that distinction.
For many people, losing weight is directly responsible for that big drop in strength you cited – because they’re losing a lot of muscle.
They failed to make the distinction between “weight” and “fat”, so that’s rule #1: You have to have a way to gauge fat loss. Get away from the scale and get familiar with the tape measure.
Second, the drop in upper body strength isn’t inevitable – especially if you’re savvy about what exercises to use.
If you’re not competing in powerlifting, you don’t need to bench press. Nobody will think any less of you, nor should you think any less of yourself. It’s just not the smartest option, especially for your shoulders.
You may be able to gain strength in the squat or deadlift, and I would encourage you to continue to perform one or both of those if you can perform them safely.
Back to the upper body though, I’m going to reveal the secret – switch to weighted dips and weighted chins.
Both of these exercises are man makers, are universally respected and give you a lot of room for improvement.
And you will improve in some cases dramatically so, because every pound of fat that comes off your frame makes them easier.
They can also be trained more frequently than the classic barbell lifts and IMO are actually superior muscle builders.
In fact, if I had to choose just 2 exercises to build the upper body, they’d be at the top of my list.
But I’d also tell you to work pullovers hard, especially if you have a properly designed pullover machine in your gym and of course assuming you have the necessary shoulder flexibility.
If you’re really strong, work up to handstand shoulder presses. In terms of relative strength, only the chin up is (arguably) a better measure.
If you feel you must bench press, the flat DB bench press would probably be the best option. Experiment with different hand positions and grips, I think you’ll find the pronated (palms facing each other) the strongest and safest.
Finally, I want to impress upon everyone the power of expectations.
If you think because your 40 you’ll be weaker than you were at 30 – you will be.
If you get to 40 though and expect to be stronger than you were at 30 – you will be.
I’ve seen it time and time again. Even at 50, I’m stronger now on many counts than I was at 30 – because I expect to be.
Put some of those plans into motion, and I think you’ll find training in your 40’s to be even more enjoyable than when you were younger.
Hope that helps.