Will Smith is ready to get action movie-level jacked, and we’re here to help. The 52-year-old actor just announced a new YouTube show, in which he’ll document his transformation from post-pandemic dad bod to ripped.
The older you get, the harder it can be to get anywhere close to that shredded six-pack ideal. To help Smith (and anyone else over 50), Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel C.S.C.S. has four tips to help you on your fitness journey. For more workout advice for the older man, see the Men’s Health guide to training over 50.
Start With Mobility
Samuel says if you’re just getting back into shape after decades away, your body (and your fascia, the fibrous connective tissue that’s in and around your bones and muscle) will be tight and rigid. “If Smith instantly starts with heavy barbell squats or bench presses, sure, he might be able to move the weight, but his tissues might not be permitting those movements to happen properly,” Samuel says.
To avoid injury, Samuel recommends loosening and lengthening those connective tissues with bodyweight movement and dynamic stretches. Try the Spiderman stretch to thoracic rotation to start: Get in pushup position, then step your right foot just outside your right hand. Lift your right hand and reach it for the sky, eyes following it the entire way. Do 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps on each side. Want more? Try cat-cows and downward dogs, too.
Hit the Back
“If Smith’s spent substantial time away from the gym, there’s a good chance he lacks back strength—and that’s the first thing he needs to build, not his I Am Legend muscles,” Samuel says. We spend a ton of time sitting these days, and that leads to tight chest muscles and weak rhomboids and mid-back muscles. Strengthening that latter group for muscles will pull your shoulder blades back into a proper and safe position—setting you up for success on every exercise from bench presses to pushups to biceps curls.
Samuel also adds, “Training your back is also the shortcut to fitness success: It’ll instantly clean up Smith’s posture and help him stand taller.” Start with dumbbell rows: Aim to do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps per side two to three times per week.
Strength Over Cardio
If Smith wants to drop some body fat, he’ll be tempted to hang out on the treadmill, but that’s not his best option. “Truth is, the last thing you need if you’re trying to get back in shape is an endlessly repetitive cardio machine-style movement, whether that’s rowing or biking or running,” Samuel advises. “Remember: After years away from training, your body isn’t moving with proper mechanics, and repeating those bad mechanics over and over again can lead to knee pain, back pain, and other issues.”
Smith should start by rebuilding his strength, doing key movements like pushups, dumbbell rows, Romanian deadlifts, and bodyweight squats. “This is also key because after age 40, sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle in men, frequently sets in,” Samuel says. “You can’t offset this muscle loss by piling up treadmill miles. You can offset it by working hard to build and retain muscle.”
Make Friends With the Med Ball
Men over 50 like Smith also deal with another challenge: Their bodies aren’t as explosive as they used to be, and it’s critical as they age to work hard to maintain that explosive power. “To train explosive power, you need to work with light weights and move then at high velocities,” Samuel says.
He recommends the easiest drill Smith can do is the simple med ball granny toss with a light ball. Just hold the med ball at your chest and do whatever it takes to throw it as high as possible. Let it hit the ground and repeat. Do 3 sets of 3 reps daily as a way of retaining and developing explosive power. Yes, it’s simple and fun—and it’s super-effective, too.
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