Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Get Fit At 40!

This article on getting fit and fat loss at forty first appeared in Men’s Health in 2009. It details the personal training and coaching that Nick Mitchell did with Men’s Health Fitness Editor Wesley Doyle to help him get into the shape of his life and be the first middle aged man ever to grace the cover of the magazine.

UP Middle Aged Fat Loss

Not bad for a forty year old man eh!!

Fit and Fat Loss in Middle Age

Forty and fit

Strength and conditioning coach Nick Mitchell tells us how he got MH writer Wesley Doyle in shape and on the cover of the magazine in six short months. First up, shifting fat and preparing to build muscle:

When Wesley approached me to help transform him from a chubby middle-aged journalist with 20% body fat to being the oldest person to grace the cover of Men’s Health, we were both under no illusions that it would be a hard road. Wesley knew his age and his high pressured, deadline-driven job would be against him and I knew how hard it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. However, if the path to success was an easy one it wouldn’t be half so rewarding, and where Wesley shone was in his single-minded determination to do what was required.

Our very first session in Muscleworks proved this: in order to eliminate fitness as a limiting factor in his training efforts, my first goal was to get his conditioning to the highest level in double quick time. This first stage involves brutal lactate inducing/growth hormone spiking workouts that would make a Navy Seal nauseous. After 40 minutes of this, the look on Wesley’s face was one of pure agony and hatred and his already white skin had turned a strangely translucent green. This was to be a look with which I was to become very familiar over the following months. This stage is what separates the men from the boys as it’s here that most new personal training clients bail out and go back to the drawing board to build up their conditioning so that they can tolerate the fast-paced workouts that are to come.

The rare few however, rise to the challenge, fight back the urge to crawl into a corner and, to borrow a famous phrase, just do it. Wesley is one of those, and he deserves all the credit for fighting through the brutal workouts below and never once shirked from the task or bottled out. Believe me; I am glad it wasn’t me doing these workouts. Especially on very low carb days! Fat loss in middle age is no easy thing, and he marshalled all his reserves and performed fantastically as the photos demonstrate!

The circuits of death

Named after the way they make you feel – like death – these two programmes hit all of your major muscle groups. Couple that with the short rest periods and you’ll strip fat and improve your conditioning faster than ever before.

Find your 10-rep max – the heaviest weight at which you can get out 10 reps. Set your rep tempo to a 1-second explosive positive, 4-second negative, with no pauses at the top and bottom of the moves. “Positive” is the action part of the move, negative the return to the starting position.

By sticking to the rep range and time under tension (TUT) you’ll create a massive metabolic response while stimulating muscle growth (40-60 seconds TUT is the best range for increasing muscle size). Also, because you’re working your major groups with minimal rest, you’ll be producing a lot of blood lactate – which increases the production of human growth hormone. Be warned though – high blood lactate levels can make you feel pretty sick.

Alternate these circuits three times a week for three to four weeks depending on your fitness. (For example, for the first week do circuit 1, then circuit 2, then circuit 1 again, for the second week do circuit 2, circuit 1, then circuit 2 again). Add the stubborn fat-burning routine twice a week in between training days.

Circuit 1

Weighted Russian Step Ups

  • Perform 10 reps on each leg, rest for 60 seconds then go straight into…

Romanian Deadlifts

  • Perform 10 reps, rest for 60 seconds then go straight into…

Dumb-bell Squats

  • Perform 10 reps on each leg, rest for 60 seconds then go straight into…

Weighted Walking Lunges

  • Perform 10 reps on each leg, rest for two minutes then go back to the beginning…

Circuit 2

Bar-bell Squats

  • Perform 10 reps, rest for 60 seconds then go straight into…


  • Perform 10 reps, rest for 60 seconds then go straight into…

Bar-Bell Deadlifts

  • Perform 10 reps, rest for 60 seconds then go straight into…

Tricep Dips

  • Perform 10 reps, rest for two minutes then go back to the beginning…

Stubborn fat-burning routine

The following interval training routine can be done in the gym on a rowing machine, a treadmill or a static bike, or outside on a road bike or running. Try not to eat for at least three hours before doing this programme as you want to metabolise body fat for energy rather than what you’ve just eaten. If your body can handle caffeine then a mug of coffee (approx. 100mg of caffeine) can help you finish the workout. If you’re in a gym do the warm-ups and short intervals on a machine you don’t normally use, changing to your favoured mode of cardio training for the longer section. Credit must go to Lyle McDonald for 95% of this interval training plan – the man is extremely smart when it comes to looking at fat loss from a scientific perspective.

  • Start with 5-10 minutes easy warm-up on a machine you rarely incorporate into your cardio work.
  • 6 minutes of short intervals, ie: 6 sets of near maximum intensity for 15 seconds followed by 45 seconds recovery at a low intensity.
  • Rest for 5 minutes.
  • 30 minutes at a constant moderate intensity (60-70% of your max).
  • 5 minutes of slightly longer intervals, ie: 5 sets of near intensity for 20 seconds followed by 40 seconds easy recovery.
  • 5 minutes easy cool down to return your heart to normal.
  • Protein shake immediately after.

Nick Mitchell is a London personal trainer and strength, conditioning, and nutritional coach who specialises in body composition and reprogramming for fat loss and muscle gain. His personal training clients run the gamut from Victoria’s Secret models and professional bodybuilders, to Men’s Health editors and senior diplomats, and he is known for his success in rapidly transforming a body in as little as 4 weeks. He is the head coach and MD of Ultimate Performance, one of the UK’s leading personal training companies.

Leave a comment

Latest Posts

© 2024 Ultimate Performance. All Rights Reserved.