I’ve always felt that getting old kinda sucks and is a bit depressing. However, I’ve learned to embrace it and have realized that in many ways aging is awesome. It is my sincere hope that this blogpost inspires some of you. I’ve worked my ass off for 16 straight weeks just for these photos, and the hard work paid off as I’m rolling into my 4th decade feeling strong and fit.

Four months ago, I was sitting around contemplating the fact that my 30’s are ticking away. I decided that I would train as hard as humanly possible (for me) and take some pics for a 40th birthday blogpost. Now, eleven months ago, I had gotten into really good shape (see HERE and HERE), ending up at 224 lbs. My plan for today was to diet down to 215 or so and see how lean I could get. However, it didn’t pan out that way. I very well might be the hungriest bro on the planet, so my initial efforts to shed some weight weren’t fruitful. After 3 straight weeks of trying to gradually reduce calories to no avail, I said to myself, “Fuck it, let’s see what I can look like by just recomping and getting as strong as possible at my current bodyweight of 238 lbs.”

And that’s exactly what I did. I hovered between 238 and 242 the entire 16 weeks, ending up at the exact same weight as when I started. I average 5,000 calories per day (I get around 200 grams of protein per day, which is lower than what I used to consume but still does the job), which affords me a lot of wiggle room, so I kept eating my pizza, pancakes, cereal, and chocolate whenever I felt like it – my diet never changed. I trained like a crazed wildebeest and ended up setting numerous PRs along the way, and I even grew my glutes considerably.

Today, I turned 40 years old. In preparation for these pictures, I generally trained full body 3 times per week. I often added in either an additional easy high rep upper body workout with machines and single joint movements, or an additional easy high rep glute day consisting of bridging and lateral band movements. I always squatted heavy as hell on Monday and hip thrusted heavy as hell on Wednesday. I hammered away at squats, hip thrusts, deadlifts, bench press, incline press, and underhand grip lat pulldowns, but I was also a db curling, frog pumping, lateral raising, and seated hip abductioning machine. I’ve always felt that progressive overload via compound movements does a body good, but the results are even better when single joint moves are sprinkled in sparingly to fill in the gaps.

Here are some pics my twin brother took of me 10 days ago:

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DSC_375212s

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Below, in order, are recent PRs (in the past two months) showing:

  • 800 lb hip thrust
  • 300 lb incline press
  • 225 lb military press
  • 345 lb front squat
  • 675 lb x 5 rep hip thrust
  • 610 lb sumo deadlift
  • 100 lb x 50 rep frog pump
  • 765 lb x 2 hip thrust, 245 lb x 12 rep bench press
  • 445 lb squat
  • 495 lb x 15 hip thrust, 675 lb hip thrust, bodyweight x 14 rep chin up
  • 405 lb x 20 rep hip thrust
  • 275 lb x 4 rep incline press
  • 275 lb x 8 rep bench press
  • 300 lb incline press
  • 245 lb x 8 rep underhand grip lat pulldown

Basically, I increased my all-time squat by 16 lbs (but went slightly deeper), my all-time deadlift by 5 lbs, my all-time hip thrust by 75 lbs, my all-time military press by 10 lbs, and my all-time incline press by 15 lbs. I didn’t set any bench PRs but I did tie 275 lbs x 8 reps. I didn’t set any chin-up PRs but I got 14 reps at 238 lbs bodyweight (my record of 16 reps was when I weighed 224 lbs). I have now hip thrusted on separate occasions 405 x 20, 495 x 15, 585 x 10, 675 x 5, 725 x 2, and 800 x 1, and my glutes are at their all-time best right now in terms of roundness and density.

This is an 800 lb hip thrust. I've been hammering hip thrust variations three times per week for the past couple of months in an effort to chase down eight-hundy. I've done barbell hip thrusts, band hip thrusts, and bar plus band hip thrusts each week like a boss, leading up to last night. Full hip extension was reached. Couldn't keep my chest down but it's not too bad. In this video, I included the 765 lb set that I had done right before the 800 lb set. Felt easy. Some might say, what's the point? Well, I don't just do 1RM singles. I do 1-10 reps with the barbell, 6-20 reps with bands, and 6-15 reps with a bar plus bands. But I try to get stronger with all loads and rep ranges. After these two heavy singles, I did 495 lbs for 10 smooth reps. And guess what? Despite being almost 40 yrs old and having trained for almost 25 years, my glutes have definitely grown in the past two months and are at their all time best. That's the point. #gluteguy #glutelab #thethrustisamust #hipthrust #hipthruster #glutetraining #growthatbooty #glutegains

A video posted by Bret Contreras, PhD (@bretcontreras1) on

Frog pump PR: 100 lbs x 50 reps ———————- Holy glute burn! This was harder than it looked; I wanted to stop at 40. I post these to show that I work hard at a variety of exercises in a variety of rep ranges. I like 1RMs, 10RMs, and even 50RMs. I realize this is a funny looking exercise and one that's easy to poke fun at, but my glutes are rock solid and I believe the high rep work helps me achieve this. I hip thrust 800 lbs for 1 rep and I also frog pump 100 lbs for 50 reps. —————– So do your squats. Do your deads. So your hip thrusts. Do your bench and military presses. Do your chins and rows. Do single leg work and lateral band work. Do your favorite isolation movements. Go heavy. Also do lighter weight to failure. It's all good! #gluteguy #glutelab #frogpumps #frogpumpfordays

A video posted by Bret Contreras, PhD (@bretcontreras1) on

New all time squat PR – 445 lbs. I failed with 450 last week so scaled back 5 lbs and got it. I got below parallel but didn't get very low so I did a back off with 405 and sunk it deep. Gonna keep prioritizing squats, front squats, and quads in my training. Then I busted out a 585 lb conventional deadlift. My all time best is 605 lbs. I hit a 610 sumo last week but this felt so damn heavy it wiped me out. Used the stiff bar instead of the deadlift bar and didn't use straps. Tried for a 335 lb bench and didn't come close. Felt like I had a chance as I hit 325 several weeks ago but my bench strength wasn't there last night. Kept the video in to show the importance of proper safety pin height in the rack. Followed up with 315 lbs with a decent pause. I had planned on doing leg extensions and pec deck and other single joint exercises but I was so exhausted I called it a day. Gonna hit hip thrusts and chins hard tonight. Happy to have set a squat PR and am excited to hit 450 lbs in another week or two. #glutelab #gluteguy

A video posted by Bret Contreras, PhD (@bretcontreras1) on

This old man ain’t goin’ down without a fight, and you don’t have to either!

45 Comments

  • Lainie says:

    I am staring down 40 next march and this blog post makes me want to say f*** it, eat all the food and train like a crazed wildebeest so I can make a transformation like yours! Happy birthday and here’s to our 40s being the best decade yet!

  • Fran McCabe says:

    Hi Bret, excellent results. Just wondering what did your weekly routine look like? I just finished a ‘cut’ and hate cutting calories myself.

    Would apperciate any feedback
    Kind regards
    Fran, Belfast, Ireland

    • Hi Fran, usually something like this:
      _________
      Monday

      back squats – 3 sets or so, usually aiming for some type of PR like a 5RM, 3RM, 2RM, 1RM, or even a 3 x 3 PR
      bench press or incline press – 2-4 sets
      deadlifts or sumo deadlifts – usually just 1 top set, aiming for a PR every other week
      underhand grip lat pulldown or chin up – 1-3 sets
      frog pumps or band hip thrusts – 2-4 sets
      _________
      Wednesday

      front squats – 3 sets
      incline press or bench press or close grip bench – 2-4 sets
      heavy barbell hip thrusts – 3 sets, aiming for some type of PR (usually going all out with a certain load to failure)
      db chest supported row, seated row, or inverted row – 2 sets
      _________
      Friday

      pause squats – 3 sets
      military press or close grip bench – 3 sets
      SLDLs or speed deadlifts – 2-3 sets
      v-bar pulldown or db curl – 2-3 sets
      frog pumps or bar + band hip thrusts – 2-4 sets
      _________
      Sometimes I’d throw in additional exercises at the end of my workout such as lateral raises, db curls, seated hip abductions, leg extensions, lying leg curls, seated adductions, pec deck, prone rear delt raises, reverse pec deck, db upright rows, band tricep extensions, hammer curls, concentration curls, or grippers
      _________
      Optional Workout – some weeks I’d throw in an extra upper body workout or a glute workout like this:

      hammer strength incline press – 3 sets
      hammer strength lat pulldown – 2 sets
      hammer strength preacher curl – 2 sets
      cable lateral raise – 2 sets
      rope tricep extension – 2 sets
      hammer curl – 2 sets
      _________
      or

      frog pumps or frog thrusts – 4 sets
      lateral band walks or side lying hip abduction or ankle weight standing abduction – 2 sets
      band seated hip abduction – 2 sets
      _________
      You can go through my Instagram over the past several months and see my workout videos; I usually tried to jot down my workouts.

      Hope that helps!

      • tom says:

        bret,

        in which day you were doing your additional (optional) workout? and how did you notice if it interfered with recovery?

        thanks
        tom carte

  • Rosanne says:

    I love that you write your blogs just as if you’re talking (I’ve been to one of your seminars and heard you talk). Very cool!
    What really blows me away is that you eat 5,000 calories per day, and of that only 200 grams of protein! WTF? I weight 147, I’m female, 51 years old, my calories are about 2,500 per day, but I have 194 grams of protein. I’ve asked my coach is that’s maybe on the high side, but she says not. What are your thoughts?
    Your numbers and the way you workout is so interesting. So totally not in line with what most coaches will give you for a workout. And you eat pizza, ice cream, waffles, pancakes, bacon (I’ve seen your pics of your breakfast) and you still look awesome! So what’s the deal with “keeping it clean”? Seems to be working for you doing it the way you are.
    Inspirational at the least! Rock on Bret~

    • Rosanne – holy shit that’s insane – 2,500 cals per day at 51. Impressive.

      I used to eat more protein but it upset my stomach as much of it came from whey. So I cut back and didn’t notice negative impacts on my physique.

      I follow the debates with Eric Helms and Menno Henselmans (both are my good friends) and my take-away is that there is variance with some folks benefiting from more protein and others not. I always assumed I needed high protein but clearly that’s not the case.

      Moreover, I believe the body is much more flexible than we think it to be. Some days I may get 180 grams of protein, other days 220. Some days I might get 2,250 cals from fat and 1,750 cals from carbs; other days it flip-flops to 1,000 cals from fat and 3,000 cals from carbs (but this tends to upset my stomach too when I go that high in carbs). What matters most is that you consistently hit protein and cal targets. And that you consistently set PRs.

  • Laura Jaren says:

    Congrats and Happy Birthday! I turned 51 this month, and have never looked better. Oddly, most people think I’m in my early thirties but I assume this is from weekly lifting heavy, rowing and running and fairly clean diet. I don’t feel like I’m aging – same strength and speed as the last 2 decades. My trainer just shakes his head… 🙂

    • Kelle santin says:

      Happy birthday Bret! Welcome to the forties! It’s a great place to be and you look fabulous! You give me motivation to follow your programming (again 😄)!

  • Annie says:

    Happy birthday, Bret! You look awsome! But you’re still just a youngster…

    • msytc says:

      Ha ha! Yes, 40 is a milestone but especially now if you take care of yourself, it is just the beginning! Never have been leaner, stronger or more vital at 44. You do look wonderful Bret – here’s to the next decade and beyond!

  • Paula says:

    Happy Birthday Bret! Congratulations on your achievements and PRs! Thank you for showing us what dedicated heavy lifting can do for your body! Looking hot!

  • Trent German says:

    Just turned 40 and recently became obsessed with hip thrusts.

    7 back operations in my lifetime so the zero spinal compression is a beauty! Up to 500lbs hip thrust and climbing!! Thank you for all you do!!

    • Trent – not to be a total science geek here and burst your bubble, but this is a teachable moment. The bulk of spinal compressive forces come from core muscular contractions. Envision the erectors, rectus abdominis, obliques, etc. contracting. The exert an inward pull on their attachment points, and this compresses the spine. Since hip thrusts do activate the erectors (not so much the abs/obliques, etc.), there will be some compressive loading. But if you keep the ribs down (avoid chest up) and slightly tuck the chin and keep the gaze forward and think posterior-pelvic tilt at the top of the lift, erector activation is reduced and compressive forces are minimized. It’s certainly a high bang for your buck movement for the hips, so keep on thrusting. Congrats on the 500 lb club!

  • Brett, you’re kicking ass in the weight room and looking bad ass after your recomp…..always been a big fan of yours…..keep it up bro.

  • Mary Nodine says:

    Happy birthday, Bret! Nice job kicking ass – you’re truly an inspiration. I’ll be there in five years and I’m feeling more optimistic about my health and fitness than I did at thirty. Lifting weights is life-changing.

  • Jo says:

    You look awesome at 40….but please get rid of the beard!! It does age you…

  • Samuel Spinelli says:

    Looking awesome Bret!

  • Neil says:

    Bret. These are crazy awesome numbers. Well done. Just turned 40 myself in February and this is really inspiring. 5000 calories a day is massive!

  • Tina says:

    Congrats from Denmark! I’m an old woman (45) still going strong! Love to workout, it makes my day 🙂
    You look absolutly awesome 😉
    Happy birthday, and thank you for the blog/post!!

  • Chris says:

    Hi Bret,

    Happy birthday and may the next decade be as awesome as the previous few.

    I see in your IG posts, you don’t lift, squat or thrust with the same shoes and mix it up quite a bit. Could you give some insight to this please and if you have any preference?

    Thanks
    Chris (Cape Town)

    • Hi Chris! Usually I squat in squat shoes (Oly shoes). Unless I do some lighter variation. But heavy squats are almost always done wearing them.
      Heavy deads are always done just in socks. I sometimes do lighter deadlift variations wearing tennis shoes though.
      And hip thrusts are either done in tennis shoes or just wearing socks.
      With squats, I haven’t noticed a huge difference with squat shoes, tennis shoes, or barefoot, but I get a slight advantage wearing squat shoes.
      With deads, I pull probably 20 more lbs going shoeless due to the slightly reduced ROM.
      With hip thrusts, I haven’t noticed much of a difference. But I’d never deadlift or hip thrust wearing squat shoes.

  • Nice going and good photos, Bret! I like the photo of you leaning on the dumbbell rack in the mirror the most.

  • Sue says:

    Wow! Happy Birthday. Looking awesome – just need to trim that beard!!

  • Sue says:

    We need a beardless pic now!

  • Yelena says:

    Happy Birthday!

    Thanks for all the hard work you do and for being an inspiration!

  • Leandro says:

    Hi Bret.

    First thing first: Happy Birthday! 🙂

    I’m amazed with your post and love it because, y’know, I am turning 38 next December, so those 40 are coming close.

    I can diet. I always try to keep my body fat reasonably low. But I hate it. I hate have to eat less food and especially less food that I really enjoy – cheesecake, burger, pizza, pasta, chocolate, ice cream, oh gosh… I simply love to eat.

    So the idea of recomp attracts me as f**k.

    Could you, please, share with us a “before picture” and also your “previous training regime”, so we could compare the before and after?

    I mean, I am really amazed with what you share in the above post, your history, those 5000 kcal per day, your training regime, etc, and I swear I’d love to arrive on my 40 eating for enjoyment, having amazing performance in the weight room, and looking great in the mirror. So that’s the reason for my curiosity.

    Thanks and keep crushing it!

  • Nadia says:

    Just got Strong Curves and I’m on my week 2 already of Bootyful Begginings. I love it. Thank you so much, happy birthday!
    (I adhere to the beardless pic petition)
    #beardlessbret

  • Tom Babyak says:

    High Bret I follow your blog and especially love this one. I love learning the in and outs of programs. I’m fascinated that you only trained 3x a week. I know I have read where you have trained others who have done even physique shows like this correct?

    Can you share why. Love to learn the method behind the awesome madness

    Tom

  • ryan says:

    Man that beard is freaking wicked!!!! looking great bret!!

  • Paloma says:

    Hi Bret. Happy birthday! You look terrific! Congratulations! I wish I could give you a nice birthday present, just my gratitude for your blog, it is really inspiring!

  • Jim says:

    Congrats on your success Bret. I like to say that getting older sucks, but it’s better than the alternative!

  • Quiviro says:

    I have five years from now to get the best looking and best performance of my town.
    Thanks for inspiration Bret

  • Jellop says:

    Bret, out of curiosity, did you take any measurements when you got to this physique? Really interested to hear what you measured in the chest, waist and hips at this weight and size.

    • Jellop, I didn’t take measurements unfortunately. The only one I did is glute girth, and I was disappointed. I measured 45″, which is exactly what I measured 6 years ago in 2010. However, I’m 100% positive that my glutes have never been so muscular in my life. They’re hard as a rock when I flex and there are big divots that didn’t appear before. So I recomped in the hip region; more glute mass, less fat, no change in hip circumference.

      • Jellop says:

        Interesting. I’ve kind of plateaued, myself, at 39″ around. I figure, though, that it’s because I haven’t added any additional weight to my 155lb physique. Don’t know if that is below average, average, or above for my height (5’11”) and weight. I guess you have to feed them like any muscle and more because they are such a big muscle.

  • Linda says:

    Happy much belated bday Bret! I wanted to make the replies equal your age 😉

    You’ve inspired me too…am training for my 1st power lifting meet at age 60. Hard work, but having fun.

    Imagine where you can be at my age!

  • Hi Bret,

    This is my first reply to one of your articles. First, great job on all you do. You combined the research and the clinical in a way that few do … and you walk the walk!

    My one comment is: you are not old! I am training for the Tactical Strength Challenge and am 56. I would love your thoughts on rest between training sessions. I am taking much more rest (with active mobility and other self care strategies on the days in-between training sessions) with fantastic results.

    Keep doing what you are doing! You are a wonderful asset to our community. Thank you!

    Steve Horwitz, DC

  • Cate says:

    My head is spinning at the thought of 800 lbs hip thrust. I turn 57 on 9/11. I’m coming off a 3 yr hiatus from running. I added a hip thrust to my workout 3 weeks ago. I’m up to 185 lbs with no goal in mind insofar as how heavy I should go with it. Is a mega-super-beyond this universe-hip thrust weight necessary? What weight is enough weight?

    The main reason I added the hip thrust to my workout is to develop my glutes so I can run again. Given I was fit most of my life, I’m benefiting from satellite cells. Still, I certainly have a lot more work to do before my glutes and legs are in prime running condition. But how does one figure out the optimal hip thrust weight for their goals?

  • Marc says:

    Hi Bret. So you managed to lose fat yet stay at the same weight?

    Could you tell us how your calorie intake changed relative to what you were eating before? You said you were at 5000cals per day during this training block, but were you, like at 7000 calories per day previous to the recomp? And did you play around with the percentage of macros compared to what you were doing before the recomp?

    Did you have to step up the volume and/or intensity of training from what you were doing before (pre-recomp) to make the recomp successful?

    Did you need to add in cardio? HIIT and/or steady state?

    Thanks a lot, and congrats on the recomp – it’s inspiring me to do the same.

    • I kept calories at 5,000 per day. I’ve consumed this much for the past two years.

      I actually decreased my protein slightly and slightly increased carbs, but this decision was based on digestive issues.

      I didn’t do more volume, I just went for PRs (high effort) and ensured that I gained a lot of strength by making my training a huge priority and making sure I was recovered, focused, and energized.

      I did not do any HIIT or cardio aside from walking for 30-50 min a few days per week (I do this because I do a lot of sitting with my research).

      Hope that helps!

  • Jesus Armenta says:

    Example of dedication and love for what he does day by day.
    The best.

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