Ask Stew: Midlife Exercising Routine

Fort Bragg staffers pose at the finish line of a nighttime run.
Fort Bragg Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff pose for a photo at the finish line at the 5th Annual Fort Bragg MWR Neon Night Run Sept. 21, 2019, on Fort Bragg, N.C. (Pvt. Brittany Downing/U.S. Army photo)

Hi, Stew. I will be turning 50 this week. I am 5'8 and weigh 202 lbs. I have been on blood pressure and cholesterol meds for almost three decades. I am looking to make some lifestyle changes and wondering what you recommended for getting fit.

I have a printed copy of your Navy SEAL body-weight circuit from "Men's Fitness," I believe, from many years ago. I'm looking for a full-body circuit that I can do at home a few times a week. I have some dumbbells and a treadmill. Would you recommend that SEAL workout or something else? Also, with whatever workout that I do, how long would I do it for, before changing it, to avoid plateauing? Thanks in advance.  Max

Max, I have some great ideas for you to do at home with little to no equipment. It might be helpful to add a pull-up bar and dip bar to multiply the exercises you can do as you progress into tougher calisthenics. However, if you need to treat yourself like a beginner, consider this workout -- 45 Day Plan.

I am not a fan of doing the same workout several times a week with no variety. Most of my workouts use the same exercises listed below with a different choreography every day. Maybe one day is a pyramid-type workout, with the next being a super set and another being a max repetition set workout. Some days are simple circuits, but yes, my answer would be to change it up each week.

Here is something I like to do when limited to treadmills and dumbbells (and a place to do pull-ups):

Warmup with push-up/squat/jog warmup pyramid

Jog/walk 25 meters (across yard, driveway, local field, park, basketball court)

1 push-up/1 half squat

Jog 25 meters, two push-ups, two half squats

Jog 25 meters, three push-ups, three half squats ... go up to 10/10

It also is fine to add in dynamic stretches into the 25-meter sections in place of 25-meter jogs, too. 

Check out this excellent dynamic stretch ideas 

Here is a full-body option workout. If you prefer to do upper body one day and the following day just do the leg exercises, that is fine to break it up into a split routine.

If you are going to do a full-body workout, consider working all the joints that day. One way we do that is by using the push, pull, full, leg, core and cardio method. These circuits have all of these elements into them:

Repeat 3 times

5 minutes jog or walk (or combination)

Pull-ups 5 (or 2 flexed arm hangs) or replace with dumbbell rows or biceps curls 10

Push-ups 10-20: Put your knees on the ground, if needed.

Plank pose 1 minute: Use knees on the ground, if needed.

Half squats 10: Depending on your knees, you can go down halfway or hold on to something so your knees take less strain from your full body weight.

Dips 10: Do using a chair if there are no parallel bars.

Repeat 3 times

Walk up/down flight of stairs 5 times: If your knees hurt doing this, walk or bike.

Crunches 20

Reverse crunches 20

Lunges 10/leg

MJDB#2: 10

Repeat 3 times

Dumbbell rows 10/arm

Dumbbell military press 10

Dumbbell biceps curls 10

Dumbbell triceps extension 10

Lightweight Shoulder Workout: Keep the shoulders strong but durable by using this workout and the following stretching routine in the link. There are some helpful tips to avoid serious shoulder injury, too. 

However, these are my favorite calisthenics-type workouts. Five-Part Series (PT pyramid, super set, others)

If you need to look up these exercises, see them on my YouTube Channel Fitness Library Page

Additional links to try (Some are advanced but can be scaled back):

Weekly Version of a PT Program

Recovery Day

Tactical Fitness Over 40 is a pretty tough intermediate to advanced level of workout program that mixes calisthenics, dumbbells and cardio options, mixed with recovery programming for the athlete over 40 years old.

Good luck.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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