Big and Strong Moving Forward

Maintain optimal performance in the gym as you get older with these training tips.

Big and Strong Moving Forward
Matthews' Workout Tips for the 40-Plus

Stay Balanced

Be aware of what you like to do the most, and realize that it probably isn’t what you need to do. Spend some time making sure your body is even and balanced.

Form Over Function

At one point in my late 20s I had to start over at zero and focus on form. That’s when I really started to see gains that I could measure going forward.

Adjust As You Grow

I’ve gone back to more basic barbell lifting. I used to do a lot more isolation, and now I don’t do stuff like that at all.


Ron Mathews was a weakling. He hit the weight room in high school to bulk up, and the initial results were disconcerting. “I couldn’t do a pull-up, I couldn’t do a dip—I couldn’t bench-press the bar,” he says, now at a lean and muscular 230 pounds. “But I was a very good athlete.”

He headed to the University of Utah to play wide receiver and arrived on campus at 6'2", 165 pounds. His strength coach made no bones about what had to be done. “[He said], ‘Ron, you’re going to come to the gym and you’re going to stay here until I tell you to leave,’ ” Mathews recalls. That dedication to training didn’t end with his college career.

“I couldn’t afford a gym membership, so I got a job in a gym,” he says. “Since then, I’ve never not worked at a gym.” He attributes his persistence to the challenges he faced as a teenager, and that he still faces today: He struggles to put on weight. He didn’t crack 200 pounds until his mid-30s, and, at his peak, he was downing 7,000 calories a day.

“To this day I carry a cooler of food with me everywhere I go,” he says. Every pound was hard-earned, and he liked seeing the fruits of his labor. At age 43, he’s one of the top 2,000 CrossFit competitors in the world, and a top 20 competitor in his age group. He also trains some of Hollywood’s biggest: Joe Manganiello and Hugh Jackman are just two stars who have worked with Mathews recently.

Despite all he’s accomplished, Mathews is still striving to get better, and he tells anyone who asks the same thing: Being in shape can never be a negative. “It’s icing,” he says.

The Workout

A) Warmup and dynamic mobility

B) ► Pull-up, 10 reps ► Body-weight Bench Press, 10 reps. Go down ladder—9 each, 8 each, until you reach zero. Perform as quickly as possible with proper form.

C) ► Cable Chest Flye, 12 reps ► Push-up, 12 reps ► Low-pulley Cable Row, 10 reps. I perform these three movements as a giant set with no rest until I’ve completed a set of each. Repeat four times.

D) ► Bar Dip or Ring Dip, 10 reps ► One-arm Dumbbell Row, 10 reps (each arm). I perform these movements as a superset with no rest until the end of both exercises four times through.

E) Abs