How To Look Your Best In Your 30s (And Beyond)

Shhh….do you hear that? It’s slow, methodical, and it sounds like it’s ticking. A tick-tock that signals the present is now the past, and the future is crashing into you. Oh wait. I forgot. You don’t know what that ticking sound is because you’re one of those millennials who grew up with digital clocks everywhere.
Well, for the older millennials, or those that classify as Xennials—the microgeneration between Gen-X and Millennials—you know what a ticking clock sounds like. You may even wear one on your wrist. And with clack of the mechanical hands on your watch, you’re losing time; you’re getting older; your best years are, according to some, slowly fading into your past.


God, that’s depressing: your best years are behind you. Who said that? No seriously, I want you to find that person so you can punch them in the face, because that’s crap. Straight up poppycock.

But you know what’s sad? Is that millions of men have fallen for this malarky, and last year the “Dad-bod” actually became a “thing.” Look, as much as I would love to stop the ticking of time and be young forever, that’s not how life works. But giving up in the greatest decade of your life—your 30s—all because you think “what’s the use, I’m only getting older,” is the greatest failure of our time.

You can look great in your 30s. You can look better in your 30s than you did in your 20s. And even if you’re reading this now in your 20s and you think, “nah, bro, that’s not gonna happen to me. I love the gym. I feel great, and look sexy as hell. I’m never gonna stop,” I hate to tell you, it can, and for some—will—happen to you. I’ve talked to hundreds of men all over the world. Men who at one time, like you, were fit, strong, and confident.

And guess what happened?

They lost it all. And with that loss came:

  • excess body fat
  • decreased muscle mass
  • Injuries, and
  • Shattered confidence

Don’t let your 30s become the decade you wish you’d spent getting your shit together; it only gets harder with each passing year.

Strength First, Then Train like a Bodybuilder

You’re not on this website to discover the secret to improving your half-marathon time. No; you’re here to build muscle. And if you haven’t started erasing your potbelly and building muscle, let me give you the best reason to start now: Men start to lose muscle mass around the time they turn 30—anywhere from 3-5% of your muscle mass vanishes with each passing decade.

The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism becomes, and that’s what leads to weight gain as you age; it’s also why fat loss gets harder the longer you put it off.

If you’re in your 30s and new to lifting, your first task is to get strong; strength always comes first (curls come second). Getting strong as hell provides your body with the stimulus it needs to build better muscle. Plus, according to one study, strength training helps you live longer. So, there’s that, too.

But, before we go any further, I need to get serious with you for a moment: unless you have a specific goal of training for a powerlifting competition, there’s really no need to lift 3x your bodyweight on any lift. Aim for goals of a bodyweight bench press, and a 1.5x squat and deadlift (though I’d argue a 2x deadlift is sufficient as well). Maximal lifting takes a toll on your joints over time, so get strong, but there’s no reason to crush yourself in your 30s.

Pump Up the Jams

After you’ve built your level of strength, the rest of your training should be done as if you were a bodybuilder. Training for higher reps not only induces sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, that’s where your muscles cells get larger and swollen (i.e., swole), but it feels good, and it’s easier on your joints than pounding endless reps of heavy weight.

  • High rep, low weight pump work
  • Supersets
  • Trisets
  • Quadsets

The strategies above have been used by bodybuilders for decades. And not only will they help you build more muscle in your 30s, but they’ll save you time. Do you have the time with work, family, and all your other commitments to hang out in the gym for two hours? I thought so. These strategies are the perfect way to train your accessory movements and build bigger, larger, more eye-popping muscles.

how to look your best in your 30s

When you’re time crunched and only have 20 minutes left to spend in the gym supersets, trisets, quadsets, or high rep pump work can help you squeeze in more work in less time.

For instance, combining an incline dumbbell bench press with dumbbell squeeze presses into a superset will push your muscles to the limit. And if you keep your rest to 60 seconds or less, it will take you less than 5 minutes to perform 3-4 sets of this superset.

Or, you could do a tri-set of push-ups, dumbbell rows, and rear delt flys; resting for 90 seconds between sets here (no rest between exercises). You’ll hit every muscle in your upper body then and create more metabolic stressors in less time.

For the truly time crunched, quadsets will give you a pump so intense Arnold would have an orgasm. They look something like this:

1A Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 8-10 reps for 3-4 sets; no rest

1B Incline Dumbbell Row – 10-12 reps for 3-4 sets; rest for 30 seconds before moving on

1C Dumbbell Upright Row – 8-10 reps for 3-4 sets; no rest

1D Dumbbell Shrugs – as many reps as possible; rest for 90-120 seconds


Leg day might look like this:

1A Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift – 8-10 reps for 3-4 sets; no rest

1B Dumbbell Split Squat – 10-12 reps per side 3-4 sets; 30 second rest

1C Dumbbell Curls – 12-15 reps 3-4 sets; no rest

1D Dumbbell Calf Raises – as many reps as possible; rest for 90-120 seconds

Building and maintaining strength is priority number one. After that, it’s all about connecting with your inner Arnold. Plus, pump work leaves you feeling swole, keeps you looking younger, and it’s also easier on your joints.

Yes, lifting is taking care of your body; but hammering it into the ground so that you can reach some arbitrary number on your deadlift or bench, isn’t always the healthiest goal. You still have to take care of yourself. And, you’re not getting younger, bucko.

So find a level of strength you can maintain or slowly grow at small intervals. And then focus on feeling your muscles and training more like a bodybuilder by focusing more on dumbbell and hammer strength machine exercises.

You Can’t (Spell) Score without Core

Yes, you need to train your core. In fact, you should train your core directly at least 2-3 times a week. But as you age, it’s less about abs that pop, and more about maintaining strength and stability.

Every step you take, every move you make, your core is watching you engaging to balance and efficiently move your body. But if your core is weaker than a Sting baseline, then you’re in for a whole host of trouble.

Yes, the big three lifts — squat, bench, deadlift — require a strong core. But direct core work will make you—and your squat, bench, and deadlift—a heck of alot stronger.

how to look your best in your 30s

Besides, who DOESN’T want shredded abs?

This is the age where you need to think more about the future, and less about having abs that make men/women swoon. The stronger and more stable your core: the longer and more efficiently and effectively you’ll be able to train. Plus a strong core is the best protection against injury.

And do you want to tell people you injured yourself while trying to pick up your kid(s), playing a pickup game with your boys, or reaching for something high on the shelf? I thought not.

Forget crunches and sit-ups, those are for the young gym bros who don’t know any better. Focus your efforts on ab wheel rollouts, pallof presses (kneeling,tall-kneeling, and half-kneeling), planks of all kinds, lying leg lifts, and hanging leg raises. (And maybe the occasional crunch on a swiss ball.)

Stop eating like a jackass: eat like a man

You’re reading a fitness site. My hope is that you’ve taken all its information and changed your eating habits. But to operate at your optimum levels, nutrition plays an even bigger role as you age. So, eat cleaner, dude.

I’m not saying you can’t have a cookie or pizza or wings. What I’m saying is that as you age, it gets easier to eat like a 6-year-old. But unlike a 6-year-old whose only stressors are the kid who won’t let them play in the block section at school, you have a thousand other things attacking your brain each day.

And guess what? Gorging yourself on Pop-Tarts and Cheetos won’t make you feel better (maybe in the moment, but not long term) and it sure as hell isn’t going to help you look your best naked.

The same diet that you followed to get lean in your 20s, if you got lean in your 20s, is the same diet that will get you back in top shape in your 30s. But there are a few caveats.

Eat more fiber: as you age, your body requires more fiber. And you can meet this goal by eating more berries, replacing your crappy fast f ood breakfast with oats, or eating four to five servings of green veggies a day.

Keep Protein High: Okay, it’s not that high. But keep your protein at 1g per pound of bodyweight even in your 30s. You’ll stay fuller longer, preserve more muscle mass while you lose fat, and give your body the tools it needs to build muscle.

Eat a Wider Variety of Foods: Yes, you can make a huge transformation by eating the bro diet of chicken, rice, and broccoli. But as you age, you need to give your body more micronutrients. You get these from eating a wide array of veggies, fruits, and even different grains.

Gut Bacteria: There’s a ton of research coming out these days on why/how your gut bacteria is vital to overall health. Healthy gut bacteria can make digestion easier as you age, and help you better absorb nutrients to keep you performing at high(er) levels. Add greek yogurt to your shake, top your steak with sauerkraut, or drink a daily dose of Kombucha.

Rethink your booze: drink whiskey

Beer isn’t to blame for beer bellies. It’s all the other stuff you eat while drunk that contributes to that keg you carry around. Good beer, not that Michelob Ultra tastes-like-stale-horse-piss beer, is typically high in calories.

  • IPAs
  • Porters
  • Stouts
  • Double IPAs
  • Russian Imperial Stouts

They all carry high amounts of alcohol, and many times top 200-250 calories per serving; if they’re topping 9-12% alcohol, they’ll be even heavier on the calories.

But whiskey, on the other hand, packs half the calories with twice the amount of alcohol. And most of the time, a good whiskey will cost you about the same or a couple dollars more than that 8% craft brew.

how to look your best in your 30s

That ain’t no Michelob.

Buy clothes that fit: find what looks great on you, and buy a ton of it

So you’ve built a great body: lean, muscular, strong. So why do you still wear clothes that make you look like a schlup?

Here’s a truth about life: the better you look, the better people treat you—and yes, that includes the clothes you wear.

But you don’t need to break the bank to look great. Invest in 1-2 comfortable and stylish t-shirts and jeans that make you feel and look your best. They don’t need to be $150 pairs of clothing, but if they look great on you, and you feel like a god wearing them, consider it an investment.

Basically: Stop buying cheap ass clothes that look like crap on you. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a shirt at Old Navy that looks great on you. And if you do, buy a couple pairs of them. But most of the time, department store clothing isn’t made for the fit man. There are companies like Trim, however, who do build their clothing with weightlifters in mind.

Men’s fashion doesn’t change that much. So shop out of season for t-shirts, button downs, and jackets. I mean, sure, you might put on 5 pounds of muscle during Decembulk, but I doubt you grow out of that Schmedium t-shirt before next Spring.

Groom yourself: ear hair, eyebrow hair, etc

Hair shows up in weird places as you get older. Like, places you never noticed before. Needless to say, shaving becomes more than your beard. And that means it becomes a bit more of a hassle in the mornings.

That’s why it’s going to be important that you establish a solid morning routine (more on that below). So to look your best, you need to take a little extra time to examine if your nose hairs are starting to dangle like Spider-Man hanging from a building’s awning. No one wants to see that, and you don’t want to become known as “nose hair guy.”

Invest in Yourself

The hardest lesson you’ll learn in your 20s is that you know nothing. And if you want to live a long, happy, and fulfilled life, you need to invest in yourself.

There are two keys to self-improvement:

  1. Stay strong and maintain a solid physique. Because the stronger your body, the stronger your mind.
  2. Strengthen your mind and spirit with books, coaching, or therapy. Because above all: Investing in yourself is the greatest thing you can do—a stronger mind and spirit means more appreciation for what you have, and appreciation is the number one way to fight stress.

Increase your knowledge and gain new perspectives by reading books. Get a life coach to help you through tough times. And though men don’t talk about it a lot, mental health is vital to living to your highest potential.

Guys: seeking out a therapist to talk to about your problems and to gain perspective on how you can change is one of the most important things you can do for yourself; it’s not a weakness to talk to someone.

Be King of your time and day

What’s the most important time of the day?

  • Breakfast?
  • The meeting you have with a new client/boss at 2 pm?
  • That first sip of coffee?
  • Or is it when the clock strikes 5, and you head home for the day?
how to look your best in your 30s

Oh, that first sip of coffee.

The answer:

None of those are the most important. What is the most vital is the first thirty minutes of your day.

Did you notice what I said there? Your day. Whose day are you living right now?

Are you living your life or someone else’s? Your bosses? Your companies? Is your life ruled by social media? The government?

If you’re not living the life you want to live, then whose life are you living?

This is why the first thirty minutes of your day are vital to you living your life to the fullest. This is the time of the day where you set the tone of how you win. So what does your first thirty minutes look like?

Are you scrambling to get ready for work? Shoving unhealthy food in your face? Do you check email first thing, in bed? Do you scroll through your Facebook feed while you pop a squat on the toilet?

Every single example above is you reacting. Consuming. Living life by the desires of others. Instead, the first thirty minutes of the day should be your most selfish and protected time. Spend that time doing something that adds value to your life:

  • Exercise
  • Read
  • Paint
  • Meditate

The morning is the most critical time for you to plan and prepare for the day. Begin the day by

taking control of your time; not letting time (or others) control you. If you want to truly take control of your life, then first thing in the morning, write down the most important things you need to accomplish that day.

Schedule your day. Take control of your day the moment you wake up. And plan out what you’re going to do. Whatever you write down on your list must be treated with the highest of importance. Schedule your workouts, and treat them like a meeting you can’t miss.

Taking the time to write out what you see as the most important tasks for you that day, places you in charge of your time.

Bonus: Give back

Find a way to make the world a better place. Give to organizations that you can trust—that don’t take 71% of the money you donate for operating costs—and donate to them.

Volunteer your time. Help those in need. Mentor someone younger than you. Because everyday is one step closer to the grave. Leave a legacy that inspires those that come after you to pick up and continue carrying the torch.

The Age of the Modern Man

Your best years are not behind you—they’re ahead of you. Aging doesn’t mean you have to leave behind the strong and powerful physique of your youth for a Dadbod. This is the prime time of your life. Don’t spend the next few decades watching muscle fade away. Stay active, be smarter about how you train, and take charge of your life every single day. Because you only get one, so make it a great one.

About the Author

how to look your best at your 30sRobbie Farlow, King of the Gingers and Protector of the North, is an uber nerd who loves all things Star Wars, video games, Marvel, and 90s music. Oh and tacos and whiskey. When he isn’t hosting his podcast, Side Quest Podcast, where he interviews the smartest people in fitness, or helping his online coaching clients discover their inner superheroes, or fighting white walkers, you can find him playing video games, deadlifting, munching on tacos, or living by his motto: Scotch and Squats.