Many people in their 40s and beyond worry that it’s too late to build any real muscle. Fortunately for them, they’re wrong!
Every week I get emailed by at least a few guys that ask if it’s too late to build muscle and get fit.
Most are very pleasantly surprised when I explain that it’s most definitely NOT too late, and that I’m regularly working with guys in their 50s and even 60s who are rapidly building muscle and getting into the best shape of their lives.
How should people in their 40s and beyond go about building muscle, though? Certainly they can’t train and eat like the 20-year-olds, right?
Well, you might be surprised to learn that not nearly as much changes as people think.
Let’s look at the details.
- Scientific Proof That the Middle-Aged Can Build Plenty of Muscle
- Training Tips for the Middle-Aged
- Diet Tips for the Middle-Aged
- Do you agree with this article? Have anything else you'd like to add? Let me know in the comments below!
Table of Contents
One of the first things I refer people worried about age squashing their dreams of being fit is a study conducted by the University of Oklahoma.
In this study, 24 college-aged (18 – 22) and 25 middle-aged (35 – 50) men followed the same weightlifting routine for 8 weeks.
Researchers used DEXA scans for pre- and post-routine measurements, and they found that the middle-aged men built just as much as their college-aged counterparts!
In fact, the middle-aged men built a little more on average, but it wasn’t enough to be statistically significant.
Strength gains were comparable as well:
- The middle-aged men gained an average of 14 pounds of strength on the bench press, and 40 pounds on the leg press.
- The college-aged men gained an average of 7 pounds of strength on the bench press, and 55 pounds on the leg press.
People 60 and beyond aren’t left out of the party, either.
Research has shown that they too can build significant amounts of muscle and strength, and that doing so is actually a great way to fight the “dwindling health spiral” normally associated with aging.
These findings agree with my experiences working with hundreds of men and women aged 40 – 70. One for one they are able to build visible muscle, get lean, and improve their overall health and well-being. In many cases, they’re able to get into the best shape of their lives.
The bottom line is you can get into great shape at any age.
If you’re middle-aged and excited to learn that it’s not too late, you’re probably wondering what’s the best way to go about it.
Fortunately, age doesn’t change much in terms of routine, but there are a few points you should know.
- While I’m a big proponent of heavy weightlifting, you may need to take it easy.
Heavy, compound lifting is the absolute best way to build muscle and strength. But it also demands a lot from your body–it causes considerable damage to your muscle fibers and places a large load on the joints.
You shouldn’t be afraid of heavy weightlifting, even if you’re in your 50s or 60s, but if you’re not an experienced weightlifter, I recommend you start your training in the 8 – 10 rep range and stay there until exercises feel very comfortable.
You can then move into 6 – 8 rep range and work with that until it feels completely stable and comfortable. You can then move into the 4 – 6 rep range, which I recommend in my Bigger Leaner Stronger program, but it’s not mandatory. You have to see how your body feels.
- Don’t ignore back, knee, shoulder, or other such issues.
If you have any lower back issues, don’t Deadlift unless instructed to do so by a physical therapist. The same goes for knee issues and squatting, and shoulder issues and pressing (both Bench and Military Press).
Work around such limitations–don’t try to blast through them, or you may wind up injured and out of the gym for months.
- Make sure you get adequate rest.
Recovery is a huge part of making gains in the gym–both muscle recovery and systemic recovery. If you neglect it and try to go all-out with your exercise, 7 days per week, you’ll just wind up overtrained.
While age actually doesn’t impair the recovery process nearly as much as some people think, research has shown that aging can make recovery take longer.
I have some good new for you:
Don’t worry about your metabolism–it’s fine.
A common worry among middle-aged people is that their metabolisms have slowed to a crawl, making weight loss or muscle growth nearly impossible. This isn’t true.
It’s true that aging causes some metabolic slowdown, but much of it is actually caused by the loss of lean mass (muscle).
Muscle burns calories, and we naturally lose muscle as we age, so our bodies burn less and less calories over time. The good news is that you can totally reverse this process with regular resistance training–it is NOT inevitable, nor “incurable.”
Do you agree with this article? Have anything else you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments below!
+ Scientific References
- Kerksick CM, Wilborn CD, Campbell BI, et al. Early-phase adaptations to a split-body, linear periodization resistance training program in college-aged and middle-aged men. J strength Cond Res. 2009;23(3):962-971. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a00baf
- Cruz-Jentoft AJ, Baeyens JP, Bauer JM, et al. Sarcopenia: European consensus on definition and diagnosis: Report of the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People. Age Ageing. 2010;39(4):412-423. doi:10.1093/ageing/afq034
- St-Onge M-P, Gallagher D. Body composition changes with aging: the cause or the result of alterations in metabolic rate and macronutrient oxidation? Nutrition. 2010;26(2):152-155. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2009.07.004
- Fell J, Williams D. The effect of aging on skeletal-muscle recovery from exercise: possible implications for aging athletes. J Aging Phys Act. 2008;16(1):97-115. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18268815. Accessed October 24, 2019.
- Hunter GR, McCarthy JP, Bamman MM. Effects of resistance training on older adults. Sport Med. 2004;34(5):329-348. doi:10.2165/00007256-200434050-00005
- American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998;30(6):992-1008. doi:10.1097/00005768-199806000-00033