You might have heard that gaining muscle after 50 isn’t easy—in fact, people may tell you it’s impossible—but with the right metabolic workout and the proper exercises, you can build muscle, burn fat, and look your best in your 50s, 60s, and beyond.
Gaining Muscle After 50—Is It Possible?
Putting on muscle mass in your 20s and 30s is easy, but once you enter your 40s, low hormone levels and aches and pains make building muscle and burning fat tricky—but not impossible. Gaining muscle after 50 is not only important to look good, but it’s also essential to maintain a good quality of life and healthy aging.
Regardless of age, the muscle-building process is the same, but as you age, certain biological processes that build muscle from exercise become less efficient, meaning building strength is trickier with age. Ready to learn how to effectively gain muscle in your 50s?
Here’s what you need to know.
Can You Gain Muscle After 50?
Contrary to popular belief, gaining muscle after 50 doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. With the right strategy and the appropriate exercises, it’s easy to beat aging and build muscle. Society has led men to believe low testosterone makes putting on muscle mass nearly impossible. While hormone imbalances make it more difficult, there are simple ways to boost testosterone and maximize muscle growth.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at early-phase adaptations in body composition and strength in college-aged men (18-22 years) and middle-aged men (35-50 years). DEXA scans showed that middle-aged men built muscle just as well as college-aged men, gaining roughly 2.5 pounds and 2 pounds of muscle, respectively. But if you look closely, middle-aged men built more muscle than college-aged men, but it wasn’t enough to be statistically significant.
Strength gains were also similar. Here’s what the numbers show:
- Middle-aged men gained an average of 14 pounds of strength on the bench press and 40 pounds on the leg press
- College-aged men gained an average of 7 pounds of strength on the bench press and 55 pounds on the leg press
But muscle growth isn’t just for middle-aged men. You can still gain mass if you’re in your 50s and 60s. Some research shows that 60-year-old men can build significant amounts of muscle and strength, which helps to prevent the adverse effects of aging on health.
Simply put, age is just a number, and the basics of building muscle are the same whether you’re 25 or 55. That said, age impacts how quickly you progress, and while you may not be able to dictate how fast you’ll gain muscle, you can support it more effectively by choosing the right exercises and training strategies.
Why the difference? Exercise inherently produces a signal that triggers muscle growth. In younger men, that signal is relatively strong, but in older people’s muscles, the signal for muscle growth is much weaker, meaning increasing muscle mass is more challenging as you age. For most men, the big 5-0 is the start, becoming more pronounced as you age. Further, changes in genes may be partly responsible for the difference between muscle accretion in older and younger men. One study found changes in more than 150 genes in younger men in response to resistance exercises and changes to the expression of only 42 genes in older men, which may account for some of the visible variations between how young and older people respond to strength training.
When you combine the molecular differences between how younger and older people respond to strength training, the result is that men over 50 don’t gain muscle mass as easily as younger people. But don’t let this discourage you. By choosing the right workouts, you can:
- Fight sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss)
- Balance hormones
- Increase metabolic rate
Metabolic Workouts For Gaining Muscle After 50
If you want to gain muscle at 50, you need to be strategic about how you train. Not only will the bro workouts if your 20s probably not fly, but they can also increase your risk of injury. Rather than pushing as much weight as possible, consider taking a step back and focusing on form and technique, then worry about increasing weight.
For men over 50, injury prevention becomes huge, and using a bench can work to your advantage. Benches are great for adding support to minimize injury risk and increase stability during challenging movements to target the muscles you want. You won’t gain mass or strength if you’re not hitting the proper muscles. And when you combine a bench with a pair of dumbbells, you’re looking at one of the most effective workouts for gaining muscle after 50.
- Build muscle
- Burn fat
- Increase metabolism
- Improve flexibility
- Reduce injury risk
But while grabbing some weights and getting comfortable with a bench is great, we’re not going after a high-weight, low-rep workout. Instead, we’re looking at metabolic resistance training. MRT is a combination of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise combined with resistance training using dumbbells. It’s a full-body workout that engages every muscle to raise your metabolism, build muscle, and burn fat.
With metabolic dumbbell training, we’re talking about three key benefits:
- Greater fat burn: Melt fat away by igniting the exercise post-oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect—an increase in your metabolism after exercise has stopped. Metabolic training can burn up to 30% more calories than other forms of exercise.
- More muscle growth: High-intensity workouts combined with strength training are great for increasing levels of testosterone and growth hormone, which are needed to increase lean mass accretion. HIIT training and MRT workouts produce a larger adaptive response by recruiting greater numbers of muscle fibers and providing a larger cardiorespiratory signal to the body to adapt. Better adaptation means better muscle growth.
- Better cardiovascular fitness: Why spend hours on a treadmill when you can reap the cardiovascular benefits in less than 30 minutes? Studies suggest that MRT may not improve VO2 max to a greater extent than running on a treadmill, but it does so in a fraction of the time, which means greater efficiency and efficacy.
What’s more, MRT may also:
- Improve heart health
- Enhance endurance
- Improve glucose control
Men are under the impression that gaining muscle after 50 is like hitting your head on a brick wall thanks to a slower metabolism and dropping hormones, but when you stack the right training program with a solid testosterone-boosting diet, you’re on the path to greater gains.
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