It’s widely believed that building muscle after 50 is impossible thanks to low testosterone, joint problems, and an inevitable decline in muscle and bone loss. Not only is it possible to build and maintain muscle, but with a muscle-building and hormone-boosting diet combined with a well-programmed exercise protocol, it can be easy.
Breaking the Myth: Building Muscle After 50 Is Not Only Possible, It’s Essential
- It’s never too late to build muscle—you can build muscle regardless of your age.
- A well-programmed strength training program for building muscle after 50 includes heavy resistance training combined with high-intensity cardiovascular exercise.
- A healthy, high-protein diet supplements a resistance training program to build muscle, increase bone density, and burn fat.
The Myth of Muscle Building After 50
You may fall trapped into the common misconception that building muscle as you age is impossible. It’s a widespread belief among aging men primarily because of age-related decreases in hormones required to build muscle.
According to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, men are more than capable of building muscle regardless of age. One study found that progressive strength training and high-intensity exercise in people over 60 effectively build muscle, reduce sarcopenia, and retain motor function.
Muscles and Aging
Once you hit your 30s, functional changes start to happen in your body, breaking down your muscles—it’s called sarcopenia, or age-related decline of skeletal muscle tissue. It’s one of the leading causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. But while you may not be able to completely prevent the onset of sarcopenia as you age—the causes of multifactoral—you don’t have to let it happen to the extent most older men experience it.
On top of that, strength can also decline with age, which means fat starts to infiltrate muscles. Experts term this sarcopenic obesity. The result is less strength, less muscle mass, and more fat—the trifecta for poor health.
When this happens, you’re left dealing with reduced physical function and a lower quality of life, maybe even going so far as disability and early death if left unchecked.
But the good news: this doesn’t have to be your path. When you focus on proper nutrition, training, sleep, and recovery, building muscle after 50 and avoiding sarcopenia and hormone imbalances is possible.
The Science Behind Muscle Building After 50
Most men are under the impression that building muscle in your 40s and 50s is an uphill battle—but it’s not. While it may be slightly more challenging than previously, all you need is the proper nutrition strategy and the appropriate exercises to beat aging and build muscle. Here, it’s all about maximizing testosterone production naturally through diet and exercise—resulting in muscle growth and fat loss.
Take a look at this study and see what I mean.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated the differences between muscle growth 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 at the numbers, middle-aged men built more muscle than college-aged men, albeit only slightly.
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
Even in your 60s, building muscle is possible. One study found that 60-year-old men can build significant amounts of muscle and strength, which helps to prevent the adverse effects of aging on health, such as loss of function, muscle loss (sarcopenia), bone density decreases, joint dysfunction and pain, and more.
So, what’s the difference between older and younger men?
Exercise inherently produces a signal that triggers muscle growth. In younger men, that signal is strong, but in older men’s muscles, that signal for muscle growth is much weaker, meaning building and maintaining muscle mass becomes increasingly difficult. However, research shows promising results. One study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that male participants averaging 60 years old gained 2 kg of fat-free mass and also lost 2 kg of fat mass during 16 weeks of training.
In summary, there are a few things that change as you age that alter how you build muscle:
- Recovery: Muscle recovery after workouts tends to slow down.
- Hormones: Anabolic hormones that control muscle mass—growth hormone and testosterone—decrease with age. This can slow the muscle-building process down.
- Anabolic resistance: Muscle protein synthesis is stimulated to a much higher degree in young people but begins to slow after age 50. You can still build muscle, but not as quickly as before—this is called “anabolic resistance,” and inactivity and systemic inflammation are two big culprits.
Long story short, while you may not be able to gain muscle as easily as younger men, by choosing the right workouts, you can still:
- Fight sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss)
- Balance hormones
- Increase metabolic rate
The takeaway: Age is just a number. Regardless of your age, the basics of building muscle are the same. While age impacts how quickly you see progress, you can support it more effectively by choosing the right exercises and training strategies.
Health Benefits of Building Muscle After 50
Hitting the weights and packing on the muscle mass can get you shredded and build a six-pack, but building muscle and burning fat is more than just aesthetics—it’s an essential part of your overall health.
Here’s why building muscle after 50 should be a priority:
- Increases metabolism
- Improves bone density (and counteracts bone density loss)
- Boosts mental health
- Prevents low testosterone
- Improves physical function
- Reduces joint aches and pains
- Prevents age-related chronic diseases
The ‘Muscle After 50’ Workout
Building muscle as you age is an important part of staying healthy—but not just any old workout will cut it.
This 18-Minute Muscle After 50 Workout is the perfect solution for men over 50 looking to enhance strength, build muscle, and boost metabolism! It’s a high-energy circuit utilizing the power of Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) to deliver effective results in minimal time. This workout is designed to build muscle and burn fat by targeting all major muscle groups to promote muscle mass and endurance.
MRT combines the best of strength and cardio training to maximize fat-burning and keep your metabolism revved up even after you’re finished working out. And because it’s a short circuit, there are no excuses, even if you’re short on time.
Every exercise can be adapted to match your fitness level. Whether new to fitness or an experienced gym-goer, this workout suits your needs.
Here’s what you’ll do:
18-Minute Muscle After 50 Workout
Perform each exercise for 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest, one after the other, for three straight rounds.
Total Time = 18 minutes
- Dumbbell Squat to DB Stiff Legged Deadlift
- Seesaw DB Bent Over Rows
- Legs Up Alternating DB Floor Chest Press
- Dumbbell Zottman Biceps Curls
- Lying Single Triceps Skull Crushers
- DB Shoulder Shrugs
If you need a visual of the exercises, you can find the 18-Minute Muscle After 50 Workout on my YouTube channel!
Everything I’ve said sounds great, but how practical is it to give you all the information and send you off? The road to muscle growth and fat loss can be a challenge, and staying motivated is tricky if you’re not seeing immediate progress—I mean, we all love instant gratification, but it’s not going to serve us here. When it comes to fitness, sometimes slow and steady wins the race. It’s all about being honest with yourself, pushing through the hard workouts, and being consistent.
Here are some things to keep in mind to keep yourself motivated during this journey:
- Set achievable goals: Use the SMART principles to set realistic and attainable goals for yourself.
- Celebrate the small wins: Whether you increase your weight or more volume becomes easier, celebrate your progress—regardless of how big or small.
- Find a workout buddy: Accountability is big, and keeping ourselves accountable is often tricky. Finding someone to workout with or joining an online group can help keep your motivation high, hold you accountable for your workouts, and help you achieve your goals!
- Don’t beat yourself up: We all have off days or days where we’re so swamped we don’t have time to workout. Don’t beat yourself up—get back on track the next day and keep moving forward.
Building muscle and burning fat can be tricky on the best days, but when biological processes stack the odds against you, it can be even tougher. But armed with the right tools to keep your diet and training program on track, your muscle-building journey after 50 awaits you.
Good things take time, so don’t expect to see major growth overnight. With a bit of dedication and a lot of consistency, you’ll surprise yourself with how quickly you can build muscle as you age—and look and feel the best you’ve ever felt.
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