It’s Never too Late to Start: Tips for Building Muscle After 50
We've all seen those ripped “older” dudes with gray beards that look like jacked incarnations of Charles Darwin in his later years. As bizarre as it sounds, those guys are not anomalies. Building muscle after 50 years of age (and older) is entirely possible with the right training program and proper nutrition.
It’s never too late to transform your body from dad-/mom-bod to Greek god(ess) and increase your strength. In fact, strength training (e.g. weight lifting) will do a whole lot more for you beyond gaining muscle mass and making you physically stronger. Research has shown that resistance training can improve heart health/cardiovascular function, reduce the risk of sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss), and even strengthen joints (as counterintuitive as that may seem) .
But that doesn’t you'll be able to build muscle mass as fast and put up the same numbers on the bench press and in the squat rack as you might have been able to when you were younger. An unfortunate consequence of getting older is that the body starts to "slow down" a bit; your metabolic rate drops, anabolic hormones like testosterone decline, and joints become less resilient to mechanical stress.
As such, building muscle after 50 (or even 40) takes patience, persistence, and dedication. You will need to adapt your training as the years go by to maximize muscle growth and keep body fat from accumulating in those pesky regions around the waist and hips.
With that in mind, follow the tips in this article to maximize muscle growth, get fit, and stay in good health throughout your later years.
"How hard is building muscle after 50?"
Your body changes as you age. Hormones that help us burn fat and build muscle mass start to wane. Muscle tissue becomes less responsive to weight-training stimuli. Joints begin to lose their integrity. Basically, lots of aging factors make gaining muscle mass a bit tougher than it was during teenage and early adult years.
So, if you’ve caught the early train to "Gainzville," say at the age of fourteen or fifteen, then kudos to you! You will have an easier time stacking on muscle and staying lean for the foreseeable future.
If that's not the case, don't worry; it's never too late to gain lean muscle mass.
Frankly, it’s not about starting at the right age so much as it is about listening to your body and training according to your needs. If you were a sedentary individual up to this point, now is the time to get up and get moving if you want to reach your silver years with health, strength, and vigor.
Strength and physical performance in males and females typically peak between the ages of 25 and 40, but gaining muscle is achievable well beyond those years. After all, age is just a number.
Push Your Limits when Resistance Training
In many regards, the key to a healthy body is to be as strong as possible throughout your life. Think of it this way: you’re in your 50s, you’re feeling good, you’ve just been blessed with a grandchild, she’s running into your arms, you bend over to pick her up, and snap! Something pops in your lumbar region and you’re destined to spend the rest of your days with various aches and pains.
You don’t want to end up with a herniated or ruptured disk just because you’ve sneezed (it happens more often than you think) or because a 15-lb toddler was too heavy for you. Strength training can improve all aspects of your health and longevity. It's not just about building muscle mass, but the lasting benefits that will keep you healthy for years to come.
Keep your workouts rigorous, but not too lengthy. If you're pushing yourself hard on heavy compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and various presses, you should be exhausted after 45-60 minutes. Even three full-body workouts every week will be sufficient for building muscle mass.
Don't Slack on Cardio
Keeping the weights heavy doesn’t mean you should skip cardio altogether, and while cardio training should be a supplementary factor in your routine, you should raise the proverbial bar higher as you age, opting for more functional HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and GPP (general physical preparedness) instead of spending hours walking on the treadmill every day.
HIIT increases cardiovascular endurance and enhances your stamina through short bursts of intense exertion. Not only is HIIT more time-efficient than traditional steady-state cardio, but it also helps speed up your resting metabolic rate for 24-36 hours after finishing your workout .
Likewise, GPP, or "General Physical Preparedness," is a form of training that combines endurance exercise with strength training. GPP employs unconventional movements such as sandbag carries, kettlebell work, and pushing/pulling weighted sleds, for time or distance to get your heart rate up while improving muscle functionality. It's essentially "cardio for lifters."
Use GPP, HIIT, and occasional steady-state cardio workouts as needed to increase your energy expenditure and help your muscles recuperate between resistance workouts. Cardio is a necessary tool for peeling off stubborn layers of body fat and showing off all that new muscle mass you've been building.
Refuel and Recover
You may have been able to get away with eating a lot of sugary junk when you were in your teens and 20s, but after that, seemingly every guilty pleasure heads directly to your stomach and respective derriere. Why is that? Well, as we grow older, our metabolism slows down quite a bit. To make matters worse, the body loses its capacity to oxidize ("burn") fat for energy .
Intuitively, that means your nutrition and sleep cycles need to be dialed in for optimal recovery and muscle gain. Older adults typically require a little extra protein, so taking whey protein powder after training is wise if your goal is to build muscle mass.
Moreover, incorporate some dynamic stretching after your resistance workouts and cardio sessions to help keep your muscles limber and your joints agile. It may also be prudent to include yoga, meditation, and deep-tissue massages as part of your health and fitness routine.
Age Is Just a Number: You Can Gain Muscle After 40, 50, 60, and Beyond!
Aging is inevitable, but it's not to blame for being weak and out of shape. While older adults and seniors should refrain from any type of workout that hurts their joints or exacerbates a preexisting health condition, resistance training will stimulate new muscle growth (assuming your nutrition is on point). There are countless anecdotes of powerlifters and bodybuilders that partake in strength training well into their 80s and 90s.
Exercise should be a staple of your life as long as you have the capability to work up a sweat. A consistent fitness routine and eating a healthy diet are arguably the two most essential aspects of longevity.