I have many clients over the age of forty, and damn near every one of them, in one way or another, asks me, “Can you build muscle after 40.”
You’ve hit the big 4-0, so all hope is lost! Pack it in, take up knitting, and start yelling at those darn kids to get off your lawn. Because clearly, once you hit that magical number, your muscles evaporate, right?
Of course not! Let’s be real here. You’re 40, not 140. In fact, you’re in the prime of your life! You might not bounce back from a workout as quickly as you did when you were 20, but who cares? You’ve got experience, wisdom, and, hopefully, a little more patience. With regular strength training, a balanced diet rich in protein, and plenty of rest, you can absolutely build muscle.
So, toss that “I’m too old” excuse out of the window, put on your gym shoes, and show those weights what you’re made of! Because it’s never too late to start building muscle, no matter what the number on your birthday cake says.
Table of Contents
Benefits of Building Muscle After 40
Building muscle after the age of 40 carries a multitude of benefits that can significantly enhance one’s quality of life. Firstly, it contributes to a higher metabolism, which aids in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling body fat percentage.
Regular strength training also promotes bone health, helping to stave off osteoporosis and other age-related bone conditions. The physical strength gained through building muscle can improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and injuries as one age.
Beyond the physical, muscle building can boost mental health too. Regular exercise relieves stress, improves sleep, and fosters a general sense of well-being. Moreover, the discipline and dedication required for muscle building can spill over into other aspects of life, enhancing overall productivity and self-confidence.
Lastly, but certainly not least, achieving muscle growth after 40 can challenge societal norms about aging, serving as a powerful reminder that age is just a number, and it’s never too late to embark on a fitness journey.
Tips for Building Muscle Post 40
- Start Slowly: Especially if you’re new to strength training, it’s essential to begin with lower-intensity exercises and gradually increase as your body adapts. This helps avoid injury and makes the process more manageable.
- Consistency is Key: Regular workouts are essential for muscle growth. Aim for strength training sessions 2-3 times per week.
- Prioritize Protein: Protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth. Make sure to include enough high-quality protein in your diet.
- Don’t Skip the Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Warming up before a workout prepares your body for exercise while cooling down afterward aids recovery.
- Focus on Form: Proper technique is more important than the weight you lift. Incorrect form can lead to injuries and muscle imbalances.
- Include All Muscle Groups: Full-body workouts ensure that you’re building muscle uniformly and reducing the risk of injury.
- Get Enough Rest: Your body needs time to recover and build muscle, so ensure you get plenty of sleep and rest between heavy workouts.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water supports overall health, aids digestion, and keeps your body functioning optimally during workouts.
- Consider Hiring a Trainer: A trainer can provide guidance on proper form, workout routines, and nutrition, making your fitness journey more effective and safer.
- Listen to Your Body: If something feels wrong, it probably is. Don’t push through pain; ensure you’re getting enough recovery time.
Everyone’s body responds differently to exercise, so what works for one person might not work for another. Be patient with yourself and celebrate each small victory along your journey to building muscle.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Overdoing It: As we age, recovery times can increase. Working out too hard or too often can lead to injury and burnout. Listen to your body and allow adequate rest.
- Neglecting Nutrition: Proper nutrition, especially adequate protein intake, is essential for muscle growth. Not consuming enough nutrients can hinder your progress.
- Ignoring Flexibility and Mobility Work: While focusing on strength training is essential, don’t neglect the importance of maintaining and improving your flexibility and mobility. Incorporating activities like yoga or stretching can help prevent injuries.
- Incorrect Form: Proper form is critical when weightlifting. Incorrect form can lead to imbalances and injuries. Consider hiring a personal trainer or taking a class to ensure you use the correct form.
- Not Prioritizing Recovery: Rest days are when your muscles heal and grow. Skipping out on rest days or insufficient sleep can hamper your progress and lead to injuries.
- Using Too Heavy Weights Too Soon: Lifting weights that are too heavy for you, especially without proper form, can result in injury. Start with lighter weights and focus on maintaining proper form before gradually increasing the weight.
- Not Drinking Enough Water: Staying hydrated is important for overall health and exercise performance. It aids in nutrient transportation and muscle recovery.
- Ignoring Other Health Factors: Health is multifaceted. Ensure you’re also focusing on cardiovascular, mental, and overall well-being.
- Setting Unrealistic Expectations: Building muscle takes time, especially as we age. Don’t be discouraged if progress seems slow. Celebrate every small improvement.
- Skipping the Warm-up or Cool-down: Both warm-ups and cool-downs are essential parts of a workout. They prepare your body for exercise, help prevent injuries, and aid in recovery.
Remember, it’s never too late to start a fitness journey. Listen to your body, be patient with yourself, and remember that progress is progress, no matter how small it may seem.
Supplements for Building Muscle
Incorporating certain supplements into your diet can support your efforts to build muscle after 40. However, supplements should always be used in conjunction with a balanced diet and exercise regime, not as a replacement. Before starting any supplement regimen, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider. Here are some supplements that might be helpful:
- Protein Powder: Adequate protein intake is crucial for muscle growth and repair. If you find it hard to meet your protein needs through diet alone, a high-quality protein powder can be beneficial. Whey and casein are popular choices, but there are also plant-based options for those who prefer them.
- Creatine: This is one of the most researched supplements in sports nutrition. It can help increase strength, power, and muscle size, and it’s generally considered safe for healthy adults.
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): These essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) play a vital role in muscle protein synthesis and may help speed up recovery after workouts.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Besides promoting heart health, these fats may help reduce muscle soreness and increase muscle protein synthesis. They can be found in fish oil supplements.
- Vitamin D: Many people are deficient in vitamin D, especially as they age. This vitamin plays a critical role in bone health, immune function, and may also support muscle function.
- Magnesium: This mineral is essential for muscle function and recovery. It can also aid in sleep, which is an important part of muscle growth and repair.
- Beta-Alanine: This non-essential amino acid can help buffer acid in muscles, leading to increased endurance and performance during high-intensity exercise.
Remember, supplements can help, but they won’t do the work for you. Consistency in training, proper nutrition, and adequate rest are the most important factors for muscle growth after 40.
Recovery Strategies When You’re Past Forty
Ensuring proper recovery is a key component of a successful muscle-building regimen, especially for those over 40, as recovery times can lengthen with age. Here are some strategies to aid recovery:
- Rest Days: Incorporate rest days into your workout schedule to allow your muscles time to repair and grow. Overtraining can lead to injury and hinder your progress.
- Sleep: Prioritize good sleep hygiene. During sleep, your body produces growth hormones that aid in muscle recovery and growth. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
- Hydration: Drinking plenty of water can aid in muscle recovery by helping to transport nutrients to your muscles and eliminate waste products.
- Nutrition: Consume a balanced diet rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Protein is particularly important for muscle repair and growth.
- Active Recovery: On your rest days, consider gentle movement like walking, cycling, or yoga. Active recovery can help promote blood circulation and speed up the muscle recovery process.
- Stretching and Mobility Exercises: Regular stretching and mobility work can help prevent stiffness and improve flexibility, aiding in recovery and injury prevention.
- Massage or Foam Rolling: These techniques can help alleviate muscle tightness and soreness, and promote blood flow to your muscles, aiding in recovery.
- Supplements: Certain supplements, such as protein powder, BCAAs, and omega-3 fatty acids, can support muscle recovery. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.
- Meditation and Stress Management: High levels of stress can hinder recovery and muscle growth. Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or other stress management practices can be beneficial.
- Listen to Your Body: Everyone’s recovery needs are different. If you’re feeling excessively tired, sore, or rundown, it might be a sign that you need more rest.
Recovery is a crucial part of building muscle after 40. A well-rounded approach that includes adequate rest, proper nutrition, hydration, and stress management can help optimize your muscle recovery and growth.
The Best Nutrition Plan To Build Muscle
If you want to make the most of your life at 40, create a good nutrition plan. Eat various foods and avoid preserved, high-calorie, and processed foods. Make your meals colorful with fruits and vegetables for a healthier body at 40.
To figure out your nutrition plan, you first need to know your goal; you will either start on a cutting phase or a bulking cycle.
- Bulking is when you want to start building muscle mass; to do this, you need to be on a calorie surplus.
- Cutting is when you feel you have too much excess body fat and want to slim down before building muscle.
To find out how many calories you need to eat daily, go to my calorie calculator and follow the instructions.
This nutrition plan is formed around a diet of 2000 calories a day; most bulking people will be on a higher daily calorie diet. So I wanted to base it on a nice round number to easily change it to your calorie needs. If you have trouble modifying the diet to fit your calorie needs, email me or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help you.
Meal 1 (Breakfast)
|1 Whole Egg||69||8||0||5|
|1 Egg White||16||5||0||0|
|2 slices of Ezekiel toast||170||8||30||2|
|Two slices of Ezekiel toast||36||0||9||0|
|135 grams blueberries||80||1||19||0|
Meal 2 (Shake)
|1/2 scoop of whey protein powder||65||12||2||1|
|250 ml of unsweetened almond milk||31||1||0||3|
|20g of natural peanut butter||130||6||4||10|
|2 ice cubes||0||0||0||0|
Meal 3 (Lunch)
|75g cooked chicken breast or 75g of|
turkey breast or 75g of shrimp or 95g
|250g of cooked white or brown rice||287||7||58||3|
|125g of cooked broccoli||48||3||9||0|
Meal 4 (Snack)
|50g oatmeal dry measurement||191||7||34||3|
|Two teaspoons honey||48||0||12||0|
|30g mixed nuts||195||6||9||15|
Meal 5 (Dinner)
|85g cooked lean beef||149||26||0||5|
|255g sweet potato||204||5||46||0|
|125g cooked carrots||44||1||10||0|
|One teaspoon extra virgin olive oil||45||0||0||5|
This is only an example and is not meant to be taken as your only choice; you can easily modify this to your liking or use it as a guideline. Just remember to include all three significant macronutrients in your diet plan.
There are 3 different types of thinking about fitness routines when you’re older.
- Isolation moves – This is when you work out 4 to 5 days a week, with each activity commonly targeting two muscle groups. Many people prefer this method because it is less stressful due to the lighter weight you’ll be using. One negative is that you need time to work out 4 to 5 times weekly.
- Multi-joint exercises – These workouts are based around moves like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses, where you’re using heavier weights and working for multiple muscle groups in one action. The benefit of these exercises is that while the workout may take longer, you only have to do them 2 or 3 times a week since you’re working out your entire body. I prefer these types of moves because I enjoy lifting heavy, and they burn the most calories making them a great way to keep excess fat from accumulating.
- Entire body split routine – This is where you would do your upper body one day, then your lower body another, and keep alternating; some people feel like they can give a more intense workout when they split their full-body activities into two different days.
I will mix moves between free weights and machines because this is the best way to build muscle. If you only have access to free weights, email me or leave a comment below telling me which exercise you need a substitute for, and I’ll let you know the best free weight option for that exercise.
I will give examples of both types of fitness routines. That way, you can experiment independently and decide which method works best for you.
Monday- Back – Shoulders – Biceps
|Overhand pull up||3||5-7|
|Lat pull in||2||8-10|
|Standing one-arm cable curl||3 per arm||8-10|
|Supinating dumbbell curl||2||5-7 per arm|
Wednesday – Legs
|Barbell hip thrust||2||8-10|
|45 Degree leg press||3||8-10|
|Lying leg curl||3||8-10|
|Standing machine calf raises||3||10-12|
|Standing machine calf raise||3||8-10|
Thursday – Chest – Shoulders – Triceps – Abs
|Flat barbell press||3||5-7|
|Incline dumbbell press||2||5-7|
|Incline bench dumbbell lateral raise||3||10-12|
|One arm overhead cable extension||3 per arm||8-10|
|Narrow grip dip||2||8-10|
|Hanging leg raise||2||10-12|
|One-arm overhead cable extension||2 per side||30 to 60 seconds|
Remember, this is just an example, and you can modify it in a thousand different ways to create a plan that works best for you.
Full Body Workout Routine
|Standing lateral cable raise||3||5-7|
|Lying leg curl||3||8-10|
|standing machine calf raises||2 per arm||10-12|
|Incline dumbbell curl||2||8-10|
|standing machine calf raise||3||8-10|
A healthy debate is evolving around how many times per week you should do a full-body workout. My personal preference is twice a week; here’s why.
Full-body workouts are very demanding and labor-intensive; if you’re not in peak physical shape, it will take a couple of days for your body to recover, and if you’re back in the gym lifting weights before your body has ample time to recover, you’re going to hurt yourself rather than adding muscle mass.
When you lift weights, you’re only sparking the steps needed for your body to build muscle, but your body doesn’t actually repair your muscle until you’re at rest.
This is why training your entire body more than two times a week is detrimental and will cause adverse results rather than positive ones.
Full Body Split Routine
Split routines are the best of both worlds; you get to lift heavy weights and perform high-intensity moves while still being able to work out every other day without worrying about overtraining any one body part.
|Flat dumbbell press||3||5-7|
|Chest-supported T-bar row||3||5-7|
|One-arm overhead cable extension||3||8-10|
|Seated overhead dumbbell press||3||5-7|
|Incline cable fly||2||8-10|
|Standing one arm cable curl||3 per arm||8-10|
|Face pulls||3 per arm||8-10|
|Romanian dumbbell deadlift||3||8-10|
|Walking dumbbell lunge||2||5-7 per leg|
|Lying leg curl||3||8-10|
|Seated machine hip abduction||2||10-12|
|Leg press calf raise||3||8-10|
|Kneeling rope crunch||2||10-12|
|Hanging leg raise||1||10-12|
How Often Should You Do Cardio
Which workout routine you pick will determine how often you do cardio workouts.
A couple of things you need to consider when deciding how much cardio to do per week are, don’t do so much cardio that you put yourself into a calorie deficit instead of a calorie surplus.
You also want to watch too much cardio and not give your muscles time to repair themselves, especially after leg day.
- Full-body workouts – The day after you do a full-body workout, you’ll either want to take a day off or do a very light cardio day to loosen and stretch your muscles.
- Isolated exercises – If you’re motivated enough, you can do cardio training the day after your strength training workouts, this way; you can work out 5 or 6 times a week if you want; make sure not to overdo it because this can lead to your body not getting enough rest.
- Split workouts – This is the same premise as full-body workouts. Still, since they’re not as strenuous, you might be able to get away with a higher intensity cardio than if you were doing full-body workouts.
What Cardio Workouts Should You Do
Cardiovascular exercises are any aerobic exercise that makes your heart beat faster, gets your blood flowing quicker, and forces your body to bring oxygen to your organs and muscles, creating a fat-burning effect.
The graph below is just a sample to show you how you could incorporate different types of cardio any day of the week; this will obviously change depending on your weight training days.
|Mon||HIIT training||15-25 minutes||Sprint interval workouts|
|Tues||Moderate intensity||40-60 minutes||Jogging|
|Wed||Low intensity||All-day||Try to walk 8000 12000 steps|
|Thurs||High intensity||35-60 minutes||Treadmill, elliptical, rowing|
|Fri||Moderate intensity||30-40 minutes||Circuit training|
|Sat||Low intensity||45-60 minutes||yoga, bike ride, swimming|
|Sun||Static stretching||30 minutes||Stretch each body part, yoga|
Tips To Help You Prevent Injury When Working Out
- Listen to your body – No one knows your body as you do; if you wake up and you’re hurting worse than normal, try warming up to loosen your muscles, but in the end, if you don’t feel comfortable working out, wait one more day. It’s better than injuring yourself and being unable to work out for days, weeks, or months.
- Learn to use compression sleeves – Many people, including myself, notice less fatigue, swelling, and soreness throughout the muscles while wearing a compression sleeve. This leads to longer, more productive workouts because of better circulation.
- Don’t push yourself – I have seen many older men come into the gym and try to lift like they were 20 years old again; the weights will make you remember your age faster than any person can. Drop your ego at the door and approach your fitness routine smartly. It takes a while to build muscle; if you try to sprint to the finish line, you will get hurt.
- Stretch and warm up properly – I can’t emphasize how important it is to spend enough time warming up, especially as you get older. Warming up increases your heart rate; circulation loosens the joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. It also prepares the central nervous system to lift heavy and hard.
- Try different techniques to see what fits you best – One way to work out doesn’t fit all; try supersets, drop sets, tri-sets, and circuit sets. These are great ways to bring versatility to your routine and, when incorporated correctly, will give you great results.
- Don’t ignore rest days – There is such a thing as overtraining, no matter what the dumbass 20-year-old at your gym says. If you don’t rest enough
Building muscle after the age of 40 is not only possible but also highly beneficial. By engaging in a combination of regular strength training, adequate protein consumption, and appropriate rest, individuals over 40 can achieve significant muscle growth. The various advantages, such as enhanced physical strength, improved mobility, reduced risk of injury, and a boost in overall health and well-being, make this pursuit incredibly worthwhile.
However, it’s important to remember that everybody is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it’s vital to listen to your body and adopt a balanced approach, gradually increasing the intensity and volume of exercise. Consulting with health professionals like dietitians and personal trainers can also be advantageous to ensure that the regime you are following is safe and tailored to your needs.
The aging process may pose certain challenges, but these can be overcome with persistence, proper guidance, and a positive attitude. A healthy 40 isn’t just about the physical results; it’s about embracing a healthier, more active lifestyle and proving to yourself that age is indeed just a number. The journey towards improved strength and fitness can lead to a heightened sense of self-confidence, better quality of life, and an enriched sense of personal accomplishment. So, no matter your age, it’s never too late to start.