A lot of guys think that it's impossible to build muscle over 40; however, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it may actually be easier to build muscle over 40 than you think.
First, building muscle over 40 can be easier because the metabolism tends to slow down as we age. The only downside to this is that it also becomes very easy to put on lots of fat too.
The second reason building muscle over 40 can be easier is because older guys tend to rest more and are generally more sedentary. That also can also be bad, but if you are trying to build muscle this can be to your advantage.
When we are young we tend to be over active and burn excess calories, limiting our gains. When we’re older, we tend to slow down and conserve vital extra calories.
Now, all that said, we also have to point out the biggest factor that may hinder your ability to build muscle over 40: lower testosterone and other hormonal imbalances.
Over the age of around 32, our bodies start to experience a natural age related decline in androgenic hormones. Obviously, this process is different for everyone and doesn't effect some individuals until later in life, but it is likely to be an obstacle for most men.
If your goal is to reverse the #DadBod developing in the mirror, make sure you follow these 10 tips.
10 Tips for Building Muscle Over 40
Tip #1: Lift Heavy But Don't Hurt Yourself
If your goal is to build muscle over 40, you’ll still need to focus on lifting heavy and using compound movements that incorporate a lot of muscle.
Chances are you don’t have the free time to train as much as you did when you were younger, so focus on exercises that give you the most bang for your buck; e.g., presses, deadlifts, squats, lunges, etc.
It is also better to prioritize full body workouts that stimulate large amounts of muscle over body part split routines.
Tip #2: Focus on Time Under Tension
Related to tip #1 above, in order to build muscle over 40, you need to stimulate the nervous system enough to trigger an adaptive response. One of the most scientifically proven ways to do this is through increasing time under tension.
There are multiple ways to increase time under tension, but the two easiest ways are by slowing your rep speed down, or by increasing the total number of reps performed.
When it comes to rep speed, the slower you move the weight, the more stimulus and stress the muscles will receive. The sweet spot being a tempo of 1 to 3 seconds down and 1-3 seconds up on each rep.
The other way to increase time under tension is through increasing the overall number of reps performed on a particular exercise. If you’ve tried our REBUILD program (click here to try it), you know that we are big proponents of using a reverse pyramid rep scheme that really cranks up the total number of reps performed.
When performing a reverse pyramid the weight increases as the number of prescribed reps decreases (see below). Example of a Reverse Pyramid Rep Scheme typically would look something like this (# of reps per set): 15, 12, 10, 8, 10, 10.
Tip #3: Fasting and Time Restricted Eating
When it comes to eating and optimizing your recovery, following a Time Restricted Eating (TRE) and periodic fasting schedule can also help you build muscle over 40.
This is because studies have shown Time Restricted Eating and fasting to increase the production of human growth hormone and other androgens that are essential for building muscle and recovering efficiently from intense exercise.
Fasting and TRE may not be suitable for everyone, so always check with your doctor before starting a dedicated fasting schedule.
Tip #4: Optimize Your Hormones
As we mentioned in the introduction, one of the biggest obstacles for most men over 40 will be overcoming the body’s natural hormone decline that occurs as we age.
Following the tips provided in this post can definitely help, but it is a good idea to have your physician do blood work to determine where you stand in terms of your testosterone and other androgen levels.
If you’re interested in supplementing your body’s own hormone production, try adding Pine Pollen to your diet, which is a great source of plant based hormones and other phyto-androgens that may help support lean muscle growth and recovery.
Tip #5: Rest
Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
Your ability to build muscle over 40 will be greatly reduced if you aren’t getting adequate sleep. So turn off the devices, make your room pitch black, crank up the AC, and get some shut-eye.
Tip #6: SPRINT
Don’t waste time doing endless cardio on the treadmill or stationary bike. If you’re goal is to build muscle you should be focusing on doing sprints and other high intensity intervals that engage your fast twitch muscle fibers.
Not only does sprinting trigger more muscle growth, it is also better for burning fat. All out sprints on a basketball court are the easiest way to accomplish this, but you can also do bursts of all out effort on the regular cardio machines if that is all that you have.
Our favorites are the rowing machine and assault bike. You can read some of our sprint workout examples here:
Tip #7: Eat a Clean Diet Full of Superfoods
Getting sufficient macro and micro nutrients is absolutely essential to building muscle over the age of 40. The hectic pace of middle age can also be full of fast food and lots of empty calories that are more likely to grow your waist line than your muscles.
Focus on eating adequate amounts of protein, healthy saturated fats, and carbohydrates at every meal. It is also important to ensure you are getting plenty of nutrient dense superfoods in your diet so that you get all of the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes necessary to turn all that protein into dense muscle.
Some of our favorite superfoods include:
Tip #8: Drink Plenty of Clean Water
Dehydration is the number one disease in America and you’re probably one of the poor saps suffering from it. If you want to build muscle over 40 and feel your best, you need to drink 8-10 glasses of clean water daily.
Adequate hydration will help with all aspects of your training and recovery, including: sleep, flushing out lactic acid, etc.
As we’ve mentioned on our blog before (here), vapor distilled water is the safest and cleanest water you can drink (in our opinion). Reverse Osmosis is also great. Tap water and most bottled waters are full of chemicals, inorganic minerals, and other junk you don’t want in your body.
And don’t buy into the Spring Water craze either. In our opinion, spring water is over priced and loaded with inorganic minerals that will plug up the body and stress the kidneys. Pure clean water is always best.
Tip #9: Get Plenty of Sunshine
Dr. Sunshine is essential to building muscle over 40. Not only will the sun boost your mood; it will also naturally boost the Vitamin D levels. Sadly, people stay in doors or cover their entire skin when outside, for fear of the sun.
The truth is, the sun gives life to all of us and getting adequate exposure has shown to be crucial for human health. Vitamin D is also essential to healthy production of testosterone, which we already mentioned is important for building muscle over 40 and beyond.
Tip #10: SQUAT and deadlift
If you want to build muscle over 40 you have to squat and deadlift regularly. Both of these exercises give you the most bang for your buck in terms of total muscle stimulation, plus they work two important movement patterns that we tend to lose as we age: squatting and hinging.
If you’d prefer to avoid heavy barbell squats and deadlifts because of the shearing force they put on the spine; there are a lot of safe variations you can do using kettlebells and dumbbells that can offer a lot of the same benefits.
Conclusion: Though most older guys think it is hard to build muscle over 40, the truth is it can actually be easier. Follow the tips we’ve outlined above, train hard, and you’ll be on your way to being bigger and stronger than you were in your 30’s.
Note: Statements made in this post have not been evaluated by the FDA. Information presented on our site is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Consult your physician before starting any health or workout regimen.