How to build muscle after 40?
At 40, looking back on your youthful years can be daunting. It leads to negative thoughts about your current reality and getting in shape becomes more difficult than ever. You ask yourself, "Is it possible for me to get back to the body I once had and get back into shape? build muscle at my age?" The simple answer is YES!
Even if you are going through physiological changes, you can still get into the best shape of your life. Below, we'll discuss the training, cardio, and nutrition you'll need to focus on to get a slightly more muscular and contoured physique.
Why is it more difficult?
Of course we know that training after 40 has absolutely nothing to do with your training at 20. Unless you have been training for a long time, this article is more for people who want to start training at 40.
As we age, the body is depleted of natural hormones and testosterone In men they produce less and less as they get older. For example, as shown in the diagram below, for a man from 18 to 30 years old, it is the right time for muscle gain. From 40 to 45 years, their hormone levels drop. This does not mean that it is impossible to gain muscle.
For women, it will be the same.
The same is true for recovery. If at 20 you had no trouble recovering from a slip or a party, at 40 it's not the same story. Our metabolism slows down and it is more difficult to gain muscle, as well as to lose fat or simply to recover well. It's not impossible either if you do it right.
Again, if you've been weight training for a long time, chances are you'll have no worries about continuing to progress. And I encourage you to continue.
Training and tips for building muscle at 40
Several changes and precautions must therefore be taken during your training.
Our body will be more susceptible to injuries especially when you are just starting out. To remedy this, always warm up for at least 15 minutes before lifting weights. This can be done with a cardio machine or by doing targeted warm-ups. This will raise your body temperature and promote blood flow for the workout ahead. And yes, if at 20 you felt like a rock and forgot about warm-ups, it's a good idea to keep them in mind after 40.
We do not carry the same loads. The repetition range should be moderate to high, 8 to 12 reps for upper body exercises and 12 to 20 reps for lower body exercises. Weights that are too heavy may put too much stress on joints and ligaments. Start by using a moderate weight in the rep ranges. This will stimulate your muscles enough for further growth. Work lighter but play with techniques like time under tension for example.
Use a combination of free weights and machines. As a young person, your body is capable of doing a lot more weight training, but as you age, your stabilizing muscles begin to weaken, which can leave your ligaments and tendons at risk of injury. Using the machine reduces this risk. It is therefore recommended for people starting to build muscle at age 40, but also for those returning to weight training after a break, regardless of age.
And the execution?
Whether you are 20, 40 or 60, your exercise performance and posture must be perfect. Your body no longer has the same strength, so using the wrong posture can easily lead to injury. Recovery time is a little longer, so rest and recovery are essential. It is important to space out your training days.
Finally, avoid all exercises like the deadlift and squat which are not great for the joints but especially for the back in general. I do not recommend this exercise even if you were 25 years old. Finally, as a 40 year old beginner, if you are just starting to work out, do only 3 sessions per week for the first month and increase by adding 1 or 2 extra days if you feel you can do more weight training.
If you have been doing it for a long time, stick to your usual training. It's clear that it doesn't feel the same from an experienced person to a novice.
Cardio after 40
Cardio is essential for anyone over the age of 40 for several reasons. Once you reach that age, your metabolism is not as fast as it used to be. Therefore, regular cardio sessions will keep your body fat in check. Secondly, the most important thing is that your heart is in the middle of its life and it needs to stay strong and fit to allow you to live longer. So moderate cardiovascular exercise is a good way to keep you on top of your game.
Try to stick to low-intensity cardio sessions at least 2-3 times a week, for 15-30 minutes a day. This means walking or light jogging. You can do any form of running or HIIT cardio, as this can lead to increasing your metabolism and therefore be more efficient at losing fat and improving your heart health. Be careful, however, with your tendons and joints. It can lead to knee discomfort after a certain age.
If, however, you were a runner in your youth (and only if) and want to get back into it, start with low-intensity cardio sessions for the first few weeks. After that, jog once or twice a week on a treadmill or rubber track. In short, resume gradually and always have shoes that are suitable for running.
Remember, living a long and fruitful life must be your driving force and without a strong heart, it will be impossible to achieve this.
Nutrition after 40
As mentioned earlier, when you reach 40, your metabolism slows down and your nutrition will have to be modified in relation to this situation. Indeed, while for men, the storage of fat will occur more quickly on the abs and love handles, for women, the fat will be located rather on the buttocks and hips first. When we are younger, we can afford to make a few deviations without too much impact, but it will not be the same once we reach our forties.
Macros and calories that you may have consumed a few years ago will no longer be the same and certain quantities of carbohydrates in particular will have to be reduced from your diet. Don't forget that your metabolism slows down as you get older. It is therefore more difficult to gain muscle or conversely more difficult to lose fat depending on your objective.
If your main goal is to maximize muscle gain by eating a slight calorie surplus, cholesterol will be an important consideration for many people over 40. Your diet should be rich in healthy fats and your cholesterol balance should be impeccable. In fact, you have two kinds of fats: good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. For you to be perfectly healthy, the balance must be balanced. However, as you get older, it is recommended that you have regular blood tests to check these levels. However, it is preferable to consume good fats such as salmon and avocado for example.
Health and sport after 40
As the years go by, the regeneration of protein synthesis to the muscle will be longer and more difficult. And hormones influence the maintenance of muscle mass as well. If you are not physically active, this can have an even more negative impact on your body and your overall health.
As a general rule, training after the age of 40 for men and women is essentially to stay in shape more than to build muscle. Nevertheless, it is possible to progress and have a harmonious figure if you focus on the essentials directly: a very good rest for a good recovery, an excellent nutrition to control your health. But above all, an adapted and impeccable training with a good bodybuilding program to improve your physique. Finally a little cardio for the good functioning of your heart. It will simply take longer and just like when you are young, you can't gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. You will first have to go through a mass gain phase and another fat loss phase.
For women, it is not recommended to gain mass, regardless of age (except in the case of a competition objective). On the same principle, to tone your body or lose fat, it will take more time. Last essential point, for you women, it is after the menopause that it will be much more complex.
Food supplements to use after midlife
You will not consume the same supplements at 20 and at 40. In fact, after reaching 40, ban pre-workouts and gainers (which I don't recommend at 20 either).
Focus on vitamins and minerals such as multivitamins, supplements joint support, and omega 3. Take some BCAA's though, this will help with recovery.
To learn more, you can read this article: What are the benefits of Omega 3 in bodybuilding?
For men, you can also use supplements to naturally increase your hormone levels and especially boost testosterone with tribulus, from aspartic acid, from fenugreek or the ZMA.
Know that you can do without food supplements insofar as your diet allows you to meet your needs.
Whether it is for men or for women, practicing bodybuilding after 40 and getting results will undoubtedly be longer and different but will also depend on your motivation and perseverance grouped with a good diet and a good recovery.
Have a healthy lifestyle and take care of your body and your health no matter if you want to practice bodybuilding, fitness or any other physical activity. In addition, weight training can give you more confidence whether you are a man or a woman.
Give yourself 1000 % and don't give up!
Tips and areas for improvement
- Find your new motivation :
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you want to improve in your physique? Write it down, but don't just think about it. Find out what motivates you, and read new articles every day to improve your knowledge of strength training and nutrition. This will affirm your goal and fuel your willpower while building your confidence, little by little.
- Realistic assessment and goal setting :
Evaluate where you are now with your physical goals. Give yourself an honest assessment and again, write it down, take pictures if you wish and set realistic and specific goals. Define these goals in detail. For example, you are going to lose 20 pounds in 6 months, and gain 10 pounds of muscle in 12 months. Take pictures of yourself if you are just starting to work out.
- What you can do :
Be realistic, but firm with yourself about scheduling your workouts and your daily and weekly commitment. Do you need to get up early to go to the gym before heading to the office? Do you have time during lunch for a walk? Can you eat your packed lunch at work? Do what you can with what you have, but don't be too tolerant or harsh on yourself. Get organized!
- Build a solid and realistic plan :
It's important that you make sure your plan is comprehensive and achievable. A two-hour leg workout is probably not as realistic as you thought. A 45-minute workout (without cardio) is more than enough. Exhaustion and overtraining are bound to decrease your motivation and abandonment of your goals and thus can destroy your efforts made so far. Choose a suitable program that is not too difficult but not too easy either. Find the right balance.
If you feel that you lack the self-discipline to follow these various recommendations, don't hesitate:
The other students of the Team :
Other articles to read :
How to stretch after a workout?
What are the signs of overtraining?
5 must-have accessories to build muscle at home
What is the importance of nutrition in bodybuilding ?
Very interesting article. And I can talk about it all the better as I am an "old" 42 -_-'
I'm totally in tune with the injury part, I try to be as clean as possible in my execution because injuries are hard to heal and I try to warm up a minimum, even if I don't always have time (quick session between noon and 2).
After, the article is perhaps more turned towards those who begin the bodybuilding after 40 years, whereas on my side, it is several years that I practice, which makes that I do not find myself there all the time (I admit that from time to time to work the force with heavy is gratifying 🙂 ).
However, why do you advise against pre-workouts? I always take them and I admit that it's a real plus to go into the session with the right gniak.
PS: beware, we're getting to 40 faster than we think
I don't necessarily advise against pre-workouts, I regularly take them when I'm tired. I just think that you should not take them all year round so as not to get your body used to them and make it dependent. Moreover, the fact of not feeling tired can be a source of injuries if you don't listen to your body. So boosters are good, but in moderation and not all year round.
I read your article and it's true that it's hard to gain muscle mass at 40 and over but thanks to your calorie calculator and macros I managed to lower my % of body fat which was 17.8% at the beginning and after 4 months of work I'm at 16.3% I'm very happy with the result. I will soon be 45 years old and I don't think I will give up. Thank you for all your articles that you post that help us reach our goals and give us motivation thank you very much ❤??
Yes it's obviously later than at 20 and it will take longer, whether it's to gain muscle mass or to dry out but it's not impossible. That's why it's even more important to calculate your calories and macros to progress. Well done to you anyway 🙂
And I confirm that after 50 years, it's the same. I continue to train to stay in shape, I mean I'm not at your level but following your journey is very interesting and motivates me when I don't have the faith to go and train I thank you for that
At 46 years old and following one of your programs (challenge), I have made progress, so it's true that it's not easy, but with willpower, you can always achieve something: a loss of 4 kilos in 30 days.
I can't agree with this article. I think the role of testoterone after 40 is overrated and it doesn't explain everything to itself.
I started or rather "dabbled" in weight training at 26 years old for about 9 months. I practiced my sessions during my lunch and I didn't eat to devote myself to the cast. I admit, it was stupid and I didn't make any progress except in strength... especially since I wasn't regular.
I started working out more seriously at 46. I used to eat, but didn't pay too much attention to the quality of my food. I still made remarkable progress. I had better results than younger people who had been in the gym longer than me. As a supplement, I was intolerant to protein powder and I forced myself to ingest it as much as I could, telling myself that it was a necessary evil. Creatine, let's not talk about it, I thought (wrongly) that it was doping. I noticed that I progressed quickly when I worked in full body when I could do 3 sessions a week. Then after 3 years, I listened to the "kooks" in my gym who told me that I had to work 1 muscle a day, 1 x week... and I stagnated and got discouraged... I also had to say that I was giving priority to another sport that has nothing to do... my chess competitions... (lol)... I was only going to train sporadically, sometimes several months without going.
I am now 56 years old. In October of last year, I gained 6 kg of fat, I decided to take control of my life. After 6 weeks, I had lost 5 kg, but incredibly, my body was getting tighter. My wife pointed it out to me... and I regained my self-confidence and motivation... I started working out again 5 days a week (even at home in confinement) and I can't stop gaining muscle... Of course I don't have the physique of a champion body builder, but I have nothing to envy the young people in my gym who congratulate me on my performance (and they don't know my age... lol)
On a complementary level, I can handle proteins better since I learned that eating fiber (oatmeal) helps digestion. I am more selective about what I eat. I'm not depriving myself, just that I've cut down on sugars a lot. I have overcome my fear of creatine and supplement with omega 3. And the results are there.
What I want to do with my post is to prove that it is never too late, that there is still room for improvement. But it must also be done intelligently. Good luck to all.
Good advice, thank you. I'm approaching 40 and it's true that I don't recover as well as I used to. I am also stiffer. I think that you have to listen to your body, which is the best indicator, and keep up a suitable physical activity. With regularity and a good diet, we can live a second youth, even after 40 years 😀