Is it possible to build muscle after 50?

Is it possible to build muscle after 50?

My sister and I were once training together at our local gym. This fella, who must have been in his 60’s, was on the bench. He was lifting a lot and with perfect form. We were both in awe of what we were seeing. A refreshing change from teenage lads ego lifting with awful form. I mean, I can’t judge I was doing that until I was 23. This was making me think whether you can build muscle after 50.

Anyway, If I was to describe this man, he looked like a jacked version of Santa Clause.

The reason I mention this, is because a lot of people think when they hit a certain age, it’s game over. They think they’re bound to the arm chair for life.

This old man our gym, looked like jacked Santa, he's proof that you can build muscle after 50.

I don’t like to sell false dreams. If you train and eat well, when you are younger, your life will be far easier, in the future. But if you are in your later 30’s, 40′, 50’s or beyond, it’s not too late. The best time to start would have been 10 years ago, the next best time to start is now.

Why muscle is important when you are older

We have this idea that muscle is a vanity metric. That it’s only useful for aesthetics. Muscle is more than something young guys use to impress women.

We joke about young guys being obsessed with muscle. I want to argue the case it should be older people who need to obsess over their muscles more.

For the average person, from the age of 30, muscle mass decreases 3-8% each decade. From 65 this can increase to 15%.

A common argument I encounter is “Not everyone wants to be muscular”. This isn’t about looking huge. This is about living the best life you can.

It's important to build muscle after 50, as it has more functions than aesthetics, so important for future health.

People have this idea that aiming to be as muscular as possible will make you look like a freak. What they don’t realise you can only get to that sort of level with drugs. Nobody has ever called a natural weight lifter a freak of nature, it’s impossible. 99.9% of people that are paid for their physique, use drugs. This includes women too.

You'll only look like a freak if you do steroids, so don't worry if you're looking to build muscle after 50, it wont happen to you.

Risks of muscle loss

A lack of muscle mass can lead to a lot of problems. Especially as we get older. This is called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia increases the risk of these happening as we age:

  • Increased weakness
  • Difficulties in moving
  • Obesity-related diseases

I’m not saying all these issues are 100% sarcopenia related. But a decrease in muscle definitely increases the risk.

Increased weakness

Falls happen 1 once a year to 1/3 of people over 65 in the UK. These falls are a symptom of weakness, due to muscle loss. These falls can lead to less confidence in yourself and feeling withdrawn.

Difficulties in moving


This is why older people find it harder to do the things we take for granted. Go for long walks, play with kids and dogs and carry heavy shopping. When the muscles that stabilise you have receded. Things like moving and standing will be harder.

Obesity related diseases

When older people lose muscle, they tend to gain fat weight in its place. Due to inactivity and still eating the same amount. This means you are more at risk of getting diseases which come from obesity. So you end up more at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

To reiterate muscle is more than just aesthetics, it’s pretty damned important.

It's important to build muscle after 50, so you can be mobile when you are older.

What do I need to build muscle over 50?

  • Adequate protein
  • Adequate nutrition
  • Progressive overload when training

Adequate protein I always laugh at how youngsters are obsessed with their protein shakes. They are the ones chugging more protein than normal. But it should be older people are “obsessed” with getting in their protein.

Older people tend to be less sensitive to protein. So aim on the higher end of 1.6-2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. Split in into 4 equal servings a day if you can. So thats 0.4-5.5g of protein a meal per kg of bodyweight per day. Thats about 30-40g of protein per meal for the average guy.

Protein is even more important if you want to build muscle after 50, as older adults are less sensitive to protein.

Adequate nutrition Getting enough calories is vital. If you don’t eat enough to fuel your training, you are not going to give your muscles an excuse to grow. The only exception is when you’re obese.

If you’re obese, then eat in a deficit of 15-25% calories. Otherwise, if you’re new to the training I’d recommend eating at maintenance calories. Or you can track protein only. Once progress stalls from there, you can introduce a calorie surplus. I always recommend a surplus of 10% calories.

Use my calorie calculator to find out how many calories a day you burn. And if you want to know more about calorie deficits and surplus’s click here.

Progressive overload when training Same rules apply. Progressive overload and volume are essential. Increase your volume over time, to break down your muscle fibres. With adequate nutrition and protein feedings, they will without doubt grow.

How to train when trying to build muscle when over 50?

Everyone is different and will prefer a different style. This is how I’d start up a programme for an older client, unless they had specific reasons they couldn’t train like this.

Over time I’d incorporate some free weights to help improve movement and stability. But to start I’d go all machine, to get you into the motion of the movements. It also prevents the risk of injury, whilst still being able to stimulate muscles .

This programme can be done 2-3 times a week. I’d keep the sets between 3-5 and reps between 8-12. I’ve gone with higher reps, as this means you need to use a lighter weight. This also reduces injury risk. You can increase your volume within this range.

Seated chest press

Seated chest press is a great exercise if you want to build muscle after 50, due to its ease of use.

Seated shoulder press

Seated shoulder press an easy exercise if you're looking to build muscle after 50, do to also being easy to use.

Lat pulldown

Lat pulldown an easy exercise if you're looking to build muscle after 50, easier than pull ups due to the cable assistance.

Seated low row

Seated low row an easy exercise if you're looking to build muscle after 50, easier than free weight rows, because the cables keep stability.

Leg press

Leg press an easy exercise if you're looking to build muscle after 50, theres less risk of injury than squats.

Hamstring curl

Hamstring curl an easy exercise if to do compared to Romanian deadlifts.

Can I build muscle over 50?

As you can see, you definitely can. This coupled with enough protein daily over time will give you amazing results. Most people overcomplicate the life out of things. It’s an excuse to not doing anything.

The programme is simple I outlined everything you need to do. All I can say now is, get to work.

You got the info, now get to work.

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