Building muscle isn’t just a young man’s goal. It is often the goal of men and women from all walks of life. There are many different reasons you may want to start building muscle after 50.
Sometimes you live an unhealthy life in your younger years, then receive a health scare, and decide you’re going to do everything differently moving forward.
Other times you just want to be someone who has a great looking body as you age. All of this is possible.
Building muscle as you move into your 50s and beyond is a bit more of a challenge, simply because your body doesn’t repair as quickly as it once did,. This doesn’t mean you can’t start building muscle after 50.
In fact, you very well can. You just need to know how to build muscle after 50.
Thankfully, we’ve got everything you need to know right here.
Muscle Mass After 50
Before we dive into building muscle mass after 50, it’s important to talk about how your muscle mass starts declining as you get older.
As you age, you may have noticed the loss of some muscle mass. Your muscles just are not the same size as in previous years, and the density may no longer be there as well.
There are two major reasons why most people experience muscle loss at this time in their lives.
First, the body just doesn’t rebuild as fast as it use to. That’s why an injury takes longer to heal than how it did in your twenties.
The other reason is that life happens, you become busy, and you just don’t spend as much time in the gym.
In fact, the biggest reason why your body doesn’t recover as quickly and why your muscle mass goes in decline is because you’re not in the gym.
You have a full-time job, you have kids and grandkids, not to mention other engagements you need to carry out (AAPTIV).
With the reduction of your overall fitness levels and the amount you move on a daily basis, your heart rate slows. When your heart rate slows, you do not pump as much blood, which in turn reduces the delivery of nutrients to the rest of your body.
By getting back in the gym and working towards building muscle, you’ll not only start turning back the clock, but you’ll notice your body is able to recover faster from injuries.
In fact, you’ll start to feel better than you have in years.
Diet And Building Muscle After 50
In order to build muscle, you’ve always needed to increase your protein level. Muscle is made from protein, so in order to boost your muscle growth, you need protein. That’s nothing new.
As you age, what you eat plays a substantially higher role in not only your ability to grow muscle but in every other area of your personal health. Building muscle after 50 won’t be possible if you’re not consuming enough protein.
If you relied on red meats to build muscle as a younger adult this isn’t something you can realistically do now.
You need a low-calorie protein that is free of most fats.
There’s a chance your cardiovascular system isn’t as strong as it once was, which means veins may have shrunk in size due to the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Increasing your heart rate will push more blood through the veins, but ingesting fatty foods that have high protein levels is not something that will do the rest of your body good.
Instead, if you want to stay healthy and build muscle after 50, you need to consume a high protein, low-calorie foods.
In fact, as CNN (2018)points out, you should increase your level of protein consumption as you age because your muscles begin to break down faster and you do need the added protein to help prevent this.
You can still bring in a good amount of your daily protein through dairy, chicken, turkey and other lighter calorie options.
Protein powders offer a great option as well. However, when selecting the right protein powder, make sure to keep in mind sodium levels and the cholesterol levels.
It is recommended to evenly space out your protein intake to maximize your body’s ability to consume the protein.
If you attempt to take in 60 grams of protein in one sitting, your body is not going to process all of the protein, which means some of it will be wasted.
Instead, you need to spread it out over the course of five or six meals and snacks throughout the day. This will help ensure appropriate protein consumption while keeping your metabolic rate up as well.
In order to build muscle after 50, you need to focus on strength training.
In fact, this is the only real way you’ll actually build muscle on top of what you currently have (while improving the overall quality of muscle you have as well).
However, strength training over 50 is a bit different from strength training when you are in your 30s.
You still want to perform the same basic weight training exercises. You also want to group the weight training together, so you’ll target your chest on one day, legs on another, biceps and triceps on a third day.
This is the best way to work out at any age over 50 as it gives each of your muscle groups ample time to recover until you target the muscles again.
The main difference here is you don’t want to overtrain your muscles. Since it takes longer to recover and for your muscles to build back up any kind of overtraining increases the chance of injury.
Ideally, as New Health Advisor (2018) points out, you need to focus on performing 10 to 15 reps per set and perform one to three sets per exercise.
The rep numbers are a little bit different from what you might have lifted before.
In general, the muscle building guide is to shoot for 8 to 12 reps. However, you don’t want to aim for complete failure just yet.
Once you improve your strength and strengthen your ligaments and cartilage in your joints, you can start to begin moving back to the lifting toward failure method.
But, you want to ensure your joints and bones are healthy enough for this kind of lifting. The last thing you want is to over lift, injure yourself, and be out of lifting for months due to an extended recovery.
Consider A Personal Trainer
If you have been away from the gym for some time and are looking to get back in shape and go for that body you’ve always wanted, it’s best to consider bringing on a personal training.
This isn’t necessarily to help push you during your sets. Instead, it’s more about proper form and guidance.
You are far more susceptible to potential injury as you get older. Combine that with being out of the gym for some time and you have the perfect recipe for a not so desirable workout.
Taking on a personal training will help a good deal with building muscle after 50.
They will walk you through the lifts so that you know your form is good. Proper form is the key to avoiding injuries.
Additionally, you may want to consider weight machines, at least for the first couple of workouts.
Weight machines will give you the ability to strengthen your muscles so, should you decide to move to free weights, your muscles will be accustomed to the weight.
Weight machines also provide all the stability when working a muscle, which is critical in avoiding injuries.
As Cassie White for ABC Australia Health & Wellbeing (2016)points out, it’s all about getting back into the workout routine.
If you’ve been away for some time you’re not just going to fall back in place to what you were able to do at a younger age.
The body adapts to what it’s accustomed to, so if you’ve gone without lifting weights for years, that’s what it’s used to. You don’t want to force yourself into a potential injury.
Building new muscle takes time, but you’ll get there.
Lifts For Building Muscle After 50
We’ll look at some important lifts you need to be doing, and some alternatives to them in case your joints are not able to perform certain exercises.
If you haven’t lifted weights in a long time, you might start with 2 days of strength training with at least one day of rest in between
Make sure to slow and don’t sacrifice your form to lift heavier weights!
There are many people who begin suffering from problems in their shoulders and knees long before 50, so there are alternative options available.
First, there’s the bench press. This is an important lift to perform for your entire upper body.
When you’re just getting started you’ll likely want to use the bench press machine as you won’t need to focus on stabilizing the barbell.
If you’d like, you can perform your main lifts on the machine, and then do a light set of just the bar, or with very light weights on the bar.
Doing such a lift isn’t designed to build muscle, but to train your body and its stabilizers for how to react.
This way, should you decide to move completely over to free weights (which will maximize your muscle building potential), you’ll be able to.
The shoulder press is another must for your upper body.
This exercise can help improve your functioning and can actually reverse some of the muscle loss and deterioration associated with any aging your body has gone through.
A shoulder press machine is a fantastic option as it works the front and side of your shoulders. This will help with your mobility.
There is little impact on your shoulders for this lift, as well with the machine.
The lat pulldown is a great move to finish off the rest of your back.
This is a low impact lift that will target most of your back and also some of your arms. You will do this exercise using the cable machine.
The cable machine is beneficial in that you can still work on your stabilizer muscles without putting your body in harm’s way.
Make sure to keep your forearms as vertical as possible throughout this exercise.
Now, the curls will help with building your biceps and triceps back up.
However, if you have sore elbows, or if you’re more susceptible to sore elbows, you’ll want to avoid the free weights. Instead, look for the curl machine.
This machine is helpful as your arms are positioned over a pad. This ensures proper form and it reduces tension on the joints.
It also keeps your back from throwing into the lift, which reduces the chance of back strain. While you’re at it, you should also look for the tricep curl.
This basically works like the bicep curl but in reverse. Again, you’ll have a pad under your arms and supporting your elbows so it reduces strain.
The legs are tricky to work because many of us suffer from sore knees and hips.
If you don’t have any kind of a pain in your lower body go for the traditional squat. To help with stabilizing the squad using a Smith machine will help.
The Smith machine still uses a barbell and free weights, only the machine holds the barbell up so it won’t sway.
However, if you have leg pain, you shouldn’t be putting a bunch of weight over your knees. You can always try squats with no weights.
With the leg press machine, you won’t have the weight above your knees and hips.
Instead, you’re sitting with your back at a 45-degree angle (or so), and you’ll push against a flat surface. You’ll still work your gluteus, hamstrings, and quads.
If there are specific muscle groups you want to target, talk with your local gym.
Many gyms offer a complimentary personal trainer for at least the first session. They can help you discover new lifts that are low impact but deliver major muscle building results.
Building muscle after 50 is definitely possible.
In fact, if you put your mind to it you can transform your body into the best shape of your life.
You do need to stay determined though, watch your diet, and as always, put in the necessary work at the gym. As long as you do this though, you’ll start to see new muscle growth and a transformation of your physical appearance.