gaining muscle mass after 50

Can you build muscle after 50?

gaining muscle mass after 50
Gaining muscle mass after 50 can certainly be done

I did. And this is how I did it. First I just asked myself a common sense question.

What are the keys to gaining muscle mass after 50 years old?

And here is what I wrote down.

Fitness simplified (in my mind at least):

  • Eat Well. I mean this really is the main problem isn’t it? You are eating like crap and that’s why you’re fat.
  • Move Often. Another hazard of your modern life. You sit at a desk all day. Your version of “hunting and gathering” is to order shit from Amazon for Christ’s sake.
  • Pick Stuff Up. Preferably heavy stuff. And do it regularly.
  • Sleep Soundly. Another casualty of modern living is it’s assault on your sleep. Both quantity and quality. You are not designed for the chronic stress that comes from being over-tired and constantly bombarded by technology chirping at you and demanding action.

That was my my basic list.

  1. Nutrition
  2. Exercise (both aerobic and anaerobic)
  3. and manage stress.

Keeping it simple is always a good strategy.

[thrive_highlight highlight=’default’ text=’light’]The tricks to gaining muscle mass after 50 may be a bit?counter intuitive.[/thrive_highlight]

Conventional wisdom tells you to moderate your life and take it easy as you age so you don?t get hurt or throw out your back.

But keep in mind, this advice is coming mostly from other old guys with big guts and bad backs.

Be careful whose advice you take.

Just because you find yourself in a state of marginal fitness?doesn’t?mean you are sentenced to a mediocre finish in life.

Mistake #1 is thinking like an old guy. You have to avoid this like the plague.
Don?t believe you cannot be strong again.

Don?t take advice from guys with big guts, bad backs and skinny arms.

This was my first “aha moment.” I realized I was acting old.

If you want to look old, just act old. Your results are guaranteed.

I had stopped running. I had the “bad back” mindset. I wasn’t lifting anymore because I felt tired. And I was whining about it.

It’s a classic Catch-22.

[thrive_highlight highlight=’default’ text=’light’]Are you feeling old because you’re acting old?[/thrive_highlight] Or

[thrive_highlight highlight=’default’ text=’light’]Are you acting old because you’re feeling old?[/thrive_highlight]

I’m convinced it’s the former. Old age starts in your head.

If you want to pack on some muscle, start acting like a young guy trying to impress girls.

This is a mental game. You’ve got to keep your head in the game.

You have to believe that building muscle is possible.

You won’t do shit if you don’t really believe you’ll get the results you desire.

Strong belief is critical.

If you want to build muscle mass, you have to lift weights or perform some type of resistance training.

Resistance can be provided using your own body weight by doing any number of exercises like pull ups, push ups, dips, squats and rows.

This is typically a great starting point to get you back into training if you are just getting going again.

But make no mistake, if you want to accelerate gaining muscle mass after 50 years old, you have to lift heavy weights.

The key is to lift heavy things. Remember, heavy is a relative term.
Heavy is basically what you can lift for 3 to 5 reps while maintaining good form. You should probably stay away from the heavy single rep lifts for the most part.
Heavy training can be done using traditional weight lifting workouts or even by lifting heavy rocks and logs and carrying them around.

You can flip truck tires or push weighted sleds around. It all works.

Lifting heavy simply means to stress your muscles in a way that causes overload without injury.

This is how muscle mass is built.
Mistake #2 is lifting like an old guy.
Most old guys (and probably you too) who have been out of the gym for a few years have poor core strength.

Core is a general term, and probably not a good one, to describe everything from your hips to mid-back all the way around your trunk. So abs, obliques, back extensors, hip flexors and a bunch of other small muscles are included.

You need a strong core to perform many of the lifts needed for muscle building.

Squatting, overhead pressing, power cleans, dead lifts and kettlebell swings all require a strong core to prevent injury.

Don?t mistake your weak back for an injured back.

You may believe you have a ?bad back? because it is sore all the time when in reality you simply have a weak back that is stressed from bad posture, poor ergonomics and years of neglect.

The bad back syndrome is a downward spiral.

  • You don?t think you can do it anymore because of your bad back.
  • You can?t do this and you can?t do that because of the bad back.
  • So in fact you don’t do anything for fear of hurting your weak back.

I thought like this for years. And I kept getting weaker and feeling older as a result.

It’s called “Circling the Drain.”

You have to break out of this thinking. It’s dragging you down.

Now let me be clear, you may actually have an injured back (a small percentage of us old guys do). It certainly does happen. I am not diagnosing you.

I am simply saying that the majority of bad back problems are due to a weak core and not really an injury. If you have any acute pain, you need an expert to analyze your situation.

Don?t use sit ups to work on your core strength.

They don?t work and waste a lot of time. Work your core with stabilization exercises, compound movements and twisting/bending moves.

Overhead pressing, push ups and carrying exercises like farmers walks are core stabilizers.

Squats, dead lifts and kettlebell ?swings are compound movements.

Burpees, T push ups and sledgehammer swings are excellent core builders using twisting and bending moves.
Mistake #3 is wasting your time in the gym.
Don?t walk on the treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes. This is a waste of valuable gym time.

Walking is for your rest days. Walk around the block a few times or take an easy run. Get some fresh air. Go hiking. It’s all good. Just don’t do it on your training days.

Did you ever notice that the treadmill walkers or recumbent bike riders never seem to build a better physique?

They looked weak two months ago and still look weak today.
Don?t waste time lifting tiny dumbbells doing curls and ultralight presses. It looks ridiculous and really what is the point? You are not building muscle nor burning any fat.
So stop embarrassing yourself.

I go to a community center gym where a lot of older folks work out.

I see a lot of time wasting going on.

The guys who just sit on the leg curl machine between their pathetic, half-rep sets.

Or the dude who swing curls 15 pound dumbbells for about 20 minutes straight! I’m not kidding. I can do dead lifts and squats and he is still swinging those little dumbbells.

Don’t do this shit. Get serious about your gym time.

The key to gaining muscle mass after 50 is to lift heavy weight using your big muscles.

  • You need to squat, bench, military press, power clean (with an asterisk here) and dead lift.
  • Power cleans are a great exercise but good technique is imperative. And it is not a simple movement.

Make a goal to work up to power cleans but don’t just go there on Day 1.

Focus on the big lifts using perfect form.

Build muscle and get strong by focusing on the basic movements. As always, start slow to ensure you do not get hurt.

This is Rule 1 for “Old Guy Lifting.”

Don’t get hurt. Recovery just takes too long.

Said another way, DFYU. Don’t fuck yourself up.

But do the big muscle lifts to build a solid physique.

[thrive_highlight highlight=’default’ text=’light’]Don’t act like an old guy.[/thrive_highlight]


About the author 

Mark Fickler

Mark aka The Old Spartan and Over-50 Fitness Savior is a 64 year old coffee guzzling father of five wandering the outdoors around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mark helps Active Boomers get lean, healthy and strong so they live rewarding, fun lives using his signature 2 Rule Easy Fat Loss training program.

  • Very good and to the point article. I myself at 57, understand the work that is involved in all areas nutrition, lifting, recovery etc,.. that is needed to build muscle at any age, but as we age it takes a real concentrated effort to succeed. The importance of working around previous orthopedic injuries as well plays a big part for many of us who have been active our entire lives.

    I work around a total knee replacement and a ruptured bicep tendon ( long head) both play a part in my ability to lift the type of weight I would like but, you learn to improvise. Something is better than nothing!

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • ” Avoid thinking like an old guy” Best damned thing I’ve read in years.
    I’ll be here off and on for a while and will let you know my progress Norman B. 56

  • i’m 54 years old and i just started back in the gym I’ve noticed that if i do the same work out every other day I’ll make gains but use the 5×5 system

  • I am 67 years old at 65 I was as strong as I was at 50, in 2012 I had to have by-pass surgery, For the last two years my life has been miserable because I let my musical mass deteriorate. I have to bring my selfasteam back to where it was two years ago and better. I going to start today using your advice Thanks.

  • Solid truth spoken here. Simple things with a common sense approach is all that is required. I have been bouncing around from endurance sports (running, adventure racing, mountain biking) to strength training for the last 6 years. Now, at age 50, I have a laser focus on strength and muscle mass. I’ve always been on the thin side, but can testify that it is possible to get stronger and add muscle at this age. There are disadvantages to getting older, but that doesn’t mean one must lay down and give up. Get your mind right, eat well, and grind out some solid workouts with HEAVY stuff and you are on uour way. I have basic barbell equipment in garage and have never worked out in a gym. If your goal is to get strong and increase muscle mass, follow the instructions of the author and keep it simple. It WILL work.

    • Good stuff Scott. I wheeled rocks around the yard yesterday in the wheelbarrow. Solid workout.

  • Rodger Mathews says:

    After a year of inactivity because of a shattered knee from a motorcycle accident, I realized that I’d lost quite a bit of muscle tone and gained some softness around my waist. I started out this past Spring, doing lots of stretching, the calisthenics I learned in the Army, light to medium resistance with weights or resistance tubes. It didn’t take all that long, and started to see some definition in my muscles.

    Also, I read several internet articles on the subject, and I added two why protein shakes to my daily intake, while moderating my food intake, especially “ground meats” such as hot dogs, sausage, or hamburger. That, plus working out at the local YMCA, have given me more lean muscle.

    And y’know what? When I was walking through a restaurant a few weeks ago, I felt that I was “standing tall.” Even better than the physical appearance, getting into better shape has helped me move on from the trauma of the accident and the loss of “life control” I felt. (Doesn’t hurt that girlfriend loves the “new,” bulkier shoulders and arms! lol)

      • Tyler Schlecht says:

        Mark: Loved the advice. I’m 52 and have been working out for 20 years. I’m in better shape now at my age then I was at 30. You are right, and everyone needs to pay attention: Lift heavy, but eat correctly. Nutrition is overlooked for some reason. I was 155 at 30, I’m 190 now and feel great. Again, great article! Thanks

  • Stan Goliath says:

    Best advice ever. Thanks a lot. Now its time to put it to the test….im ready….52 here I come!

    • Stan having the right attitude may be the most important thing. And you’ve got it brother.

  • I’m 50 been lifting for years ,high school , college athlete . Don’t feel old don’t act it but definitely going to take your advice and lift a little heavier, I feel like my routine is always the same thing , enjoyed your article . Will be staying in touch! To all the old Spartans out there KEEP HAMMERING!

  • At 61 years young I hit the gym 5 to 6 days a week for at least 1 1/2 hours each time. I DO push ups 3 sets of 100 each. Leg lifts, planks (all 3 sets) speed bag 3 sets for 3 minutes each. Push ups, pull ups and a variety of other excercises. Then I start the weights with heavy benches (9 sets) and 6 sets of dumb bell curls. When I’m good and tired I always cool down with another 3 minutes on the speed bag. Yes – i do have body pain such as aches here and there. God, I’m 61! But I can out work 90% of the guys in the gym one third my age. You’re absolutely right. Age is a mind game. And BTW – I have young gals in their twenties hitting on me – and I score regularly with them. Come on guys – hit the gym and quit worrying about your age.

  • At age 50 I was diagnosed as Type 2 diabetic. 230 pounds, totally out of shape. Also had fatty liver. Started working out at a UFC gym doing the boxing workouts, also started doing intervals (30/30) on the bike and lifting weights. Less than 5 months later lost 50 pounds and was no longer in the diabetic or even pre-diabetic range. Plus liver is now totally normal.

    I am in better shape now than when I was in my 20s.

    • Dan, that is a powerful story. 50 lbs in 5 months is fantastic. The power of movement. Your body will take care of itself if you give it a chance.

      • Mark, the body’s ability to fix itself is truly incredible. I had definitely fallen into the “I’m getting fat and my joints ache, so what, I’m 50” way of thinking. Big mistake.

        If you stick with a workout routine and eat healthy, you can indeed set things right…or close to right.

  • Joseph Valentine says:

    Over this past winter I decided to give my gym a try. Having been a competitive swimmer my entire life I thought that the pool would keep me fit and young. I would walk equipment thinking who need that? I just swam three miles! Lo and behold despite the rigorous routine I noticed that I was getting soft.

    Within the past four months of hitting the machines very regularly I noticed very nice gain in muscle definition and mass. Not too shabby considering I’m 52 years young. You’re never too old to make gains.

    • Yes very true. Swimming is a unique exercise. The people who do it tend to be naturally good at it and while a good workout, it’s not a muscle building workout. Now i could swim a few laps and get a good pump because it’s pure work for me.

  • at 58 I have been in and out of gyms (mainly out) most of my life with one thing or another becoming an excuse to stop the regular flow of training well that was up to when I was 41 and 90 kg of solid muscle….and a big excuse stepped in for 15 years…..

    until one day I looked in the mirror two years back at what I had become…..1.85m @100kg….hey only 10 kg more…..but reality was I lost at least 5kg of muscle so the result was a 15 kg fat gain…..looking like evenly spread play doh on my chest arms middle and legs… never looked too bad as I never had a typical middle age belly and skinny arms legs….I was kind of even all over…but it felt weak and soft and something had to be done.

    I wont go into the work out details but as the author says…..don’t think like an old man when you go at it….go as hard and fast and heavy as you can for an hour to ninety mins each session….no talking and walking round the gym gassing on the cell phone……you are doing a job of work

    However what I would recommend is a full medical to check the state of your heart and blood before you go bonkers….in my case I was set go and by some miracle still had the pump to drive the system….then get ready….but take it easy the first couple of weeks

    firstly because of the recovery pain you WILL feel after hitting your muscles with exercises you may not have done in years or ever….which will result in you not being able to get out of a chair because you will be so stiff…not the next day much…..but the day after will burrrrrrrn…..cuz we are not 20 or 30 something that’s over it in a couple of days…..that initial muscle soreness will take you a week to get out the system …..especially on your first serious leg day….hahaha….enjoy!

    But that soreness is a great way to put people off almost as soon as they start…..YOU MUST OVERCOME THAT PAIN INDUCED PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIER

    And continue to overcome it for about 6 months until the gym is an addiction you cant quit……only then will you take your renewed strength fitness and virility with you to the 60’s 70’s and beyond

    Im back to 90kg but the muscle mass isn’t quite there yet even tho Im told by people a third of my age that I look hard-core ….if I drop 5kg I will be lean and mean….but the plan is to get to bigger than I ever was….95kg is my goal ….skin muscle and bone….and I will do it….

    mental focus….you are not old….its just a number….become a an addict

    rest… biggest problem but you must sleep well or the results are reduced

    diet….protein protein and more protein….of course good carbs and useful supplements…eat often

    training….physique follows form….don’t cheat it….be safe lifting….lift heavy and light….chop and change your routine to shock the system when it gets lazy and used to same ole set

    Credit to Mark Fickler for this valuable info.

    • Dave, great stuff here. Yes I find the rest phase to be the most important difference from my younger days. I can easily over-train now if I don’t watch it. The other thing I do now (that is different from 30 years ago) is to train primarily with compound movements. This simply gets the work done efficiently. I don’t do a lot of single joint exercises like focused arm work, for example. I have limited time so focus on strength, full range of motion movement and fitness over “having big arms” which seemed more important when I was 20.

  • I let my weight creep up over the past 6 years or so by eating like crap and behaving like I already had one foot in the grave. However, I’m father to a 3 year old (yes, at 50 years old) little girl and decided I needed and wanted to be around for a while!

    So I started at 5’7 @ 220 lbs with a 40″ waist and 165/105 blood pressure. I was thinking old, feeling old, acting old. My hips ached, I got winded walking up stairs, my sleep was poor. I needed to change. I bought a wearable calorie tracker, and started walking, eating clean and logging everything I ate, and the weight started coming off.

    After about 3 weeks of this, I came to a realization that the author alludes to – I wanted to look good – I believed, that at 50, I could still have a physique that would “impress the girls” and I started lifting. I’m using machines and lifting heavy to total muscle failure in a modified “SuperSlow” technique, so I don’t spend much total time in the gym, but the gains have been impressive – my lifts have improved 60-100% in 9 weeks. I’ve never had biceps like I have now, watching the muscles move under my skin when I’m getting ready for work in the morning is fascinating, and my wife has commented on how sexy it is.

    A little over 3 months, 45 lbs of weight loss with 10-15 to go before I start eating to gain muscle, with a noticeable increase in muscle mass and definition. The biggest tell-tale of all is my blood pressure has dropped to 126/78, which, when I checked it this past weekend, nearly brought me to tears.

    So, I can only second everything the author wrote. It’s definitely worked wonders for me.

  • I turn 50 in 12 days. I have never had definition in my life. The other day a friend told me it was too late to build muscle for me unless I take steroids. Well I’m not planning on taking those but am going to continue this workout regime and hope I can get a new look. I’m starting at the very bottom. My first issue is there are some machines that are hard to do for instance yesterday on the incline bench (machine) I could barely do 20 pounds (4 sets of 10) due to me not being very limber to bring my arms that far back. I am very motivated to do this though and your article really pumped me up! Thanks!

    • Randy, good for you. First, your friend doesn’t know shit so don’t listen to him. Read this post about muscle loss and aging. A lot of machines are hard to get your body aligned right and some can even do damage. Bodyweight stuff might be a good option for you to get started. Check out this free training. I go into “bad machine exercises” and give a lot of other options.

  • Samal Yoder says:

    Age is a matter of attitude. Yes we get old, but we don’t have to act old. Just turned 65. Feel as fit as I was in my 20’s. Cured myself of type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver as another poster did. Reached the point of having to inject insulin twice daily. Just decided enough is enough. No more treating the symptoms, get rid of the disease. So started exercising. Did not have a whole lot of barbells & dumbbells so just want outside and started lifting anything heavy I coud find. Doing curls with spare tires, lifting and throwing boulders in quarry next to my property. Lots of chopping trees down, sawing them up into firewood, splitting them into kindling. Oh yes, lifting the trees and doing squats with them before cutting them up. Lost 80 lbs in 3 months. Want from size 50 pants to size 38, 3xl shirts to large, 280 lbs to 238, waist size want from 55″ to 38″.
    It’s not about the scales guys it’s about the body composition, the lean body mass to body fat ratio.

    • Great story. Love the old school approach. It all works. Yes you are right, lean body mass is the key measurement.

  • Ha Ha Ha! “If you think you’re an old guy, you become that old guy.” I’m signing up!

  • I am 80 years young. I workout at Golds GYM with various maximum weights on 15 machines with all muscle groups. I do 15 reps on each machine every other day. This approximates 600 reps a week.I also do a floor routine involving knee movement and back stretches.
    I have a large inoperable non organ encompassing hernia from my diaphragm to my pelvic
    arch NOT as a result from exercising. So, I have to eliminate crunches
    and buy comfortable well tailored good looking clothing. I have 1&1/2 knee replacement and a
    small operable back issue over 15 years old with no adverse affects. Just can’t play football with my Grand-kids.

  • I can confirm that your principles work. I started lifting heavy at 50. I eat my macros and lost a pound a month for 2 years while making big muscle gains. I lift heavy. Since I have actual back disk issues I avoid dead lifts and squats and anything over head, that hasn’t limited my gains. I lift 3 days per week, everything 3 sets,5-7 reps, heavy.lots of protein. Good form, heavy. I now look and feel great. I only spend 40 minutes in the gym by not sitting and resting at the same station but keep movingnon to the next station, almost like HIIT. That way, it is very aerobic and doesn’t take a lot of time to get in 3 sets of all exercises. I’m proof that lifting smart and heavy over 50 can result in great gains. Thanks for the confirmation if what I already know works. No flapping your and and legs around with light weights. THANKS!

    • Exactly James. Heavy (which is a relative thing) works. And it’s the opposite of what most old guys do.

  • Lmao – omg, what a great sense of humor, loved it. All right on target.
    55, lifting heavy, feeling strong.
    Best shape of my life at 49, almost back there. Have a vision, believe it can be done, no excuses, make it happen.

    • Hmmm, I missed this somehow. I think the vision is the most important thing. Good stuff

  • This is great advice Mark is giving. The way to stimulate your Testosterone levels & bring them up naturally is to lift heavy & eat properly. What I have found to be the biggest criteria for gaining Mass over 50 is to not worry about rushing back into the gym after your last workout as you can easily overtrain & lose muscle. So I have taken bits & pieces from top bodybuilders over the years like Mike Mentzer who used a 1-2 set to failure system as well as more days in between recovery scenario. Keep the main lifts going as heavy & safe as possible, don’t skip workouts, eat very clean (lean proteins, and not after 8pm if possible). I have found ZMA to be a great sleeping aid that can promote better sleep & enhanced recovery.

    • Good stuff Mike. I concur on the rest phase. I can’t do near the volume I used to do. Some days I’m just too tired and I’ll skip lifting and maybe just do some pushups or body weight squats.

  • Gordon Paulsen says:

    Hi Mark

    I’m 56 and have been doing weight training on and off for the past four of five years but not really pushing myself for any length of time.
    I am dieting to lose the fat i have put on over the past few years from eating crap. I am 5’10” and weigh 82kg’s after losing about eight kg’s in the last year. I’m am still looking fat so how low should I go before I can see some muscle under there!

    My body fat % is about 24%. What should I be aiming for?

    • 24% of 82 kg is roughly 20 kg fat (62 kg LBM (lean body mass)). There’s a lot of “it depends” it that question. If you want your abs to show, you likely have a long way to go (like getting 10% BF or less). But you can look muscular in your shoulders, back, chest and legs a lot sooner depending on your natural build. Body fat is the metric that matters when you want to look fitter and more muscular. I’d strength train 3 to 4 times a week; eat better quality foods (real food); get protein at every meal; add some active rest on your off days like walking and biking and keep at it. This is a lifestyle, not an event. In 6 months you’ll be looking muscular.

  • Steven Ritnour says:

    At 55 I was 270 with a 44 inch waist and a resting heart rate of 85 and at 57 I’m a svelte 192 with a 32 inch waist and a resting heart rate of 60 bpm…….Winning because I think I’m 37….lol……All I did was change everything about what and when I ate. After losing the initial 50 lbs I joined the local YMCA and show up 5 or 6 times a week. For the first time in my life I’m benching more than I’m weigh…….I’ve been hindered with a small tear in my labrum so there are many movements I cannot do especially with free weights, but that will not stop me.

  • Tom Temen says:

    Solid advice. I am about to turn 51yrs old. I have had two shoulder surgeries in the past three yrs. No tears just frozen shoulders. I have people at work thinking I am on the juice. I have been active my entire life but my recent gains have people I work with amazed. Benching 315, squatting about 350 for reps. They have asked what my secret is and I say Recovery. We are older and we dont recover like we used to. I work each body part once a week. I do blast the hell out of it that once a week but then it has time to recover the entire week. This has worked for me along with some supplements, mostly whey protein.

    • Tom is a beast. It’s been a long time since I benched in the 3’s but I have a goal of getting 315 this year. Plus a 2X bodyweight deadlift. Just takes time and effort

  • Thanks Mark for the great advise. I’m thinking about complete heavy weight workouts without using treadmill cardio every other day. I’m 49 and have been working out for 6 months with little results. Cutting out cardio and concentrating on heavy lifting can be a good move. I’m open for any advice. Thanks

    • Gotta lift but gotta recover too. I mix it up between “heavy” and “lighter” days. Quotes cause it’s all relative.

  • David watts says:

    Good article which gets it right. However, the essential points raised are also relevant to all age groups. I have always generated my best results by doing high volume sets of 6 reps with as much weight as I can possibly handle in reasonable form. I’m now almost 59 and train exacly the same way as I did in my 20’s (though with less intensity). I’m not quite as strong or muscular but not far off. In any case, tue age is biological not chronological. Example – two guys age 60, one has genetic potential to live to age 100, the other to age 75… are they the same age?

    • I’m like you, still a lifter. But many guys stop lifting altogether and get into bike riding or walking. It’s all good but only resistance training maintains muscle which is really the culprit in aging (sarcopenia)

  • I really like to lift weights. But have not been active in several years. I feel empowered by this article to get back at it. Thanks!

  • Not sure if this article is still monitored for comments, but had a question.

    I am a 50-year-old with an actual “bad back” of sorts … I herniated L4-5 about 10 years ago, surgery was recommended, but I declined and opted for PT and core strength training … stretching, weights, swimming … then added back in cycling and running. It has worked … I completed a half-marathon and an OLY distance triathlon last year.

    Here is my question … I have stayed away from squats, dead lifts, anything involving heavy weights that activates lumbar support … the only “squats” I do are seated/reclined. I am interested in adding some of these weights back in, and I am research what constitutes “good form.” Any recommendations on a good read?

  • Great article.. love the straight talk. Heavy is it and rest is it.. I m 51 yrs old. 6 2 240.. I bench 430 for 3 never maxed out and my calves are killer if I say so my self..I can still dunk a basketball and run a 5 second 40 yard dash..I hit every body part twice a week as I did as a kid.. my question is about soreness and injury. I have twice torn all four rotator cuff tendons…I understand muscles heal..I m having no luck healing this rotator cuff and the tendons.. three months since second right shoulder surgery already back to benching 430 buy the after pain is brutal.. any wisdom here?

  • Great article.. love the straight talk. Heavy is it and rest is it.. I m 51 yrs old. 6 2 240.. I bench 430 for 3 never maxed out and my calves are killer if I say so my self..I can still dunk a basketball and run a 5 second 40 yard dash..I hit every body part twice a week as I did as a kid.. my question is about soreness and injury. I have twice torn all four rotator cuff tendons…I understand muscles heal..I m having no luck healing this rotator cuff and the tendons.. three months since second right shoulder surgery already back to benching 430 but the after pain is brutal.. any wisdom here?

  • I’m just turning 52,i have been heavy weight training for two years full body workout 3days a week.I train mon,wens, Friday, weekends off. I squat 200 bench 210 deadlift 220. I’m 200 lbs. 6′ tall.

  • Good article, but at 62 I get a few niggles so have started to do GVT.
    (German Volume Training)
    Bench pressing heavy and squats made my joints play up.
    Don’t mock it guys, do it right and you’ll grow.
    I’m 6’3, 15 and a half stone and little fat. My blood pressure is 127 over 75 and feel great. I’ve been doing weights for about 45 years. Never taken anything except the occasional protein mix or creative cycle if I feel like a boost.
    I can push the sled with 220 kilos (485 pounds) up and down the track and have a real positive can-do attitude.
    Never done drugs or steroids in my life.
    I agree strength training is the best, it keeps the heart pounding and makes you feel great but if any of you older lot are starting to get joint problems give GVT a go.
    Try it for 6 weeks.

  • Richard Thomson says:

    Great advice, I totally agree :)

  • WPBullock says:

    I am 53 and read “younger next year” about 13 months ago, started lifting, and haven’t looked back. Have been on my a$$ for 30 years doing engineering and had the “bad back” mind set. Could barely squat the bar when I started and now I do 6 sets of 3 at 230 (and climbing). Also deadlifting 6 sets of 3 at 235 (and climbing). Anyway, in addition to lifting, what this article DOESN’T talk about is STRETCHING. That has been a game changer for me. Study everything you can find about the musculature of the lower back, pelvis, hips, etc, and then study all the stretching videos and websites related to lower back pain. I’ve been stretching nearly daily for about 30 minutes for about 3 months now and it is life changing. I haven’t put myself out of commission due to a “back tweak” for nearly that whole time stretching. Anyway, great article, but stregth without flexibility doesn’t do much good. Have to be able to put the strength into action!

  • Enjoyed reading…I am 54 and still compete in bodybuilding. I agree with your points.

  • Kamel Talib says:

    Thank you very much Mark for your great advise

  • Im 44 years old.what I read makes alot of sense.thanks

  • Steve, sorry man. I thought these things were hooked to separate pages so you wouldn’t see multiple opt ins at the same time. Got to spend some time figuring it out.

  • Richard McGriff says:

    3:42 a.m you just turn a life changing light bulb on in my head. Thanks

      • R. Sibbitt says:

        I am 62 an hit the gym @ every day. Was wondering about rest. What do ya think. I don?t sleep well.

  • Jeff fischer says:

    Had shoulder replacement surgery and it’s taking than I’m thinking to get full movement and a little strength 6months and counting

  • Tony smith says:

    Advanced training in 50’s vs 40’s vs 30’s. ideas?

  • Great article! I turned 50 last year and was wondering if I could still actually gain muscle. You nailed it about having the right attitude. You have to believe something is possible in order to even start to make it possible. I really liked your advice about not acting old. I needed this wisdom and pep talk. Thank you!

  • I agree. You have to work hard to get real results. And I like a lot of what you have to say about not thinking like an “old guy.” But I’d hate for some guy who hasn’t gotten off the coach much in the last 20 years to think he has to go heavy right away to get real results. Getting the basics like movement patterns and good form are hugely important. Until you’ve got those down, jumping into heavy weights too quickly is a big mistake. I understand this article is about building muscle and I appreciate it. But maintaining a high functioning, youthful looking and, more importantly, feeling physique is at least as much about things like flexibility, balance, movement as it is about muscle. That said… I DO appreciate the pep talk.

    • You’re right. Most guys want increased muscle mass but balance, mobility and full ROM movement are just as important to ageing well.

  • There’s nothing embarrassing about lifting a light weight if that’s all you can do with good form. The guys who look most embarrassing at the gym are the ones using terrible, ineffective form with weight that’s way too heavy. We don’t want to act like old guys, but one of the benefits of life experience (hopefully) is being able to discern between passion and engagement and simple, stupid ego.

    • Yes, right again. I see both types; the dudes wasting their time swinging 15 pound DB’s for high rep curls and those half-repping bench presses with too much weight. You have to go heavy but heavy is a relative term and different for each person. Good form and full range of motion is probably most important.

      • Exactly. Thanks again for the pep talk. Off to the gym for chest and back. Going heavy this week. 12 rep warm up / 8-10 rep x 4. Good luck and good health, guys!

      • For your information, half reps help strengthen your joints and also gets your muscles used to lifting heavier; consequently. 2-4 weeks later you are able to lift heavier weight due to doing partials. I love when “supposed experts” judge what other’s are doing and put them down or say what they are doing is a waste of time! You are not the know it all of lifting and there are many strategies people use to be able to lift heavier. Partials ARE an important and underutilized technique in making weight lifting gains and they serve a purpose! This information is for your “expert” knowledge with the hope of taking away some of the mis-judgements you make when watching others in the gym. By the way, I am 56 years old and still look for valuable advice from people despite having been a “gym rat” for 25 years and I have learned not to judge others but maybe benefit from what they are doing.

  • “Don?t act like an old guy.” — Great damn advice!!! Love it!!!

  • paul oconnell says:

    Hi all
    Im52 did weights for 8 years when in my 30 suffered two buldging discs in L4/5 gave up weights thinking it wasnt a good idea to go back to weight training I suffered for years with back pain, it was about a year ago I got back into weight training Back has been great i am a huge believer in perfect form and listen to your body.
    I train an hour a day 6 days a week having said that I listen to my body and I might train 4 days a week .I have great core strength now and have built good muscle definition while i am no hulk i am really happy that i can still build muscle growing older just means we are wiser and smarter dont ever give up just because you think you cant have a leaner body I am proof you can.
    Final thoughts listen to your body,eat reasonably clean dont have to give up everything,keep good form,be positive.

    • Paul, good stuff. I had L5 problems too but I think it’s regenerated. Strength solves all problems.

  • Great advice. Another one is, get a young wife, that’s motivating.

    54 here, 6′ even, 218lbs, <13% body fat, gained about 45lbs in muscle mass over the past 3 years.

  • Hello.
    Great site. !
    Can I go on using the Texas method,which i like a lot, beeing a 55yo male?
    Thanks a lot.

  • I just turned 50 and after back surgery I have been given the go ahead to hit the gym again. Ive put on close to 30 pounds of sit on the couch and watch tv muscle and need to refocus now. your article is inspiring.

  • Great article. I will start today.

  • Do you have a link on the warming up after 50.? I ask because I am recovering from a two-year bout of atrophy for not warming up properly before working out.

  • William Loxton says:

    I agree with all of this. I am a South African and at 59 years old I have never been stronger. I do weight training twice a week and road running. Half the year I do more weights than running and the other half when its marathon season I do more running than weights. I have run 17 Comrades Marathons(89.3km) in a row. I do find I lose a bit of size in the marathon season but put it back quite quick once I do more weights than running. In the off running season I still do a 20km run once a week and one or 2 speed sessions (4km) twice a week. I ran my fastest marathon when I was 51 after 20 years of running. I’m mentioning all of this because I have never let age get in my way.

    • Wow, good stuff William. I’ve never been a runner although I do a few 10K’s a year just to say I did. Have you investigated the MAF method?

  • I’m about to turn 51 and have been lifting 3-4 days week for the last 6 years consistently. You can add muscle with proper diet and work ethic. the comments above power cleans and some of the “new fad” work outs are a joke. They can do more damage than good. stick to the basics of lifting with lots of dumbbell work. At our age recovery is harder, but you’ll see results with effort. Also, don’t look at the other, most likely younger guys as competition, your biggest opponent is in the mirror

    • Good stuff Dirk. I’ll do cleans occasionally with the Olympic bar but not too heavy. I do a lot of KB cleans during different complexes. It’s all good

  • Don’t rule out HRT at our age either. I’m 59 and was working out regularly for about 6 years. I noticed I was not gaining muscle (plateaued) and when I stopped working out for a week or so, what I did gain would atrophy fast. My testosterone levels were tested and I was low. After starting a testosterone injection program as prescribed by my doctor, I started to make greater gains in muscle growth and if I was out of the gym for a week or two, my gains did not fade away. By the way, do not use creams! You will end up with lower test levels than you currently have.

    • Yes certainly HRT can work. I haven’t done it. The whole testosterone pathway is complicated; how it’s made and the many ways it can leak out. You have to work with a doc who really understand it.

  • Terri Anderson says:

    was hoping to follow Mark Fickler on my new discovery ?instagram?. I?m a little technically NOT savvy. Message of thanks for the article is there.

  • Great article!! Very enlightening sore back doesn?t mean bad back.

  • Trying to get my mojo back and loose the gut. Now I’ve hit 50 and have a job that takes me away from home most weeks it’s hard to stay. Focused… Focused must stay Focused

    • Traveling is hard. Both for training and eating well. I’d try to a simple bodyweight workout in my room for simplicity. Run laps around the hotel – down the hall down the steps back the the other and up the steps. Every hotel has hallways and steps.

  • Great Article Mark! Go hard or Go home. I want the friends of my kids to say “Your Dad is the shit”.

  • Ive trained all my life but my diet is awful I?m 53 I walk everyday 6miles and train with KB 3 days a week can you help change my mind set I can eat what I like because I?m fit I have muscle but it?s covered in fat I just can?t break the cycle

  • Mark Every says:

    Mark your hilarious!!! I love the comments…I?m turning 59 in October this year n I definitely noticed in the last year I?m loosing muscle mass, I?ve dropped a little weight 216 to 196lbs I will definitely take your advice and apply it to my work outs…on the advice of my GP I?ve been doing cardio every day for last year 20-30 minutes per day, are you suggesting that may be to much?

  • You fail to mention the benefits of brisk walking prior to going back to the gym. Walking, increasing pace and distance, prior to re-entering the gym is a great way to excite and start re-building the muscles in your lower back and abdominal muscles. It also strengthens your joints, especially your knees.
    Another benefit is the endurance and better use of oxygen which will allow even quicker recovery times.
    Walking should not be ruled out as a pre-requisite to going back to the gym. It may be what allows you to stave off injuries that will sideline you. After all, what is the reason most people leave the gym…never to come back? Injuries!
    Walking helps to prepare and prevent prior to intense lifting exercises. Walk first and work your way back.

    • Yes I agree walking is great to get you going again and is a good overall activity but it doesn’t really build muscle. You should walk and walk a lot but don’t believe it will will build muscle for you. That’s a mistake. You have to lift or do some sort of resistance exercise.

  • I am closing in on 51 next month. For the past year have been doing a pyramid style routine on Cybex Eagle machines at my Y as I have a inguinal hernia and free weights are tough for me to do. 1st set 12, then increase weight then 10 then increase weight then 8 etc to 6 reps focusing on Leg Press, Row and Chest with some flies and shoulder presses and a couple sets of bi and tri ) I did manage to put on about 15 lbs but I am finding now I just am sore all the time and lost weight training and my progress has plateaued. Any advice for how many total sets per body part should we be doing at our age?

    • If you’re trying to get strong, you don’t need many. Maybe 10 total reps per exercise. So a warmup set and then 5,3,2 or 3,3,3. Adjust the weight so you can just get the reps. Another technique that works is time under tension (TUT). Keep constant tension by going slow. Use a 4 count both down and up. This works well on machines.

  • Mark- I love your advice and couldn’t agree with you more!

  • Terry st.dennis says:

    I?m 64 female and in tip top shape I noticed I?m losing muscle mass and weight I believe it to be age profession has always kept me in shape .im a construction worker and have my own landscaping business.what do you suggest I do to regain or at least maintain my muscle mass

    • I forgot to mention I?m femaleTerry St. dennis

    • Terry, age-related muscle wasting is called sarcopenia. It will happen unless you are actively working against it. You have an active lifestyle which is good but still add some resistance training. Bodyweight exercises are fine. Eat enough quality protein to fuel muscle repair. You can rebuild muscle at any age

  • Wow. You nailed it! I am a neurologist, specializing in neuromuscular disease. I prescribe physical therapy for my patients with muscle disease because I know they can improve strength and bulk at any age. But when I changed my diet and aerobic exercise routine recently, lost 30 lbs. and looked in the mirror and saw a thin but OLD man I didn’t apply everything I know about muscle to myself. You just changed my life. Thank you!

  • At 50 I began with back and hip problems. I walk about 5 to 8 miles a day in my job. At 53 I had a perforated viscus which meant a six inch incision through my belly button. Two years later they had to reopen my incision and fix an 3 inch hernia. I thought this was it for me as far as working out. Until I ended up on a project near a gym last year. I’ve been following more or less this method of working out with weights and strengthening my body again. The results have been great. I’m back to wearing the same pant size I had in high school. The pains in my back and joints have mostly disappeared. The back feels good and strong. I’m a bit limited as to what I can do my abs due to my hernia mesh. But I look like a man again and not a doughnut. Feels really good. So life has changed so much for the better. A strong body is essential to growing older and having a better quality of life. Heck I even have a 32 year old girlfriend now! Was worth every hour I spent in the gym!

  • yolanda bowles says:

    I am a woman getting ready to turn 50. I have been lifting weights since I was 30 and competed in several bodybuilding shows. I was hit by a fork lift (in February) and trying to starting lifting again. I have good days and bads days but I am finding myself listening to other women to give it up. I see that your advise is for men but what about a woman who used to lift like a man. Yes, nothing light at all. I miss it and I don’t know where to start. I want the look of being sculptured again but where to start. I want to go hard because I know I can do more and even my boyfriend doesn’t really support me on this. What to do?

  • Some tips for building muscles after 60 includes:
    Ensure to take proper nutritional intake
    Increase reps instead of increasing weight
    Lastly, and most importantly give your body some recovering time.

  • Ian Tuason says:

    I am 53 years of age and have been working out for awhile. This is the most honest and solid read I have ever read. I even copied the context to a document so I can read this everyday before I got to the gym. Well done !!!

  • Dave The Novice says:

    hey Mark from Sydney Australia, where I am setting foot in a gym for the first time in my life at 58. Working with a PT who is helping me build body and core strength first with pushups, squats etc. and light weights but really concentrating on correct form. Only in week three but already I can feel the difference. Your site is really positive and inspirational, so thank you!

  • I am 55 going on 25. I am not kidding, I can blow away guys thirty years younger. When younger, my workout included lots of supersets of ten reps. I now complete six reps max of heavy weights and this is one old guy who constantly catches ‘that look’ from others in disbelief especially after a workout. The vascularity may seem ugly to some but the wife and I love it! You are DEAD On as far as “thinking like an old guy”. I feel as I am 30 so that is my mental age as well! Good luck to you all!

  • I just turned 50 last week, but about 2 months ago I started back to the gym. I used to be naturally lean and small-framed growing up, added 35lbs of muscle in college, then only occasionally had strength from manual labor jobs. I did my first triathlon at 40 and worked out consistently for about 5 years before crazy life schedule kind of sidelined me and I dropped off the exercise radar. Now, 2 months ago I got it in my head that I needed to get back to the gym. I was about 230lbs, 5’6” tall and a 38in waist. I was tired, inflexible and weak. I’ve been going 4-5 days/wk, focusing on heavy lifting: bench, deadlift, squat, military press, barbell curl, chinups (assist machine), and scott press. Fat loss is slow because I’m trying to kick old food habits, but it’s coming, but I’m definitely building muscle. Because I still have a pretty thick fat layer, my shirts are tighter due to growing muscle, and you can see some muscle showing through on my sides since my belly will be the last to go. I can see muscle movement when I’m getting ready, I’m not tired, my back feels better, I’m resting better and have more energy, and my wife won’t stop touching me when we stand or sit close (for all the guys who say having a young wife helps, if you get in shape your wife will feel younger, too!). I still have a lot of work to do on flexibility and clean diet, but I like where I’m headed.

  • I’m a lady 53 and I train 6 days a week and 3 times boxing training with a coach !! They have some lady at 30 they don’t do that. So when you really want you can do everything!!

  • Hey Old Spartan (can I call you “OS”?), thanks for being here.
    I’m 60 and the gym just opened up yesterday after weeks of being closed for Covid. Before it closed I’d just lost 11 lbs (yay) by working big muscles regularly. Yesterday I found I’d gained back only 2 lbs during the closure. Pushups and backward pushups kept me alive but got real old. Now I’m pressing on to lose 4 more lbs and STAY THERE plus/minus 2 lbs for 3 months, while continuing to build big muscles. Roughly in order I want to see (1) visible increase in upper body muscles, (2) increase in squat lift lb max, and (3) making the f’ing gut go flat! I’m acting as if I’m competing for young hotties. My week by week strategy is to max-work an area 3 to 5 reps; next day work another area same way; third day same way; and rest a day. I count alot on “listening” to my body: If my arms say “Hey I’m still sore from the other day”, I let ’em rest another day. I’ve been lacking in core exercise because I don’t know how, but (coincidence) tomorrow someone in my company is going to teach “core strength and stability around your trunk, down to your hips and around your chest”. Areas I could use your valued advice are, what kinds of food help my body build up, and really any other area of advice. Oh, I took testosterone and HCG injections, and Anastrozole from August 2019 to April 2020. It was awesome! But … $. I’m trusting I’ll get back on that regimen soon. Salud, Joe

    • Joe, there’s a lot to unpack here. My advice is don’t chase too many rabbits. Pick one thing and focus on it. If you chase multiple rabbits, you won’t catch any.

  • Hi Mark.
    You might find this funny but I am a 56 year old women who started losing lots of muscle mass over the last 5 years. Always been active my whole life now have a sitting job. My sister-in-law said I could never get my muscle back. So I went seeking information. I came across your site. I find it very encouraging.
    Just thought I would let you know.
    Tomorrow is my new start @ trying to regain my nice muscle tone.

  • Very inspiring stuff Mark :). I’m 62 years old and have been pep talking myself in the same way since I started a workout thing at home a couple months ago. I’ve been doing the Chris Heria dumbbell routine. My wife, 10 years younger than me had various addictions for years and took her own life back in March., we have a 14 old daughter we adopted from China when she was 10 months old. I’m a widower, but I shan’t be lonely. I’ve always been too thin, skinny arms etc. 6’1” around 175 lbs.,an ectomorph body type. I always wanted bigger arms and chest , the whole deal. I’m doing a mass gainer powder, creatine, eating all the time, even having steaks between meals ha ha. I’m devoted to my workouts, I couldn’t do a single proper push-up in the beginning, I read that it was my lack of core strength and what ? Do push-ups on my knees until I can do proper ones ? It felt silly, but I did., in a short time I was doing actual, proper adult man pushups heh heh. I’ve gained noticeable muscle definition, some swell in those areas, I’m about 195 lbs now., it’s a bulking phase and muscle tone is coming along with it. Yes, stop thinking like an old guy and get in the mindset of a younger guy wanting to impress the girls” and don’t forget skin care products, teeth whitening, a great hairstyle, giving yourself a manicure, all that ties in importantly. A lady friend on the street I hadn’t seen in months was very impressed, she said you look younger , you don’t look over 40, you look like a model ! I’m only a couple months into my transformation, it’s fun and I’m more inspired than ever

  • What do you do when you been big and muscular your whole life and at 50 I been loosing it and its very hard to swallow. I work out but I can’t keep the mass and the size on. Its been hard for me to except any words of advice?

  • I find it comical that one trainer says to walk every day and others say not to.

  • I’m a 66 yr old man. 5′ 7″, 188 lbs. Started body building in my early 20’s. Lots of reps and sets. Lifted sporadically my whole life since. Two years ago I started power lifting religiously. Figured that my slower recovery time would not work well with high reps and high sets. In my first 12 months of consistent, disciplined power lifting I lost about 40 lbs. of fat and gained about 26 lbs. of muscle. I’ve maintained a good physique even after 10 months of no lifting.
    Now I wish that 40 years ago I had chosen the power lifting gym instead of the body building gym.

    Lifting heavy weight, low reps works! I’ve also found that contrary to what some think about the stress on the body from heavy lifting being extreme I’ve found that the lower weight, higher reps created more joint and tendon stress. I’ve had back problems most of my life as well as knee problems. Heavy deadlifts and squats have done so much to improve my back and knees. The heavy lifting is very compatible with joints, bones, tendons and muscle. It makes them stronger. However, it is necessary to start slow, increase weights gradually and take the time in the beginning when the weights are light to PERFECT YOUR FORM! Perfecting your form, gradually working up will keep you safe and with perfect technique you will be able to lift heavier weight.

    I started out with Strong Lifts 5×5. All compound lifts – Squat, Dead Lift, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Bent Over Row. When I started to plateau I shifted to one power lift a day. When I stalled at that I went to period training – 1 week light, 1 week medium, 1 week heavy. When my heavy lifting cycle stalled I focused on my light range – 4 sets 6 reps and have been steadily adding weight in this range. The theory being as I increased my light lifting 4×6 I will bump up my medium range 3×6 and heavy range 5×3. I’ve yet to test my new heavy range but I have confidence that it has increased as well. Why? Because what I was lifting for my light cycle is what I was lifting 6 months earlier in my heavy cycle.

    I’m just starting again after 10 months off. I have not lost as much strength as I thought I would but I did back off my lifts by 10% – 20% for safety to start back up.

    Side Note: I do eat quite a bit more. Sometimes eating enough is difficult. But, not enough carbs = not enough fuel and the bar doesn’t move.

    There is enough good advice on the web to find alternatives to routines that stop producing. You can’t keep increasing your lifts indefinitely. You will eventually get stuck. You just have to get sound training advice and judge methods by attaining sound, reliable knowledge. The next time I stall in this current routine I will switch again. But the lifting will still be in the power lifting heavy mode.

    It’s a bit difficult to find guys 1/3 my age that are as fit as I am. I love it! Get old but don’t get weak and sick. Break the “old guy” model.

    Good luck everyone. Lift Heavy! Stay committed!

  • Mark, great article. I was a big, strong guy at 20, and average by 30. Finally after almost 30 years of on again / off again lifting, I’ve stuck with it for the last 3 years (51 now). Gains take longer now, but are steady. Recovery from minor injuries take months instead of a week. Warmup (light circuit, heavy bag, battle rope, etc. ) has been key to staying healthy. Every other day instead of 3 days on 1 off seems to have helped the joints quite a bit. I’m constantly looking for feedback and advice from other “old guys” that lift heavy to learn from mistakes, experience, and success. Thanks for sharing yours!

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