Top 5 Secrets to Building Muscle After 50


October 23, 2012

building muscle after 50

What’s holding you back?

building muscle after 50 with kettlebells
Kettlebells are a great tool for building muscle after 50

It can be done ya know.

You can get strong and build muscle at any age. Guaranteed.

Now building muscle after 50 may be a little harder than when you were younger but the principles still remain the same.

  • Have a plan
  • Be consistent
  • Use a proven system
  • and work hard

A positive mental attitude will go a long way. You have to?believe?that?building muscle is possible.

Your First Secret

Stop wasting so much time running.

I’m not kidding. Yea I know you’ve always done a little running. Maybe a lot.

But we are talking about building muscle, not general fitness.

Distance running does provide some aerobic benefit but overall, it is counterproductive for building muscle. The repetitive jarring to your joints creates an inflammatory response that requires healing time and energy consumption. Distance running can create micro injuries to your ligaments and tendons that take a few days to heal.

If you are running on day 1 and lifting on day 2 or 3 of a given week for example, you are lifting with compromised or possibly weakened ligaments. This can lead to injury. Running just breaks down muscle more than it builds it. Period.

Your leg moves through a very limited range of motion while running providing only minimal stimulus to build the leg muscles. Compare your running stride to performing a full squat (see below)

There is a dramatic difference in total leg involvement between squatting and running. And that difference translates into building muscle mass. Don?t stop running totally but running a little less may actually be beneficial.

Secret Number Two

Take some of your new-found time from minimizing long, boring, counterproductive endurance runs and start sprinting.

Sprinting is an explosive, strength building exercise. Look at the physique of any high-caliber sprinter. They are muscular from top to bottom. A hidden benefit of sprinting is the efficiency of the exercise. You can run six to eight 40 yard sprints in twelve minutes or so. The equivalent endurance benefit from distance running would take you about 45 minutes. Sprinting saves you considerable time.

And the muscular development you get from sprinting cannot be achieved from distance running at all. This is really a no-brainer. You must start sprinting (not should, must). If you are a runner who spends forty-five minutes or so running three times a week, try this workout for a change:

  1. Limit your distance running to once a week – 45 minutes as before
  2. Add a sprint day to your workout – 15 to 20 minutes
  3. Add two lifting days separated by at least 24 hours – 25 to 30 minutes each
    1. You could lift on Mon & Thurs (pm)
    2. Sprint on Tues or Wed
    3. Run distance on Sat (am)

This allows your lower body to recover from the distance running workout between Sat morning and?Mon afternoon when you lift again. If you want to start building muscle after 50, this is a great plan to get you going.

Secret Number Three

Lift heavy things.

This really is the main secret. If you’re only going to do one thing, this is it. Lift weights, and go heavy.

Resistance training is the key to get your body to naturally release testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH). These hormones are needed to optimize the condition needed for muscle growth.

Lifting heavy is a relative term. When you are just starting out, a heavy lift is body weight training exercises.

As you get fitter, start to use more weight, add more repetitions or perform more difficult movements.

For example, you may start out with push up workouts for your Push movement. Then as a progression, move to a more advanced Push exercise like overhead pressing. An even more advanced move (a further progression) is mixed weight overhead pressing where you use a different weight in each hand (say 12 Kg in one hand and 16 kg in the other hand).

This adds an asymmetrical load to the movement which requires additional core stabilization during the lift.

The key is to load your muscles enough to cause minor muscle breakdown. Strength is gained and muscle mass is built when your muscle tissue is repaired during your recovery period.


Lift heavy things using basic compound movements or sometimes called the 5 Human Movements:

  1. Push
  2. Pull
  3. Hinge
  4. Squat and
  5. Carry

Here are some more tips to building muscle after 50.

Secret Number Four

Eat like a king. Proper nutrition is really the foundation for any fitness program. And getting enough quality protein is an absolute requirement for building muscle mass.

It?doesn’t?matter if you run, lift, play tennis or hike in the mountains as your primary exercise, you will not achieve optimum results without good food for fuel.

For muscle-building in particular, you need good quality sources of protein for muscle repair and good sources of fuel (carbs and fat) to keep your body running. Aim for one gram of protein for each pound of lean body mass (LBM).

Calculate Lean Body Mass

If you weigh 200 pounds and have 20% body fat, your LBM is 160 pounds (200-(200*20%)). In this case you should try to eat 160 grams of good quality protein each day.

So get your protein right first and then ensure you are fueling adequately for energy. This means quality carbohydrates and healthy fats. Things like:

  • Sweet potatoes instead of cereal
  • Piles of fresh veggies instead of bread
  • Avocados and olive oil instead of corn or soybean oils
  • Real fruit and not fruit juie
  • Quinoa instead of traditional grain based carbs (wheat primarily).

This ensures you are well fed to build muscle and maintain energy levels without being primed to store fat as a consequence.

This is an oversimplification but high carbohydrate diets (refined carbs) typically promote fat storage. High fat diets (good, healthy fats) tend to promote an efficient, fat-burning, muscle-building body. Good fats are from natural sources like meat, eggs, fish, fowls, nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil and olive oil.

There’s no magic here. It’s just that crappy carbs are addictive and not very satisfying so you’ll end up eating more overall calories when they make up a significant part of your diet.

And the opposite is also true. Good fats tend to be highly satiating so you’ll eat fewer overall calories when consuming healthy, filling foods.

Secret Number Five

Know how to progress your workouts.

You’ll plateau quickly and stop making gains if you do the same thing over and over.

There are some strategies to ensure this won’t happen. The most common is using a technique called linear periodization. This means you progress from lower intensity to higher intensity workouts within each phase of your training.

So let’s say you are following a 3 week training cycle. Each three week phase gradually increases overall volume and intensity as you progress through the phase. This means the weight being lifted and/or the reps per set being done gets larger as you move through the phase.

And each week of the phase typically has its own mini cycle as well, varying easy, medium and hard workouts.

So week 1 is the least intense and week 3 has the greatest intensity. Then you’ll progress into a new phase with a different focus (maybe Phase 1 was strength and Phase 2 is endurance) and you’ll start back down at the lower end of your intensity scale.

Linear periodization keeps things changing and fresh so you never get used to your workouts and plateau. You will constantly make progress whether you’re focuses on building muscle or shredding fat.

The bottom line

Know how to design workouts for optimum results.

This workout uses an advanced linear periodization strategy and it is very effective.

Bonus Secret Number Six

Sleep like a baby.

Get a lot of sleep, 9 hours a night if you can. Not only does your body repair itself and build your muscle tissue during sleep, good rest helps you mitigate high cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress. It is a part of your fight or flight response mechanism but in your chronically stressed environment today, has become ever-present in your body.

When cortisol levels rise, testosterone and HGH will fall. You cannot maintain a positive muscle-building environment inside your body with high levels of cortisol. So manage your stress anyway you can. One sure way to help is getting adequate sleep.

Building Muscle After 50

If you are a hard-core distance runner and want to build muscle, understand this may be a bit counterproductive. Trade in some run workouts for lifting and sprinting. And go as heavy as you can in the gym.

Workout with a proven strategy that will guarantee results. Know what you’re doing. Anything works for a few weeks but to get consistent results over a longer period, use a workout like this one.

Focus on a quality diet that provides protein for muscle repair and good carbs and fats for fueling your body. Control your stress with adequate sleep and you are on your way to a more muscular, fitter you.


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.

  • This was wonderful. I have been a distance runner for a long time and I am starting to notice the aches and pains. I am going to start the sprints this week!

    • Lisa, most runners get mad when I tell them to run less. But I think there is a point where you doing more harm than good.

  • Steve Smith says:

    This is spot on, I’mean a 57 year old masters sprinter who trains 3x per week, in the winter it’s 2 weights sessions, 1 sprint and 1 plyometric per week, summer is 1 weights 2 sprint and 1 plyometric session per week, I’m 6ft 2 in, 187lb with 10% body fat. Distance running pals don’t believe how little running I do.

  • Steve Smith says:

    This is spot on, I’mean a 57 year old masters sprinter who trains 4x per week, in the winter it’s 2 weights sessions, 1 sprint and 1 plyometric per week, summer is 1 weights 2 sprint and 1 plyometric session per week, I’m 6ft 2 in, 187lb with 10% body fat. Distance running pals don’t believe how little running I do.

  • interesting and informative muscle building techniques for over 50’s like me most of my personal techniques and eating habits are similar but I will try yours thanks

  • Everytime I have tried sprinting, I blow my knees out. I’m trying something a little different this time, in that I am getting the weight off first, then starting sprinting. I started around 220 four months ago and am now down to 195. I want to get to 180 before I start running/ sprinting. 25 down, fifteen to go.

    • It’s a good point. Any kind of running when overweight is hard on ya. Sprinting is very effective when you can do it. And you don’t have to go real hard. I kinda ramp up into a 3/4 effort and then ease off. I’m never at 100% effort but still get a great workout from it.

  • Derek johnson says:

    great information really needed it

  • Teresa A Sousa says:

    what are the differences for women

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    2 Rule Easy Fat Loss

    Get this Simple Fat Loss Plan

    Lose Fat Permanently. Eat Anything You Want. Just Two Rules