So you have hit the big 4-0 and your life is starting to take shape, but your body is starting to suffer. The youth you once had is now starting to dwindle. You ask yourself, "Is it possible for me to regain the body I once had and put on some muscle at my age?" The simple answer is yes!
You can put on muscle after 40, but you will have to take a completely different approach than when you weight trained and dieted as a youth. Below I will discuss the training, cardio and nutrition you will need to focus on in your pursuit to a more muscular physique.
As you age, the body is more susceptible to injury so several things need to change with your training:
- Always warm up for at least 15 minutes on a piece of cardio equipment before you lift weights. This will increase your core temperature and help the blood flow for the workout to come.
- Repetition range should be in the moderate to high range, 8-12 rep for upper body exercises and 12-20 rep for lower body exercises. Heavy weights put too much stress on the joints and ligaments. I want you to use moderate weight in the rep ranges listed above. This will stimulate your muscles enough for new growth.
- Use a combination of free weights and machines. As a youth your body is able to use a lot more free weight exercises but as you age your stabilizer muscles start to weaken which can leave your ligaments and tendons in danger of injury. Using machine lowers this risk.
- Your exercise form and posture needs to perfect. Your body doesn't have the forgiveness of youth anymore so using poor form can easily result in injury.
- Recovery time is a little longer so rest and recovery is critical; fewer days in the gym is going to be a must.
Those are some basic pointers you should look out for. Below is a sample workout program for a beginner lifter over the age of 40. This is a 3-day full-body workout program.
- Smith Machine Squats: 3 sets of 12 reps
- Lying Leg Curl: 2 sets of 15 reps
- Standing Calf Raise: 2 sets of 15 reps
- Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Machine Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Triceps Rope Pushdown: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
- Barbell Curl: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
Day 2: Off
- Leg Press: 5 sets of 20 reps
- Seated Calf Raise: 2 sets of 15 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Seated Cable Row: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Side Laterals: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Triceps Dip Machine: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
- Machine Preacher Curl: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
Day 4: Off
- Barbell Squat: 3 sets of 12 reps
- Seated Leg Curl: 2 sets of 12 reps
- Standing Calf Raise: 2 sets of 15 reps
- Machine Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- One-Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Lying Triceps Extensions: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
- Alternating Dumbbell Curls: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
Cardio is critical for anyone over the age of 40 for several reasons. Once you get to 40 your metabolism is not as fast as it once was, so regular bouts of cardio will keep your body fat in check. Secondly and most important is your heart is at its mid life and keeping it strong and in shape will help you live a longer and fruitful life.
I want you to stick to 3-4, 20-30 minute low-intensity cardio sessions a week. This means walking or light jogging. I would stay away from any kind of running as this can be very strenuous on the knees and joints.
If you were a runner in your youth, again start with the low intensity bouts of cardio for the first month. After that, running once or twice a week on the treadmill or rubber track is fine. I would stay away from pavement as it is very unforgiving to the knees at any age. Remember, living a long and fruitful life always comes first and without a strong heart that can't be done.
As discussed earlier, when you hit the big 4-0 your metabolism is slowing down, so your nutrition will have to be changed up a bit from when you were a youth. Extra carbs and calories you once were able to consume are going to have to be cut out of your diet. Our goal is to maximize muscle gain with minimal fat gain, so you will be eating at a slight surplus.
Cholesterol is also another big issue for many people over the age of 40. Your diet should be rich is healthy fats. Check out my shopping list article to show you which foods you should chose from when you are at the supermarket.
Below is a sample diet for a plus 40 year old weighing about 180 pounds who is looking to put on muscle mass:
Meal 5: Post Workout
- Protein Powder: I use Isobolic by Nutrabolics, it's a very high quality protein powder.
- Glutamine: Helps with recovery. Take 5 grams with meals 1, 4, 5, and 6.
- Test Booster: A quality test booster like HemoTest from Nutrabolics promotes already healthy testosterone levels.
- Multivitamin: A high quality multivitamin/mineral will help you get all the nutrients you don't receive from your diet. Vitabolic is what I use.
Preparation is going to be critical. Making all your meals the night before is something you should consider to help conserve time. Bringing your meals to work will be a must, but what happens when you have a luncheon or big business dinner with clients?
Don't fret, use your common sense. Order something that is similar to what you normally eat. Remember, life can not be restricted to chicken and rice, you can stray from the diet and still see results. Just don't make a habit of it.
There you have it. No more excuses about being over the hill. You have all the pieces to the puzzle to increase your muscle mass after the age of 40.