Although I work mostly with younger guys crazy for big muscles, I also have clients that work out in their 40s and 50s.
The most common questions I get from them:
Can I have the body I used to have?
Can I gain muscles at my age?
And my answer is always the same.
Of course, it’s possible, but you need a different approach.
So, how to build muscle after 40?
You need the right combination of workouts, diet, and rest to achieve your goal even if you are over 40.
So, you can gain muscles after 40 but you need a totally different approach from the past. (1)
In addition, I am going to explain the workout, cardio, and diet – all you need to get the muscular body you want.
1. Workouts after 40
As we get older, our bodies are more prone to injuries.
That’s why you need to change some things regarding your workout
Always warm-up at least 15 minutes with some cardio before you start weightlifting.
You will raise your body’s temperature and you will have good blood flow for the upcoming exercises.
Warming up and stretching is now more important than ever.
Let’s go further.
How many sets and reps to build muscle after 40?
Your reps should be moderate to high: 8-12 reps for your upper body and 12-20 for your lower body.
In this phase, you use weights that are 60-70% of the maximum rep (1RM – repetition maximum).
What is 1RM?
That’s the biggest weight you can lift only once while doing a certain exercise.
So, if you are doing a squat with 200 pounds and you manage to do only 1 rep that’s 1RM.
And 60% of 1RM, in this case, is 120, or 140 pounds for 70 %.
Why shouldn’t you lift the maximum weight?
A lower intensity training rather than strength training with more reps leads to hypertrophy (increasing muscle fiber volume).
Also, heavyweights cause big stress on your joints and ligaments.
So, you should use moderate weights for your reps to avoid that.
That’s how you will stimulate your muscles to grow.
How to exercise?
Combine bodyweight exercises and gym machines.
When you are younger you can do more bodyweight exercises.
But, as you age your stabilizer muscles become weaker and that can lead to serious ligaments and tendons injuries.
You can lower the risk of getting injured by using machines.
You need to perform the exercises properly.
Your body can’t recover as fast as before.
And if you don’t do the exercises right, you can get injured more easily.
What else changed after 40?
Rest days and rules.
You need more time to recover.
Rest and recovery are key: you need to spend fewer days at the gym.
Those are some of the basic rules you need to follow.
Here’s a workout program for beginners over 40.
This is a one week program of exercises for the entire body (and rest):
- Squats (use Smit machine): 3 sets, 10 reps
- Lying Leg Curl: 2 sets, 10 reps
- Standing Calf Raise: 2 sets, 10 reps
- Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets, 12 reps
- Lat Pulldown: 3 sets, 10 reps
- Overhead press: 3 sets, 12 reps
- Triceps Pushdown: 2 sets, 12 reps
- Barbell Curl: 2 sets, 12 reps
2nd day: Rest
- Leg Press: 5 sets 18 reps
- Seated Calf Raise: 2 sets, 12 reps
- Incline Bench Press: 3 sets, 10 reps
- Seated Cable Row: 3 sets, 8 – 12 reps
- Dumbbell Side Laterals: 3 sets, 8 – 12 reps
- Triceps Dip: 2 sets, 8 – 12 reps
4th day: rest
- Barbell Squat: 3 sets, 10 reps
- Seated Leg Curl: 2 sets, 10 reps
- Standing Calf Raise: 2 sets, 12 reps
- Bench Press: 3 sets, 10 reps
- One-Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets, 10 reps
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets, 10 reps
- Lying Triceps Extensions: 2 sets, 10 reps
Cardio workouts after 40
There are several reasons why cardio workout is very important if you are over 40.
First, your metabolism slows down.
If you try cardio from time to time you will increase your metabolism to burn those fat layers.
Second, and very important – cardio is essential if you want to have a healthy heart.
But you should do low-intensity cardio like walking and jogging.
20-30 minutes of jogging is enough.
Once or twice per week on a treadmill will be good for you.
You can do cardio on your rest day.
2. Diet rules to build muscle after 40
As I said, when you are over 40 your metabolism slows down so you need to change some dietary habits.
You can’t have the same dietary habits as when you were 18.
Actually, you can, but you will gain pounds and fat layers really quick.
So, you should avoid high carb foods, junk foods, alcohol (especially beer), etc.
Also, after 30 your testosterone levels drop so you need to increase them.
You should eat foods that boost testosterone like:
- Egg yolks
- Lean beef
- Green vegetables
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Pumpkin seeds
You can read more about the best testosterone boosting foods here.
Furthermore, you should eat foods that release your Human Growth Hormone (important for lean muscles) like:
- Foods high in Arginine – milk, beef, chicken, seafood, legumes, peanuts
- Broad bean
- Foods that boost Serotonine – pineapple, banana, berries
- Coconut water
- Foods high in GABA – soy, seeds
- Foods high in HOLIN – broccoli, wheat, Brussels sprout, peanuts, yolks.
You can read more about foods that boost HGH here.
Eat foods high in good carbs before a workout (to boost your energy) like:
- Brown rice
- Oat flakes
- Wholewheat pasta
- Sweet potato
- Orange juice
And eat foods high in proteins and fats after a workout:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Beef, poultry
- Tuna, salmon
You can read more about nutrition before and after a workout here.
And last, but not least – proper supplementation.
Supplements are definitely very good allies in your bodybuilding journey.
Especially when you want to build muscle after 40.
Here’s the kicker:
I don’t like steroids so I’m not talking about steroids.
There are some effective supplements made of natural ingredients that can help you build muscles after 40.
You can read more about the best testosterone boosting supplements here.
And if you click on the link below you will read about the best natural steroid alternatives you should try in order to increase your muscles.