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 then 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.
- Rep 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 machines lowers this risk.
- Form 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, less 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 3x12
- Lying Leg Curl 2x15
- Standing Calf Raise 2x15
- Flat Barbell Bench Press 3x8-12
- Lat Pulldown 3x8-12
- Machine Shoulder Press 3x8-12
- Triceps Rope Extension 2x8-12
- Barbell Curl 2x8-12
Day 2: OFF
- Leg Press 5x20
- Seated Calf Raise 2x15
- Incline Dumbbell Press 3x8-12
- Low Cable Row 3x8-12
- Dumbbell Side Laterals 3x8-12
- Tricep Dip Machine 2x8-12
- Machine Preacher Curl 2x8-12
Day 4: OFF
- Barbell Squat 3x12
- Seated Leg Curl 2x12
- Standing Calf Raise 2x15
- Machine Bench Press 3x8-12
- One Arm Dumbbell Row 3x8-12
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3x8-12
- Lying Triceps Extensions 2x8-12
- Alternating Dumbbell Curls 2x8-12
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. 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. To help combat “high cholesterol” your diet should be rich is healthy fats. Healthy fats have been shown to help increase HDL levels (Good Cholesterol) and decrease LDL levels (Bad Cholesterol) which lowers your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and other heart related problems.
Check out my shopping list article to show you which foods you should chose from when you are at the supermarket.
Let’s start by multiplying your bodyweight by 16 to get the amount of calories you should consume on a daily basis. I want you to eat 35% carbs, 40% protein and 25% healthy fats. Below is a sample diet for a plus 40 year old looking to put on muscle mass:
- Meal 1: 5 egg whites, 1 whole egg, ¾ cup of oatmeal.
- Meal 2: 2 scoops of protein powder, 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter, 1 oz of almonds (Blend together it makes a great shake).
- Meal 3: 5 oz of chicken breast, 1 cup of brown rice.
- Meal 4: 5 oz of chicken breast, 2 oz of whole wheat pasta.
- Meal 5: Post workout - 2 scoops of protein powder, 2 bananas.
- Meal 6: 6 oz of top round steak, 1 tTablespoon of olive oil, 1 oz of pecans (Cook together).
Above diet is for a 180 lb person.
Supplements that you will use are as follows:
- Protein Powder: I use Big Blend by Betancourt Nutrition, very high quality protein powder.
- Glutamine: Helps with recovery. 5 grams with meal 1, 4, 5, 6.
- Test Booster: As you age your testosterone level start to fall. A quality test booster will help naturally increase your testosterone levels.
- Multivitamin: Also a high quality multivitamin/mineral will help you get all the nutrients you don’t receive from your diet. Magnum Multivitamins is a quality multivitamin/mineral that 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. Good Luck.