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“Is There an Age Limit for Building Muscle?”

I’ve regularly witnessed something that could be quite humorous if it weren’t a mini tragedy by my own standards of expectant bodybuilding results and efficient use of time and effort. It takes place in an almost ritualistic manner in the gym where I train. Imagine, for a moment, a sixty-something year-old guy being trained by a guy who’s about thirty-something. There’s nothing wrong with that – right? But now, picture the older man doing set after set of forced reps, negatives, and drop sets – all the while grunting and groaning – as his ignoramus “trainer” looks on with the proud expression that says “this is my best trainee.” Even worse, imagine this happening on a weekly rotation.


Seasoned Bodybuilder
Is there an age limit for building muscle? Not if you follow sound bodybuilding training and recuperation principles


Why do I refer to the trainer as an ignoramus? Because regardless of the goals (assuming there are any), he’s overtraining the older guy to a degree that would make it evident even if the older man were twenty-five. It’s no wonder the older guy’s musculature resembles that of someone who’s been in zero gravity for the last two years. I’m not one to mince words: He actually appears like he’s been in zero gravity and chasing down boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts with cases of beer.


So is there an age limit for building muscle?

Well, there definitely is if we train like ignoramuses. When I hear the question of whether there’s an “age limit for building muscle”, the first thing I want to convey to the questioner is that a “no pain/no gain” philosophy applied without constraint can slam a muscle building limit on someone at any age. This is something I know from painful experience. It was during the time when my ‘before picture’ (of my before and after pics) was taken that I was actually training with extreme intensity – performing sets in a similar manner as the sixty-something year-old trainee I’ve mentioned above.

If overtraining is the culprit that nips progress in the bud of many bodybuilders under forty, imagine the prevalence and insidious effect of this progress-stalling practice among those in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. Age slows down the body’s recuperative processes. Recuperation between workouts is half the basic formula in effective muscle building. For those in this age group, the downward spiral in strength and muscle mass through continued catabolism of unrepaired tissue can be staggering. It makes the dichotomy between wasted time/effort in the gym and what I’d call “training just to build character” a disturbing reality. And it’s probably the biggest reason for middle-aged and seasoned citizen trainees mistakenly concluding that there’s an age limit for building muscle.

Defying the Notion of an Age Limit for Building Muscle

Forget about some study you might have seen cited in which a group of older people were compared with a group of younger people in a sixteen-week weight training protocol… “blah, blah, blah” – and the older people only gained as much muscle as the younger people who were sedentary… blah, blah, blah…on and on. These studies make little sense from a methodological standpoint. The reason is that they don’t account for the biggest distinction needing recognition between effective muscle-building for older people as compared with younger people: the need for increased inter-workout recuperation time. The researchers put all study participants on the same schedule. Then they prematurely conclude that those beyond the age of sixty have reached some kind of “limit for building muscle” because they didn’t gain strength and size like the twenty-something year-olds.

Let me get right to my point. The older you are, the more rest time between workouts you’re likely to need in order to make continual progress in muscle size and strength – period. If you’re thirty, you’ll likely need more time than when you were twenty. When you’re forty, you’ll likely need more time than at thirty – and on and on.

Does this mean the muscle gains come a bit more slowly? Sure, but when you get the formula right, they come faster than those of about 99% of middle-aged and beyond bodybuilders at your gym who aren’t making any progress despite their best efforts.

… And when those gym members ask you why your body doesn’t recognize an ‘age limit for building muscle’, tell them you’ve customized your workout to defy all that nonsense.

Comments

Scott Abbett

Hi Bruce,

I want to apologize for such a late reply to your very inspiring comments. I've been busy with a lot of writing and your comment got past me somehow.

That last sentence in what you wrote is very motivating and reminds me of something said by one of my greatest (book) mentors. He was a bodybuilder, but also an intellectual. He said at a young age he vowed to himself "I will continue to build my mind and body until the day I die." That's what he did, and from what I can tell, he lived an incredible life.

Here's to even better progress for you in the years to come.

Scott

Bruce Groh

I am 61 now (oh no!) only kidding. I began training back in the late 70s. It's unbelievable how a body can keep training all these years. I have found that as long as you have that fire inside, nothing will stop you. I've learned to improvise on certain exercises due to limited training space, as well as having to train in my apartment. From past gym experiences, and the years of learning from experience, I've formulated a custom fit routine for my needs. You tend to learn what works as you go along. I've gained muscle even after 50. So, each of us are made up differently I guess. I love it and will allways love it until I physically can't anymore

scott

Hello Megan,

Thank you for visiting my blog.

I'm a big believer in mind-over-matter and that most of us have untapped potential in areas that can improve our lives. But to not temper this belief with realism would be the the roots of delusion.

"Nothing" has an age limit? Really? So if I live to be 90, you wouldn't mind seeing me try to do a Turkish Kolbasti dance at a wedding reception?

Scott

Megan

In life i believe nothing has an age limit. As humans we are able to do anything. We just have to put are minds to it

http://loselegfatsecrets.com

Scott

Hi Jerry,

Thank you for dropping by.

Very impressive credentials you have. I'll take a look at your site.

I remember years ago when a 70-something year old guy (who didn't train) tried to tell me that muscle gains could be had until about age 45. What a terribly limiting belief. I'm glad I didn't adopt his belief because I've past that age mark and I'm making better gains than ever.

I don't know why so many people don't see that "recuperation adjustment" is the biggest key to their ongoing progress. (???)

Keep up the great work.

Scott

Jerry Bruton

My name is Jerry Bruton and I am 61 years old. I compete in natural ultra grand masters men bodybuilding. I was selected as one of the over 40 bodybuilders for the week by Bodybuilding dot com.

http://www.bodybuilders.com/jerry-bruton.htm

I have been able to maintain a large percent of the muscle mass I gained during my late 30’s and 40’s. I started bodybuilding training in my early 30’s.

You are correct about the recuperation time needs to increase for us older bodybuilders. I work a body part once a week. I alternate between a heavy week with emphasis on compound exercises with 6 to 8 reps at 80% to 85% of 1-RM ; a moderate week with compound exercises at the 12-15 reps range at 65% to 75% 1-RM and more isolation exercises.
I think I have been using your advice to customize my workouts to defy the age limit for building muscle.

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