7 Essential Tips for Building Muscles over 40

A person using a pull bar weight lifting machine at a gym. Text reads 7 tips for building muscle over the age of 40.


Building muscles over 40 doesn’t have to be a painful or difficult experience. At this age your relationships and professional life are in a solid place and your body can be too. Read on to see what causes muscle breakdown as you age, what you can do about it and how to build muscles if you’re over 40 (spoiler: it’s not too late!).

Why Muscles Breakdown After 40

As you get older your muscles, tendons and tissues become more rigid and less elastic and if you haven’t stayed on top of your workout routine consistently over the years then you could be experiencing a loss of strength. These factors combine to make for potentially longer recovery times after workouts and aches and pains in the morning that you wouldn’t have experienced in your 20’s. Since the number and size of muscle fibers decrease with age you’ll find that it takes longer for your muscles to respond to your workouts than they did in your youth.

Finally, your busy lifestyle in your 40’s often doesn’t lend itself to lengthy times at the gym. Less time spent working out can lead to muscle atrophy, but it’s not too late, atrophy can be reversed. Building muscles over 40 isn’t just for youthful looks and energy, when you build muscle mass you also increase bone mass, which is another critical key to remaining mobile as you age.

7 Tips for Building Muscles over 40

1. Warm Up and Cool Down

If you are just beginning to create a workout routine for building muscle over 40 then you’ll want to create a solid warm up and cool down program. Properly warming up your muscles will help your body ease back into strength training mode — so don’t pick up those heavy weights just yet.

Warm up by lifting a lighter weight that you can easily do for 10 reps. This prepares the body for the muscle motion without putting a strain on your body, building up for the heavier weights. A warm up that includes light cardio, like a brisk walk on the treadmill, can also get your heart pumping and prepared for your workout. At the end of each workout allow time for a cool down. Cooling down allows for a gradual recovery period for your heart rate and blood pressure. 

2. Use it or Lose it

Muscle atrophy is a real thing and the principle of use it or lose it applies to muscle strength, especially as you age. If your work or lifestyle has lent itself to sitting behind a desk or in a car for commuting then you might have noticed weakening muscles over time. The only way to combat atrophy is to make consistent weight lifting or resistance workouts a part of your schedule.

Studies have shown that muscles can be rebuilt, in fact in one study men and women in their 60s and 70s began a weight training program and developed muscles that were as strong and large as those of an average 40-year-old! So use them and use them regularly. 

3. Nutrition is Key

If you’re working on building muscle it is a must that your diet helps and not hinders your efforts. Nutrient-dense foods with the right blend of proteins, carbs and healthy fats will help you to build muscle after 40. Eating the right foods after a workout supplies your muscles with the necessary nutrients for building and repairing muscles.

These nutrients and minerals go a long way to helping a body build muscle:

Calcium – this mineral is vital for muscle contraction and energy metabolism. A lack of calcium can trigger the release of calcitrol, a hormone that causes you to store fat.

Biotin– Not only does biotin keep your hair and skin looking great, it also helps convert carbs, fats and proteins into energy.

Iron– This mineral is essential for keeping high energy levels. 

Vitamin C– This nutrient helps metabolize carbs and protects your body from stress caused by exercise. 

Omega 3– These fatty acids have shown to improve blood flow and healthier hearts, so eat up — your body can’t produce Omega 3’s so all you get is from your diet alone. 

Vitamin B12– This vitamin helps convert food into energy and helps the bring and muscles work together, helping with muscle growth and coordination. 

Magnesium– This mineral helps boost your energy levels, reducing fatigue and the chance of muscle cramps.

4.Focus on Flexibility 

While you’re pumping iron don’t forget to create time for stretching during your workout. Properly stretching your muscles, holding each stretch for 60 seconds, will go a long way in increasing flexibility and preventing injury. Stretching allows for greater movement in joints and helps to release muscle tension and soreness. Stretching has also shown to increase circulation and improve balance as you age. 

5. Make time 

Building muscle over 40 won’t happen in New Year’s goal-making spurts that last the month of January. To consistently build muscle you have to consistently make time for the effort. Set a (realistic) time for your workouts whether that is in the morning, your lunch break or the evening and stick with it.

Create reminders around your home and small habits (like laying out your workout clothes the night before) to make it easier to keep consistent. Find a workout partner, they can help spot you and give great accountability. 

 6. Cardio Matters Too

Don’t forget to include a cardio workout a few times a week. Regular cardio improves your cardiovascular system, making it work better and more efficiently which means na increase in capillary growth in your muscles. This means your muscle circulation is improved, helping your muscles to stay strong and healthy. Cardio also helps in burning fat which makes it easier to see the gains you’re making in building muscles. 

7. How to Train

Building muscle over 40 will mean taking a different approach than you would have in your 20’s. Along with the tips mentioned above you will also want to keep your repetitions in the moderate range, 8-12 reps for upper body and 10-20 reps for lower body.

 Avoid stacking on the heavy weights which put a lot of stress on your joints, instead focus on moderate weights and consistent reps. Free weights can work just fine but consider utilizing more machines. Workout machines for strength training help support your core and put all the focus on the muscle group being worked, lowering risk of injury. 

Another key factor will be form. If you aren’t sure of the proper form ask a trainer or find a video or pictures to guide you through the exercise. Poor form leads to injury, especially in muscles that are more rigid with age. 

Finally, allow yourself recovery time. You might need longer between workouts and don’t feel the need to hit up the gym 7 days a week. 

With these 7 tips you’ll be well on your way to building muscles after 40 and regaining strength, muscle mass and energy no matter your age. 

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