How To Build Muscle After 40?

Written by Andrew Brewer. ⚕️Reviewed and fact checked by our medical team.


Wondering if it is possible for you to ever get even remotely close to being in shape again now that you’re over 40…or 50…or even older? Well, the good news is that it is NOT too late! Actually, it’s kind of a good news/bad news situation, but the good news outweighs the bad news by far. Let me just lay it out there for you in broad terms. Believe it or not, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in the way you build muscle when you’re older than the way you did it when you were younger. The only bad news, really, is that it will probably take just a bit longer and you have to be more careful.

If you are well informed about what you can reasonably expect and when, however, you should be able to move forward with regular progress without getting discouraged. The key, of course, is doing it correctly. But that is true at any age. Even people under 40s get sidelined with injuries from training too hard, or training incorrectly. And that is frustrating no matter how old you are. But at a certain age, we start to regard time wasted as something much more important to be avoided. So you need be aware of where the pitfalls lay, and how to deal with them.

And here’s the thing. The obstacles in your path don’t just include the training itself. You’ve made the choice to jump back into it, or start for the first time, and there is nothing stopping it from working for you…except yourself. This is one area where you have almost total control. If you train correctly, and are careful to keep from doing anything that will cause injuries or make them worse, there is no reason you cannot achieve the results you desire. So don’t sabotage your efforts with things that don’t have anything at all to do with the actual training.

Here are some suggestions to help you incorporate regular training back into your life again, or begin it for the first time ever.

Key Takeaways

  • Building muscle after 40 is possible and similar to building muscle at a younger age, but it may take a bit longer and require more careful training to avoid injuries.
  • Prioritizing regular training sessions, tweaking your attitude towards exercise, and adjusting your expectations is key to achieving your muscle-building goals.
  • Research shows that older adults can still gain muscle and strength with regular training, and may even experience slightly more muscle gain than younger adults.
  • Consistency is key to maintaining muscle and strength gains in the long term.
  • It’s important to prioritize self-care and avoid activities that may sabotage your training efforts.

Establish Your Priorities


Your life is probably much busier and more complicated than when you were in your twenties. So making the time to train, and the effort to maintain a proper diet, may not be as easy as it was when you’re younger. With a reasonable amount of planning, though, they should not be too very difficult to achieve.

Keeping your training regular is of the utmost importance, so look at your schedule closely and see where you can fit it in that is least vulnerable to disruption. Then treat your training times with the importance they deserve, and don’t ditch a session for anything but the most unavoidable circumstances. This is something you will probably only need to do once, in the beginning. Do it right the first time and you shouldn’t need to bother with it again.

Tweak Your Attitude

You may now be viewing exercise as a necessary evil, a means to an end, rather than the enjoyable recreational activity it may have been for you in the past. DON’T DO THAT. When it is time for a training session, just put everything else out of your head for a couple of hours and just focus on what you are doing, which is making your body strong!

Yes, try to embrace the strain and sweat because they are very real indicators that you are making progress toward your goal. Even before you begin to see the results you are looking for, this is genuine evidence that you WILL see them. Use that as encouragement and motivation to continue.

Don’t Give Up

Okay, so it may take a while to get the results you want, depending on where you are starting from. But each training session is a worthy effort in and of itself. So each time you go into the gym, try to make it the best training session you are capable of.

Reaching your training goals is simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. If you train correctly on a regular basis, you should be able to achieve the results you are after. There aren’t a whole of things in life that you have this much control over. If you just don’t give up, you will get there. Try not to get discouraged. Instead…

Adjust Your Expectations

Before you even get started, cut yourself some slack. You can set some smaller goals along the way to the final one. Just realize that this could take a while, so allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to achieve them. Again, try to find some satisfaction in the sessions themselves. Because, you know what? It’s not like you will be able to stop them as soon as you reach your goals. Are you going to get your muscles all nice and strong and then stop training? No, of course not. This is a long term occupation. So find the joy in it. It’s there, and it’s the only way you will continue to maintain the results you want, probably the only way that you won’t give up.

All of these are necessary to make sure that you create and maintain a regular training session schedule. Now let’s get down to the details about the training itself.

The Good News

A study by the University of Oklahoma showed that two groups of subjects, one aged 18 to 22 and the other 35 to 50, followed the same training program for 8 weeks and got very similar results. The study measured both muscle gain and strength gain. And here’s the kicker, the older group actually averaged 2.5 pounds of muscle gain during the 8 week program, compared to the younger group’s 2 pound gain.

This is great news! It means that your age should not stand in your way when trying to build muscle, which is a huge relief.

The Bad News

Still, in spite of the good news, your body will almost certainly take longer to recover from each training session. Your bones and joints will continue to become more vulnerable, as well. So, depending upon your age and condition, you may want to consider training slightly differently than younger people might choose.

Here are a few suggestions about that.

Lighten Up

Though you will hear a lot of people claim differently, studies have shown that you can effectively build muscle by using higher reps with lighter weights. So don’t listen to what anyone else says: this is a valid alternative, if you need it. Plus, the older you get, the more cartilage between your joints can deteriorate. So if you always lift heavy, there is an excellent chance that you will start noticing pain in your shoulders, elbows, wrists and knees.

Why take the chance? If you hurt yourself, you can’t lift at all.

Slow Down

Here’s something interesting that you don’t hear very much about. It turns out, studies have also shown that lifting a lighter weight more slowly resulted in very similar muscle size and strength as lifting heavy weights at a normal rate. So this is something else you may want to consider incorporating into your workouts.

Remember, getting sidelined by injuries will add that much more time to how long it will take to achieve your goals. Since we now know you can achieve the results you want in much the same time as younger age groups, there is no point in taking chances by trying to rush your progress.

Also, maybe you will find your workouts more enjoyable using these methods, and you will be much more likely to maintain a regular training schedule if you enjoy the sessions.

Now here’s the thing: you may be weaker in some parts of your body than others. So if you are not having difficulty following a normal lifting program with some muscle groups, then you can just continue. But if there are exercises that are painful when lifting heavy, then STOP. Try switching to the alternative methods listed above, rather than courting injuries that will keep you from exercising at all.

Don’t Overtrain


Not only are you risking injuries by training too hard, but pushing your body past its limits can have other adverse effects, as well. Among other things, it can cause mood swings and affect your sleep patterns. But wait, it gets worse. If you push too hard at every training session, you could start going backwards, instead of making progress. Yes! You could actually end up getting weaker, instead of stronger.

So, consult with a reputable trainer or do your research, and establish a reasonable program. Then stick with it, and progress naturally.

Learn How and When to Stretch

Wow, there has been some radical changes in the conventional wisdom about stretching. It’s no longer regarded as the foolproof way to prevent injuries or relieve muscle soreness. At least, not in the way it’s always been done.

When: A major change is that stretching is no longer the first thing you are supposed to do. As it happens, stretching cold muscles could cause injuries before you even get started working out. So now, what you want to do is warm up your muscles before doing anything else. Maybe just several gentle minutes on the treadmill, rowing machine or exercise bike will be enough.

How: Once your muscles are nice and warmed up, try stretching for a full minute, rather than 15 or 30 seconds. Especially in older people, studies have shown that stretching tight muscles for 60 seconds a day improved flexibility faster than the shorter times.

Another alternative that has been shown to be effective is 6 ten-second stretches. In either case, what seems to be most important for maintaining flexibility is that each muscle group get about 60 seconds of total stretching time each day.

Great daily stretching routine can be found in the video bellow

Change Your Frequency

Everyone is different, and if you can work out 5 times a week without a problem, then there is no reason to change. However, depending again on your age and condition, three sessions a week are considered perfectly acceptable, particularly for those over 40. So don’t feel bad, or discouraged, if you aren’t up to more or if circumstances don’t allow it. Chances are, you can make quite decent progress and be happy with the results you achieve, if you follow a good program on a three times a week schedule.

Alternative Lifting Techniques

Again, don’t bother about whatever anyone else may say or think or do. Your primary concern is doing what your body requires in order to build up muscle. And this may require some tweaking of your technique. For instance:

Suspension Trainers If you find that doing chin-ups from a straight bar makes your wrists hurt, then consider using a suspension trainer. Instead of your wrists being forced to remain locked in the same position for the entire movement, they will be able to move freely.

Rack Pulls There are a variety of reasons you may not be able to deadlift from the floor without curving your back. Don’t take a chance on hurting yourself. Instead, just do rack pulls and use a starting position that lets you keep a normal spine curvature.

Floor Press If you find your shoulders hurting from the bench press, then try stopping the bar 2 to 3 inches from your chest.

Change your position Speaking of shoulder pain, here’s one tweak that will get rid of it almost immediately. When using dumbbells, turn your palms in and move your shoulders closer to your body.

Stop Short of Full Range of Motion Did you know it’s a myth that full range of motion is required to make every exercise a success? Most of the studies showing differently compare full range to less than 50% range. If you stop an inch or two of full range, it will not dramatically affect your results. In fact, some exercises actually benefit from doing so at the top and bottom of the exercise. It increase metabolic fatigue, which stimulates muscle growth.

Find an Alternative If an exercise is causing pain no matter what, then let it go. There is an alternative for almost every single exercise in existence. So find another one.

Basically, building muscle after 40 when you’re over forty just means being more careful not to hurt yourself. Because you are a bit more vulnerable to injuries and it takes a little longer to recover from them. So be proactive and informed. Then go for it .


  • How can I start building muscle after 40?

To start building muscle after 40, you should begin with a comprehensive strength training program focusing on compound exercises, progressive overload, and proper form.

  • Is it possible to build muscle after 40?

Yes, it is possible to build muscle after 40 with regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate recovery.

  • Is it necessary to lift heavy weights to build muscle after 40?

Lifting heavy weights is not necessary to build muscle after 40, but it is recommended to use progressive overload to challenge your muscles and promote growth.

  • What kind of exercises should I do to build muscle after 40?

Compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses and pull-ups effectively build muscle after 40, as they engage multiple muscle groups.

  • How often should I strength train to build muscle after 40?

It would help if you aimed to strength train at least 2-3 times per week to build muscle after 40, with a focus on compound exercises and progressive overload.

  • Can I build muscle with bodyweight exercises after 40?

Yes, bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats can be effective for building muscle after 40, especially if you focus on progressive overload and proper form.

  • How important is nutrition for building muscle after 40?

Nutrition is essential for building muscle after 40, providing the nutrients and energy your body needs to recover and grow. A balanced diet with protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is recommended.

  • How much protein should I eat to build muscle after 40?

Consuming 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is recommended to build muscle after 40.

  • How long does it take to build muscle after 40?

The amount of time it takes to build muscle after 40 varies depending on several factors, including your starting fitness level, nutrition, and training program. Generally, noticeable results can be seen within a few months to a year with consistent effort.

Andrew Brewer

Andrew Brewer

Andrew Brewer started to give people the guidance that he never received when he was first starting. His goal is to make your goals achievable and to offer you only the best fasting apps that the internet has to offer. You're not on your own - Andrew and the entire family of reviewers at are here with you every step of the way!