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Muscle Growth, Resistance Training

Is it Harder to Put on Muscle as You Age?

By Joe Talarico on Dec 22, 2021 11:00:00 AM
4 Minutes Reading Time


It is, but not in the way you are thinking. Let’s address the misconception versus the reality.

You Always Have the Ability to Build Muscle

Up until your dying age, you will always have the potential to grow muscle. That never goes away. As we get older, yes, our potential for how much muscle we can grow declines, and we won’t be able to have the size we might have had in our 30’s, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look and feel great. I think too often, people write off even bothering lifting weights into their older age because they are using some top level 1% version of a physique to achieve. What’s wrong with just looking healthy and strong overall? Also, let’s be real. None of us are elite level bodybuilders who once floated at 250lbs and 8% bodyfat. All we need is a little bit of muscle to maybe look good with our shirts off, and be able to keep up with our kids.

Priorities - The Real Reason Putting Muscle May Be Hard

Let’s get to the core of the issue. We already addressed the fact that we can still look great at any age. So what is the hard aspect? When we are 40+ years old, we have different priorities. In our 20’s we maybe had some college classes and that was it. As we get older we have jobs, kids, and outside responsibilities that are taking up more of our time. The majority of my clients who struggle to hit their goals fail to do so in large part because they just can’t dedicate the time to come into the gym.

But here’s the great thing. It doesn’t take nearly as much dedication as you might think to look great.

2-3x frequency Is All You Need

So we know we have responsibilities, and not as much time as we thought. If staying strong and feeling great is a true goal of yours (and it should be because of its longevity benefits), then you can and SHOULD be making time for at least two days a week. That is not a big ask. Let go of the idea you need body part splits and 5-6 days a week. Leave that for the 20 year olds with all the time in the world. Switching to a full body part split 2-3 times a week will still give you the stimulus you need to achieve the muscle you desire. Our muscle building signal only lasts 48-72 hours after that muscle has been stimulated to return to baseline. So if you are hitting it at least 2 times a week, you are giving enough pulses each month to maximize the muscle building, or muscle retaining signal.

What is Your Baseline?

It also depends on what type of older client we are talking to. A person who has been lifting since their 20’s may not be able to look how they did in their 20’s, but will have a much easier time retaining the great physique they have built. The lifter who's just getting started with working out can still take advantage of newbie gains well into their 40’s and see a transformation like no other. Again, it just comes down to dedication towards that 2-3 times a week.

What also makes lifting as you get older so great, is you start to stand out from your peers. In your 20’s everyone is lifting weights and you’d have to have a pretty massive physique to stand out. When you are in your 40’s and beyond, the percentage of people who still look great diminishes greatly. This means, just doing even the bare minimum in the gym, while also eating a proper nutrition plan, will allow you to look way more impressive than anyone else your age, and more impressive than any kid younger than you. We’ve all seen that older man or woman at the gym and been so impressed with how lively and in great shape they are. And guess what? They probably weren’t insanely huge, just fit.

The Resistance Training Revolution | By Sal Di Stefano

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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