Are you considering taking up bodybuilding over the age of 40, but being put off by your age? Don’t be! The truth is, building muscle after the age of 40 may take a little longer than it did in your 20’s, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth doing.
Actually, it’s more important to maintain (and build on) your muscle mass than ever. Maintaining a high level of muscle mass is vital to staying slim, supple and young at heart. But how do you go about it? Lucky for you, we’ve listed the steps you need to follow below:
1. Listen to your body
You’re not a teenager anymore, but you’re not dead either! Your body’s more than capable of building muscle at any age (even into your 70’s), it just needs the right ingredients and adequate training.
One thing you will find as you age is your body becomes more prone to injury from repetitive, intensive workouts. But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t train – you just need to use common sense and listen to your body when you do.
You need to understand the difference between a muscle pain which is caused by lifting heavy and one which is caused by a sprain or torn ligament. Sharp, unbearable pain should never be ignored. Aching, sore muscles are perfectly fine – it’s a sign they’re being broken down and building themselves back up, which is exactly what the purpose of bodybuilding is.
As one of the older bodybuilders in the gym, you may need to allow your body an extra day of rest here and there. It won’t repair that torn muscle as quickly as it used to, so give yourself a break now and then in the form of a day off. You’ll soon be ready to lift again.
2. Lift heavy
The fact is, no matter what your age, you’ll only build new muscle if your current muscle is broken down – and that’ll only happen if it’s pushed past its comfortable limit. So, to really grow muscle, you need to lift heavy. A good rule of thumb is to pick a weight which you can only manage a maximum of 10 reps with. Any fewer, it’s too heavy and you’re risking injury. Any more and you’re not getting the maximum muscle-building benefit from your workout.
This rule doesn’t change whether you’re 18 or 78. So lift heavy, bro!
3. Eat real food
Sorry, but there’s just no point thrashing it out in the gym every day if you’re going to feed your body on garbage. Eating processed food does two things to your body – it ensures you maintain higher fat levels than are necessary (or healthy) and it deprives your body of the nutrients it needs to ensure maximum muscle growth.
In fact, if you’re feeding your body on junk food, it’s probably concentrating on trying to survive despite malnourishment rather than worrying about muscle growth. It’s true that even in an overweight person, malnutrition can be a thing. You may not believe it to look at the person, but their body is in a state of red alert and crying out for real food!
Watch what you eat, maintain your macros and focus on real, whole foods. Your overall health will thank you for it, and your muscle growth will speed up as soon as you make the switch.
4. Swap ‘junk food fat’ for ‘healthy fat’
A cheeseburger with onion rings is not the kind of fat your body wants or needs at any age, and following on from what we said previously about malnutrition, if you’re living on a junk food diet it’s quite likely your body is also being deprived of healthy fats right now.
Healthy fats come in the form of nuts, greek yogurt, cheese, eggs, avocados and healthy oils such as olive oil. Skipping these means your body will struggle to stimulate the hormones required for proper muscle growth. Now, are you beginning to see just how important nutrition is to bodybuilding?
But that doesn’t mean you should simply eat healthy fats on top of a junk food diet – doing so will only lead to weight gain. You need to cut out the junk and replace it with the real deal.
Make the change today and see your muscle swell faster than you can say cheese!
5. Find an older personal trainer
There’s little sense in getting your advice from an 18-year-old PT. He or she won’t work out in the same way as you, and their muscle will inevitably grow much faster than yours, so they may struggle to understand your need for patience and persistence.
For the best experience, find a personal trainer who is over the age of 40. They do exist – and they tend to be much more knowledgeable than their younger counterparts. They’ve experienced more than a younger PT has, suffered and seen more injuries, and can help you to avoid making the same mistakes they’ve already made. Plus, they can help you to train at the right level, at the right speed.
You can’t buy experience. In fact, even younger bodybuilders should train with an older PT. They could learn a lot from them.
6. Stop using your age as an excuse!
Age is no barrier to fitness. So long as you’re otherwise healthy, there really is no reason to skip exercise – especially weightlifting.
Lifting gives you back some sense of your youth. It gives you a body which is stronger, fitter and more supple than it would be without it. Plus, weight-bearing exercise keeps diseases such as osteoporosis at bay for longer.
In modern day society, and with advancements in medicine, 40 is the new 20, so get out there – and get lifting!
Over to you
There’s no doubt about it, bodybuilding is a sport for all. Not only does it keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders, but it also prevents muscle wastage, poor posture and brittle bone disease. For any person over the age of 40, it should be part of their daily routine to help maintain their youth for longer. In fact, we’d say it’s more valuable than any anti-wrinkle cream could be at keeping you feeling young!
Have you begun bodybuilding over the age of 40? How has it improved your life? Tell us about it in the comments below.