The general consensus for some people is that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
That is to say, many people believe it's impossible for men to be building muscle after 60. At least, not if you haven't already been weight training for years. Many just assume it's simply too late.
Further, a lot of people think it's dangerous to start exercising or trying to add lean muscle mass that late in life.
But both of those things couldn't be further from the truth.
In fact, gaining muscle mass as a man over 60 is one of the best things you can do for your body. It doesn't matter how fit you are already-you can prolong your quality of life and better protect yourself from anything life throws at you by adding lean muscle.
Here's a guide on how to gain muscle mass as a man over 60. We'll go over everything you need to to get started today if you want to.
Benefits of Building Muscle After 60
- Promote stronger, healthier muscles
- Improved joint protection
- Better movement control
- Better physical abilities outside of your exercise routine
- More independence and self-sufficiency
- Less risk of falling
- Result in fat loss
- Improve bone density*
*All of these benefits are a big deal. But beyond the age of 60, increased bone density is particularly important. As you age, your bones become more brittle and susceptible to breaking. Adding muscle helps maintain that bone density, and protects you from injuries if you do fall or have an accident of some sort.
As you can see, an older adult can significantly benefit from strength training and gaining muscle later in life. Below, we'll look at a few principles he should follow when implementing any program.
Related Read: Strength training for women over the age 60
Best Ways for Men Over 60 to Build Muscle
There are some specific things men over 60 should keep in mind when building muscle after 60:
- Be consistent: Whatever your workout routine looks like (or whatever you want it to look like), your top priority should be to stick with it. Results don't come overnight from any fitness program, so sticking to your three, four or even five-day-per-week training schedule is the best way to ensure you'll get results long-term. Exercising sporadically every couple months or years unfortunately won't do a whole lot of good.
- It's not always about heavy lifting: Simply put, a 60 year old man is not going to recover as quickly as someone in their 20s or 30s. Because of this, an older adult should focus on simply getting to the gym regularly instead of setting new one and five rep maxes on a weekly basis. Be realistic about your goals. In all likelihood, you'll only be able to lift heavy and recover from it once or twice a week-and that's perfectly fine. You can still exercise 4 or 5 days per week and focus on higher rep training or endurance work, or develop other fitness skills on lighter days instead.
- Train compound exercises: Multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses come with several benefits for men over 60. First, they distribute the weight you're lifting evenly, meaning you're much less likely to injure yourself if you're performing the exercise safely and with good form. Second, they offer functional benefits that translate over into everyday life. For example, squatting helps you get off the couch, walk up stairs, or even sit up from the toilet seat.
- Approach your training realistically: Only you can tell what signals your body is giving off. As you get older, it's important to listen to these messages and dial back or adjust your muscle building routine based on that information. In particular, men over 60 need to be more careful about high-intensity or high-impact exercises that involve jumping. Work up to these movements slowly, and scale to something without as much impact if your body isn't responding well.
Now, let's talk about the types of programs that these principles might fit into.
How Men Over 60 Should Train to Build Muscle
As mentioned above, compound exercises are the best way to build muscle for men over 60. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, cleans, bench presses, and pull-ups (or lat pull downs), are all good ways to strengthen and build muscles, and also to keep you active and able-bodied outside of the gym.
Here are some examples of exercises and training methods you might use to get results:
- Strength training: Any functional movement performed with a barbell, kettlebell, or set of dumbbells likely fits the bill here. CrossFit teaches many of these exercises, but you can simply follow a traditional strength training program here, too.
- HIIT Training: This is a great form of training for men over 60 because it also gives you a great cardio workout, too. Cardio exercise reduces your risk of things like heart disease, and keeps your heart and lungs healthy and strong. It's probably best to stick to bodyweight calisthenic exercises, like push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, sit-ups and planks. You can barbell exercises in these kinds of workouts too, but start at a light weight and really focus on form if you do.
- Machine training: If you dislike weight training or bodyweight exercises for whatever reason, you can still use machines to get results. They're definitely better than nothing, although it might be harder to get your heart rate up moving from one machine to the next. Stick to compound exercises like leg presses, hamstring curls, lat pulldowns, and the chest press machine.
Sixty plus year old men can still follow the exact same repetition schemes to get results as other men follow for muscle-building. Some popular ones include:
3 sets of 8
3 sets of 10
3 sets of 12
3 or 5 sets of 5 (better for strength building)
Supersets (2 exercises back to back; Do 5-10 reps of the first, heavier exercise, then with no break, do 10-20 reps of a lighter exercise)
Follow these templates for anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks, then switch it up to give your body a new stimulus to adapt to. Try to add anywhere from 2.5lbs to 5lbs per week on each movement that you do to encourage strength gains and to force your body to adapt to a new, heavier stimulus.
The Importance of Nutrition for Men Over 60 to Build Muscle
The older you get, the more important nutrition becomes. Especially if you are hoping to make gains from a muscle or fitness program.
We'll keep it simple and not reinvent the wheel here. Men over 60 that want to build muscle should eat plenty of:
"Clean" carb sources, like rice and white/sweet potatoes
As a general rule, the majority of your diet should be composed of whole food sources. This helps promote muscle protein synthesis and combat inflammation in the body and promotes recovery. Overall, you're likely to have more energy if you eat a whole-food based diet.
On the flip side, men over 60 trying to gain muscle should avoid:
Excessive alcohol consumption
Excessive caffeine consumption
These foods promote inflammation in the body, which can wreak havoc in a number of different ways. From increased disease risk to lower energy to diminished gut and cognitive health, you can see how eating any of these foods might decrease your performance.
Lastly, there are some supplements older men can take that will help. Things like fish oil, CLA, amino acids, whey protein or an amino acid supplement can all offer distinct advantages. After 4 weeks of consistent training, you can consider adding in supplements.
Related Read: 12 Testosterone boosting foods to get jacked
Getting Started With Your Program
Now that we've gone over the basics for adding lean muscle as a 60+ year old man, let's do a quick review.
To get started today, you should:
Pick a type of training: Whether that's free weights, CrossFit, HIIT, or a machine program is fine. Just pick one you want to try for 4 to 6 weeks.
Pick a rep scheme: 3x8 or 3x10 is a good place to start if you're over 60. This way you're not going too heavy too fast. Aim to add 5lbs per week to each exercise to drive results.
Try going an entire day eating only whole foods: See if you can notice a difference in energy and performance levels. Use this as motivation to clean up your diet going forward.
Listen to your body: This is a good rule to follow every day. Don't be afraid to dial it back or sub out an exercise that causes you pain or makes you nervous. Remember, you can't be consistent with your workout routine if you're injured!
And that's it! As beneficial as building muscle beyond 60 is, it's not really a complicated thing to start doing. Hit the gym or clear a space in your living room to start doing some bodyweight exercises and get to work.
For more tips on how to keep yourself mobile, limber and performing at your best, check out our workout and recovery guides.