T Nation

Gaining muscle when youre older


I noticed alot of bodybuilding literature says the best time to gain muscle is in your teens or early 20's. However, from what I observe, alot of times guys in their 30's or 40's are bigger (more muscular) than when they were younger. For instance, you may see a guy that was skinny as a twig at 18, yet he was still lifting weights. Then the same guy at 30+, still lifting weights the same way and still with the same diet suddenly becomes a muscular, ripped 200 pounds. It seems to me its easier to gain muscle when you're older (by that I mean at least late 20's) than when you're younger.


It's not that they suddenly blow up, its because they've usually been in the game for over a decade, continuously putting on muscle the whole time. However, generally the biggest muscle mass gains come earlier in ones career (once proper nutrition is figured out that is).


I've heard the phrase "man muscle" many times referring to the muscle growth a guy gets around 27 or 28. I've always noticed guys in their 30s have bigger forearms than I do, even if they don't lift. 26-28 is also your physical prime for basketball or football.


1- muscle takes time
2- metabolism slows as you age
3- Mentally more willing to be consistent, disciplined, and not get distracted by 'shiny' supplements or the latest 'cutting edge' lifting methods as you approach middle age



I haven't seen much to imply that anyone notices a true significant decrease in metabolic rate until much closer to the age of 50. Most people simply stop moving so much the older they get. I saw this happening as early as college years with girls who would blow up and get fat by graduation. It wasn't that their metabolic rate slowed. They slowed...while keeping their food intake real fast.

But yes, it is the result of years of hard work combined along with greater discipline at that age.

Most people screw up the best growing years of their life either by not being focused enough...or by worrying too much about how lean they are at the expense of pushing their body to make those gains during the years when it is easiest on the human body to maintain.


Never looked at metabolism slowing as you age becoming an asset to muscle growth. Makes sense especially for those ectomorphs/hardgainers. But ya, the "man muscle" is mostly from training smarter and eating better etc. what you said in number three.

Also, you look at recent Olympia winners, they have all been in their thirties, seems like the BB prime.

I don't know from experience though, I'm not there yet!



Girls are worse than men when it comes to gaining weight. A woman at 25, who's nice and shapely and thick by 35 or 40 is large as a house. On the other hand, a woman thats small and petite at 25 may get more shapely by the time shes 35 or 40.


I think I can bring an unique viewpoint to this discussion in that I never lifted weights until I was 36. Currently, I'm 39. I ran CC, swam, and did track in HS, and competed in triathlons during and after college. I was really fast and had great endurance, but also had the metabolism of a hummingbird and graduated HS at 6', 140 lbs.

So, 3 years ago I stepped into the weight room 6', 170 lbs knowing nothing but smart enough to have bought and read a copy of Starting Strength. Some of my discoveries after 2.5 years of lifting:

1) GOMAD makes for a fat 36 year old. Eating excessive calories does not build more muscle, it adds weight to my gut and ass.

2) Gaining excessive weight means losing it, and body recomps at age 39 are very difficult. You really can't serve 2 masters the way you can when your younger.

3) Losing weight is much more difficult whether it be for metabolic reasons, hormonal reasons, the daily grind, etc.

4) Strength gains are made slowly, size gains are made even more slowly. It just seems that 39 year old bodies do not want to create new muscle tissue. Guys in the gym remark that I'm strong for my size. When I first pulled 405, I measured my biceps cold, unflexed. They were 13.25". I can front squat 265 but my thighs are 22.5".

5) Recuperation is a huge limiting factor. When I was 20, I could get wasted, wake up the next morning and start firing up all over again. Now, if I get anything more than a strong buzz, I'm sluggish for a day and a half. After a heavy DL day, my upper body lifting the next day suffers. I'm just generally dragging ass. I've learned to avoid lifting until failure on too many sets, it seems that grinding out reps sets me back days. I wholeheartedly agree with "Stimulate, don't annihilate."

6) Injuries and fatigue accumulate in a way that they never did when I was younger. In my case, I'm very conscious of making sure I do my stretching and mobility work. I heal more slowly than I did when I was in my 20s and an injury will set me back farther.

Obviously, these are my experiences, ymmv. But I agree with most of the other posters that the guys who are big in their 30s got that way after 10 years of dedication and persistence. They didn't just blow up when they turned 34.


Yeah, my dad had never really lifted weights before, but he started training with me a year or two ago and he blew up. He blew past me and he's enormous now.

Wait, no he didn't, because that's retarded.


That does stand out to me, but it's definitely not just an age thing. When I was 20 I could pull 405 and front squat about 225 if I remember correctly. unflexed my arms and legs were ~14in and 23in respectively. Meanwhile I had friends with 16in arms with maybe 3/4 my strength...



That seems right to me. Boys seem to care more about their abs while men seem to care more about overall mass. Boys tend to focus on crunches, curls, bench, and losing fat. Men have learned about the joys of squats, deads, and eating to grow. At least, that seems true for my gym.


I am 45 and agree with all the above. I lifted in my 2os and 30's started at 140(very skinny) and got up to 190 (lean in my 30's. I don't think my metabolism has slowed much until a year or two ago), unfortunatly, also took time off, got injured a few times etc. I am back after 2 years off, got down to 155(at 6ft. No, really. Fucking thin, but I did'nt lose ALL my strength, but quite a bit off it) after a serious blood issue(toxic metal build up). All clear and back up to 168 in 3 months. Strength increases have been fast, size not as much as i'd like. I am not going to "bulk", although I did so for the first 2 months simply because I was (and still am) so thin. I have gained about 2 ibs of fat in that 13 ibs, acceptable. What took time to lose will take time to gain ( i was at 180 2 years ago), and i plan to gain another 20 with minimal fat gain. As you say, recomps are much harder. I was always a decent athlete, but size was always hard. I feel I could have gone far further had I known what I know now,guys be grateful for this site and many of the informative posters here. I am. Oh, and muscle memory is no myth, thank god. 1 inch on my arms and legs in less than 3 months (obviously I was so thin thats no so impressive but I'm happy)


I suspect it is more that women tend to get fatter over time as they become less active, their muscle mass wastes away, and they eat the same if not worse. So from your perspective a women you think is hot at 25 is too fat for your tastes at 35 or 40. But a women who is too skinny at 25 might be considered hot by you when she is 35 or 40 - but probably too fat for your tastes at 45 or 50.

You don't think the same thing happens to most non-training guys who don't at least try and eat healthy?


Damn It Prof X, where were you when I needed you!FML. I never worried about staying lean, because I could'nt get fat, I also ate NO WHERE near enough food or protein. I gained 30 ibs, but could have done FAR better. If I was some 20 something on here I would listen to Prof X and others.....save yourself a lot of wasted time. A lot of information back then was sketchy at best and stupid at worst. AS if muscle tissue is made fr om thin air. In the 80's carbs were king and low fat diets were in. only later did I get around guys that knew what was up, but that was 15 years ago and lifting wasnt my main focus due to my sport (but I did lift and made better gains anyway). "Healthy" diet my eye. You may be healthy at 155, but who wants to be a skeleton with abs? I am not stopping again, barring death. And that better be convincing,lol


LOL....you just described my life to a T. I am 36 and I have finally figured out how to lift and get the best bang for my buck and what my diet needs to look like. Once I figured out what worked diet wise I follow the same thing everyday! Fortunately I am able to eat the same shit at every meal, every day for over a year and it really doesn't bother me.

Lifting teeters on the brink of disaster all the time.....slight exaggeration, but I found what works for me coupled with my diet and can push things as long as I don't get too crazy. If I do then shit starts to hurt. Time off and/or deload or more important now than ever.

Bulking is definitely out of the question. As you stated it goes all to my stomach and then I fight the battles of getting rid of belly/visceral fat. I did DC training for a year and ate accordingly. Gained ALOT of strength and decent size but also got really fat in the mid-section. It has taken me 6-7 months to slowly (didnt want to give up any hard earned muscle) come down from 248 to 215.

Anyhow, funny shit we go through as we age.....


That's why you have to get in and get it done early. Everyone of these guys acting like how lean they are is top priority will likely regret that if they don't go ahead and also build that size now.

You can't bulk up at 40 like you can in college. My diet early on was mostly fast food...because I couldn't cook and that was all I had access to in order to really jack up calories. I wouldn't even try to eat like that now...especially since using a weight gainer this past year ended up with my belly having its own area code.

I will say this...bulking up worked for me in order to go from "extremely skinny" to developed. I am GLAD I did it. Everyone who had shit to say negatively about it is smaller than me.

But I knew even back then that it was a temporary act to reach a goal.


You gain so much more weight when you are younger. The reason older people look more muscular is because your muscles become more detailed over time. Not that its easier to get it, it's just nature.

You should def. lift A.s.a.p. Don't wait till you get old, hahahaha


FML that could be me. I am a little stronger and about the same size.

Yet I see guys who can barely deadlift 3 plates who are significantly bigger than me. Bizarre. I would rather have the strength and let the size catch up but I do find it weird...


Well Dr Dre is 46 and in the past 4 years or so the guy has become a tank.