Lean Gains or Cut?

Im 47 this year. Weighing 176lb at 1.72m tall.
Bodyfat at about 22%. No visible abs but some decent muscularity on upper body and legs.

I have lost some lean muscle mass over the past year despite still lifting some 3-4x a week.
Likely due to less than ideal hormonal profile (suspect low free T, high Estradiol and Cortisol levels) and constantly in a slight caloric deficit (daily at about 1800Cal). Macros are at Protein 40%, Fats and Carbs at 30/40% depending on rest or workout days.

Im in a fix now. To build back some lean mass and bump up my metabolism right now, I should be bringing up calories. But Im afraid to do so, as I worry it might lead to more fat gains.

Due to my slightly waned strength levels(esp for Squats and Deadlifts) and achy joints, I do full body routines, all compound lifts, at lower volume these days. That way I hit each bodypart with higher frequency. Moderate intensity at about 70-85%. Rarely pushing it at 90-100%. Always a squat variant/hip hinge, or a horizontal/vertical push-pull for each workout. 15 working sets at most and usually less than 90reps all in.

I read most articles that I should aim to lean up to low teens bodyfat before even considering going into a caloric surplus. Would cutting calories even further lead to more sluggish metabolism and catabolism?
Should i bulk or cut at this point?

What about workout routines? Anything I should tweak?

A confused soul seeking sound advice.


pics would help (not for me, for the more experienced people)

Without answering any of your questions, this jumps out at me:

Now I love compound lifts for a variety of reasons, but one thing they can blamed for, is achy joints. Achy joints lead to decreased gym performance at best and injuries at worst.

Prehab and isolation ‘pump’ work can be beneficial to get blood in the joints to heal them and also get them moving in the ways that are intended, but may have been neglected in an all compound exercise program.

Things that may help (definitely not a comprehensive list): face-pulls, band Pull-aparts for shoulder and rotator cuff health, dead hangs to decompress spine, hammer grip curls for Bicep tendon and elbow health, hip thrusts to activate glutes and hip mobility, bodyweight or goblet squats to get blood into the knee area etc…

Obviously you know your body and where you ache, perhaps it may be worth googling some prehab/rehab exercises for those achy joints of yours.


So bulk or cut?
How to bulk or cut?

Ideal workout program for my current situation and goals.
I’m obviously aiming for better body comp( much more less fat and more muscles).

It’s entirely up to you. I think you’ve overestimated your body fat though. I wouldn’t put you at 22%.

I’ve recently cut to prepare for a lean bulk. I think that was the best approach for me because I can add fat easily. Your body is different Suu you might not need to cut yet.

How long have you been at your current calorie level?

Tks for sharing.

Ive been at current calorie levels for quite a while. At most on maintenence level, hardly in surplus.

I put on fat and get puffy very easily too, unlike in my younger days.

You do have a good amount of upper body muscle and would look great at lower body fat levels in my opinion. Depends what your main goal is really as to what your plan would be but I’m my opinion your cals are pretty low and I wouldn’t drop them any more. Unless obviously you are under calculating in which case you may be eating more than you think.

I would say that for a change it could be a good idea to switch your training up to something a little different. I think it could be beneficial to look at something with less frequency and a little more volume, gasp but maybe a bit more like a body building split with some finishers, intensity techniques or some complexes. Would be better on your joints moving away from heavy compounds, would most likely kick your metabolism and fat burning up as well.

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Don’t go bashing my beloved compounds now…

Seriously though OP this

Also if a certain lift is causing you problems then changing to a different variation can be helpful.
I.e. If low bar back squats cause you shoulder issues, you could try high bar or front squats.

unless you’re a competitive power lifter you don’t even have to squat/bench/dead

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Tks guys for weighing in.

My joints are not so creaky nowadays and are less achy ever since I’ve brought the intensity and volume down and have learnt to be more instinctive and intuitive with the way i train from day to day. Going with the ebb and flow of life.

Kd13 might be right. I could be underestimating my caloric intake on some days.

I will certainly add more metabolic conditioning, complexes and finishers to torch some fat.

At 47, I wouldn’t “bulk” if my fat levels were higher than what I was comfortable carrying around all-year round.

If I was bulking I’d probably go 3 weeks in a slight surplus (think gain of half lbs/week) and then 1 week maintainance/slight deficit. Rinse/repeat

Great job on the muscle building btw, your chest looks nuts.

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I’ve used dumbbells more nowadays.
Easier on the joints and I feel muscles working more at higher reps and slower tempo.
With the barbell I feel it’s all about tension and I end up just trying to move the weight.

no. neither. bad way to think about it. Eat appropriately for your goals, making healthy food choices. At your level, I would basically be recomping. Trying to stay around the same weight, but simultaneously adding muscle and shedding fat. So adjust your calorie intake to a point where you find yourself weighing approximately the same over a period of a few weeks. And keep lifting regularly.



I thought adding muscle or shedding fat can only b achieved through being in a caloric surplus or deficit, however small? Will adjust anyway as I go along.

Workouts to just add in some finishers and complexes.

nah. that’s not really accurate. I’ve changed body composition drastically while essentially eating at maintenance level. our bodies are pretty complex. they can do multiple things at once :slight_smile:

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