T Nation

Making Gains at 38?


Greeting folks. I'm new to this forum and would like an honest answer from the residents here.

I'm 38 and a relative beginner.

Is it possible to make many gains at my age?

Any advice (routines, books, diet, supplements, etc.) anyone has for a middle-aged beginner is appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


first off.. 38 isn't middle aged. of course you can make gains. you are still young. I"m 37 and continue to get stronger than i ever have been. most powerlifters don't even come hit their prime until their 40's... same with bodybuilders.


I never set foot in a gym until last year. I'm 40 now.

Tuesday, I deadlifted 415 lbs.

Advice: You're just starting, so don't worry about supplements, complicated diets, bodypart splits, complicated periodization, etc. Just do the following two things:

1) eat big
2) lift big

For 1, eat a LOT. Clean foods (i.e., fresh stuff, not processed. If it didn't have a mommy or isn't green, you shouldn't be eating it). Drink milk. Drink lots of water. Drink more water. Eat 5-6 times a day. Drink more water.

For 2, opinions differ, but I'd suggest starting with a 5x5 program that focuses on the four major lifts: squat, deadlift, military press, and bench press. Start using just the bar, and you'll quickly add weights (the 5x5 programs I'm familiar with all use linear periodization. I.e., you add 5 lbs every day). Focus on form; ask lots of questions; watch lots of videos; make a few videos and ask experienced people (e.g., maraudermeat) their opinion and advice on your lift form.

Stick with it for 6 months or so (which should be 2-3 cycles of a program), and evaluate where you are, what problems you're having, and so on.

Oh! And DO NOT NEGLECT STRETCHING AND ACTIVATION EXERCISES, and make sure you warm up properly prior to doing your main lifts.


I'm 39 and in the best shape of my life.

I've been working out for years though, but started CT's "Jacked" program to cut bodyfat about 9 weeks ago (almost 10 weeks now).

Looking forward to the bulking cycle I'm gonna start in August.

I also find I'm more "in-tune" with my body, as I now know (more than I did when I was in my 20's) on what foods work for me, what foods don't, and even what exercises work and don't.

There's a tonne of good articles on the site for beginners, just use the search feature and find one that you think you can follow.

Best of luck!


Pulled 505, squatted 385 and benched 275 off a 2 board for 4 reps a few months ago. Did pullups with 117 lbs strapped to my waist and dips with 142 lbs last night.

I'm 46 and still getting stronger.

What you eat and how you train has more effect on your strength than age will.


I'm not a 'real' weightlifter and am making gains, went from a 150 lb bench to a 295 in about 18 months. I'm 48. I dropped 65 lbs in the same time frame. What DCA says, 'What you eat and how you train has more effect on your strength than age will'


Yes of course you can make gains. Will they be as good as they could of been 15 years ago? No.

The fact of the matter is, being a beginner gives you more room for change than if you had been doing this for 20 years.

I will be honest with you, not only will it be tougher, but the limits you can push yourself to are reduced, not just because of your age, but because you are aging at the moment, and only have so many years of serious gains to make.

Don't get me wrong, on a scale of one to 10, you can probably double wherever you rate yourself now. From 1 being a fetus, to 10 being the body of your dreams.


I turned 40 in April. Last December I weighed 245 Lbs. and had 38% bodyfat. My bench max was <185, My squat max was around 225, I had never deadlifted or overhead pressed, and I couldn't do a real chin and could barely do a dip, and I got tired tying my shoes.

Today I weighed in at 208 with 24% body fat and benched 205 13 times on my money set. I deadlifted 375 to test for my 5-3-1 program several weeks ago and parallel squated 335. I am doing 5 sets of 10 dips for assitance work, the last set with a 40lbs DB between my legs. I did 31 chins this morning. I still feel like I could lose another 15 lbs and get alot stronger.

There are plenty of different ways to get into it. For me, I started lifting heavier weights on Sat. (push day - with squats) and Sun. (pull day - with deads) and did a total body circuit on Tuesdays and Thurs (10 deads with 135 lbs, pushups, assissted chins, dips, australian pull ups, dumbell press, curls, jump rope for 1 min., repeat 3 times, 30 sec rest between sets).

This started building strength and endurance and helped me cut weight. I am doing Wendler 5-3-1 now and waterskiing for HIIT. I eat as much chicken and grass-fed beef and vegetables as I can get my hands on during the week, have pizza night with the family on fridays, and load up on pancakes on Saturday and Sunday morning. I am still losing fat slowly, but I am much less concerned with this now. I a have a second piece of pie when I want to.

Also, I do some joint mobility work when I can, but I still need to do more of this. I personally think fish oil is the only required supplement, but I do take protein powder before and after my workouts and some creatine.

There is no reason not to get off your ass and get into the gym. The time is now and for the rest of your life. You won't regret it. Good luck.


I've been lurking on this site mostly, amd can I just congratulate the posters on this thread for being the most positive and helpful I have seen so far on T-Nation.

I'm only 34 so not technically old enough to join you guys yet, but I really like the spirit displayed on the over 35 forum.

Keep up the good work.

Sorry for the Hijack.

For James, I agree wholeheartedly with whats been said so far. Eat well, and hit those big compound exercises, and you will notice the changes very quickly. 5x5 is how I started out aswell. 12 weeks after I started, I went to visit people who I had'nt seen in that time. They were amazed at the changes I had made. You can do it!!


I will be 38 in a few days, and am getting progressively stronger each week. MCL's advice is dead on if you are a beginner.


Absolutely you can make gains. Especially as a relative beginner. You have gotten some good advice so far and as mentioned by jjack, fish oil can be very helpful. For me @38 it has proven to be an invaluable supplement.


I sincerely appreciate all of the polite, insightful, and informative posts folks.

Thanks a bunch.


How you doing?
welcome to the over 35 crowd,youll find this is a great collection of all kinds of lifters-
all making progress, lots of the guys here are 40,50 and yes past 50 and they are all busting their asses
and reaping some really good benifits.

Youll see lots of us are working around injuries, work, kids etc and still making good gains.

Im 37- on the smaller side with modest strength- bench mid 2's squat mid 3's dead low 4's and they numbers are going up.

Jump in , dont be shy with questions- you will find some excellent role models and advice.
Sniff around see what programs people are following and see what will work for your goals.

Dont neglect the mobility.



Welcome, Cap'n!

37 here.

Strongest I've ever been in spite of some relatively recent injuries.

Here in the "Over 35" forum, as we grow older we grow stronger (and gassier).

In the words of "Big Ronnie" Spock: "Lift strong and Prosper. Ain't nuthin' but a Vulcan peanut!!"



You think you're gassy NOW, try drinking a gallon of milk a day! I don't care how tolerant you are of lactose, you'll be fartin' up a storm all day long!


I'm 37, had a heart attack just over a year ago (bad genes, uncle had a double bypass at 42) and I'm stronger now than I've ever been. My workout partner is 42 and at 165 and 5'3" he's benching 350 right now and been seeing decent gains over the last year, about 50 of that 350 actually.

The only thing we've had to adjust as we get older is the mobility work and of course being careful with the joints.


I'm...,I forgot, but I'm sure it's a lot older than you. Eat the right foods. Someone said it already, as a beginner almost anything will work for you at first. Big compound lifts. Squat, dead, bench, mil press. But forget all that and fess up. Uhura ever beam you up?


Ha ha. No. No she has not. This Cap'n Kirk in this alternate reality married an accountant in 1996 and has three little girls.


You have to work hard. You have to be consistent. It matters if you skip back this week. You are hearing that of course you can make gains at your age but need to understand that the people telling you this would fight a man to get in the gym for heavy squat day. It can be done but you must do it.


Just start reading up on the training we're doing around here. Everything from rank begineers (me) to elite lifters (meat). I started lifting for the first time in my life on my 46th birthday with 20# dumbells and when I train consistently I make gains. Set some goals and document what you do. Ask any and all of these guys and gals for training suggestions. Post videos for feedback and implement the suggestions you get.

Welcome to the old farts forum!