Question: Hi Alex. I’m concerned that I may be too old to build muscle. I’m 56 years old, 6 feet tall and have always been fit with solid muscle. Problem is, I’ve also always had a very difficult time gaining weight and especially gaining muscle bulk. The last 2 years I’ve been lifting 3 days a week, eating good and taking weight gaining supplements regularly. My weight goes up and down between 170 lbs and 180 lbs, but I want to be 200 lbs or more. Am I now too old expect any muscle gains? Any suggestions? BTW, great site!
Answer: I gotta start by giving you props for being one of few guys your age who takes weight lifting seriously.
That said, you’re only 56 years old… or should I say 56 years young!
That’s essentially light years away from being “too old” to build muscle – And I’d tell you the same thing if you were 66, 76, or 86 years old.
Okay, maybe an 86 year guy old striving to for a 200+ lbs shredded-to-the-bones physique will fall short of his goal. But you can be damn sure that he’ll make huge improvements that will have all the ladies talking at the local senior center’s knitting club…
…But I digress. Let me get back to your specific situation: I have no doubt that you can achieve and surpass your 200 lbs goal, especially given your consistent dedication over the past two years.
As of now, though, something obviously isn’t working, as evidenced by your lackluster progress. So first, we have to identify what you’re doing wrong. Then it is up to you to fix the problem by implementing the necessary changes.
All muscle building troubleshooting can be boiled down to problems with your diet, training, recovery or sleep.
Luckily in your case, the problem seems to be pretty straightforward. You are struggling to gain weight, so you simply need to eat more calories. (And I’m assuming that you’re already eating at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. If not, then start doing so.)
If you don’t know how many calories you’re eating per day, then now is time to find out. Here’s what to do…
- At the beginning of the week, weigh yourself after waking up.
- Go about your day as you normally would. Workout if it’s a workout day. And most importantly, eat as you would normally eat. The only thing different is that you’re going to be tracking your caloric and macronutrient intakes (i.e. count how many calories you consume, as well as how many grams of protein, fat and carbs).
- Repeat step 2 for the remainder of the week. Then calculate the average number of calories you eat per day (i.e. find the total number of calories consumed during the week, then divide it by 7).
- Upon waking the next morning, weigh yourself again. Depending on your new bodyweight measurement, here are your options:
- If you weigh the same as the previous week, then you have found your daily maintenance caloric intake. To gain weight, increase your daily caloric intake by 250 calories. If that doesn’t work after a week, then add another 250 calories.
- If you weigh significantly less at the end of the week (e.g. losing 1-2 lbs+), then you are below your daily maintenance level. To gain weight, increase your daily caloric intake by 500 calories to begin with. If that doesn’t produce any weight gain after a week, then increase add another 250 calories.
- If you weigh significantly more at the end of the week (e.g. gaining 1-2 lbs), then you’re above your daily maintenance level. This is a good thing, since you’re trying to build muscle. Keep eating at this level until your gains stop, at which point you should slowly increase your calories until as needed to continue adding mass. If you’re gaining too much fat, then reduce your calories accordingly.
Read my post on how to design a bodybuilding diet to learn more about setting up your nutrition plan.
Again, there could be other factors that have been holding you back, such as poor training and insufficient sleep/recovery.
Be sure to get plenty of quality sleep each night (7-9 hours works for most adults).
With regard to training, you must progressively overload your muscles in order to gain size (i.e. continually add weight to the bar and/or increase workout volume). You may also want to consider starting a quality, proven training routine, unless you’re already using one. Browse through these weight lifting routines to find one that’s right for you…
…But it’s important to remember that training consistently (i.e. staying on your schedule, and staying focused in each workout) is infinitely more important than having the “perfect” routine.
And that’s all there is to it – Everything you need to know to break that 180 lbs barrier. Now you just gotta apply it, have some patience and watch yourself grow.
To conclude, I’ll provide some videos to motivate anyone who thinks they’re too old to build muscle:
Men Who Prove You’re NEVER Too Old To Build Muscle
53 Year Old Mr. Universe Walter van Elderen:
He almost certainly took steroids to get this big, but you can get very jacked by age 53 as a natural.
62 Year Old Bodybuilder:
62 Year Old Sylvester Stallone Training for The Expendables:
He took HGH, but you can build lots of muscle without it.
63 Year Old Bodybuilder:
70 Year Old Olympic Weightlifter:
74 Year Old Bodybuilder:
74 Year Old Bodybuilder:
87 Year Old Weight Lifter & Fitness Fanatic:
101 Year Old Marathon Runner:
This guy doesn’t lift weights, but he’s quite active. Plus, he’s one hilarious dude who just doesn’t give a f*ck, which is why I included him.