Building Muscle After 50: How To Add Bulk Reliably And Cheat Aging

Just because you are over age 50, does not mean that you can’t improve your physique.

But, can you build muscle after 50 years of age? Is bodybuilding for 50-year-olds possible? What are the best tips for how to build muscle after 50, and what workouts and diet plan should you follow to support your goals?

In this guide, we will discuss how to build muscle after 50 years of age, how aging affects muscle mass and strength, the benefits of building muscle after 50, and the best workouts and diet tips for building muscle in your 50s.

We will cover: 

  • Why Am I Losing Muscle As I Get Older?
  • Can You Build Muscle After 50 Years of Age?
  • Bodybuilding for 50-Year-Olds
  • Will Building Muscle After 50 Help Slow Aging?
  • How to Build Muscle After 50

Let’s jump in!

A person doing a bicep curl.

Why Am I Losing Muscle As I Get Older?

The unfortunate truth is that we naturally begin to lose muscle mass and strength as we age, starting as early as the age of 30, due to a process known as age-related sarcopenia.

In fact, most studies suggest that adults start losing about 3 to 8% of their muscle mass per decade after 30, with an increased rate of muscle loss after 60.

More importantly, the decline in muscular strength is thought to be even faster and more significant than the loss of muscle mass.

Indeed, according to some research, the rate of muscle loss and muscle strength for middle-aged adults may be even faster than we previously thought, indicating that losing muscle mass and strength after age 50 (and between 40 and 50) may be just as rapid as the rate of muscle mass and strength decline after age 60.  

The study compared the differences in leg muscle strength and muscle mass between two groups of adults, those under age 40 (mean age of 31 years old) and those over age 40 (mean age 54 years old).

Over the two-decade age span of the groups, there was a loss of muscle strength in the legs that ranged from 16.6% to 40.9%, which works out to about 9 to 20% per decade.

What this means is that working hard to build muscle after 50 is crucial because your body is already experiencing a rapid loss in your peak muscle strength and muscle mass.

A person on rings building muscle after 50.

Can You Build Muscle After 50 Years of Age?

It is important to note that while some amount of muscle mass and strength loss may be inevitable, there are numerous physical and behavioral causes of this decline, some of which may be preventable if you follow the best bodybuilding plan for over 50-year-olds.

Some of this loss is simply attributable to becoming less active, so performing consistent strength training workouts and staying physically active after 50 can negate this contributing factor to sarcopenia.

Even hormonally, the best bodybuilding workouts for after 50 can help boost testosterone, growth hormone, and other anabolic hormone levels naturally to help attenuate the declines seen in these muscle-building, fat-burning hormones experienced by both men and women over 50.

Research has found that it is possible to build muscle and increase strength even in adults in their 80s while also slowing the natural tendency for body fat to increase and bone density to decrease.

A person lifting a dumbbell.

Bodybuilding for 50-Year-Olds

Most of the time, bodybuilders gracing the stage at physique competitions or flexing at the gym are younger guys, gals, and non-binary athletes, but there is increasing interest in bodybuilding after 50.

However, our perceptions of what is “young“ and “old“ these days have shifted radically, and bodybuilding for a 50-year-old, or an interest in how to build muscle after 50, has increased substantially.

No longer will you only see younger people in their 20s and 30s lifting heavy weights in the gym.

Instead, there are many middle-aged weightlifters trying to build muscle, train for strength and power, and even enter bodybuilding competitions in their 50s (or do muscle-building workouts after 50 years of age recreationally).

Building muscle after 50 is certainly more challenging than building muscle in your younger years, but as long as you are performing the best bodybuilding after 50 workout routines, following a high-protein muscle-building diet, and taking care of your body it is not out of the realm of possibility.

Two people at the gym.

Will Building Muscle After 50 Help Slow Aging?

According to market research, the Global Anti Aging Market was valued at $63.01 Billion US dollars in 2022 and is projected to jump up to a whopping $106.65 Billion USD by 2030. 

Not only does this indicate that there is already a huge amount of vested interest and dollars going into various potential anti-aging treatments and services, but with the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.80% over the forecasted eight years, clearly, the desire to slow the aging process is projected to increase even more.

The exciting news for bodybuilding after 50 is that evidence suggests that strength training can reduce signs of aging at the cellular level.

This will not only improve longevity but will also keep youthfulness with your appearance and the functional operations of your body systems.

How to Build Muscle After 50

Building muscle after 50 isn’t very different from building muscle for younger adults, except that you have to work harder, given that your hormonal balance doesn’t support muscle growth as easily.

Therefore, if you are trying to build muscle in your 50s, you need to work out consistently with the best strength training workouts for over 50 while also dialing in your diet for muscle growth.

A person on a bench press.

Here are some tips for how to build muscle after 50:

#1: Lift Heavy

Don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights after 50.

Of course, you need to listen to your body, but you should be using a weight for each exercise that you can only handle for about 8 to 12 reps with proper form before fatiguing.

This is the recommended load for hypertrophy workouts for building muscle.

Perform three sets of each exercise and focus on compound exercises.

#2: Train Consistently 

You should do at least three strength training workouts per week to build muscle after 50.

Research indicates that doing three full-body strength training workouts per week is actually more effective at building muscle than body part splits.

Make sure that you are taking at least 24 to 48 hours of rest in between weightlifting workouts, where you target the same muscle groups in order to allow for adequate recovery.

Workout recovery takes longer as we age, and bodybuilding workouts for 50-year-olds and older are only effective if you are giving your muscles adequate time for the muscle protein synthesis process (which repairs and rebuilds muscle) to occur.

A back squat.

#3: Use Progressive Overload

At least every 2 to 4 weeks, progress the weights you are using to ensure you continue to get stronger and build muscle. 

#4: Add HIIT

If your cardio routine has been mainly steady-state cardio, switch to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, which research suggests will better support muscle growth by boosting hormones like growth hormone and testosterone.

#5: Consider Supplements

If you are struggling to maintain muscle mass in your 50s, muscle-building supplements such as protein powders, BCAAs, creatine, and collagen protein may be helpful.

The disclaimer here is that we are referring only to safe, legal, FDA-cleared athletic supplements, not anabolic steroids.

A person lifting heavy at the gym.

Note that hormone replacement therapy is sometimes necessary or can be beneficial for those trying to build muscle over 50 who have particularly low testosterone or have reached menopause.

If you are losing muscle over 50 at an alarming rate despite trying to increase muscle mass, talk with your doctor about getting your hormone levels checked.

Physician-guided testosterone replacement therapy or hormone replacement therapy for women can be helpful for building muscle as an older adult in cases where hormone replacement therapy is medically indicated.

#6: Eat Enough Protein 

Eating enough protein in your diet is essential for building muscle after 50.

The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that athletes consume at least 1.2–2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, and this protein should be spread out throughout the day, if possible.

Studies also suggest that drinking a sports beverage with carbs during your workout can help increase muscle protein synthesis.

Consider following a high-protein diet, which you can read about here.

A person smiling at the gym.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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