Getting Back into Training at Age 46 – Q&A
Question: I was just recently turned on to EFT and now stumbled on to you…. My first article was a link from EFT and found it very interesting. While I didn’t understand all of nuances of the language to describe the science behind the nutrition and physiology of Protein and the synthesis of nutrients, all in all, great article. This article led me to your site, blog and newsletter.
Hey, GREAT stuff. I’ve become a nutrition nerd over the past year and am devouring whatever info I can get my hands on…and this led me to a question you may or may not feel hits a large part of your audience. I continue to read a lot about the goals of hypertrophy, strength and power, what routines are best, what diets are best – but one concern continues to nag at me, over and over; while everyone has different goals, what about AGE???
I’m a 46 year old male who has lifted heavy since high school – right through till I was in my upper 20’s (coincidentally, just about when my career overshadowed my goals of looking good.) Now, at 46 I’ve decided I want to get back in the game! I’ve been lifting again and have dropped 17 lbs of FAT. I’m now stronger than I was in college and my wife says I look better.
Now, My wife and her trainer think I’m crazy but I want to lift for hypertrophy. I figure I have about 10 more years to gain muscle (I’ve heard at the age of 55 most men lose the ability to put on muscle) and want to try it for the next two years, WHILE keeping off belly fat at this point in my life. Am I crazy to believe I can and should do it, and how do I go about it???
Answer: Arguably the biggest difference in terms of age is that you won’t be able to recover from the same amount of training that you did when you were younger. You’ll also tend to grow more slowly which means you don’t need a massive excess of incoming nutrients. Finally, the upper limit of how much muscle mass you can gain will probably be lower due to changes in hormone levels which occur with aging.
When in doubt, I’d recommend that you err on the low side of trining volume and frequency. Three times/week is probably plenty, hitting each bodypart every 5th day or so. So something like a Monday: Upper body Wednesday: Lower body Friday: Upper body Monday: Lower body Wedesday: Upper body Friday: Lower body The other days would be taken off or used for some type of work capacity or conditioning. I’d recommend at least 1-2 days completely off of training per week.
As far as volume per workout, you don’t need a ton of sets. A conservative starting place might be 2 heavy sets and 1 higher rep set (2X5-8 + 1X10-12) per body part and you can pick different exercises for each repetition range. You might be able to handle more than that, you might not be but you should always start on the side of too little than too much.
You can experiment with higher volumes if you feel that you’re not growing adequately (a very reasonable rate of muscle gain for men is about 0.5 pounds per week or two pounds per month). You should focus on progressively adding weight to the bar (while keeping form excellent) and eating a slightly caloric surplus and you should grow to the limits of your ability. Good luck.