Writer, Funk Roberts is a certified trainer, former professional volleyball player and plyometrics expert (www.over40alpha.com)


Getting older doesn’t mean you need to accept a steady decline in the precious muscle mass you’ve fought so hard to gain over the years. What you need is the right kind of workout, and you can still transform your physique after the age of 40 if you do this. According to a study in the >Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, adding strategic resistance training with a metabolic flair is essential for older guys who want gain muscle. The workouts you used to do when you were in your 20s and 30s are not going to work in your 40, 50, 60 and 70s. This is because, as you get older, your metabolism naturally slows, says research in the >International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, and to add even more insult, your testosterone levels start to plummet. You begin to lose muscle mass and your ability to burn off unwanted fat decreases as a result. What’s more, there is a lot of confusing information and conflicting advice everywhere so it’s no wonder that you find yourself frustrated. What many people don’t realize is that some of the plans out there can actually be quite harmful. They often prescribe exercises that may put your shoulders, knees, and even back in unsafe positions, which lead to injuries that take forever to recover from and workout plans that strain your body. Instead of seeing the results you were hoping for, you wind up feeling exhausted.


Aging Muscles

Before you get to the type of workouts that you should be doing it’s important to understand what exactly is changing as you get older. First, if you’re a man reading this right now, chances are good you’ve heard of testosterone before. You know that testosterone is what drives your system. It’s what makes you a man and gives you your edge.

So, it should come as no surprise then that when your testosterone levels begin to decline, it can do a real number on your health. There are so many issues that come along with lower than normal testosterone and the even sadder fact is that the current prevalence rates of men with hypogonadism (markedly low testosterone) is between 2.1 and 12.8% depending on the subject group being looked at, suggests research in the >Journal of Hormones. Other research has also noted that testosterone levels typically do decrease with age to the tune of 0.4-2% per year after the age of 30 if care is not taken to help prevent this. Testosterone is the primary muscle building hormone in your body, so when it drops, so does your ability to sustain lean muscle tissue.

A study in the >Journal of Endocrinology Investigation showed aging is accompanied by a decrease in free testosterone levels and an increase in fat mass with age (along with a redistribution of body fat), whereas muscle mass decreases. It is tempting to attribute a causal role for this to the decrease in androgen levels. With a yearly decrease in testosterone from the age of 30, by time you each 40, muscle building is going to be very difficult if you don’t have the right plan. Second, as you get older, your metabolism slows down. As this takes place, you’re going to notice that if you continue to eat the same amount and type of foods that you ate previously, you gain weight much easier. This is the number one reason why men over 40 put on weight with age. There’s not some magical effect taking place that’s causing your metabolic rate to drop. Instead, it’s mostly a matter of you losing lean muscle mass tissue. If you do something to preserve your lean muscle mass tissue – such as the following workout – you can avoid this metabolic slowdown from occurring.

Finally, another common change that you’ll see occurring is a decrease in lean muscle mass tissue. Older guys suffer from what is called Sarcopenia which is a natural loss of muscle mass and performance due to aging. In fact, physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30, says research in >The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Even if you are very active, you’ll still have some muscle loss. So, it’s extremely important that you include muscle building workouts into a regimen to ensure you stay strong as you get older.


Powering Down

When you lose lean muscle mass, you’re going to see your strength level go down and in addition to that, you’ll also notice that your ability to maintain your body weight is also altered. Muscle burns calories so the less muscle you have, the easier those pounds pile on. Now that you know what is happening to your body when you reach the age of 40, don’t fret. You can get a handle on all of this and sculpt a lean muscular body in your 40s, 50s and 60s, but you have to train for your age. And stay away from the common mistakes men over 40 make when it comes to building muscle. In order to make maximum progress, there are a few specific things that you must avoid at all costs. If you do these, it will sacrifice the results you see, and you’ll be hard pressed to see testosterone enhancement taking place. Here’s a list of what not to do…


  1. Long Cardio Workouts

If your idea of a good workout is hopping on the treadmill and jogging for an hour, you might want to rethink this strategy. Long, moderate intensity cardio training, like 45-60 minutes on an elliptical will really do a number on your cortisol levels, sending it soaring. Long cardio sessions increase the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with heart disease and visceral belly fat. Cortisol is also the stress hormone that is associates with the breakdown of lean muscle mass, not to mention that it suppresses testosterone.


  1. Bodybuilding-Type Split Routines

The next thing that you’ll want to be avoiding is the classic bodybuilding type of split routines. They’re the kind where you do chest one day, back another, bi’s the next, etc)

These routines are not ideal for men over 40 as they are put too much volume on your muscles and because as you get older, you do not recover as quickly from workouts as you did previously, these workouts will put too much stress on your joints and bodies leading to injury. Also, these types of workouts do not stimulate the muscles often enough to see great gains in either strength or muscle size. If you are only working your chest once per week instead of three times per week for example, this is going to hinder its overall development. They are great for younger guys in their 20s and 30s but for us men over 40, you have to train smart.


  1. Super Intense Workouts

Box jumps, handstand press-ups, and Olympic lifts repeated (often) day after day after day will really strain your joints, muscles, ligaments as well as your central nervous system. A recent study in >The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found the injury rates with CrossFit training are similar to that reported in the literature for sports such as Olympic weight-lifting, power-lifting and gymnastics. These sports are not set out for men in their 40, 50 and 60s. This can set you up for devastating injuries, which can take weeks, if not months to heal. If there is one thing you can be certain of, it’s that you won’t make any progress while you are suffering from an injury.


The Magic Workout

So, what is the best muscle building workout for men over the age of 40? The answer is Total Body Metabolic Resistance Training. This means you’re going to perform a weight exercise for a period of time with a short rest period before the next exercise so that you are moving in a circuit training fashion. Those who do metabolic resistance training typically perform exercises that work their entire body – rather than splitting their body up and doing just chest one day or just shoulders another. You will hit your entire body in one workout.

Speaking of total body workout sessions, why do that instead of splitting it up? Don’t all the strong and muscular bodybuilders do body part splits? They do, but remember, they are doing this after years and years of other training. The reasons why you should be doing total body training is because the more muscle fibers you can work in any single workout session, the more calories you burn. If you want to get leaner, total body training is the single best way you are going to do that. Also, by doing total body training, you’ll be using primarily compound exercises, and these get your heart rate up higher than other exercises in your routine, giving you a much better cardiovascular and fitness boost. Likewise, compound exercises allow you to lift more weight, hence you’ll get stronger faster when doing them. A study done by Brad Schoenfeld in >The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed total body workouts trump bro split bodybuilding style workouts for older men.

Full body training is also time efficient. When you do full body training, you’ll be putting in less total time in the gym since you’ll work all the muscle groups in each and every workout. This means you’ll be doing a maximum of 3-4 workouts per week, rather than the classic 5-6 that those with split body part workouts do. If you want to save yourself time and energy, this is a definite must.

Finally, doing total body metabolic workouts will also have you burning calories both during and after the workout is done.  Since this is a short 20-30 minute metabolic workout, not only will you burn calories during but because of EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption) or the “afterburn effect”, you will burn calories long after your workout is complete, while you still hold on to the hard-earned muscle you build during your workout. People who do metabolic style of workouts burn 25-30% more total calories than other forms of exercise and this can help your body build and preserve muscle mass as you age. It’s clear this is of immense value in this style of training, and you can look forward to all the results you will be getting from it should you progress forward and work hard.


Total Body Dumbbell Muscle Building Workout

This is a six-exercise circuit using dumbbells and some combination movements to ensure that we target the entire body in one workout.  Best bang for your buck.


Use this style of workout three times per week on non-consecutive days to get the best results. (example: Monday – Wednesday – Friday)


Perform each exercise for 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds rest one after the other for three total rounds. Total workout time = 18 minutes


  1. Dumbbell goblet squats to reverse lunge
  2. Dumbbell alternating bent over rows
  3. Dumbbell floor alternating single to double chest press
  4. Dumbbell regular curls to hammer curls
  5. Dumbbell lying alternating single arm French press
  6. Standing side to front shoulder raises


Make sure that you warm up before and stretch after this workout