Even though your metabolism may be slowing and your testosterone production is now significantly lower than when you were in your 30s, the good news is that it is still possible to develop muscle after 60. In fact, by paying attention to your diet, the type of exercise you do and by harnessing the power of two incredible lifestyle hacks I’m going to share with you, you could be well on your way to a total body transformation within just a few months.
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Sudden Loss of Muscle
If you’re reading this article because you’ve experienced a sudden loss of muscle, it’s important that you seek medical advice quickly.
Sudden loss of muscle can be a symptom of serious illness and it requires the immediate attention of a medical professional.
Back in 2019, I lost around 30lb of lean mass within two months during a time when I wasn’t trying to lose weight. I was rushed for tests on my stomach. Praise God, it was just a hiatus hernia and I have since made a full recovery, but it was a worrying time and I knew that something was very wrong inside.
Don’t be afraid to seek medical help, as you too may well find that there is an easily treatable reason why your muscle mass has diminished – but don’t take any chances.
Can Muscle Grow After 60
People over 60 can build muscle effectively.
In fact, I believe that every healthy person over the age of 60 should be actively fighting against sarcopenia, the medical term given to the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.
If you’re not convinced that it’s possible, then read this study on 24 people in their 90s who were trained twice per week for a total of 12 weeks. It was reported that the participants saw improvements in muscle power and significant increases in the physical capacity of the participants.
If people in their 90s can experience improvements in muscle size and strength, then there is no doubt that those in their 60s can too.
In fact, if you’ve never trained before, your 60s are the perfect time to begin taking care of your body. If your workouts, diet and lifestyle are all properly managed you will see spectacular changes in your health, strength and vitality.
Even if you have previously trained at a reasonably high level and are looking to regain some of the muscle you have lost over the years, you should be heartened that science proves that it is possible to gain muscle in your seventh decade on planet Earth.
The key is to take a holistic approach so that your entire life is contributing to the health of your body. This may require a total life makeover, if you are entrenched in unhealthy habits, but the reward will be more than worth the cost.
How To Exercise After 60
Drawing from this systematic review on dose-response relationships of resistance training in healthy old adults it is clear that the optimum structure for your resistance work is:
- Two sessions per week
- training volume of three sets per exercise
- Nine repetitions per set
- Rest of 4 seconds between repetitions
- Rest of 1 minute between sets
In terms of putting that into a comprehensive workout routine, it would make sense to split the workouts into two full body sessions: a push day and a pull day. This isn’t purely for convenience, there is a great benefit to performing full body workouts, which has to do with hack#2… more of that later.
Choose one of the exercises on each line.
Bench Press / Dumbbell Bench Press / Press Up / Resistance Band Chest Press
Barbell Shoulder Press / Resistance Band Shoulder Press / Parallette Pike Press
Barbell Squat / Kettlebell Squat / Bodyweight Squat
Tricep Press / Resistance Band Tricep pushdown
Barbell Deadlift / Kettlebell Deadlift
Dumbbell Bent Over Row / Resistance Band Row
Barbell Biceps Curl / Dumbbell Curl / Resistance Band Curl
If you are new to working out, seek the advice of your doctor, talking through the contents of this article and the exercises set out above. If you are completely untrained, it would be prudent to start at just one set per exercise, taking your time to master proper form before adding volume and weight.
This regime leaves enough room in your week to enable you to look into incorporating a sprint session. By this, I mean building up to performing 8, 80 meter sprints in a session.
Again, this kind of workout will enhance your efforts in hack#2, below. But the key words here are building up to. Sprints are some of the hardest workouts you can do, so be careful!
Always start and end your sprint sessions with a 5-10 minute brisk walk.
During weeks 1 and 2, sprint at 25% of your full sprint speed (a gentle jog). Weeks 3 and 4 try 50%. Only if you feel comfortable and can complete all 8 sprints should you push beyond this. In future weeks, start at 25% for sprint 1, 50% for sprint 2 and try for 75% if your body feels comfortable in doing this.
Even if you’re never able to hit the full 8 sprints, you’ll still get the benefits. But don’t push yourself too hard.
I’ve intermittently incorporated sprints into my workout regime, and even when I was 30 and in very good shape, sprints would annihilate me, so be careful and speak to your doctor before starting them.
It’s no use attempting to lift weights or sprint however, if you lack flexibility or mobility in your joints and limbs.
In fact, if you try to do these activities without good flexibility you could be increasing your risk of injury.
For these reasons, it’s very important that you take action and begin to work on your flexibility.
The best way to do this is to follow a stretching program. We would recommend you check out our review of the Hyperbolic Stretching program which is an inexpensive but very effective system of radically improving strength, flexibility and mobility throughout the entire body.
Another benefit of stretching is that it is great to combat arterial stiffness – something we should all care about, as none of us want to suffer a stroke or heart attack.
We would recommend that you build a strong foundation of flexibility before adding resistance work and sprints into your regime. Do this by completing at least 30 days of the Hyperbolic Stretching program. You may be itching to build some muscle, but please don’t skip this part.
Read our review of the Hyperbolic Stretching Program and learn how we got flexible fast.
Eating For Muscle Growth After 60
Most articles discussing muscle growth in the over 60s will undoubtedly be focused on hitting protein targets, but I take a different approach.
For many years, I have been aware that we need to eat for overall health rather than stuffing ourselves with as much protein as we can. Diets that seek to exclude certain food types are also to be avoided.
I have been aware of the work of William Li ever since I watched his fascinating TED X talk on eating to starve cancer but I recently picked up a copy his book Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself (paid link).
Rather than provide a prescriptive diet plan, we will instead provide you with some great principles to thrive upon:
- Cut out all processed food
- Replace cows milk products for goats milk product or plant milk.
- Make sure that each day you consume:
- 2 pieces of fresh fruit each day
- 1/2 can fruit each day
- At least 2 cups of tea each day
- a handful of blueberries, cherries, strawberries or raspberries
- brocolli or kale
- fermented food such as yogurt, kimchi or sauerkraut
- 3 tablespoons of Olive Oil
- a handful of nuts
- fresh or powdered ginger and turmeric
- Obtain protein from a variety of dark poultry meat, lean beef and pork – or your preferred meat alternative.
Notice that the protein is at the bottom of the list? I want to encourage you to focus more on consuming the items above it in the list. By filling up on all that good stuff, you will be eating for optimum health and will undoubtedly consume sufficient protein for your body to synthesize it into muscle tissue.
Harness The Power of Myostatin and Growth Hormone
Please don’t skip this part of the article because these two tips could make all the difference in the results you’re going to see from your workout efforts.
Nothing is more motivating than seeing your body respond to your exercise regime. These changes in your body can literally be the factor that keeps you wanting to workout when you would otherwise quit.
These two lifestyle hacks will help anybody in their 60s maximise the impact of exercise and can have a radical impact on body composition (the ratio of muscle to fat) and overall health.
Hack 1: Myostatin Suppression. Read the article I’ve linked to and incorporate the myostatin reduction strategies to maximise your muscle building potential. If you’ve no idea what myostatin is, the article will explain everything, but here’s a quick summary: animals that have a naturally occurring mysostatin deficiency have dramatically enhanced levels of muscularity and lower levels of fat compared to their normal counterparts. You don’t want to ignore this article!
Hack 2: Don’t eat! Yes, that’s right, fasting can actually build muscle and strip away body fat. In this article I haven’t got the space to go into the full benefits of fasting but what you need to know is that by fasting over a 24-hour period, you amplify the pulses of growth hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, leading to an increase in GH levels of over 2000%.
Growth Hormone, the go to drug of aging Hollywood action heroes, available freely within your body if you have the discipline to fast! Again, check with your doctor before embarking upon a fasting regime, especially if you have diabetes or low blood pressure.
Higher levels of Growth Hormone will incinerate fat (especially stomach fat) and improve protein synthesis and muscle growth. If you have a sweet tooth, be warned: sugar leads to a spike in insulin levels which in turn suppresses Growth Hormone production. Stay off the sweet stuff!
Look Forward To A Fit Future
So there you have it – your comprehensive guide to building muscle after the age of 60. I hope that this has given you the confidence that your efforts aren’t going to be wasted. You have a healthy future ahead of you, inhabiting a strong, flexible, lean body that will serve you for decades to come!