Building Muscle Mass in Older Adults: How to Build Muscle at Any Age


For those who wonder if muscle building at any age is possible, well it is not only possible but many heath care practitioners actually recommend it. As an adult, it is estimated that each decade you can lose between 5-7 pounds of muscle. This loss in muscle mass can cause you to gain more body fat, slow your metabolism and restrict your physical abilities. There are many health benefits associated with long term resistance training done by older adults (those 65 and older) and are as follows:

Benefits of Muscle Building in Older Adults

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there are many health benefits of incorporating a long-term resistance training schedule for those ages 65 and older. These improvements include improvements in endurance and muscle strength, as well as increases in muscle mass which improves the body’s’ functional capacity.

There are significant amounts of health benefits for older adults who incorporate 2 ½ hours a week of moderate to intense levels of aerobic activity such as brisk walking combined with muscle strength exercises on 2 or more day per week that work the arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, hips and leg as according to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The CDC states that improvements in health include:

  • Bone strength
  • Mobility
  • Balance and coordination


Scacopenia is a term used to describe muscle wasting and combined with muscle weakness, which tends to become prevalent as we age due physical inactivity, the body is prone to a host of health problems. This is why there has become an increased emphasis on resistance training program development for the aging population. There are a few things to consider when developing a resistance training program for older adults such as progression, repetitions, intensity, sets, exercises, duration, and frequency of exercise.

Some older adults have orthopedic issues that can become worse with resistance training. There are also those who are at a high risk of cardiovascular disease which, makes it vital that older adults get approval from their physician before starting a resistance training program. It is also recommended that proper supervision be in place which includes a properly trained professional when older adults are participating in a resistance training regime.

Frequency of Exercise

This refers to the number of workout sessions done each week. It is usually recommended that an individual engage in three workout sessions each week for an overall improvement in fitness and health. There have been studies with elderly participants on the subject of resistance training and results indicate that 2-4 workout sessions were appropriate for improvements in fitness and health. It is also recommended that there be at least 48 hours between each workout session.

Duration of Exercise

This refers to each training session’s length. It is important to note that participating in longer training sessions does not always equal more effectiveness. It is recommended to have a program that is appropriately design for each individual that has a number of sound variables. In older adults it is recommended that their workout sessions be between 20-45 minutes but no longer than 45 minutes.

Appropriate Exercises

In older adults the exercises regimen should focus mainly on multi-joint exercises which means more one joint is involved in performing the exercise. Uni-joint exercises, which involve one joint performing an exercise, are not discourage but it is recommended that they not make up the majority of the workout session. Exercises done using machines are preferred over that of free weights because of safety and skill related factors.

It is also recommended that older adults perfom1-2 exercises for each muscle group. Studies have indicated that improvements in the area of muscle strength were due to individuals employing 1-3 sets of exercise during each workout session. The current guidelines recommend that older adults begin their session with performing one set of each preferred exercise then progressing to more sets as fitness levels improve. For most individuals, two sets of exercises is beneficial for overall health and fitness improvements with a two minute interval rest period between each set.


There are also other factors such as the repetition and intensity of exercise that will affect the fitness and health levels of older adults but muscle building at any age is indeed possible. For an example of an older adult who has not only been successful in building muscle at an older age but has gone on to win a vast number of competitions visit