Tricks to Gaining Muscle Mass After 50 – 3 Mistakes to Avoid

Can you really get fit after age fifty?

gaining muscle mass after 50

Gaining muscle mass after 50 can be done

I did. And this is how I did it.

First I just asked myself a common sense question.

What are the keys to gaining muscle mass after 50 years old?

And here is what I wrote down.

Fitness simplified (in my mind at least):

  • Eat Well. I mean this really is the main problem. We are all eating like crap and that’s why we’re fat.
  • Move Often. Another hazard of our modern lives. We sit at desks all day. Our version of “hunting and gathering” is to order shit from Amazon for Christ’s sake.
  • Pick Stuff Up. Preferably heavy stuff. And do it regularly.
  • Sleep Soundly. Another casualty of modern living is it’s assault on your sleep. Both quantity and quality. You are not designed for the chronic stress that comes from being over-tired and constantly bombarded by technology chirping at you and demanding action.

That was my my basic list.

  1. Nutrition
  2. exercise (both aerobic and anaerobic)
  3. and manage stress.

Keep it simple is always a good strategy.


The tricks to gaining muscle mass after 50 may be a bit counter intuitive.

Conventional wisdom tells you to moderate your life and take it easy as you age so you don’t get hurt or throw out your back.

But keep in mind, this advice is coming mostly from other old guys with big guts and bad backs.

Just because you find yourself in a state of marginal fitness doesn’t mean you are sentenced to a mediocre finish in life.

Mistake #1 is thinking like an old guy. You have to avoid this like the plague.

Don’t believe you cannot be strong again.

Don’t take advice from guys with big guts, bad backs and skinny arms.

This was my first “aha moment.” I realized I was acting old.

If you want to look old, just act old. Your results are guaranteed.

I had stropped running. I had the “bad back” mind set. I wasn’t lifting anymore because I felt tired. I was whining.

It’s a classic Catch-22.

Are you feeling old because you’re acting old?
Or are you acting old because you’re feeling old?

I’m convinced it’s the former. Old age starts in your head.

If you want to pack on some muscle, start acting like a young guy who wants to impress girls. This is a mental game.
If you want to build muscle mass, you have to lift weights or perform some type of resistance training.

Resistance can be provided using your own body weight by doing any number of exercises like pull ups, push ups, dips, squats and rows.

This is typically a great starting point to get you back into training if you are just getting going again.

But make no mistake, if you want to accelerate gaining muscle mass after 50 years old, you have to lift heavy weights.

The key is to lift heavy things. Remember, heavy is a relative term.

Heavy is basically what you can lift for 3 to 5 reps while maintaining good form. You should probably stay away from the heavy single rep lifts for the most part.

Heavy training can be done using traditional weight lifting workouts or even by lifting heavy rocks and logs and carrying them around.

You can flip truck tires or push weighted sleds around. Car pushes are one of my secret workouts.

Lifting heavy simply means to stress your muscles in a way that causes overload without injury.

This is how muscle mass is built.

Mistake #2 is lifting like an old guy.

Most old guys (and probably you too) who have been out of the gym for a few years have poor core strength.

You need a strong core to perform many of the lifts needed for muscle building.

Squatting, overhead pressing, power cleans, dead lifts and kettlebell swings all require a strong core to prevent injury.

Don’t mistake your weak back for an injured back.

You may believe you have a “bad back” because it is sore all the time when in reality you simply have a weak back that is stressed from bad posture, poor ergonomics and years of neglect.

The bad back syndrome is a downward spiral.

  • You don’t think you can do it anymore because of your bad back.
  • You can’t do this and you can’t do that because of the bad back.

I thought like this for years. And I kept getting weaker and feeling older as a result.

You have to break out of this thinking. It’s dragging you down.

Now let me be clear, you may actually have an injured back (a small percentage of us old guys do). It certainly does happen. I am not diagnosing you.

I am simply saying that the majority of bad back problems are due to a weak core and not really an injury. If you have any acute pain, you need an expert to analyze your situation.

Don’t use sit ups to work on your core strength.

They don’t work and waste a lot of time. Work your core with stabilization exercises, compound movements and twisting/bending moves.

Overhead pressing, push ups and carrying exercises like farmers walks are core stabilizers.

Squats, dead lifts and kettlebell  swings are compound movements.

Burpees, T push ups and sledgehammer swings are excellent core builders using twisting and bending moves.

Mistake #3 is wasting your time in the gym.

Don’t walk on the treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes. This is a waste of valuable gym time.

Walking is for your rest days. Walk around the block a few times or take an easy run. Get some fresh air. Go hiking. It’s all good. Just don’t do it on your training days.

Did you ever notice that the treadmill walkers or recumbent bike riders never seem to build a better physique?

They looked weak two months ago and still look weak today.

Don’t waste time lifting tiny dumbbells doing curls and ultralight presses. It looks ridiculous and really what is the point? You are not building muscle nor burning any fat.

So stop embarrassing yourself.

I go to a community center gym where a lot of older folks work out.

I see a lot of time wasting going on.

The guys who just sit on the leg curl machine between their pathetic, half-rep sets.

Or the dude who swing curls 15 pound dumbbells for about 20 minutes straight! I’m not kidding. I can do dead lifts and squats and he is still swinging those little dumbbells.

Don’t do this shit. Get serious about your gym time.

The key to gaining muscle mass after 50 is to lift heavy weight using your big muscles.

  • You need to squat, bench, military press, power clean (with an asterisk here) and dead lift.
  • Power cleans are a great exercise but good technique is imperative. And it is not a simple movement.

Make a goal to work up to power cleans but don’t just go there on Day 1.

Focus on the big lifts using perfect form.

Build muscle and get strong by focusing on the basic movements. As always, start slow to ensure you do not get hurt.

This is Rule 1 for “Old Guy Lifting.”

Don’t get hurt. Recovery just takes too long.

But do the big muscle lifts to build a solid physique.

Don’t act like an old guy.


  1. Eat Well. Read the secrets to losing weight fast. You may need to supplement. Read about the best supplements for men here.
  2. Move often. This means active rest days when you’re not lifting. Running, walking, hiking, just moving around.
  3. Lift heavy things. Read here about the 23 Best Ab Workouts You Don’t Know About.
  4. Sleep well. Lower stress. Read some inspirational quotes about strength and life from Jack LaLanne.

      Please comment below. What’s making you feel old?

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  1. says

    Very good and to the point article. I myself at 57, understand the work that is involved in all areas nutrition, lifting, recovery etc,.. that is needed to build muscle at any age, but as we age it takes a real concentrated effort to succeed. The importance of working around previous orthopedic injuries as well plays a big part for many of us who have been active our entire lives.

    I work around a total knee replacement and a ruptured bicep tendon ( long head) both play a part in my ability to lift the type of weight I would like but, you learn to improvise. Something is better than nothing!

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  2. Norman says

    ” Avoid thinking like an old guy” Best damned thing I’ve read in years.
    I’ll be here off and on for a while and will let you know my progress Norman B. 56

  3. John says

    i’m 54 years old and i just started back in the gym I’ve noticed that if i do the same work out every other day I’ll make gains but use the 5×5 system

  4. says

    I am 67 years old at 65 I was as strong as I was at 50, in 2012 I had to have by-pass surgery, For the last two years my life has been miserable because I let my musical mass deteriorate. I have to bring my selfasteam back to where it was two years ago and better. I going to start today using your advice Thanks.

  5. Scott says

    Solid truth spoken here. Simple things with a common sense approach is all that is required. I have been bouncing around from endurance sports (running, adventure racing, mountain biking) to strength training for the last 6 years. Now, at age 50, I have a laser focus on strength and muscle mass. I’ve always been on the thin side, but can testify that it is possible to get stronger and add muscle at this age. There are disadvantages to getting older, but that doesn’t mean one must lay down and give up. Get your mind right, eat well, and grind out some solid workouts with HEAVY stuff and you are on uour way. I have basic barbell equipment in garage and have never worked out in a gym. If your goal is to get strong and increase muscle mass, follow the instructions of the author and keep it simple. It WILL work.

  6. Rodger Mathews says

    After a year of inactivity because of a shattered knee from a motorcycle accident, I realized that I’d lost quite a bit of muscle tone and gained some softness around my waist. I started out this past Spring, doing lots of stretching, the calisthenics I learned in the Army, light to medium resistance with weights or resistance tubes. It didn’t take all that long, and started to see some definition in my muscles.

    Also, I read several internet articles on the subject, and I added two why protein shakes to my daily intake, while moderating my food intake, especially “ground meats” such as hot dogs, sausage, or hamburger. That, plus working out at the local YMCA, have given me more lean muscle.

    And y’know what? When I was walking through a restaurant a few weeks ago, I felt that I was “standing tall.” Even better than the physical appearance, getting into better shape has helped me move on from the trauma of the accident and the loss of “life control” I felt. (Doesn’t hurt that girlfriend loves the “new,” bulkier shoulders and arms! lol)

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