The Aging Bodybuilder, Part II

A few weeks ago I posted my thoughts after watching a video from Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS). The video was “Training and the Aging Process, Part 1.” In the video Mike Zourdos explains how as we age sarcopenia impedes our ability to add and maintain muscle.

In “Training and the Aging Process, Part 2.” Mike Zourdos explains how the aging process impacts how we train. A meta analysis of 25 studies on untrained individuals over 60 showed that they were able to get stronger. Out of the 25 studies only 9 looked at hypertrophy in addition to strength. The studies showed an increase in muscle mass just not to the same extent that they where able to gain strength. Strength is a result of cellular as well as neurological adaptation. Muscle hypertrophy however is only cellular adaptation which is impeded by sarcopenia. This explains why strength gains were 3 times greater than hypertrophy.

The good news is that older individuals should still be able to add muscle. Granted it will not be anywhere close to what a younger person would but it’s still possible. There is little to no research on older trained individuals.

Training Recommendations

There is a wide range of responses to training volume. Some individuals do really well on low volume, while others need high volume to see results. Ultimately you have to figure out what works best for you. As an older individual training frequency, volume and intensity will most likely need to be lower compared to when you were younger. The key, which is the same if you are young or old, is ensuring you are able to recover from the training stimulus.

Overall my take away is you can still build muscle and build strength. Dietary needs will need to be modified. Increasing protein intake to overcome reduced protein synthesis response. Continue to watch for supplement research that boost MPS and or reduces muscle breakdown, especially in older individuals. I am personally trying HMB as there is some evidence that it helps attenuate the rate of muscle loss that occurs during the aging process.

Training really does not change. You still want to push as hard as you can while ensuring you can recover. No different than younger guys other then you most likely will need to reduce frequency and volume in order to recover.

3 Responses

  • Thanks for Part II, Dean. I have been pushing the volume up gradually the past year, and it took a toll on me. This confirms my decision to cut back training from 4 days a week to 3, and to drop the number of sets. Feeling much better now, and hopefully will be able to keep training hard and make progress.


    • June 9, 2018 at 7:38 am (Edit)
      Hi Larry,

      Sounds like the three times a week is the sweet spot and hopefully that works. If you are finding its not though one thing I would suggest trying is every now and then maybe incorporate a 3 to 4 week block where you train 4 times a week and then go back 3 times a week to allow yourself to recover. The 4 times a week would be like an over reaching phase.


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