Is it possible to build muscle at 45 years old?
*Note: This is an updated reprint of one of my all-time popular posts (pushing 500K reads on Quora, last time I looked).
It is also probably my favourite and one that I try to live up to as the years go racing by at breakneck speed.*
You must be joking, right?
There’s not a chance that you’re serious, is there?
Let’s assume that this question is being asked by someone who is for real, hasn’t spent much time in a gym or had much previous athletic experience of any sort. In other words, we will assume the asker is asking this question from a position of real, sincere, and genuine doubt.
The reason that I am making this assumption is an easy one: a person who has spent any appreciable time in a gym is routinely exposed to a lot of guys (and gals) over 45 years old (some way, way over) showing more musculature than the man (or woman) on the street less than half the age of our iconic over 45-year-old muscular hero. And so, the answer to this question would have been relatively obvious and in all likelihood would have remained unasked.
But luckily it has come up, offering an excellent opportunity for me to give it my best shot, an opportunity for which I am truly grateful and would like to thank you.
Now, brother & sisters, allow me to kneel down before you, raise my right hand toward the heavens and testify!
But, before doing this, I’d like to rephrase this question for a better fit:
Is it possible to build muscle at 45+y, if you have never touched a weight or been within shouting distance of a gym?
Yes, sure. Of course, it is. Don’t be silly.
However, as is the case with learning any other skill at 45+y, there’s a toll (some might go so far as to get a little dramatic on us and say hell) to pay. A great deal of reaching outside your comfort zone. This hard, hard work and the associated little humiliations that will certainly accompany it, we will just have to chalk up to the cost of doing business.
I’ve recently answered a similar question from a Quora member who is 60y+(and listen to me, doing it at 45 is a damn sight more comfortable, let me tell you from personal experience). I include some of the same photos that I used there. I’ve also had a look at the backlog of questions on Quora like this. The sheer quantity of similar questions is staggering! So, perhaps this is an important question that is still in search of a satisfactory answer. Let us try to give it one.
At first blush, my answer may appear a little harsher than it was there to that 60y+ guy. Your observation would be correct, and the reason is this: you are 15 (or more) years younger. For, oh my brothers & sisters 15 years, when you are on the wrong side of 40 is a lifetime! A significant percentage of the over 45 population is likely to cross over in the next 15 years.
Here are some photos (not because I’m an OCD, narcissistic selfie taker bent on foisting particularly photogenic images on poor, defenceless Quora Readers…simply as a small parcel of credible evidence that may be useful to back my claims) from just a standard guy uncomfortably thrashing around on the wrong side of 40.
Advertising the Gym 2012. Age 54y.
Greece 2013. Age 55y.
Agadir, 2014. Age 56y.
2014. In my office at BodyWorks. Age 56y.
2015 Morro Bay. Age 57.
…and so on and so forth. And all this from a guy who has a lot of spare hardware installed in various key-locations of his anatomy (I won’t bore you with ugly photos of these items unless there is a call for it).
2016. Explaining the benefits of LandMine Squats for people with back injuries at BodyWorks, my gym in Guernsey. Age 58y.
If we take a sharper blade and slice a little deeper, we should be able to do a bit more damage to this question. As we have already decided, it is an important one. But let us take the scalpel and place the sharp end in a direction inwardly, toward our own hearts. Simple questions are so often best answered in this fashion.
Should I be swayed by other people’s and Society-at-Large’s opinion of when the right time to throw up my hands is?
Is it reasonable to say I quit and forever become a skinny, pencil-necked non-person with no future prospects?
Should I let someone else be the oddsmaker for my further progress and happiness in life? Even if he or she decides my chances are as being between nil and none? Do I let someone else decide my absolute status until such a time as I shall pass away without even so much as a squeak?
Because…why? It’s less hassle? Requires less energy and involves less risk? Does throwing out the white hanky and coming out with my hands up score me valuable points and make me a more likable bloke, easier to be around, a better mate to my mates down at the local bar?
(Hell, I wasn’t really a very easy or likeable guy to be around when I was on the right side of 45y, it’s probably a little late for me to try to start now).
Here is the $64k question:
‘’Why allow someone, some anonymous fraction of society to throw you so easily away? Have you become so enfeebled, so beaten? Has life stripped you of so much self-respect and ripped self-sufficiency from your hands? Has your once brave and shinning soul been extinguished in the concentration camp of your life experiences? Where is your pride?’’
Why waste limited and precious time asking pathetic questions like this and prevaricating? Do you really need my or anyone else’s permission? Our unvetted and untested advice on a matter of such significance concerning the only tools in life that truly matter: your own flesh, your own blood & your own soul?
Why entrust your fate to the careless hands of strangers? Why are you of such a slight value and another’s opinion worth so much? Why indulge yourself in the dubious luxuries of timidity and self-doubt when faced with two so stubbornly malicious, onerous adversaries like Age & Decay?
You do not have the time for such indulgences.
No one does. No one.
Undoubtedly, one day, these two malign forces of devilment and disaster will take you out. They are likely to creep up on you by stealth and !!whamo!! When you least expect it. But, as long as you remain vigilant, it will not be today and (keep your fingers X’d) not tomorrow, either.
When they do come in for their sinister date with you, be assured, oh my brothers and sisters, be assured that they will scurry out of their deep, dark, dank holes and by a sly & malevolent cunning strike you a cowardly blow from behind at a time when your gaze has been momentarily averted, when your defences are down.
Consider it of no consequence. Nothing lasts forever. Just go out, train hard and get some muscles. Strength & brawn will always, always remain very useful assets indeed. I have always admired these qualities and tried as best as I could to attain them.
———————- ————————- ——————— ————————- ——————-
A warrior’s prime duty is to ensure his spirit remains unbroken.
It’s your call.
Be no weakling.
The clock is ticking
…and you are paying by the hour.
Ojai 2016. Age 58y. Age is just a number? Yeah, shame it’s such a big one.
As has been pointed out, the assumption here is that we are starting with a novice.
The more interesting and challenging problem of getting additional muscle onto an already healthy, fit, and experienced 45+-year-old individual is an entirely separate and different question.
Playing at 007. Rousse 2017. Age 59.