Building Muscle Mass in Seniors

Senior couple power walking

Due to the fundamental realities of age, seniors need to approach almost everything in life differently than they would have when they were younger. Building muscle is no different, and there are a lot of things that the average senior can do to get stronger and healthier. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning any kind of new exercise routine or changing your diet.


Whether you're 20 or 60, the first step toward building muscle mass is getting proper nutrition. Without certain essential nutrients, your exercise regimen won't reach its full potential, and you'll be wasting a lot of energy.


Your body uses protein to build muscle mass, but according to an article in Men's Health, over-consuming protein will not lead to a greater amount of muscle mass. The human body can only metabolize so much protein at any given time. According to the Harvard Health blog, the average adult requires 15 to 25 percent of his calories from protein.


Drinking a lot of water regularly is a very important part of building muscle mass. Water greatly enhances your body's ability to absorb and metabolize the nutrients you're taking in from your food. Without drinking the right amount of water, your body could process these nutrients more slowly and therefore hinder your ability to gain muscle mass.

Men and women have different needs when it comes to daily water intake. For men, the average recommended intake is 125 ounces per day. For women, that number drops down to 91 ounces.


Without carbohydrates to produce energy for your body, your body will start to burn muscle or protein for energy. Excess carbohydrates are absolutely not ideal, but research has suggested that the ideal is to get a balance of carbohydrates with other essential dietary elements.

Exercise Options

When you age, your muscle mass begins to decrease at a rate that may surprise you. This doesn't mean that you lose muscle mass and can never get it back. It just means that you need to approach your muscle-building exercises differently than younger people do.

A Solid Routine

The CDC has put out an excellent reference for seniors who are interested in strength training and weight training exercises. The reference covers all essential aspects of a solid muscle-building routine and has been vetted by numerous physicians for both safety and efficacy.

  • Warm up: Your warm up is an essential part of your exercise routine. The warm up gets your body ready for exercise, which can itself limit the potential for injury. It also increases flexibility, which helps to provide more range to your muscles, which means you're engaging more of them when you exercise.
  • The Routine: The routine offered by the CDC is a three-stage routine that uses more difficult exercises as you progress from stage one to stage two and stage three. The exercises are designed to build off of one another, and finishing each stage before moving onto the next one really is a smart idea. It may be tempting to just jump into stage three right away, but the exercises are presented in stages to help maximize safety as well as muscle development.
  • Cool down: The cool down process is a great way to stretch out your muscles and make sure that you're not too tight after engaging them in a workout.

Extra Exercises

The routine listed above may not fit all of your specific needs, so you may want to seek out a wider range of exercise options for your routine. The Mayo Clinic has an excellent slideshow on various exercises that shows how to do each exercise and what each exercise targets. If you're looking for a more intensive workout based around primal exercises, you may be interested in the intense exercises outlined at Mark's Daily Apple. The exercises outlined there are designed around CrossFit-style body weight exercises that are designed to build mass and strength in seniors.

It's Never Too Late

Whether your muscle-building routine involves strength training like the CDC reference above or relies more on resistance training, the fact is, it's definitely possible for seniors to build muscle mass when they take their nutrition and exercise seriously. The important thing to remember is that any new exercise regimen should be eased into. Also, you should always consult a doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. After all, you can't build muscle if you're recovering from an injury. Taking the time to do things realistically and safely is the best way to improve your health and avoid injury.

Building Muscle Mass in Seniors