Entering your 40s is a transformative phase of life, highlighted by a wealth of experience and wisdom. However, it also brings challenges, particularly in building muscle. As the body undergoes natural transitions, such as a gradual decline in testosterone and more aches and pains, it becomes crucial for men in their 40s to adapt their fitness routines.
In this article, we unveil a tailor-made muscle-building workout plan for men navigating their 40s. Far from being an age of decline, your 40s can be a period of progress. Understanding your body’s unique needs during this stage and incorporating targeted exercises, nutrition, and recovery strategies can redefine what it means to be in prime physical condition.
Whether you’re a seasoned fitness pro or looking to kickstart a healthier lifestyle, this guide will set you up to sculpt and strengthen your physique. It’s never too late to get into the best shape of your life.
Table of Contents:
- Can You Build Muscle In Your 40s?
- Training Split & Best Workout Routine For Men In Their 40s
- How To Build Muscle In Your 40s: Tips & Reddit Opinions
- Nutrition Tips & Best Supplement Stack For Men In Their 40s
- Common Muscle-Building Challenges For Men In Their 40s
Can You Build Muscle in Your 40s?
Let’s start with the million-dollar question. Can you build muscle in your 40s? The answer is yes. Building muscle in your 40s is not only possible but highly beneficial for men’s health. While the body’s hormone levels may change with age, consistent strength training and a balanced diet can still lead to building muscle.
A 2009 study put 24 college-age men (18-22) and 25 middle-aged men (35-50) on the same 8-week muscle-building program. After eight weeks, both groups gained similar muscle and strength1. The only difference between the two groups was that middle-aged men lost more body fat in addition to equal strength and muscle gains.
Now, as a certified personal trainer, I want to avoid leading you on. Training experience may impact future gains more than age. If you have been in the gym for twenty years, your potential to gain muscle in your 40s will be less than a college-aged beginner. The closer you are to your genetic limit, the harder it is to progress.
However, maintaining muscle is just as important as you age. Contrary to popular belief, the metabolism does not naturally decline as we age. Research shows it remains stable from ages 20 to 602. The only change in metabolism in adults between 20 and 60 years old comes down to a decrease in lean body mass and energy expenditure. The drop in metabolism as we get older is not due to age. It’s due to a loss of muscle mass and reduced physical activity.
If you want to learn more about why it’s important to build muscle as you age and the benefits attached to it, check out the video below. It’s packed with great information.
The Best Training Split For Men in Their 40’s
The training schedule for men in their 40s involves a three-day split routine. You’ll lift weights on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and perform high-intensity cardio on Saturday. The strength training sessions are spread throughout the week to allow for adequate recovery between workouts. Monday and Friday will focus on your upper body, while Wednesday is dedicated to your legs.
- Monday: Chest / Back / Abs
- Tuesday: Rest Day
- Wednesday: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves / Abs
- Thursday: Rest Day
- Friday: Shoulders / Arms / Abs
- Saturday: HIIT Cardio
- Sunday: Rest Day
The Best Workout Routine For Men in Their 40s
Here is the step-by-step workout plan for men in their 40s. If any movements in the program cause pain or discomfort, feel free to substitute them with similar exercises targeting the same muscle.
There are no workouts listed for Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, as these are rest days. If you want to do something on one of those days, LISS cardio, like jogging, biking, or the elliptical, is a great option.
If you’re looking for ideas for core exercises, a few great options include the barbell roll-out, dead bug, bicycles, planks, leg raises, and reverse crunches.
Monday: Chest / Back / Abs
Sets x Reps
3 x 10-12
Cable Lat Extension
3 x 10-12
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
3 x 8-10
3 x 8-10
3 x failure
Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown
3 x 8-10
1-2 Core Exercises of Choice
Wednesday: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves / Abs
Sets x Reps
3 x 10-12
3 x 10-12
Back Squat or Leg Press
3 x 8-10
3 x 10-12
Dumbbell Reverse Lunges
3 x 8-10 each leg
Seated or Standing Calf Raise
3 x 10-12
1-2 Core Exercises of Choice
Friday: Shoulders / Arms / Abs
Sets x Reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
3 x 10-12
Standing Dumbbell One Arm Shoulder Press
3 x 6-8
Dumbbell Incline Curl
3 x 10-12
Cable Overhead Triceps Extension
3 x 10-12
3 x 8-10
EZ Bar Lying Triceps Extensions
3 x 8-10
1-2 Core Exercises of Choice
Saturday: HIIT Cardio
Use a treadmill, exercise bike, elliptical, prowler, sled, or hill sprints.
3-5 minutes at slow to moderate pace
15-20 seconds of all-out effort
40-45 seconds of recovery
3-5 minutes at slow to moderate pace
7 Tips For How to Build Muscle in Your 40s
Many principles for building muscle remain the same regardless of age. However, we can do a few specific things as we get older to ensure we get the most out of our training. Here are seven muscle-building tips for men in their 40s.
1) Utilize Progressive Overload:
Progressive overload is a fundamental principle in muscle building that involves gradually increasing the demands placed on your muscles to encourage growth and strength. Achieving progressive overload can be as simple as lifting more weight as your strength improves.
You can also increase the reps or sets you perform when lifting weights or reduce the rest time between sets. Progressive overload is essential for everyone but is even more critical for the over-40 crowd.
2) Prioritize Warm-ups:
I hate to say it, but if you have been the type of person who “gets away with” skipping their warm-ups, once you hit 40, that has to stop. If you want to continue training pain-free as you age, a proper warm-up is essential.
Jump on a bike or treadmill before each strength training workout for light cardio to increase core temperature and blood flow to your muscles. You can also incorporate dynamic stretches to enhance mobility and reduce the risk of injuries.
3) Customize Your Training Frequency:
Recovery becomes increasingly important in your 40s. Limit your workout plan to 3-4 days per week, and rarely, if ever, train more than two days in a row. You can accomplish this with a training split or full-body workouts.
4) Modify Exercise Selection:
As we age, incorporating more machines and cables into our workout plan makes sense because these tools provide added stability and control. Unlike free weights, which require a high degree of balance and can sometimes strain joints or pose a risk of injury, machines guide your movements along a fixed path.
Don’t worry; research shows training with free weights or machines results in similar muscle and strength gains3. I’m not telling you to ditch the barbell forever. Just pick your spots and stick with movements that feel good. Use a leg press or belt squat if barbell back squats hurt. However, if a barbell bench press feels good, by all means, press away.
5) Incorporate Mobility and Flexibility Work:
As we age, flexibility and mobility tend to decline. However, with a bit of attention, we can prevent that from happening. And it will make a big difference in your training. First, improved flexibility allows for a greater range of motion during strength training exercises, which can lead to more effective muscle engagement.
Second, enhanced mobility can contribute to better joint health and reduce the risk of injuries. If you need some ideas, check out our article going over 6 Resistance Band Stretching & Mobility Exercises.
6) Pre-Exhaust Your Muscles:
Pre-exhaustion involves performing isolation exercises before compound lifts in a workout. The idea is to fatigue the targeted muscle group with an isolation exercise, making it the weak link during subsequent compound exercises.
This technique can be valuable for individuals in their 40s as it allows them to get more out of light weights on the big compound moves.
7) Use HIIT Cardio:
HIIT cardio involves short bursts of intense effort followed by periods of recovery. For a 40-year-old man aiming to maximize muscle mass and burn fat, HIIT can be advantageous for several reasons. For one, HIIT is a time-efficient form of cardio, making it easier to incorporate into a busy schedule. You can get a brutal cardiovascular workout done in 15-20 minutes.
Secondly, it can be more exciting than steady-state cardio, making it more likely that you do it. There is a time and place to stroll on the treadmill. But, if you have hills nearby, get outside and lace up your running shoes. The key is using HIIT sparingly. Once or twice a week is all you need.
Reddit Tips For Building Muscle In Your 40s
Sometimes the most encouraging advice about how to build lean muscle comes from first-hand experience. Here are some tips and feedback from Reddit commenters answering the question: Can You Still Gain Muscle At 40?
One of the best comments comes from this Reddit user (Izodius): “I started over 35. I’m an executive with 2 kids – so plenty of my life is taken up by that.I smoked a pack a day most of my life, never really thought about what I ate, not active since highschool, constantly had lower-back pain. Now, I’ve gained roughly 40 lbs, and lost roughly 25 lbs through bulking and cutting cycles. I’m healthier and stronger than I’ve ever been, I almost never have lower back pain (I attribute this entirely to deadlifts). I’m not huge/jacked but I look way better, my lifts are just better than average (I expect I’ll hit 1/2/3/4 this year barring any major injury), but I’m also only about 2 years in and I’ve had to sideline things multiple times for a month or two at a time for various reasons – and I was weak and small when I started. So I’m very much still a beginner so this is simply my experience.”
“There are three main differences at our age. Progress, Injury, and Recovery.
Progress is A LITTLE slower, but all research indicates hypertrophy doesn’t really take a huge hit until 65+. But there’s plenty of factors that make it slower for us, including lower test as we get older, etc. That said, the other advice is good – ignore Instamodels and 19 year olds who transform in 6 months.
Injury. You’re almost assuredly going to find movements you simply cannot do (skullcrushers kill my elbows, and there’s plenty of shoulder work I have to be super careful with or my right Rotator Cuff will just ache for weeks). Injury will happen so you’re going to have to learn how to properly deal with it – and how to work around it and heal it. This is true for all lifters on a long enough time frame – but for 40+, it’s more frequent.
I’ve said multiple times my first major injury was a blessing, I learned how to work through it and around it, how to help it heal (food, heat, and more movement is usually the answer). How to not be afraid of it. So just be prepared for that – and don’t let it get you down, it’s part of the process and just more likely to happen at 40+. I probably have to deal with SOMETHING nasty every 6-9 months – usually lighter weights and higher reps are better for me, and finding movements my body agrees with.
Finally, recovery is harder – but the good news is, Submax programs like 531 are highly effective and are easier to recover from (with the right rest and food). I’ve found it pretty impossible to run some of the crazier programs – but 531 variants make me plenty happy and plenty challenging (that said even at 40 I think everyone should run Super Squats once!). More cardio is better – I do martial arts 2-3 times a week, and weighted vest walks most days. Hanging leg raises after deadlifts helps my lower back a ton.” (source)
Another Redditor (bigbarren) chimed in with this additional note of encouragement: “Yes. Plenty of bodybuilders still compete in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Regardless, exercising is good for your health so your age won’t change that, just ease into and listen to your body in regards to how it responds to certain exercises. You’re 40, not 80 lol.” (source)
Nutrition Tips for Men in Their 40s
Optimizing muscle building in your 40s is about more than what you do in the weight room. Here are some nutrition tips to help you maximize progress.
1) Prioritize Protein Intake:
Having an ample supply of protein in your diet supports is essential for muscle growth. Consuming around 1g of protein per pound of body weight is the best way to ensure you give your muscles what they need for recovery and growth.
Include high protein low fat foods such as poultry, fish, beef, eggs, dairy, beans, and legumes in your meals.
2) Include Healthy Fats:
A healthy diet should include quality fat sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. In your 40s, it makes sense to avoid extremely low-fat diets, as they can decrease testosterone.
3) Emphasize Fruits and Vegetables:
Stop me if you have heard this before – a healthy diet consists of eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Aim to have a serving or two with each meal. Fruits and veggies are loaded with micronutrients and fiber that contribute to overall health.
4) Stay Hydrated:
Water is crucial for nearly every bodily process, including muscle function and recovery. Adequate hydration supports nutrient transport, temperature regulation, and overall performance during workouts.
It’s difficult to recommend a specific amount to drink since everyone’s needs differ; however, always have fluid available throughout the day to avoid getting thirsty.
5) Moderate Alcohol Consumption:
While occasional alcohol consumption is acceptable, excessive alcohol intake can hinder muscle recovery and negatively impact overall health. Need more convincing? A 2023 study showed heavy alcohol consumption can reduce testosterone production4.
As a 40-something-year-old male, that’s not something to play around with. What’s intriguing is that the same study found that light to moderate drinking may increase testosterone. Either way, a few drinks here or there is fine, but leave the partying to the young bucks.
6) Customize Caloric Intake:
Understand your calorie needs based on your goals. Whether aiming to build muscle or lose fat, align your caloric intake with your objectives while ensuring you get the necessary nutrients. For muscle building, it helps to be in a calorie surplus, meaning you eat more calories than your body needs to remain weight-stable.
However, a modest 10-20% calorie increase is all you need. Any more than that, and you will just add extra fat that you will have to lose later.
The Supplement Stack Men in Their 40s Need
A well-constructed training program and a solid diet are most important when building muscle. With that said, a few quality supplements can be the icing on the cake, particularly for men in their 40s.
Here are six supplements I recommend. I’ve provided quick links to each of my product recommendations, in addition to an explanation for each as to why you need them!
- Protein Powder: Bare Performance Nutrition Whey Protein
- Creatine: Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate
- Caffeine: Nutricost Caffeine
- Multivitamin: Optimum Nutrition Multivitamin For Men
- Turmeric/Curcumin: Naturewise Curcumin
- Testosterone Booster: TestoPrime
1) Protein powder:
Protein powder is hardly even a supplement. High-quality protein powder is a convenient way to boost your daily protein intake. After the tenth dry chicken breast, a chocolate protein shake can taste like a trip to Dairy Queen. Use 1-2 scoops daily as needed to hit your protein goals.
I love Bare Performance Nutrition Whey Protein, which comes in some pretty incredible flavors like milk n’ cookies and cinnamon roll. For more great options, check out our article on the 14 Best Protein Powders.
Creatine enhances strength, promotes muscle hypertrophy, and aids quicker recovery after workouts5. Additionally, creatine has cognitive benefits, including boosting short-term memory and potentially mitigating age-related cognitive decline6.
It’s safe, relatively cheap, and effective. Every 40-year-old man should be taking it. All you need is 5g per day, taken at any time. My favorite is Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate, but there is no shortage of excellent options out there. Check out our round-up of the 8 Best Creatine Supplements to find your perfect fit.
There is a reason why so many people start their day with a big coffee or energy drink filled with caffeine. It works. From a sports supplement standpoint, caffeine increases energy levels and focus during workouts, improving performance7.
It acts as a central nervous system stimulant, reducing perceived effort and enhancing endurance, ultimately allowing for more intense and effective training sessions. Additionally, caffeine may have a modest impact on fat loss, contributing to a leaner physique, which is often a goal when building muscle. Take 200-400mg 30-60 minutes pre-workout.
Looking for a specific recommendation? Check out Nutricost Caffeine. Want more options to review? Head to our round-up of the 7 Best Caffeine Pills.
A multivitamin helps fill nutritional gaps in a 40-year-old man’s diet, providing a spectrum of vitamins and minerals necessary for overall health. Adequate micronutrient intake supports optimal muscle function, recovery, and immune system health, ensuring the body is well-equipped for muscle-building workouts.
A basic one-a-day multivitamin for men is sufficient. I highly recommend Optimum Nutrition Multivitamin For Men, which includes Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Zinc for immune support. Check out these 7 Best Multi-Vitamins For Men to review more great options.
5) Turmeric / Curcumin:
Turmeric’s key ingredient is curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. As we age, nagging joint issues are more common. Research shows using curcumin can suppress inflammation enough to limit the use of NSAIDs8.
Look for a Curcumin product that includes black pepper extract for enhanced absorption, like Naturewise Curcumin.
6) Testosterone Boosters:
Testosterone boosters are supplements containing vitamins, minerals, and herbs intended to increase testosterone naturally. The specific mechanism of action is determined by the product’s ingredients. Most test boosters work by replenishing vitamin and mineral deficiencies because you will not produce testosterone optimally if you are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals.
Look for testosterone boosters with vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, ashwagandha, forskolin, and fenugreek. My top recommendation is TestoPrime, which is packed with ingredients that will help increase your T-levels and support your muscle-building goals. We’ve researched a ton of great options, though, and you can find the best of the best in our article on the 7 Best Testosterone Boosters.
For more information about testosterone boosters, check out our article: What Are Testosterone Boosters & What Do They Do?
Common Muscle-Building Challenges For Men in Their 40s
Although building muscle in your 40s is possible, it comes with some added challenges. Fortunately, I’ve listed the solutions for each to help you stay on track with your goals.
1) Increased Recovery Time:
Men in their 40s often experience increased recovery time after intense strength training due to changes in hormone levels and a potential decrease in overall body resilience. Although this sounds like a big challenge, it just requires more intentional programming.
When you are in your 40s, it’s crucial to prioritize sufficient rest between workout sessions, incorporate effective recovery strategies such as proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep, and consider adjusting the intensity and frequency of workouts to accommodate the body’s changing needs.
2) Injuries / Joint Issues:
Men may be more prone to injuries and joint issues as they age, hindering muscle-building efforts. Joint stiffness and reduced flexibility may arise, making it essential to include dynamic stretches, proper mobility work, and strategic exercise selection in their fitness routine.
Additionally, focusing on good form during training can help minimize the risk of injuries and support long-term joint health.
3) Balancing Work and Family Commitments:
Juggling work and family responsibilities can be a significant challenge for men in their 40s trying to build muscle. When people depend on you, your life can’t revolve around a gym schedule. Effective time management and planning become crucial in maintaining a consistent routine.
Incorporating quick and efficient workouts, involving family members in physical activities, and setting realistic goals can help strike a balance between family and fitness commitments.
4) Low Testosterone:
Age is the most important factor in low testosterone. Father time is unbeatable. Men’s test levels naturally decline as they age, with levels beginning to decline around age 30 and continuing to drop by about 1% yearly9.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, low libido, and loss of strength, get your testosterone checked. Seeking medical help to improve your testosterone can go a long way in helping you to look and feel your best.
A great starting point is to get your testosterone checked with a personalized Fountain TRT evaluation. Or, check out these 8 Best Online TRT Clinics. You can get your low T levels corrected in the comfort of your own home.
Here are a few answers to questions about workout plans for men in their 40s.
Can a man build muscle after 40?
Yes, you can absolutely build muscle after 40. Building lean muscle after 40 is possible and beneficial for men’s health and well-being.
Is it harder to build muscle in your 40s?
While there may be some age-related challenges, such as hormonal changes, building muscle in your 40s with the right strength training routine, nutrition, and lifestyle choices are still possible.
Is it too late to get in shape at 40?
It is always possible to get in great shape. Individuals can significantly improve their physical fitness and overall health at 40 with a well-designed fitness plan, proper nutrition, and consistency.
What exercises should I do to build muscle at 40?
As you age, choosing comfortable exercises that don’t beat up your joints is critical. Remember, the muscle only knows resistance. Utilize all resistance training methods, including barbells, dumbbells, machines, bodyweight movements, and resistance bands.
How many times a week should a 40-year-old man work out?
A 40-year-old man should combine strength training and cardiovascular exercises at least three to four times a week, allowing proper recovery between sessions. Three-day full-body workouts, as well as upper- and lower-body workouts, are great.
Muscle Growth For Men In Their 40s: Key Takeaways
Embarking on a muscle-building journey in your 40s is achievable and immensely rewarding. Getting older is not an excuse to give up on your muscle-building efforts. Yes, indeed, you might not be able to get away with staying up all night partying or even skipping a warm-up.
But, at 40, who wants to do that anyway? The best lies ahead if you follow the routine and advice outlined in this article.
Looking for more great resources to support your muscle-building goals? Check out the 7 Best Supplements For Men Over 40!
- Kerksick, C. M., Wilborn, C. D., Campbell, B. I., Roberts, M. D., Rasmussen, C. J., Greenwood, M., & Kreider, R. B. (2009). Early-phase adaptations to a split-body, linear periodization resistance training program in college-aged and middle-aged men. Journal of strength and conditioning research. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a00baf
- Herman Pontzer et al. Daily energy expenditure through the human life course. Science (2021). DOI:10.1126/science.abe5017
- Schwanbeck, S. R., Cornish, S. M., Barss, T., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Effects of Training With Free Weights Versus Machines on Muscle Mass, Strength, Free Testosterone, and Free Cortisol Levels. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000003349
- Stephen James Smith, Adrian Leo Lopresti & Timothy John Fairchild (2023) The effects of alcohol on testosterone synthesis in men: a review. Expert Review of Endocrinology & Metabolism. DOI: 10.1080/17446651.2023.2184797
- Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. The International Society of Sports Nutrition positions the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sports, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
- Avgerinos, K. I., Spyrou, N., Bougioukas, K. I., & Kapogiannis, D. (2018). Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Experimental gerontology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2018.04.013
- Guest, N.S., VanDusseldorp, T.A., Nelson, M.T. et al. The International Society of Sports Nutrition position stands for caffeine and exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 1 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4
- Srivastava, S., Saksena, A. K., Khattri, S., Kumar, S., & Dagur, R. S. (2016). Curcuma longa extract reduces inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in osteoarthritis of knee: a four-month, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Inflammopharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10787-016-0289-9
- Smith, S. J., Lopresti, A. L., Teo, S. Y. M., & Fairchild, T. J. (2021). Examining the Effects of Herbs on Testosterone Concentrations in Men: A Systematic Review. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.). https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmaa134