Illustration of a skinny old man bulking up and becoming muscular.

Are You Too Old to Bulk? How Does Age Affect Muscle Growth?

How old is too old to bulk? Can older guys build muscle as quickly as younger ones? We can start by looking at the research that initially shocked hypertrophy researchers, then gradually became conventional wisdom.

Next, we can look at what we’ve seen while helping over ten thousand skinny guys bulk up, ranging from eighteen years old to over seventy. Marco has coached college, professional, and Olympic athletes basking in the glory of their youth. He’s also coached sedentary desk workers in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. What we’ve seen matches what the research shows.

Finally, we can look at men who take up the sports of bodybuilding and powerlifting at various ages. Their stats are well-documented. How does their age affect their rate of muscle growth and strength gains? Once again, the evidence all lines up. Even so, it may surprise you. It certainly surprised me.

Illustration of an old skinny man bulking up and becoming muscular.

The Half-Myth That Age Hinders Muscle Growth

It’s common for older people to have trouble building muscle. This is a real issue. But it’s a misleading one. It can make it seem like getting older makes it harder to build muscle. That isn’t what’s happening. Not quite, anyway.

Most guys worry about declining testosterone production as they age (study). That can happen, but it doesn’t seem to have as much impact on muscle growth as people expect. Subtle changes in testosterone production (within the healthy range) don’t affect muscle growth enough to reach statistical significance in most studies. Moreover, most guys can keep their testosterone production fairly high by eating a good diet, having a healthy amount of body fat, getting enough sleep, being physically active, and, of course, lifting weights (study, study, study, study, study).

There are three other factors that can have a larger impact on your ability to build muscle as you age, all of which depend on how you’ve been aging:

  • Enfeeblement from a sedentary lifestyle. If you haven’t been regularly challenging the strength of your muscles, they may have gradually withered away. Perhaps in your youth, you were pleasantly fit, but over the years, you’ve ever-so-slowly melted into a puddle of skinny fatness. That muscle loss has nothing to do with age, it’s just the monthly fee of inactivity. If you get into shape, you can become stronger than ever before.
  • The law of diminishing returns. If you’ve been gradually building muscle as you get older, it’s true that your muscle growth will slow and perhaps even grind to a halt. It’s not because you’re getting older, though; it’s because you’re butting up against your genetic muscular potential. If you went from 150 to 200 pounds between twenty and thirty, you can’t expect to get up to a lean 250 by forty, then a lean 300 by fifty. Your frame cannot hold an infinite amount of muscle. That’s why older lifters tend to be stronger and more muscular than younger ones, but they also find it more difficult to continue progressing.
  • Maturity and drive. Many younger lifters are full of wild, passionate naivety. They often have more time but less money, putting vast amounts of reckless effort into shoddy workout programs. Some younger lifters need to be reminded not to overdo it. Many older lifters have more realistic goals, greater maturity, and a relentless, slow-burning determination. They often have busier lives but more money to spend. They often train more carefully and more efficiently, albeit with less zeal. Some older lifters need to be reminded to push themselves harder.

We’ll cover all of that in a moment. First, let’s talk about how your biological age really affects your muscle growth.

How Age REALLY Affects Muscle Growth

Hubal and colleagues had 585 people start training to build muscle (study). The researchers expected age to hinder muscle growth, so they only accepted participants between the ages of 18–40. They stratified the results by age, hoping to remove it as a confounding factor. To the researchers’ surprise, though, age didn’t affect muscle growth. After twelve weeks of working out, the forty-year-olds had gained just as much muscle as the eighteen-year-olds. The researchers speculated that age wouldn’t affect muscle growth until sixty years old.

A follow-up study by Lowndes and colleagues looked more directly at how age affects muscle growth (study). Once again, they put the participants on a twelve-week workout program. Once again, the older participants gained just as much muscle as the younger participants. The 39-year-olds gained just as much muscle as the eighteen-year-olds. Even more interesting, the older participants came into the study with more muscle mass and greater strength than those in their teens and twenties.

A study graph showing how much muscle mass people have at different ages.

That last bit may sound surprising. Why would forty-year-old men be stronger (on average) than twenty-year-old men? The answer is simple: the forty-year-olds who lift weights have gradually accumulated muscle over a longer period of time. This is no surprise to anyone familiar with lifting. The strongest drug-tested powerlifters are in their forties. The same is true of the biggest natural bodybuilders. They’ve had more time to gain muscle and strength.

Speaking of strength, Greg Nuckols, a strength and hypertrophy researcher, analyzed powerlifting statistics to determine which age group could gain strength the fastest (article). He found almost no difference in the rate of strength gains between lifters ranging from twenty all the way up to seventy years old.

One thing to note is that power can decline with age. It’s common for elite athletes to retire in their thirties or forties because they lose some agility and explosivity. That isn’t a decline in muscle or strength, though. It seems to be neural. And besides, it’s mainly something that affects elite athletes, not everyday people.

If you begin lifting weights at seventy years old, you can expect to gain muscle and strength about as quickly as your teenage grandson.

Are You Too Old to Bulk?

We tend to face different problems at different ages. If you start lifting weights as a teenager, you might lift recklessly, drink too much, stay up too late, and be led down a bad path by a charismatic fitness influencer spending $11,000 per month on dangerous PEDs. On the other hand, you probably have plenty of free time and a fearsome fervour.

Before and after photo of a skinny 30-year-old man bulking up and building muscle.
Matthew bulking up in his late thirties.

If you start lifting weights in your thirties, you might be thinking more long-term. You probably have a healthier mindset about building muscle. But bulking up can be hard when you’re juggling kids, marriage, and long work hours. It’s a busy decade. It can be exhausting.

If you start lifting in your fifties, you probably have more money, more patience, and know the value of consulting bonafide experts. You’re probably sleeping through the night, too, perhaps for the first time in decades. But if you’re only just starting to exercise, you may have some deeply ingrained bad habits to overcome. Perhaps your posture has been gradually caving in on itself for the past thirty years. Maybe you’re nursing some nagging aches and pains. Maybe your lower back feels fragile.

Is 30 Too Old to Bulk?

We get this question all the time. 30 is when many guys first start to feel like their age is wearing away at their youthful vitality. Oftentimes, they’re working longer hours, getting married, and having children. These are all great things, but they can be stressful, and they can cause a temporary dip in your testosterone levels, especially if you aren’t able to get enough sleep (study).

A skinny guy building muscle with our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program.
JohhnyGo bulking up at 37 years old (while raising young kids).

On the other hand, thirty isn’t biologically old. There’s no age-related decline to worry about. You can build muscle just as fast as anyone else. You can reach your full genetic potential. Your age won’t hold you back. Quite the opposite. Most men reach their peak strength and fitness in their thirties or forties.

I’m in my mid-thirties. I’m bigger, stronger, and more muscular than ever before. I’m in better cardiovascular shape, too. On the other hand, life is also harder than ever before. I’m working longer hours, I’m managing more responsibilities, and my son routinely wakes me up in the middle of the night. When I try to fall back asleep, I struggle, distracted by the weight of all these new responsibilities. It’s harder to eat a good diet, lift weights, and find time for cardio. Mind you, my life also has more structure, I’m more mature, I have more money, and my wife supports me through anything.

Is 40 Too Old to Bulk?

You can build muscle at forty just as easily as you would at twenty or thirty (study, study). In fact, it may start getting easier. You’re probably more mature, patient, and financially well-off. If you have kids, there’s a better chance of them being older, meaning you have a better chance of getting a good night’s rest. Perhaps most of all, you won’t be as easily fooled by the scams that plague the fitness industry.

If you start bulking at forty, you have at least two decades of optimal muscle growth ahead of you. You have more than enough time to reach your genetic muscular potential. You can also expect to get as strong as you would have if you’d started younger.

Before and after photo of a man building muscle and losing fat at 40 years old.

For example, here’s Eric adding inches to his arms while losing inches around his waist, showing simultaneous muscle growth and fat loss—all within his first five weeks.

Is 50 Too Old to Bulk?

If you start trying to bulk up at fifty, you can expect the same results as younger men. In fact, many men start to regain their testosterone in their fifties (study). Their kids are older, they’ve accumulated investments, and the fruits of their labour have eased their burdens. That isn’t true of every fifty-year-old, but it’s common enough to drag the average testosterone output upwards, at least in some studies.

A before and after photo showing Johnny's cutting results.

For example, here’s a before-and-after photo of Johnny D, showing both muscle growth and fat loss at fifty-seven years old. You can see that getting into better shape is making his skin look more youthful, too. He’s looking younger as he’s growing older.

The one thing to note is that your fifties might be the last decade when you’re truly able to build muscle at full speed. There isn’t a sharp decline at sixty, but if you want to bulk up, now’s the best time to start. Better to roll into old age like a battering ram.

Is 60 Too Old to Bulk?

As we covered above, most research shows that men build muscle just as quickly at sixty years old as they do at eighteen. There may be a slight disadvantage, but that disadvantage is so trivial as to be virtually undetectable.

Before and after photo showing an older man going from skinny to muscular.

It may seem strange that older guys can bulk up just as fast as younger ones, but when you’ve coached enough of them, you can’t deny what you see with your own eyes. For example, here’s a before-and-after photo of Eddi as he’s bulking up for his sixtieth birthday. He was able to gain 18.5 pounds in his first three months, which is comparable to what we see in our younger members.

“Said goodbye to my dietician last week. We decided that since I am officially no longer underweight, my treatment is done. Yeah! Thanks to you b2B guys!”


It’s unclear how your ability to build muscle will change as you get deeper into your sixties. It may be that by the time you hit seventy, it gets notably harder. If you haven’t been lifting weights, this is a great time to start. That way, if it really does become harder to gain and maintain muscle mass, you’ve already got some to spare.

Having more muscle mass greatly increases longevity. So does resistance training. So does having denser bones. This is the age when a lack of those things can start to cause problems. If you start bulking now, you have a much better chance of living a longer and healthier life.

Should You Train Differently As You Get Older?

Since age has very little effect on muscle growth, guys all the way from 18–60 can benefit from the same basic principles of hypertrophy training. A program that’s ideal for stimulating muscle growth will work just as well on a twenty-year-old as it will on a fifty-year-old.

With that said, younger guys might benefit from a program that urges them to be more cautious. Older guys might benefit from a coach who knows how to rehab the bodies of people who weren’t cautious. That has little to do with age, though, and more to do with your personality and injury history.

There might be a point somewhere in your fifties, sixties, or seventies when you benefit from taking it a bit easier in the gym. Lifting weights twice per week is enough to get all the health benefits of resistance training. Lifting weights three times per week is enough to build muscle at full speed. As you age, you may want to spend the other days of the week going on brisk walks or doing casual cardio. That way, your exercise routine is more balanced and easier to recover from.


The research clearly shows that men between the ages of 18–40 gain muscle and strength at the same speed (study, study). Age doesn’t noticeably impact muscle growth until at least forty. Most researchers speculate that men build muscle similarly well until at least sixty. It seems that men are able to gain strength at a similar rate until about seventy.

If you feel that your age is limiting your muscle growth, it might not be your biological age that’s the problem. Muscles atrophy with disuse. Physical fitness fades with inactivity. Posture crumbles as it weakens. Testosterone wanes with your health. You can mitigate these problems by getting into better shape, eating a better diet, and living a healthier lifestyle.

Illustration showing the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program

Alright, that’s it for now. If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free muscle-building newsletterIf you want a full workout, diet, and lifestyle program, including a customizable full-body workout routine, a diet guide, a recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. If you’re already in the habit of lifting weights, maybe check out our Outlift Intermediate Bulking Program.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping over ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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  1. Gail K on February 3, 2023 at 1:30 pm

    As what is probably the oldest member of Bony to Bombshell, I’m very interested in this post! I started at Bony to Bombshell in November 2018, when I was 73. So, I am now 78, and continuing for as long as I can! Perhaps you will do a similar article for women as you have here for men, thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on February 4, 2023 at 8:20 am

      Yes! I was thinking of you while writing this article. We can definitely write an article about how age affects women’s muscle growth 🙂

      • Gail K on February 4, 2023 at 8:24 am

        Shane, that sounds great, I’ll watch for an article for women as they get older. Thank you!
        Gail K

    • Kirsty Pollock on February 8, 2023 at 12:38 pm

      Yes, another vote for this!

      I’m just about menopausal and notice my tendons seem easier to irritate and take longer to heal :-(. I do wonder…

  2. Sebastian on February 3, 2023 at 3:47 pm

    Great article!
    As always a pleasure to read. I am 39y old with 3 little boys ranging from 2 to 5. I can totaly relate to that. Live gets busy but it is possible. I restarted training 3 times a week 7 months ago after some really tough time with stress, sleepless nights, undereating and almost no exercise. Since I am training again I regained back around 8 KG (over 17 pounds) mostly muscles. I am feeling stronger and more fit than the time before we had kids.
    Again compliments and thanks for your content and work.
    Best regards

    • Shane Duquette on February 4, 2023 at 8:25 am

      Congratulations on those 17 pounds! That’s awesome! I can imagine how difficult that must be with THREE very young kids. You’re living the dream, but it definitely sounds hard.

  3. Joshua gearing on February 3, 2023 at 4:31 pm

    Great article. I am a 33 years old skinny guy and just starting out. I have allways wondered if I could or could not be able to build as much muscle as I could in my 20’s. Thanks for the info.

    • Shane Duquette on February 4, 2023 at 8:28 am

      My pleasure, man. You’ll be able to build muscle at the same rate as you could have a decade ago. It’s definitely not too late. Thirty is relatively young for building muscle.

      Good luck! You got this 🙂

  4. Sebastian on February 7, 2023 at 12:54 am

    Thank you Shane! You are always so positive. Your way up from benching just the bar to 3 plates + is a real inspiration. Yeah, it is sometimes tough. I usually doing my workouts in our basement between 11pm and 1am when hopefully anybody else is sleeping. It is not ideal, but it can be done.

  5. Peter on February 8, 2023 at 12:54 pm

    Comment from an oldie, as requested: I am at level 64 (years), and have noticed that my pullups are fading (17 when I was 60, 15 on a good day now). Also 4-day (MTwTFss) training is now unrecoverable if I go as hard as I would like to, despite saunas after each workout. I stick to MtWtFss full body). But the basic performance is still there and (just) improving month on month. It is recovery, susceptibility to injury, and need not to take a week off that have changed. I also prefer 3-5RM work rather than 1RM 😉

    I am 185cm and 80kg, and last cut to 76 kg (just less than 10% fat) at age 60. Now around 13-15% and feeling great. I am *really* happy that my VO2max is holding up (just over 47) and a couple of times a year I run 2 miles in 15min just to prove it. Right now I am running Outlift 3-day in hard mode. Cheers all.

    • Shane Duquette on February 14, 2023 at 12:39 pm

      That’s so cool, Peter. You’re killing it. I hope to be doing 15 pull-ups and 3RMs at 64 🙂

  6. Doc G on February 8, 2023 at 4:11 pm

    Nice article Shane. Your writing abilities have been bulking up over the years too!

    I can offer a word of confirmation and encouragement for the 40+ crowd. I lifted for the first time at 41 (!), could not do a pushup, pullup, or press more than the naked bar. I just turned 48, and consider the last 4-5 years of my life to be peak fitness and — by far — maximum strength. Yes, it was very helpful starting out to find bona fide expert help online via B2B and in person. It’s been great. I’d hazard a guess that dietary choices have a more outsized impact for the 40+ crowd vs the 20-somethings (who can probably still eat a 1/4 lb cheeseburger without gaining 15 lbs.)

    Shane, as you continue to learn about age-related differences in training, diet, body composition, etc., we’d all love to know more.

    • Shane Duquette on February 14, 2023 at 12:41 pm

      Thank you so much, man! Always great to hear from you.

      That’s an interesting point about how our diets can have different impacts on us at different ages. You’ve got me curious. I can try to look into that.

      I’ll keep this article updated for sure 🙂

  7. James on February 9, 2023 at 1:53 pm

    I started the Bony to Beastly program two years ago at the age of 61. Previously, I had never set foot inside a gym. In that regard, I will say that the workouts completely eliminated any anxiety I had about using the equipment. That said, I did run into some problems with the program that I will attribute to my age. Any exercise with a combination of weights and squats proved to be too much for my knees to handle. Maybe I was too zealous about the amount of weight, but I suffered injuries early in my Phase 0. I gave myself some time to heal, and then when I went back to the gym, I decided I would have to find my own way with the B2B program. Fortunately, there were plenty of options and alternatives so that I could swap out a problematic exercise for one that was better suited to my body. Overall, it has been a positive experience, and I discovered that I really enjoy my workout time. It’s kind of a Zen moment when all else disappears. I’m surprised I never tried this before. I am in better shape in my sixties than at any other time in my life. I may not have a six pack, but I have more overall strength and stamina than I did in my thirties.

    The main attraction to the B2B program was the science that has gone into it. I think there needs to be another version geared towards the needs of older adults who encounter knee and back problems with standard workouts.

    • Shane Duquette on February 14, 2023 at 12:47 pm

      That’s so cool, James.

      It can be more likely for older people to have nagging injuries, but that isn’t a problem unique to older people. There are plenty of young guys with knee issues or aching joints. Marco happens to be one of those guys. He started running into nagging injuries as a teenager from being overzealous with sports. He’s managed to gradually rehab most of those issues, but sometimes these things can linger or persist.

      I think instead of assuming that old people have weak knees, bad backs, and aching joints, it’s probably safer to assume that anyone at any age may need to work through some of those issues. That’s the type of thing we tackle in the online community. If you want some one-on-one advice, Marco has studied under some top physiotherapists, and he’s able to help guys rehab the more common issues. Even if rehabbing is beyond the scope of his expertise, he can certainly help you work around those issues by choosing other exercises, rep ranges, or methods.

      I think by offering that one-on-one support and customization, we can do a better job of guaranteeing consistent results.

  8. Lee Mo on February 10, 2023 at 11:36 am

    Another good read Shane. I’m 8 months into B2B and 24lbs up at 45 years old. I’d never touched a barbell until this programme and had long since given up any hope of being anything other than a skinny guy. The enfeeblememt of my sedentary lifestyle (particularly with the onset of permanent home working since March 2020) also resonated. My wife saying I felt like I was literally wasting away was the catalyst to change. And boy have I changed!!
    Johnny D’s before and after pics are the inspiration for those if us hurtling towards our 50s at a terrifying rate.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Shane Duquette on February 14, 2023 at 12:55 pm

      Glad to hear from you, man! That’s so cool to hear how you started so late and did so well.

      Yeah, totally. These have been a rough few years. Cancun didn’t close down quite as intensely as many other places, given how almost everything is designed to be so breezy and open. Even then, I felt like I was losing my mind. I was lucky to have a home gym and a family, but man, I feel especially bad for single guys who were trapped in small apartments.

      Thank you so much!

  9. Jim Hughes on February 12, 2023 at 12:00 am

    Hi Shane.
    I found two programs during 2022 that seemed to need each other to move me ahead. I am in my sixties, just over six feet one, and was about 130lb. I had not been able to put on weight for a few years and sore knees were impacting my walking, especially on stairs. I was praying to find something and looking everywhere. The first huge change came with Doug McGuff’s Body by Science program. I headed to the gym and started following it. My muscular system started to change after only a few weeks, however I was still not able to gain weight. The second game changer was B2B especially the different eating habits needed for skinny guys to gain weight. Over the year I gained about 10lb. After a few years of zero gains, this was great. Even more amazing were the changes to my muscular strength. I could feel my muscles starting to do the work they were supposed to. This was a great encouragement every day. The knee issues disappeared as my muscles became stronger. I am a high school teacher, and becoming able to run up and down stairs throughout the day without problem regularly brought a smile to my face. When I started at the gym the best I could do on the leg press was 110lb. At the end of the year I was pushing 275lb!!
    Thanks Shane for pursuing your passion, doing the hard work and research to move ideas to making real gains, and for sharing so everyone can benefit. I appreciate you and the team. Your Festivus Chili and Strawberry smoothie recipes are now staples for me.
    I encourage those older that building your muscular system is not only possible, but is the key to great health, not an optional add-on.
    All the very best

    • Shane Duquette on February 14, 2023 at 1:04 pm

      This is an insightful comment, Jim. Thank you! Your story is inspiring, especially hearing about how you managed to fix up your aching knees. I suspect that’s a problem many older guys have. Keep killing it!

  10. Galev on March 16, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    I love that you included some proof/testimonial pictures of members from differnt age ranges. Really inspiring. Being in my mid 30s I definitely started to feel like “okay but NOW it Really is way too late to get in shape” and it is great to know that is not that case.

    • Shane Duquette on March 18, 2023 at 4:27 pm

      Definitely not the case. Being in your thirties is still fairly young for building muscle. Not that you should put it off, but that’s it definitely not too late. You’ve got this 🙂

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