Muscle Building
7 Mins
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February 27, 2023

Critical Factors For Muscle Gain Over 40


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For men over 40, building and maintaining muscle becomes increasingly harder. After hitting 40, we naturally experience a decline in muscle mass and strength. Counteracting this decline through intentional muscle gain becomes crucial for overall well-being and longevity.

Factors That Help Build Muscle After 40

To keep building muscle after 40, it is essential to optimise three key factors. These are the training frequency, volume, and intensity. These three work in tandem if you want to build muscle. 

Training frequency refers to how often you exercise a specific muscle group within a given time frame. Volume refers to the total amount of work performed. Intensity refers to the level of effort and resistance applied during each working set. 

Finding the right balance is crucial for maximizing gains when you're over 40. By understanding how to manipulate these factors, you can tailor your workouts to suit your unique needs and goals. 

Training Frequency, Volume, and Intensity

Everyone has unique requirements when it comes to training frequency, volume, and intensity. Factors such as fitness level, recovery capacity, and specific goals play a role in determining the optimal approach.

It's crucial to listen to your body, monitor progress, and make adjustments accordingly. Understanding your body's response to different training stimuli will help you fine-tune these factors for maximum effectiveness.

The ideal combination of volume and intensity must shift over the course of a training macrocycle to mitigate fatigue and maximize gains. Finding that balance is crucial to ensure that you make progress, avoid injury.

- Body Building, How to Balance Intensity and Volume

Example of a high-frequency training split

One effective approach to training frequency is a high-frequency split. This is where you target each muscle group more frequently throughout the week. This could involve training the same muscle every second day. It results in three to four training sessions per week for each group. The advantage of high frequency, combined with relatively low volume, is that it allows for efficient recovery and muscle stimulation.

With a high-frequency training split, you don't need to perform numerous working sets. Since you're hitting the muscles more frequently, one to two working sets per group per session can be sufficient to elicit a growth response. The lower training volume reduces the amount of damage inflicted. It results in efficient recovery and minimizes the risk of overtraining.

By distributing the workload across multiple training sessions, the damage inflicted on the muscles during each session is relatively low. This promotes efficient recovery. It enables you to train the same muscles without experiencing recovery issues. This approach allows for consistent training frequency while achieving optimal recovery.

Adapting to higher volume requirements

As your training progresses, you may reach a point where the high-frequency, low-volume approach is no longer sufficient. This is when you need to adjust your training volume and make corresponding changes to the training frequency.

If your progress slows down and you need to increase the training volume by adding more working sets, you will need to decrease the training frequency. For example, if you were training every second day with one to two working sets per group, you might need to transition to training every third day. This transition allows for an extra day of rest between sessions.

To balance the increased volume, you can adopt an upper or lower-body training split. This involves training upper body muscles on one day, lower body muscles on the next, and incorporating rest days in between. This split reduces the frequency of training each group while allowing for an increased workload per session.

The key is to find the right balance between frequency and workload as you adapt to higher volume requirements. By adjusting the training frequency and distributing the workload, you can continue to stimulate the muscles while maintaining an appropriate level of recovery.

Further increase in volume demands

As you progress further and require an even higher training volume, adjustments need to be made to maintain the balance. 

If your training volume demands increase, you may need to decrease the training frequency even further. It could involve moving into a push/pull/legs training split. This is where you train the muscles responsible for pushing movements one day and pulling movements the next. This is followed by training the entire lower body and incorporating a rest day.

The push/pull/legs split provides an extra day of rest and recovery between hitting the same muscle groups. Compared to the previous upper/lower body split, the frequency decreases but the intensity increases. It allows you to target the muscles with higher volume and intensity.

With higher volume demands, adequate recovery becomes even more crucial. Prioritizing proper nutrition, sleep, and active recovery techniques can help manage recovery and maximize muscle growth. Foam rolling and stretching are common examples of active recovery. Tracking progress, adjusting intensity, and ensuring progressive overload will also provide the necessary stimulus for continued muscle gain.

The Role of Intensity in Muscle Building

Intensity refers to the level of effort or challenge placed on the muscles during a working set. It is often measured by the proximity to failure. This means performing reps until you can no longer complete another rep with the proper form. Intensity can also be measured by the weight lifted relative to your one-repetition maximum. To further enhance intensity, various techniques can be employed during training. These techniques include:

  1. Drop sets: Performing a set to failure, then immediately reducing the weight and continuing the set without rest. This allows you to extend the set and recruit additional muscle fibers.

  2. Supersets: Alternating between two different exercises for the same muscle group or opposing muscle groups without rest. This technique increases the overall workload and keeps the muscles under constant tension.

  3. Rest-pause sets: Performing a set to failure. Brief rest for 10-20 seconds. Continue the set with additional reps. This extends the set and challenges the muscles to push beyond their initial point of failure.

While intensity is an essential factor to build muscle as you age, it must be balanced with training volume and frequency to optimize results. It's important to challenge the muscles without compromising recovery and risking overtraining.

Too much intensity over too much volume without adequate recovery can lead to excessive damage and hinder progress. Too little intensity may not provide enough stimulus for growth. Finding the sweet spot where you can push yourself to a challenging level without exceeding your recovery capabilities is key.

Recovery Capabilities

Each individual has different recovery capabilities. They are influenced by factors such as genetics, nutrition, sleep, and lifestyle. These factors play a significant role in determining how much intensity and volume can be effectively handled.

Some individuals may have a higher tolerance for intense training and can recover more quickly. It allows them to push closer to their limits during each workout. Others may require more conservative approaches and slightly lower intensity. This helps ensure adequate recovery and prevent overtraining.

Understanding your recovery capabilities is crucial in adjusting your intensity and training volume. Pay attention to signs of excessive fatigue, lack of progress, or persistent muscle soreness. These factors may indicate that you need to adjust the intensity level to ensure continued progress.

Importance of calories in recovery efficiency

When you consume more calories than your body needs for daily activities, it provides the necessary energy and nutrients to support muscle repair, growth, and recovery. This surplus of calories ensures that your body has ample resources to rebuild and replenish after intense training sessions.

While a caloric surplus is important for muscle gain, there are instances where men over 40 may prioritize body recomposition. This process involves losing body fat while simultaneously building lean muscle mass. In such cases, a small caloric deficit can be employed to promote fat loss while not so small that it interferes with the muscle building processes triggered by your resistance training 

Other influencing factors

Sleep quality is vital for recovery. It is during sleep that the body repairs and regenerates tissues. Consistently getting enough high-quality sleep is essential for optimal recovery. Conversely, high-stress levels can negatively impact recovery by increasing cortisol levels. It can also hinder muscle growth and repair.

In addition to calories, the composition of your diet is crucial for supporting recovery. Consuming adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats ensures that your body has the necessary building blocks for muscle repair and growth. Protein, in particular, is essential for recovery. It should be consumed in sufficient quantities to meet your needs.

Micronutrients also play a significant role. These nutrients support various physiological processes involved in muscle repair and immune function. Additionally, staying properly hydrated is crucial. Water is essential for nutrient transport, muscle function, and waste removal.

By paying attention to these influencing factors, you can optimize your recovery capabilities and build muscle naturally. It is important to individualize your approach. Take into account your specific needs. Make adjustments in your nutrition plan and workout routines as necessary. This helps ensure efficient recovery and continued progress.

The Interconnectedness of Training Factors for Muscle Growth

Frequency, volume, and intensity work in harmony to help you build muscle mass. As you progress in your training journey and your body adapts to stimuli, adjustments to these factors become necessary. Increasing volume, for example, may require a decrease in frequency to allow for proper recovery. Similarly, if you reach a point where the frequency cannot be increased further, you may need to focus on increasing intensity or volume to make progress.

Maintaining a delicate balance between these factors is crucial. If intensity and volume are too high, you risk overtraining and impeding recovery. If volume and intensity are too low, you may not provide enough stimulus for growth. It's essential to adjust and manage these factors based on your needs, goals, and recovery capabilities.

Individualization of training programs and considerations

When following a training routine, you have several options. You can choose to design your program, follow pre-designed programs available online, or seek the guidance of a qualified men’s fitness coach. Each approach has its advantages. Regardless of the method chosen, it's important to consider the interconnectedness of frequency, volume, and intensity.

As you progress in your training and your body adapts, it's crucial to make personalized adjustments to your fitness program. No two individuals are the same. What works for one person may not work for another. Considerations such as recovery capabilities, lifestyle, and goals should guide the adjustments you make. Stay open to experimenting with different training factors to find the best for you. As you become more experienced and attuned to your body's responses, you'll gain a better understanding of how to optimize these factors to keep you in your best shape.

The goal of individualization is to capitalize on strengths while minimizing existing skill deficiencies.

- Hunter Allen, Training Peak


Throughout this discussion, the importance of balance and individualization has been consistently emphasized. Achieving muscle gain after 40 requires finding the right balance between training frequency, volume, and intensity. This balance is unique to each individual. It should be adjusted based on personal goals, recovery capabilities, and lifestyle factors. By tailoring your program to suit your specific needs, you can optimize your results and minimize the risk of injury and overtraining.

While this information provides a valuable foundation, it is important to recognize that men’s fitness after 40 is unique. If you find yourself unsure about certain aspects or if you require further assistance, Tailored Fit Alpha is here to help. Our team of experts can design a personalized training program that aligns with your goals and capabilities.

Remember, muscle gain over 40 is a gradual process. It requires patience, consistency, and adaptability. By maintaining a balanced approach, you can unlock your full potential and achieve your desired outcome.


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