The Truth of Building Muscle Over 40

It has been a while since we last had a visit to the blog from one of our expert friends. Today I’m proud to introduce Shawn Phillips to you. Shawn is the author of best-selling books, ABSolution and Strength for Life, as well as thousands of articles on health, fitness, nutrition, mindset, motivation, and more, Shawn brings unique perspective and depth to the health and fitness world. You can follow Shawn on Facebook  – Vince

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never been fat. Yep, it’s true. That bloated, mullet wearing dude in the before photos with the sad face, is not me.

Sometimes I feel like I should apologize. For nearly every fitness “guru” has a connecting, personal “fat” story—except me. Sure, I’ve been in great shape, good shape and relatively lousy shape. But compared to most, my worst is still pretty good shape.

It’s not that I want to be fat, it’s just that to become well liked and perhaps even rich and famous, it helps to be relatable. People like knowing you have walked in their shoes, so to speak.

Yet, by remaining pretty much always fit, I was missing that key connecting experience.

Then I turned 40.

There I was, soaring along—a top my game at 39—kicking ass, looking great; all systems “go.” Hence, 40 held no dread for me. I may even have been a little excited, sort of daring it with confidence.

Then, I went to bed one night 30-something and woke up 40-something. Note, “I woke up.” So, right there we have a good sign, right? And honestly, I thought nothing of it. Then I stood up, took a step and it was if the ground had slipped away from me—and I was looking straight down at the end of my life.

The illusion of invincibility—which I had never before experienced—had vanished. The headache, that at 38 would have had me reaching for an Advil, at 40 triggered thoughts of a brain-tumor. And while I jest (picture Arnold in Kindergarten Cop), it is more true than not. Everything had changed.

Culturally held beliefs are subtle and incredibly powerful. They shape so much of who we are and yet most never even know they are acting on us because we don’t experience a belief but instead a truth.

My awake, conscious brain knew “all is well,” that 40 is only one day older than yesterday, but the deeply held cultural belief that “40 is the beginning to the end,” had a mind of it’s own.

Look and you can see this message woven into the fabric of our society. It’s in commercials, “it’s the age of knowing what to do…Viagra,” evidentially. In movies, especially classics, the 40 year old man is the old man. He makes fun of his age, his frailness. He stops seeking, competing, moving.

A particularly painful part of this “40 story” for me is in the belief that your muscle building days are behind you. I see this unconsciously held belief laced all through the pages of nearly every “over 40 training” article.

Even the great Bodybuilding.com does it. The articles start with this sort of, “Build muscle over 40… You can do it!” tone and suddenly they’re telling you, “Be sure to rest more and take more days off. You’re no spring chicken now!” And on and on it goes.

I swear it’s as if we’re all succumbing to a ghost programmed in our psyche a million years ago that we can’t see. Thus, we just can’t stop handicapping our sad, aging selves.

Now, sure, it’s true that “age happens” but if I serve as anything, it’s powerful living proof that age is less a function of the number of years you’ve lived than how you’ve lived them. And my “secret” is no secret at all. It’s pure, simple muscle.

As I make the undeniable case for—in my book, Strength for Life, muscle is the engine of youth. In their book Biomarkers, William J. Evans and Irwin H. Rosenburg show that of the 10 key physiological measures of the aging process all 10 are favorably altered by the act of muscle building training.

So, if you’re nearing or past the polarizing, “big 4-0,” may I make a strong suggestion: Start Building Muscle Like Your Entire Life Depends On It… because it does.

In my 20’s I believed muscle was everything. That all changed when I reached my 40’s…now I know it is.  Now is not the time to melt into an easy chair, but the right time to double your efforts, and focus.

Train hard, train with focus. Go deeper into your mind-muscle connection. Continue to find the “zen” place of focus and joy in your training. Don’t start “leveling off” in some seemingly “practical” way. Take solace in the knowledge that in scientific studies, resistance trained 90 year-old men experienced hypertrophy at rates nearly identical to 20 year olds.

Things do gradually change and I encourage you to remain open to that. We all deal with injury, some with illness, and life set backs. There will be things that you change, some for preference and lifestyle, others to optimize results. Even the most well trained body responds differently to some things at 40 than it did at 20. Food is a great example.

As my 40’s have ticked by I’ve changed my eating, my supplements, and my training—gradually. And of course, with men, there’s always the key issue of “t” for testosterone, with Low-T being a plague on the modern man. (We will address the hot question for men; to HRT or not to HRT in a few weeks.)

I fell I am fortunate because while I may have been blindsided by my unexpected response to 40, I was also mindful enough to recognize the story is not reality. I was, and continue to be able to make a new story. Not to just flatly reject the experience of being the age that I am, but to allow whatever comes up to do just that and then come back around, and back to center.

I look forward to sharing with you the details of my experiences. The successes and rampant failures I—and many of my fellow “muscle over 40 men” have enjoyed. We’re going to get real, go deeper and get bigger than any men who have come before us.

And together prove, once and for all, that your age is a number that takes a back seat to your bench press.

To Your Life at Full Strength,

Shawn Phillips
Author Strength for LIFE, ABSolution,
The OWNERS MANual to Living Your 40’s at Full Strength 

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Comments

8 thoughts on “The Truth of Building Muscle Over 40

  1. Thanks for your thoughts! I will turn 58 next month, which seems ancient to some :). I’ve already determined that I will not give up, ever. However, as I age, life seems to take on a sense of urgency.

    I have dreams and goals (fitness and otherwise) that I want to accomplish before it’s too late. This is part of what makes life fun and meaningful. Conventional opinions can go to hell and kiss my …

    I’m doing fine in the gym, and I don’t plan on slowing down, unless there are extenuating circumstances I haven’t thought about.

    So-called “aging” is mostly a mental game, and controlling the mind is what separates the men from the boys (or the women from the gals).

    Being able to focus on one’s goals, and having the discipline to put in the necessary work to achieving those goals, seems to become more urgent as one ages.

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    • Dan,

      Yeah, agree… age is more the result of HOW one has lived than how long one lives.

      Goals are great. Presence is greater. I love achieving and pursuing and even more so when I know I can be present and good with what is.

      So often people become “addicted” to achievement and pursue for the sake of chasing.

      Not you… mind you. Just happens. I salute the quest for Strength at all ages.

      Rock on,
      Shawn

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  2. I am almost 50 :) and don’t give up. Everything is in mind setup and a little bit stubbornness.

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    • Yes, sir HGH… No quit but lots of enjoyment.

      if we love what we do, why not keep doing it.

      Right!

      Shawn

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  3. Help!!!!!!!! Plain and simple help!!!!!!

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    • Steve,

      As in you should be calling 9-1-1 help?

      Or as in, “time to change this body” help?

      Shawn

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    • WTF does that mean? that you want to link to your site and paid someone with bad english to post here?

      Hummmmmm

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