I am now 40. I did some weight lifting about 15 years ago and it was fun. I am now back into it, focusing on strength and muscle gain. I obviously don't expect to become a Mr Olympia, but I find it much more fun to do the exercises with the goal in mind of becoming stronger and have bigger shoulders.

I don't know if it might be a subjective impression, but I don't remember to need so much time for recovery after a hard training (on the 3rd day after a shoulders and deltoids training I still feel it).

Is there any kind of relation between the time needed for recovering and the age? That is important: Your muscles aren't supposed to grow if you don't allow them to rest long enough, namely at least a couple of days between trainings when you are in your 20s. If the times needed are longer (then, how much longer?) for a man in his 40s, then the usual routines for strength and muscle gain will not work, and you need to adapt them somehow.

Additionally, any other clue about how to adapt the routines to a somewhat aged body (well, apart from being more carefully and progressive with the increasing weights of course) are welcome. Might it work if I simply use the normal workouts and insert additional rest days (or days of soft aerobic work) in between?

Later edit:

From the answer below by Berin Loritsch, and also from this other answer I am gradually becoming aware of the following thing: at least at the age of 40 it will be much more useful to stop worrying about it and simply go to the gym and work your butt off like hell!

But anyway, the question is interesting, and I am willing to accept the most useful answer.

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    It could be simply an abrupt restart. I'm in my twenties and when I squatted again after a several-month layoff, I was way more sore than normal. Commented May 16, 2013 at 15:32
  • @DaveLiepmann, you are probably quite right!
    – Mephisto
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 21:01

2 Answers 2


In addition to what Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore had to say in Practical Programming for Strength Training, as an over 40 lifter I can offer what I've figured out for training at this stage in my life.

  • Jumping right in after any kind of layoff results in very intense DOMS. Just keep at it and your body will get used to it.
  • I can train longer and harder if I stay away from my maxes. 70-80% for all the heaviest work, and make up for it with more reps.
  • I'm also a lot more capable than I might think or feel going in to a training session.
  • Don't equate soreness with fatigue. Fatigue has more of a general impact on your mental acuity and your ability to lift. Soreness is just a temporary feeling that goes away the more you train consistently.

What I've Found Works

As far as session to session training, I have 4 primary movements and the accessory work that supports them. I can do each of them once a week and still be OK. Since I compete in power lifting, I have an off-season where I'm just increasing my base strength. In the months leading up to a competition I'll do a peaking program. The structure of the two is very different. Since my base building bears a lot of similarities with bodybuilding, I'll speak to that.

  • I keep my training cycles 4-6 weeks.
  • I keep the weight consistent for the cycle, and try to increase reps.
  • At the end of the cycle I'll increase the weight and drop the reps back to the starting number of reps.

With this approach I'm able to keep a consistent pace without any layoffs or general fatigue induced mental haziness. I also hadn't had to do any deloads since my last competition.

What I've Found Doesn't Work

The quickest way to push yourself into overtraining is:

  • Keep working in the 90+% range.
  • Using your competition or test maxes for planning your every day training

In fact, competition takes a lot out of me. Going for a 100% max that's a PR takes its toll on you--even more so since adrenaline is kicking in for competition. After competition I need to take a couple weeks off completely. When I get back to training I resume with my last every day training max (I don't change it based on what I did in competition). First couple weeks I'm really sore, but after that I'm good.

  • Hey, wait a moment... In your profile it says that you started lifting on 2011 modestly, "with just the bar" on most exercises, but now in 2013 you talk about weights and competitions and sort of a professional training with cycles... And you are over 40 (what kind of competition are you talking about? Martial arts of body-building or what?). That means that for you it makes not much different to be over 40 than being in your 20. Please can you explain the general picture a little more, I am amazed and you are really giving me a lot of illusion and hope!
    – Mephisto
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 20:44
  • But were you in 2011 exceptionally fit and strong due to having strongly practised some other sports since you were young or what? I mean, if you can be over 40 and in two years go from just the bar to professional training and competitions (please explain about that point, what kind of competition?), well, then I (or any other 40-yr old) can surely reach a much more modest goal of being a bit stronger and muscular.
    – Mephisto
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 20:48
  • Competition is in Power Lifting, so you have three attempts to get the best total from squat, bench, and deadlift. I did martial arts from 1999 to about 2009 when health issues got me off my feet for a while. I got my diet in order in 2010, and then started lifting in 2011. Commented May 17, 2013 at 1:18
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    For some more information this article is very useful: gregnuckols.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/increasing-work-capacity Increasing reps over time before increasing weight is also a key component of Doug Hepburn style training. myosynthesis.com/workouts/doug-hepburn-routines Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 17:41
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    The program I specifically was using is called Big-15 by Paul Carter. In that program you start with 8-10 reps and increase to 15-20 reps before increasing the weight and starting the cycle over. There is no magical set/rep range, and you may have to use different set/rep ranges over time as discussed with Doug Hepburn's approach. Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 17:43

In Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore's Practical Programming for Strength Training, they include a chapter on Masters athletes, "usually defined as individuals 35-40 years of age and over". Here are a few relevant excerpts:

A significant consideration for the masters athlete is the reduction in recovery capacity over the years.

[P]eriodization of training is particularly important, and periods of offloading should be longer and more pronounced...

[If you're on a novice program,] Texas method works better when adopted sooner than when a younger novice would need to.

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