I have always been strong, broad shouldered and musculus, mostly genetic I think. Though now in my forties, I have less mass than a few years ago.

If I want to regain, can or should I train differently than somebody trying to gain "new" strength and mass? Especially, can I progress with more reps pr set, less sets or working less hard? (further from failure)?

(I understand regain in generally easy, because you still have the cells/nucli, though what I have read is mostly about young athletes and bodybuilders losing strength and mass over a short time)

  • 1
    Fair enough, I see what you're saying. I'll let someone else answer it, but real quick I'll add in that I remember reading you need to actually take a bit slower because your connective tissue might not be up to speed with the rest of your musculature. In a nut shell you have a good ability to hurt yourself, because of your memory of how to train, which most people need to work though. If you've done real training in the past, you're ready to deliver more load than your body is ready to handle (currently). I'll withdraw the close vote.
    – Eric
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 18:55
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    related: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/22308/…
    – Eric
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 18:56
  • If I still have a lot of nucli, it should mean I don't need to train to get more of them (And it might be more difficult than for a young person anyway). I am not sure of the implications, but I think it should be less like body building (Less breaking down the body with negative reps for example)
    – Olav
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 9:13
  • According to bodybuilding.com/fun/damage-control.html this should be high rep training.
    – Olav
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 9:52

2 Answers 2


No, the "formula" for gaining muscle mass is pretty much the same for all people regardless of age. You should take into consideration, however, that to achieve the end result that you want, it will require more effort than it would require from somebody in their mid-twenties.

Everything is going to progress as planned as long as you adhere to muscle-mass-gaining workout routine and a favourable diet for your plan with a high intake of protein.

*Important: It is a scientifically proven fact that, even after ceasing working out for a long time, muscle memory stays whereas muscle mass and strength don't. Namely, if you have been training in the past the patterns of moving heavy weights still exist.

That can be a great ally or an equally great enemy, as you can advance faster by using your muscle memory, but also injure yourself if you lift more than your body can currently take.

As a big fan and advocate of bodybuilding.com I post in my answer this guide for reference.

  • It is not self-evident that is should be the same, because training for adding myonucli is perhaps different from training for pumping up the muscles with protein (See bodybuilding.com/fun/damage-control.html provided above). Also one of the two might get more difficult with age compared to the other. (What you call muscle memory is now though to be related to myonucli beeing retained for a long time)
    – Olav
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 10:07
  • If you notice I said: it will require more effort than it would require from somebody in their mid-twenties. The formula may be the same for all ages, but the likelihood that you get up to par with somebody at their peak is very slim. Indeed, muscle memory and myonucli are closely related :) Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 10:19
  • I read this as related to old guys trying to gain "new strength". My question is more about "regaining".
    – Olav
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 12:04
  • That's what I meant. I you hadn't trained in the past, you should have been ready to drop a lot of sweat. Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 12:05

I'm going to give a very much anecdotal answer here because I don't think you'll find any research at all on this, though it'd be great if we had some. (If someone does have some, send it over!)

The distinction between short-term and longterm is critical here. However, what constitutes what? I don't know! But I'll give some scenarios.

I'm a personal trainer who works with everyday people. Average age has probably been around the mid 40s. (We often forget the average adult age in the U.S. is 38!)

I've gotten a lot of clients who say something to the tune of "I used to be very active in my 20s." Or "I played sports growing up."

In my experience, when it's been something like 10-20 years (or more) since the person was active, you ignore it. It's true some of them and you'll be able to tell "Oh, they're picking this up quickly." Or "This is definitely easier for them than most."

But it's not like the common muscle memory scenario we're all familiar with. The 20 year old who has been lifting for a long time, takes a few months off, and then in a few weeks is basically back at full strength.

In fact, with the older crowd who tells me they were once very active, I'm more inclined to hold them back. I've had some who say, start doing push-ups, and then all of a sudden get mentally transformed to thinking they're 25 years old again, only to be greatly disappointed when they can't pump out 20 in a row anymore. That is, I worry about them trying to do too much, too soon, and getting hurt.

A skill these people often never attained was knowing their body at their older age. They don't know how much longer it will take them to recover, how much more sore they'll be, how much less their joints will like something.

Of course, I've given you two extremes. A few months off vs decades off. What about a year off? Or two years? Well, you can certainly be more aggressive than 20 years off, but it's hard to quantify it.

No matter what, I always make people's first one or two workouts back a 50% day. Where after the workout, I want them to leave thinking "Yeah, I could go do all that again." Then we pretty much go by the eyeball and how-do-you-feel test from there.

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