At what age can the body no longer build muscle? At what age can the body no longer build muscle?

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Thread: At what age can the body no longer build muscle?

  1. #1
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    Nov 2020
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    Default At what age can the body no longer build muscle?

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    Hi all,

    I'm wondering at what age the human body can no longer build muscle. Another way to put the question would be, at what age does it become necessary to switch from "gaining" to "maintaining" ?

    I ask the question because I've been coaching my mom through the lifts for the past couple years. She is in her early 50's, and getting much stronger. I intend (and I'm pretty sure SHE intends) to continue this as long as possible...however, I'd like some idea of when it would become reasonable to stop trying to add extra weight, and just "maintain" her current strength level.

    Thanks!

    -skypig

  2. #2
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    Mar 2015
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    Akron, OH
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    There's no defined age where you can stop building muscle, but at a certain point, you'll do a lifetime PR without realizing it will be your last.

    Rip wrote a piece about this for people who have already been training a long time and are getting to the point where training isn't viable. Sully wrote a follow up piece to it as well.

    The answer to your question is "we don't know," but even as she can't hit new lifetime PRs, she'll be able to hit local PRs. PRs in her 60s, PRs in her 70s, and so on. There is an olympic lifting record held in the women's division for three consecutive age classes, because the 50-year-old woman refused to stop lifting. She has the 50 to 60 total record, 60 to 70 record, and 70 to 80 record. Her numbers steadily went down, but I'd bet she was more healthy and athletic than the other 80-year-olds she knew.

  3. #3
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    Jul 2019
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    It's probably a lot easier to figure out for someone who can look back at some big numbers of their prime years and realistically say "ok, I'm 60 now, there's probably no way in hell I'm gonna be able to do that ever again". For someone who has just jumped into this thing past their prime though, it's probably a lot harder to figure out when and even if that point is reached. It's probably best approached on an individual basis. Exhaust all the possiblities for programming adjustments to keep driving progress while keeping close tabs on how she's recovering for some ideas on what changes you can and cannot pursue.

  4. #4
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    May 2021
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    It's a great time to be old. It is not hard to find studies showing strength improvements in 80 year olds on resistance training. Researchers are learning a lot about why older people develop sarcopenia.

    Consider the following from Baylor College of Medicine:

    The problem is in older persons, Glutathione levels are at too low a level for protection. This results in mitochondrial dysfunction. Glutathione is composed of three amino acids: glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine. In older persons the levels of cysteine and glycine are too low to form sufficient Glutathione (GSH). The solution to the problem is very simple. Just supply an adequate amount of CYSTEINE AND GLYCINE for the cell to correct glutathione deficiency. The lead researcher, Rajagopal Sekhar, who first published a similar study in 2011; did just that and the results were EXTRAORDINARY. The dose for a 70 kilo man was 9 gram of cystine and 7 grams of glycine (about the amount of these two amino acids in 1.5 pounds of steak).

    The results on mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, inflammation, insulin resistance, walking speed, grip strength, cognitive function and other markers of aging dysfunction were remarkable. In a prior study excellent results were seen at 2 weeks. In this study persons were tested at 12 and 24 weeks. By 24 weeks, older persons were showing similar results to young persons in critical areas. Upon stopping treatment, all benefits were gradually lost.

  5. #5
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    Nov 2020
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    Thanks everyone for the insightful responses - sounds like the answer is: "keep training no matter what." If the body is able to get stronger (whether due to muscle gains or neuromuscular efficiency improvements), it will. If the body is NOT able to get stronger, then just get as strong as you can and work on maintaining that for as long as possible.

    As for my mom, I'll just keep encouraging her to train for as long as she can. Her strength gains are already impressive, and she's raising the weight extremely conservatively (0.5-lb jumps on all the lifts), to be on the safe side.

  6. #6
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    Dec 2015
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    Perhaps the more important point is that for older lifters what is important is the prevention of muscle loss. Young lifters like to add the muscle mass, but at my age that is not guaranteed . Those of us older lifters are focused on preventing muscle loss (keeping what we have) while keeping the bones hard and dense.

  7. #7
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    Nov 2020
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    starting strength coach development program
    Good point Tommy - keeping what you have is better than losing it!

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