How to Build Muscle After 60 (& How Long it Takes)

senior man exercising in the woods

Sure, you may not be able to lift as much weight as you could in your 20s (unless you make this a focal point of your daily routine), but that doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle after 60.

 

Building muscle after 60 is not as difficult as you might think.

 

The key is to focus on quality over quantity. 

 

In this article, we’ll break down the science behind building muscle after 60, including how long it takes, how to eat for muscle growth, and which exercises to include in your routine.

 

But first, let’s debunk the myth that only younger people can build muscle.

 

Can You Build Muscle at Any Age?

It’s a common misconception that you can’t build muscle after 60. The truth is, you can continue to build muscle at any age — it just might take a little longer than it did when you were in your 20s or 30s.

 

It’s never too late to get in shape — even if you’re 60 or older. 

 

A recent study from the University of Birmingham showed that resistance exercises could help you build muscle even if you’ve never worked out before. 

 

The study compared eight “untrained older male” participants between 60 and 80 years old with seven “older male athletes” in the same age range who consistently trained for two decades. 

 

The results? Both groups could build muscle equally. 

older adults can build muscle at any age, even if they've never worked out before

 

The key is to be patient and consistent with your workouts. You might not see results as quickly as you did when you were younger, but with time and dedication, you can still make gains. After all, building muscle is more about lifestyle choices than anything else.

 

In a nutshell, as long as you’re eating right and staying active, you can continue to build muscle mass well into your 60s and beyond. With a little consistency and patience, you’ll be on your way to a stronger, healthier you.

 

How to Build Muscle After 60

#1 Set Realistic Goals

If you’re over 60 and looking to start a muscle-building journey, it’s important to set attainable and specific goals. 

 

Maybe you want to gain a certain amount of weight, improve your overall body composition, or lift a specific amount of weight. It’s essential to have clear goals in mind to keep you motivated and focused. 

 

Before you dive into a workout routine, start by testing your fitness levels. Our article can help you set more effective and realistic goals and establish a baseline for where you currently stand. 

#2 Design a Workout Plan

Creating a workout plan that aligns with your fitness goals is essential for success. It’s like mapping out a journey — you need to know where you’re going, how you’ll get there, and what you’ll need along the way. 

 

Here’s how to design your workout plan to get in shape after 60…

Choose Your Exercises

The best exercises to strengthen your muscles after 60 are the same exercises that are effective for building muscle at any age. And the fastest way to build muscle is through strength training and primarily compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and presses.

 

These exercises work multiple muscle groups at once and help you build strength and size quickly. They should be the foundation of your workout routine. 

 

Apart from strength training, here are a few other types of exercise that can help you get in shape after 60:

 

  • Swimming — a great low-impact workout that is easy on the joints. It’s also an excellent way to build muscle since it works all of the major muscle groups
  • Tai Chi — a form of martial arts that emphasizes slow, deliberate movements. It’s often described as “meditation in motion” and is known for its many health benefits, including muscle-building
  • Yoga — another low-impact workout that is easy on the joints while increasing flexibility and strength

 

best exercises to build muscle after 60 are strength training, swimming, tai chi and yoga

Ultimately, the exercises you choose will depend on your fitness goals and capabilities. And once you’ve picked the best ones, you have to decide how many reps you want to do…

Decide on the Number of Repetitions

How many repetitions (reps) you perform, and at what weight, influences the results you’ll see:

 

  • 1-5 Reps – Boosting Strength: Lifting in the 1-5 rep range? You’re on the road to building strength. 
  • 6-12 Reps – Building Muscle: If you’re doing 6-12 reps, you’re in the zone for muscle growth. 
  • 12-20 Reps – Enhancing Muscular Endurance: Moving into the 12-20 rep range? You’re working on muscular endurance. 

 

Aim for 3-5 sets per exercise, with rest times of about 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

 

But remember, everyone’s fitness level and goals are different. If you’re just starting out, you may need to start with fewer reps and gradually increase as your strength improves. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly.

#3 Eat for Muscle Growth

As you age, your nutritional needs change. After 60, your body becomes less efficient at using protein to build muscle. Which is why it’s important to eat foods that are high in protein, such as lean meats, fish, nuts, and seeds.

 

eat more lean protein

 

And to build muscle, you need to stay in a caloric surplus. In other words, you need to eat more calories than your body burns in a day. 

 

The best way to ensure you’re getting enough calories is to track your intake and count your macros. This means tracking the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat you’re eating each day.

 

But tracking your protein intake is by far the most vital aspect of your muscle-building journey. 

 

Even if you increase your daily protein intake by 0.3 g/kg, you’ll see benefits in body recomposition and lean muscle mass.

 

Another important factor is to also focus on eating quality foods. This means avoiding processed foods and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These nutrient-rich foods will not only help you build muscle, but improve your overall health.

 

(Need help eating better nutrients? Grab this comprehensive Guide to Nutrition for Older Adults.)

#4 Prioritize Rest & Recovery

Building muscle after 60 takes more than just pushing yourself at the gym and eating right. It’s also about giving your body the rest it needs to recharge and rebuild.

 

Your body, like a well-oiled machine, needs time to recover from workouts. When you exercise, you create microscopic tears in your muscles. Resting allows these tears to heal, which in turn makes your muscles stronger. 

 

The golden rule of thumb here is to give your body plenty of time to adapt and repair itself. According to research, the optimal rest period for those over the age of 50 is between 48-72 hours. 

 

Plus, due to increased fatigue and damage caused by exercise, along with a slower repair rate post-exercise, older adults tend to have a more extended recovery period compared to younger individuals.

 

Theoretical model of the time course of adaptation after an exercise impulse. Bold line denotes normal model, and dashed lines represent proposed models for an aging athlete experiencing greater damage or slowed exercise recovery time

But this doesn’t mean you have to be completely inactive during these rest periods. Gentle activities like walking, stretching, or yoga can keep you moving without putting undue stress on your muscles.

 

Just listen to your body and take it one day at a time. On that note, you really do have to put in the work every day…

#5 Stay Consistent

Consistency. It’s a nine-letter word that packs a punch, especially when it comes to fitness. Let’s break it down.

 

Consistency isn’t about being perfect or pushing yourself to extremes. It’s about showing up for yourself regularly. Whether that’s a morning walk, an afternoon yoga session, or an evening at the gym, the goal is to move your body regularly.

 

Here’s the deal: consistency creates momentum. Each workout builds on the last, driving you forward. And the more you stick to your routine, the easier it becomes. It’s like a snowball rolling downhill — it starts small, but as it keeps rolling, the momentum makes it grow bigger and faster.

 

And let’s be clear: progress may seem slow. And that’s okay. You didn’t reach retirement in a day, right? The same goes for fitness. 

 

It’s a journey, not a race. The key is to keep going, even when it feels tough.

 

Which brings us to the final question…

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle After 60?

The simple answer to the question is that it depends. Building muscle after 60 can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on your starting point and how dedicated you are to working out.

 

A recent study found that even 94-year-olds can build muscle and reap the benefits of strength training. In the study, the participants were older adults between the ages of 83 and 94 – in just 12 weeks of weight training three times a week, they were able to increase thigh muscle size by 3.4% on average

 

All in all, to build muscle after 60, you need to be committed to working out regularly and eating a healthy diet. Ultimately, if you’re dedicated to building muscle, you can start noticing results in as little as a few weeks. 

 

Stay Fit As You Age

As you age, it becomes more important to stay fit.

 

You may find that building muscle is a bit harder than when you were younger, but with the right approach, it’s definitely possible. Just try to follow the steps we outlined:

 

  • #1 Set realistic goals — treat your fitness journey like a marathon, not a sprint, so dream big, but start small
  • #2 Design a workout plan — tailor your workout plan to your abilities and goals
  • #3 Eat for muscle growth — your body needs the right fuel — protein, healthy fats, and slow-release carbs are your best friends on this journey
  • #4 Prioritize rest & recovery — rest isn’t laziness, it’s necessary because your muscles grow stronger during these breaks
  • #5 Stay consistent — Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is muscle

 

We’ve looked at some of the best ways to build muscle after 60, and while every person is different, these exercises and tips should help get you started.

 

Keep in mind that building muscle takes time — don’t expect results overnight. But if you stick to a consistent routine and eat healthy foods, you’ll definitely see some progress. And, more importantly, you’ll feel better.

 

Building Muscle After 60 FAQ

Is too much protein bad for seniors?

Overdoing it with protein can put extra stress on your kidneys, especially if there are pre-existing kidney conditions. Now, if you’re in good health, upping your protein intake to 2 g/kg of body weight can be completely safe. 

 

But  balance is the key. Not too little, not too much – just right! Before making any changes to your diet, have a chat with your healthcare provider or dietitian. They’ll help you figure out exactly how much protein is right for you.

 

Why am I losing muscle mass?

Muscle loss after 60 is a common concern and it’s due to a process called sarcopenia. This natural part of aging can start as early as our 30s, and it tends to speed up after 60. But don’t worry, you can reverse this.

 

Strength training and proper nutrition are two effective ways to slow this process down. Think of them as your road map and fuel for this journey. They’ll help you maintain your muscle mass and keep you feeling strong and energetic well into your 60s and beyond – just remember to be consistent.

 

What age do you stop building muscle?

Muscle building doesn’t have an expiration date. With consistent strength training and the right nutrition, it’s possible to build and maintain muscle at any age.

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portrait of Cyn Meyer, founder of Second Wind Movement and a certified retirement life coach
Cyn Meyer 

Retirement Life Coach

As a certified retirement life coach since 2018, Cyn has helped thousands of older adults turn their retirement years into remarkable years full of growth, purpose, and passion. Through her signature program Rewire My Retirement, she helps people achieve their best life across the 5 Rings of Retirement, which covers topics Growth, Community, Health, Giving Back, and Finance.


Cyn combines specific life coaching tools, neuroscience, and her extensive background in marketing (spanning 17 years) to make a powerful impact with Second Wind Movement – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources and coaching for seniors.

With meticulous research, insight, and passion, Cyn’s mission is to usher in a new wave of positive experiences for generations of retirees.

portrait of Cyn Meyer, founder of Second Wind Movement and a certified retirement life coach

Cyn Meyer 

Retirement Life Coach

As a certified retirement life coach since 2018, Cyn has helped thousands of older adults turn their retirement years into remarkable years full of growth, purpose, and passion (beyond the stereotypical financial planning side of retirement). 

She combines specific life coaching tools, neuroscience, and her extensive background in marketing (spanning 17 years) to make a powerful impact with Second Wind Movement – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources and coaching for seniors.

With meticulous research, insight, and passion, Cyn’s mission is to usher in a new wave of positive experiences for generations of retirees.