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Muscle Building Workouts for Men: Power Up at Any Age!

By: Holly Smith, D.O. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

muscle building workouts for men
Are you looking for a solid routine to gain mass and get shredded? You need some effective muscle-building workouts for men!

Strong, fit, healthy. What person doesn’t want to be described in this way?

All you have to do is eat well, work out, and lift some weights, right?

As easy as this sounds, it becomes much harder to achieve as you get older.

As lean body mass and testosterone levels decrease with age, muscle building becomes more difficult.

This is not just a myth.

But, with the right muscle-building workouts for men, it can be done!

In fact, with the muscle-building workouts for men we lay out below, you can be just as fit — if not more so — at age 50 as you were at 25!

Don't forget to eat right, too! Check out this easy-to-follow muscle-building diet plan.

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What Are The 5 Best Muscle Building Exercises For Men 40+?

best exercise for men 40+
The secret to building age-defying muscle in your in 40s, 50s, & 60s is to modify the best muscle building exercises (bench, squats, rows) to make them safe on your joints…

What Makes a Great Workout for Men?

A routine to build muscle needs to include the right types of exercises, and it needs to be done consistently.

It can be confusing reading fitness articles, all with differing opinions on the number of repetitions or sets to do to build muscle mass.

That’s where the actual scientific research comes in to truly determine the ultimate strength-building plan.

Muscle Building 101

To start, it is important to understand that muscle growth requires resistance training.

Muscle contraction is required to stimulate muscle fiber breakdown and rebuilding.

This includes concentric, eccentric, and isometric contraction.

Concentric contraction means that the muscle is shortening against a force, such as in the raising phase of a bicep curl.

Eccentric contraction occurs when the muscle fiber is lengthening against resistance, like when you are then lowering the bicep curl back down.

Isometric contraction occurs when the muscle fiber stays the same length during contraction, as in holding a steady position in the bicep curl at the midpoint.

Each of these types of movements is essential in producing muscle growth.

This video will teach you the essentials of building muscle, including workout and nutrition advice.

How Often Should I Workout?

So now that you understand the basics of muscle contraction, how many times a week should you be working out?

Studies have shown that the ideal frequency is likely two or three times a week for each muscle group.

An analysis of a collection of resistance training studies in men has shown that muscle hypertrophy is maximal when working out two or three days a week compared to just one day a week.

Muscle protein synthesis is stimulated after resistance training but then returns back to normal shortly thereafter.

Therefore, to continue with strength gains, at least twice weekly routines for each muscle group is essential, and possibly up to three times weekly.

How Hard Should My Workouts Be?

The next step is determining how many repetitions and sets of each exercise are ideal.

Research on muscle building has shown that there is a dose-response relationship in muscle growth.

That is, the more repetitions and sets you do, there will be quicker response in muscle gains.

However, this is only true up to a certain point.

Number of Sets

There is a critical point where performing more repetitions of an exercise will not produce any significant gains in muscle growth.

At that point, over-training becomes counterproductive.

A good starting point is typically 10-12 sets per muscle group per week.

This can then be adjusted over time as the body adapts.

I will go into an example of a specific routine later, but if you are working out each group twice a week, this would mean 5-6 sets per muscle group on each of those days.

Number of Reps

The number of repetitions within a set is also important.

It has been taught that high reps with low weights are good for toning muscles, while low reps with heavy weights are better for muscle growth and bulk.

This makes sense as heavier weights increase tension on the muscle fibers to stimulate muscle growth.

However, studies have also shown that time under tension is also important to stimulate muscle building for men, as long as the muscles are exercised to the point of fatigue, there can be similar gains regardless of the amount of weight used.

For example, one study showed that those doing 10-12 reps with heavier weights had similar muscle gains as those that did 30-40 reps with lighter weights.

The takeaway here is that as long as you are pushing your muscles to fatigue, you can get by with either variation of high reps-light weights or low reps-heavy weights.

Keep in mind, however, that higher reps will increase the duration of the exercise.

And in trained athletes, heavier weights still seem to have an advantage in strength gains.

Based on my experience, 8-10 repetitions is a good place to begin.

Over time, you can keep the repetitions at this number, and slowly increase weight over several weeks as you see improvements in muscle strength.

In older athletes, lower weight and higher reps may be more beneficial to avoid injury and joint aches while still having the benefit of strength gains.

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Muscle Building Workouts for Men

Alright, now you’re at the gym, and you understand the basics of strength training. So let’s dig into a sample routine.

If you’re just starting back into strength and muscle building, I would recommend starting out with a two-day-a-week plan for each muscle group.

This can be broken down in a number of ways.

For example, you could just go twice a week and do a full-body workout.

Another example would be to break the workouts into synergistic muscle groups, doing back and biceps twice a week, chest, shoulders, and triceps two other days, and legs twice weekly.

For this plan, you would need to stagger your schedule across the week to ensure adequate rest.

The third plan would be to do upper body twice weekly and lower body twice weekly, for a total of four days in the gym.

You can build muscle and gain strength with any of these plans; it really just needs to be what fits your schedule and your preferences.

Example Routine

For example, an upper/lower body split could look something like this:

  • Monday: Lower Body
  • Tuesday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

On the other hand, if you prefer to break down your routine into muscle groups, an example of a routine spanning two weeks may look something like this:

  • Monday: Back/Biceps
  • Tuesday: Legs
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
  • Friday: Back/Biceps
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Legs
  • Monday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Back/Biceps
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
  • Sunday: Back/Biceps

Of course, this can be modified based on your schedule.

I would recommend always leaving at least 48 hours between each muscle group before strength training that area again.

What’s important is using it to fit your schedule so that you can remain consistent.

As I discussed above, for each exercise, I would recommend 8-10 reps per set to begin, with a total of about 5-6 sets for each muscle group on each day.

This would give you a total of 10-12 sets for the week per muscle group.

Now, when I say muscle group, that does not mean “upper body” and “lower body.”

It refers to the specific muscle movers: biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, and so on.

There are hundreds of different strength and muscle-building exercises available.

These can be done with free weights, exercise machines, and even just bodyweight.

Everyone is an individual, and what works for one person may not be appropriate for another based on previous injuries, joint issues, or health conditions.

I will give a sample workout with some basic exercises but keep in mind these can always be modified or swapped out based on your experience.

The regimen below is broken down by muscle groups.

However, you could always combine the back/bicep days with the tricep/chest/shoulder days if you prefer an upper body/lower body regimen.

Monday: Back/Biceps

Working the back and biceps together allows synergistic muscle groups to be trained in one day.

For example, while the large back muscles-the latissimus dorsi-are primarily engaged in a pull-up, the biceps assist in this motion.

This is true for many back and biceps exercises.

  • Back – Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 4-5 reps. If you cannot do an unassisted pull-up, that’s OK! Start with assisted pull-ups with a band or machine that allows you to rest your legs and adjust the assistance. If you have a training partner, they can hold your legs as well to assist. You can also start with lower reps as I have noted here, and work your way up to 8-10 reps as strength increases.
  • Back – Lat Pull Down: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Biceps – Bicep Dumbbell curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Biceps – Bicep Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Tuesday: Lower Body (Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Calves)

With lower body exercises, many of the same muscles are used together to perform the motion, although one muscle group is typically the primary mover.

For example, squats are a great exercise for the hamstrings, however, the quadriceps are the main muscle group in this exercise.

With the lower body, we are still aiming to hit each muscle group at about the same frequency for the week.

  • Squats: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Alternating Lunges: 2 sets of 8-10 reps on each side
  • Standing Calf Raises: 3 sets toes forward, 3 sets toes pointing out 8-10  reps
  • Bulgarian Split Lunges: 2 sets of 8-10 reps each leg
  • Glute Bridge: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

Again, these muscle groups tend to work together in many movements.

While the bench press mainly works the chest muscles, the triceps also assist in this motion.

  • Chest – Standard Bench Press (or bench press machine): 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Chest – Dumbbell (or machine) flys: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Tricep – Triceps Kickbacks: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Triceps – Tricep Cable Pulls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Shoulders – Overhead Seated Dumbbell Press: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Shoulders – Lateral Raises: 2 sets of 8-10 reps

Friday: Back/Biceps

  • Back – Seated Rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Back – Bent Over Barbell Rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Biceps – Incline Curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Biceps – Preacher Curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Saturday: Off

Sunday: Lower Body

  • Leg Press: 3 sets 8-10 reps
  • Seated Calf Raises: 3 sets toes forward, 3 sets toes pointed in 8-10 reps
  • Romanian Dead Lifts: 3 sets 8-10 reps
  • Leg Curls: 2 sets 8-10 reps
  • Leg Extensions: 2 sets 8-10 reps

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Monday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

  • Chest – Incline Dumbbell Press: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Chest/Triceps – Dips: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Shoulders – Arnold Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Shoulders – Shrugs: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Triceps – Skull Crushers: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Triceps – Overhead Tricep extensions: 2 sets of 8-10 reps

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: Back/Biceps

  • Back – Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Back – Close Grip Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Biceps – Dumbbell Wide Angle Curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Biceps – Supinated Curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Thursday: Lower Body

  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Reverse Lunges: 3 sets of 8-10 reps for each leg
  • Curtsy Lunges: 2 sets of 8-10 reps for each leg
  • Standing calf raises on an elevated surface: 3 sets toes forward, 3 sets toes pointed out, 8-10 reps
  • Sumo Squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Friday: Off

Saturday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

  • Chest – Standard Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Chest – Decline Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Triceps – Triceps Dips on Bench: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Triceps – Single Arm Tricep Extensions: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Shoulders – Front raises: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Shoulders – Standing Barbell Military Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Sunday: Off

This sample routine is over two weeks to show how these exercises can be staggered and to illustrate the different variety of exercises that can be used to obtain muscle growth.

Once you finish the second week, you can cycle back through to the beginning.

This routine isn’t set in stone, but rather a template to help with your quest for muscle building and growth.

I have not discussed core exercises yet.

Working your core will also need to be incorporated into a fitness routine for overall muscle building, but that is a topic for a different day.

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How Much Weight Should I Use?

Start with a weight that allows you to complete the full number of reps.

If you find that you are finishing 10 reps with minimal fatigue, you will need to increase the weight.

On the other hand, if you are struggling to get to 8 reps, it’s time to swallow your pride and drop down to a lower weight.

Over time, you will find that it will become easier to finish your sets.

At that point, it is time to challenge yourself with a higher weight.

This is known as progressive overload.

You may start with doing 15-pound bicep curls during your first few weeks, moving from 8 to 10 reps.

Once that 10 reps becomes easier, it is time to move up to 17.5 or 20 pounds and try to achieve 6-8 reps.

You would then stay at that weight until 10 reps are easier to achieve.

From this, you progressively and slowly increase your weight based on your progress.

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How Much Should I Rest?

The final question that I often get is how much to rest between sets.

Studies have been a bit conflicting regarding the ideal rest period.

It appears that longer rest, about 2-3 minutes, is better for muscle growth than rest periods of 60 seconds or less.

Also, short rest periods may potentially blunt post-exercise muscle synthesis.

However, other studies have shown no difference in shorter versus longer rest in regards to muscle growth.

In my opinion, in order to avoid injury and give your best effort in each set, I advocate for about a two-minute rest period between sets.

This will allow muscle ATP to regenerate so that you can perform the next set at a higher level.

Holly Smith D.O. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is board-certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly is a keen runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast. She has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, Olympic distance triathlons, half marathons, and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

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