How Can Old Men Increase Muscle Mass?

Man lifting dumbbells

As you age, you gradually lose muscle mass. An analysis of survey data published in the "Journal of the American Geriatric Society" indicates that 45 percent of male participants age 60 and older showed signs of moderate sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass. The good news is that lifestyle changes can help increase your muscle mass and strength, improving the quality of your life -- and allowing you to keep doing the things you enjoy as you get older.

Muscle Mass and Aging

There are multiple causes for muscle loss in senior men; declining testosterone levels, lack of exercise and nutritional deficiencies all play a role. Although some loss of muscle mass and strength with age is inevitable, starting a strength-training program and improving your diet can reduce your rate of loss and enhance muscle mass, no matter your age. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Work with a qualified trainer to set up a program appropriate for you.

Exercise Resistance

In general, a program to build muscle mass for seniors is similar to that for younger people who are not conditioned for exercise, although elderly individuals may have to make some modifications. The American College of Sports Medicine, or ACSM, recommends two to three days of strength training per week, incorporating a variety of exercises that work the major muscle groups. You should start with very light resistance and keep the number of exercises and sets to a minimum. Each set should have 10 to 15 reps. As you get stronger, you can slowly increase resistance, as well as the number of sets and exercises.

Exercise Considerations

Because seniors are more likely to have joint and muscle pain after a workout, allowing adequate recovery time is essential. The ACSM recommends resting at least two to three minutes between sets -- and taking off at least two days between strength-training workouts. If you experience post-workout pain, reduce the resistance or repetitions the next time. Remember to breathe during your workout, as holding your breath while you're lifting weights can increase your blood pressure.


Due to various factors, such as reduced appetite or limited resources, protein consumption often declines with age, which can contribute to muscle loss. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that older adults may need to consume more than the RDA, or recommended dietary allowance, to maintain and grow their muscles. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and seafood. Seniors can also become deficient in vitamin D, which plays a role in muscle function. As adequate levels of vitamin D may help combat muscle loss, you might want to consider taking supplemental vitamin D. Ask your doctor or dietitian if a supplement is appropriate.