This post contains affiliate links.
While muscle growth does slow down as we get older it never stops.
It is a natural process of aging to lose about 1-2% of muscle mass per year as we age if no resistance training is introduced.
In order to grow muscle you must stress the muscle through activity. This activity must be challenging enough to work the muscles past their current tolerance in order to stimulate muscle growth.
If you want to get even further into the weeds you can grab Dr. Brad Schoenfeld’s book “The Science of Hypertrophy,” over on amazon.
#1 What percentage of muscle mass do we lose per year if we don’t strength train?
Depending on which studies you look at and how they performed their measurements, the numbers come out to 1-2% of muscle mass per year.
Interestingly, as shared below in a quote from a scientific article published in Frontiers of Physiology, there appears to be a much greater risk of strength loss than with muscle mass.
It appears that although the rate of muscle mass may only be at 1% per year, the loss of strength is between 2.5-4% per year. This is huge.
As I’ve written in other articles discussing sarcopenia and why lifting weights is important for seniors, this process can be significantly slowed and even reversed for untrained individuals (most people).
“Longitudinal studies show that in people aged 75 years, muscle mass is lost at a rate of 0.64–0.70% per year in women and 0.80–00.98% per year in men. Strength is lost more rapidly. Longitudinal studies show that at age 75 years, strength is lost at a rate of 3–4% per year in men and 2.5–3% per year in women. Studies that assessed changes in mass and strength in the same sample report a loss of strength 2–5 times faster than loss of mass. Loss of strength is a more consistent risk for disability and death than is loss of muscle mass.”
#2 What Percentage of People Do Some Amount of Strength Training, Routinely?
It’s no surprise that so many people suffer from sarcopenia as they get older as several studies have shown that as few as 30% of Americans (likely similar throughout the world), get the recommended amount of resistance training.
Whether they meet the requirements of intensity and volume to actually gain muscle is another topic altogether.
Here’s a challenge for you. The next time you go to the grocery store, look around and see if you can find anyone who looks like they are ‘well built,” with a decent of amount of muscle mass. Not a bodybuilder, but just someone who looks like they have some definition and shape.
You’ll likely only find a couple of people out of a hundred that actually fit this bill.
I’ve shared my thoughts elsewhere on why this is the case and I’ll link to those thoughts once I’ve published either a video or blog post about this very topic.
#3 Is it possible to gain muscle mass after the age of 50, 60, 70, and even 80?
Yes! No matter your age you still have the capacity to gain muscle and strength. If you are untrained, as in you have never worked out before or it’s been several years, you will see a massive increase in muscle and strength as long as you are consistent. The link in this paragraph will explain in further detail how you can gain muscle at age 70 or beyond (by the way, this works for everyone.)
If you’re wondering if you should ever stop lifting heavy, I wrote another article about that, too.
- Muscle growth doesn’t stop at any age. People of all ages can build muscle and strength. Yes, even 100-year-olds.
- If you don’t strength train the normal aging process takes over and you lose 1-2% of muscle mass per year starting at age 35.
- Strength losses without strength training at age 75 are ~ 2.5-4% per year. That’s a lot.