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How to put on muscle as you age

Starting around age 30, we all begin to lose muscle mass, which can slow the metabolism and increase the risk of injury. So what can you do to turn back time? Clinton Maclin, ACSM-CEP-CPO, an exercise physiologist and safety coach at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center, explains why we lose muscle mass, how to rebuild it and why lean muscle tissue is crucial for health and weight management.

“We lose muscle mass as we age due to sarcopenia, a loss of muscle tissue as a natural part of the aging process,” says Maclin. “Around age 30, our muscle mass and function start to decline.”

The health benefits of gaining and maintaining muscle mass

Maclin says gaining and maintaining muscle mass as you get older can help you:

The best exercises to prevent muscle loss

Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle tissue as we age, affects both men and women.

“Comparable studies have shown some differences in men and women, but the concept ‘use it or lose it’ is true for both men and women,” he says.

The good news is if you add weight-bearing exercises or strength training to your workout routine, you’ll reduce your risk of muscle loss.

“Incorporating weight-bearing activities, strength training and/or a resistance training program to improve muscle mass and strength is extremely beneficial,” says Maclin.

The best exercises to build muscle include:

“Keeping your program consistent, along with gradually increasing the challenge of your routine for each major muscle group helps you gain muscle mass,” he says.

The major muscle groups of the upper body include the:

  • Abdominals (core muscles)

  • Biceps (muscles in the front of the upper arm)

  • Deltoid (muscle on the top of the shoulder)

  • Erector spinae (muscles that run along each side of the spine)

  • Latissimus dorsi (muscle that runs from the mid- to lower back)

  • Pectoral (chest muscles)

  • Trapezius (muscles in the upper back)

  • Triceps (muscle in the back of the arm)

The major muscle groups of the lower body include the:

  • Gastrocnemius (muscle in the lower leg)

  • Gluteus (muscles in the buttocks)

  • Hamstrings (muscles on the back of the thigh)

  • Quadriceps (muscles on the front of the thigh)

  • Soleus (muscle in the lower leg alongside the gastrocnemius)

“If you are new to strength training, consult with an exercise professional, who can develop a safe program tailored for your specific needs,” he adds.

Get more strength training tips from Living Better experts.