5 Ways to Age-Proof Your Muscles

“My focus is to be active at age 90, or 110, which means maintaining muscle quality,” says 38-year-old Andy Galpin, Ph.D., who’s a former weightlifting champion; a professor of muscle physiology at California State University, Fullerton; and a coach to elite strength athletes. By “quality,” he means functional muscle strength and muscle size. Both keep you on the move, living longer, and stronger. What most people don’t know: “No single type of exercise is going to get you there,” he says. Instead, here’s everything Galpin does to build and sustain his own muscle quality.

Get enough protein

One of the biggest drivers of aging-related health is- sues—even diabetes—is a loss of muscle quality. To counter that loss, protein is the jam: It provides the building blocks for muscle tissue and increases protein synthesis for muscle growth. A gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day is good, but I’ll usually do more than that. As you get into midlife, you become desensitized to the same stimulus. So past age 40, shoot for 1.3 or even 1.5 grams per pound.

Go beyond a weekly plan

As you age, recovery is slower: The activation of DNA to regrow muscle tissue and the transit of waste products out of the muscles are slower. Testosterone is typically lower. So while younger folks can program on a weekly rhythm—legs on Monday, back on Wednesday, etc.—as you get older, it behooves you to think a rotation might take ten or 14 days. Plan what you want to accomplish every month—strength work, cardio, HIIT—but don’t worry about doing things on the same day of the week. If I’m sore and tight on a day I was going to do intervals, I’ll do the sauna or Jacuzzi, then do the intervals the next day.

Split your routine smarter

To be efficient, I usually default to total-body workouts instead of a split routine, because you hit more muscle more often. Almost 60 percent of your muscle mass is below your belly button, so it should be 60 percent of your training as well. And to get a good workout, don’t be so fixated on the exercise or the device. Kettlebells aren’t magic; bands aren’t magic. None of this stuff matters as much as people think. Execution, consistency, and how hard you’re trying matter most.

Use heat to nourish your muscles

When I’m trying to enhance recovery, I like heat, which increases blood flow. It’s practical—you don’t have to know where to place the electrode or rub the cream. You just get in a bathtub and everything is taken care of: Waste products come out of the muscles; nutrients go in. Make sure you get your body really hot in a bath or sauna for 15 to 20 minutes—a shower probably won’t do it.

Experiment with recovery

There’s not a lot of clear science behind recovery products that help your muscles repair after a workout, yet there’s some merit to them. I think there’s strong potential for CBD and use Soul CBD Rapid Relief cream. I’ve used Normatec boots for years, which increase circulation in your legs, and Mark Pro electrical stimulation. Cryo can be okay for muscle soreness, but a ten- to 15-minute ice bath in 50-degree water is far more effective.

This article originally appeared in the December 2021 issue of Men’s Health.

Andrew Heffernan, CSCS is a health, fitness, and Feldenkrais coach, and an award-winning health and fitness writer.

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