Can a 90 year old build muscle?

As we age, muscle mass naturally begins to decline. Most people lose about 1% of their muscle per year after age 30. This decline can lead to decreased strength, mobility issues, and a higher risk of injuries from falls. However, research shows that no matter how old you are, it is possible to build muscle with the right exercise routine and nutrition plan.

Quick Answers

Can a 90 year old gain muscle?

Yes, even at age 90 it is absolutely possible to gain muscle with a targeted strength training routine, proper nutrition, and recovery. Although muscle building potential decreases with age, seniors can still make noticeable muscle gains.

How much muscle can a 90 year old build?

Most 90 year olds can gain 1-3 pounds of muscle in a few months of consistent strength training and sufficient protein intake. The exact amount will vary based on training intensity, nutrition, and individual response. More significant gains are achievable in the first year.

What is the best exercise for a 90 year old to build muscle?

The best exercises for muscle building in seniors focus on major muscle groups, like legs, back, chest and arms. Recommended moves are bodyweight squats, seated rows, push-ups, bicep curls, and others that avoid impact.

How often should a 90 year old strength train?

For optimal muscle building, 90 year olds should strength train 2-3 times per week, allowing at least 1 day of rest between sessions. Workouts should target 6-10 main exercises with 10-15 repetitions to encourage muscle growth.

What should a 90 year old eat to gain muscle?

To maximize muscle growth at age 90, aim for 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day from sources like whey protein, eggs, meat, dairy, beans, and nuts. Get sufficient calories from whole foods and stay hydrated.

Muscle Loss as We Age

Muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, is a natural part of the aging process. After age 30, adults lose on average 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade. This rate of muscle loss typically accelerates after age 60. A 90 year old has potential lost 30-50% of the muscle mass they had in their youth.

There are several factors that contribute to age-related muscle wasting:

  • Reduced production of muscle-building hormones like testosterone, IGF-1, and growth hormone
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Malnutrition or inadequate protein intake
  • Motor neuron loss
  • Inflammation

Loss of muscle mass is directly linked to loss of muscle strength and function. This makes everyday physical tasks more difficult, impairs mobility and balance, and increases the risk of falls and fractures.

Preventing muscle loss is crucial for maintaining health and independence into old age. The good news is that research confirms it’s never too late to rebuild muscle, even into your 90s!

Muscle Building Potential at Age 90

Many people assume that after a certain age, they’re too old to gain muscle. But numerous studies have shown that seniors even in their 80s and 90s can increase muscle mass with targeted exercise programs and nutritional support.

For example, one study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at the effects of resistance training in 90 year old men and women. After 3 months of weight lifting exercises 3 times per week, participants increased their thigh muscle cross-sectional area by 11% and muscle strength by 35-40%.

Another study from McMaster University found that previously sedentary seniors between 70 and 90 years old engaged in 6 months of resistance training were able to achieve up to 5 pounds of lean muscle mass.

While the potential for muscle growth does decrease with advancing age, seniors can still achieve noticeable improvements in muscle mass and strength from dedicated strength training routines. Consistency is key!

Realistic Muscle Building Goals at Age 90

How much muscle can a 90 year old build? With a sound workout plan and nutrition, most previously sedentary 90 year olds can gain:

  • 1-3 lbs of muscle in 2-4 months
  • 3-5 lbs of muscle in 6-12 months

These muscle gains may not seem extraordinary compared to a young adult’s potential. However, even marginal increases in muscle mass can translate into big improvements in strength, mobility, and physical function for the elderly.

Some key factors impacting muscle building potential in seniors include:

  • Biological response – The body’s anabolic response that builds muscle slows down with age.
  • Hormone levels – Declining testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1 hamper muscle growth.
  • Nutrition – Many elderly struggle to eat enough protein and calories to support muscle gains.
  • Training status – Lifelong exercisers retain higher muscle building potential.
  • Health conditions – Chronic diseases like heart failure or arthritis can limit exercise.

With determination and hard work, even nonagenarians can achieve rewarding muscle gains. But expectations should remain realistic, and goals adjusted based on individual circumstances.

Recommended Exercise for Muscle Building After 90

Certain types of exercise are more effective than others for building muscle after age 90. The best strategy focuses on gradually increasing resistance to activate muscle growth.

Experts recommend seniors perform resistance training 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days. This allows adequate rest for muscles to recover between workouts. Sessions should last 45-60 minutes.

Some guidelines for the most effective muscle building exercise after 90:

  • Use a variety of strength moves to target major muscle groups
  • Focus on multi-joint exercises like squats, rows, presses
  • Use free weights, resistance bands, weight machines or body weight
  • Perform 8-15 controlled repetitions per set
  • Work up to 2-4 sets per exercise as strength improves
  • Increase weight/resistance incrementally as you become able

The following are examples of beneficial strength training exercises for 90 year olds wanting to gain muscle:


– Bodyweight squats
– Wall sits
– Leg press machine
– Leg extensions


– Push-ups (wall, knees, standard)
– Seated chest press
– Chest flys with bands


– Seated row
– Lat pulldowns
– Superman holds


– Lateral raises
– Front raises
– Shoulder presses


– Bicep curls
– Tricep extensions
– Hammer curls


– Plank
– Seated twists
– Side bends

Seniors should focus on controlled movements and proper form to maximize gains safely. Exercises can be modified as needed to accommodate physical limitations.

Nutrition for Muscle Building After Age 90

Nutrition plays a critical role in building muscle at any age. To maximize growth, 90 year olds need to pay special attention to protein, calories, hydration and overall diet quality.


Consuming adequate protein is essential for muscle protein synthesis. Experts recommend older adults aim for:

  • 1.0-1.5 g of protein per kg of bodyweight daily
  • 20-30 grams of protein per meal
  • Consume sources of lean protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner

Recommended high-protein foods include lean meats, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts, and protein shakes.


Muscle growth cannot occur in a calorie deficit. Older adults should aim to match calorie intake to needs to support muscle gains. Consuming an additional 250 calories per day can help offset agerelated muscle loss.


Staying well hydrated is critical, as dehydration can negatively impact exercise performance and muscle growth. Aim for at least 8 cups of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids daily.

Diet Quality

Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins. Avoid empty calorie sources like sweets, sodas and refined carbs.

Some supplements like creatine or vitamin D may offer additional muscle building benefits. Consult a doctor before using supplements.

Example Muscle Building Routine for a 90 Year Old

Here is a sample 2 day per week resistance training program designed to help a 90 year old safely gain muscle:

Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated row 2 10-12
Lat pulldown 2 10-12
Chest press 2 10-12
Seated shoulder press 2 10-12
Bicep curls 2 10-12
Tricep extensions 2 10-12

Workout B

Exercise Sets Reps
Bodyweight squats 2 10-12
Standing leg curls 2 10-12
Calf raises 2 10-15
Chest flys 2 10-12
Upright rows 2 10-12
Hammer curls 2 10-12

Perform each workout 2 times per week, with at least 1 day of rest in between sessions. Progress by adding more weight, sets or reps over time.

This simple resistance training plan allows a 90 year old to safely work all the major muscle groups for functional muscle gains. Adjust specific moves as needed based on mobility or other limitations.

Other Benefits of Strength Training After 90

In addition to building muscle mass, regular strength training provides numerous other benefits for the elderly, including:

  • Increased bone density – Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Better balance and stability – Reduces fall risk
  • Enhanced mobility and function
  • Improved cardiac health
  • Better cognitive function
  • Reduced risk of diabetes and obesity
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Boosts mood and self-confidence

Resistance exercise is one of the most effective ways for seniors to maintain health, independence and quality of life. The benefits start immediately and continue with consistent training.

Overcoming Challenges to Strength Training After 90

While it’s clearly worthwhile, many 90 year olds face difficulties starting and sticking with a muscle building workout routine. Some common obstacles include:

  • Safety concerns about getting injured
  • Not knowing how to use gym equipment properly
  • Lack of confidence in one’s abilities
  • Trouble getting to the gym regularly
  • Fear of overexertion or chest pain
  • Difficulty exercising due to chronic health issues
  • Problems with balance or mobility
  • Lack of motivation or encouragement

However, these challenges can be overcome with professional guidance. Working with a certified personal trainer who specializes in senior fitness can help ensure workouts are safe, effective and tailored appropriately.

Seniors should start slowly and focus on exercises they feel comfortable performing. Use lighter resistance and prioritize good form. Simple home exercises using bands, small weights or bodyweight can be effective. Recruiting a workout buddy provides social motivation.

Lastly, it’s important for elderly adults to get medical clearance before starting any new exercise program. A physician can help identify and address any specific risk factors.


Research clearly confirms that seniors even into their 90s can gain muscle through resistance training and proper nutrition. Consistency with the workout routine and protein intake are key to realizing results.

A tailored strength training program just 2-3 days per week provides major benefits beyond just muscle growth, helping improve mobility, function and quality of life. Seniors who commit to getting stronger even at an advanced age can achieve rewarding transformations in their bodies and abilities.

While it may require perseverance, the impressive muscle building potential remaining even at 90 years old makes the effort well worthwhile. By implementing the recommendations in this article, almost any senior can experience the multitude of physical and mental health benefits that come from strength training.

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