The best hypertrophy bodybuilding split for the over 40s

Over 40 hypertrophy training

What is the best hypertrophy bodybuilding split for over 40's?

The best hypertrophy bodybuilding split for the over 40's is one that trains each muscle group at least twice per week. 

Using heavy compound lifts to promote testosterone production along with isolation movements to promote hypertrophy will give you the best chance of gaining muscle mass and strength.

Something happens to us when we turn 40. We start to realise that we are not invincible and that we are not going to live forever. 

All of a sudden, we have an urge to step up our game. Whether it be for the sake of our kids, our partners or simply

just longevity. 

One of the most appealing ways to get into shape is to hit the gym and start lifting weights but, now that we are over 40 and protein synthesis is becoming harder, is this a viable option?

This article will explore the challenges of bodybuilding if you are over 40 as well as the most effective ways to achieve maximum hypertrophy. 

We will look into methods used by successful, natural bodybuilders in their 40s and analyse their methods to come up with the best hypertrophy split for the over 40s.

Starting bodybuilding in your 40's.

You may have trained with weights in your younger years and noticed some very easy gains. Bodybuilding is easy if you are in your early 20's as your body is bursting with testosterone and growth hormones. 

Now that you are in your 40s, you may find it a little tougher. Your testosterone levels are starting to decline and your body becomes more stubborn when it comes to protein synthesis making it hard to build muscle. 

It is not all doom and gloom though, there are plenty of bodybuilders in their 40s, 50s and beyond that are still getting great results because they know how to adapt their program, diet and supplementation. 

If you have never lifted weights before, consider our beginner bodybuilder program to give you a good foundation and knowledge of correct form. If you already know your way around the gym, this hypertrophy program is for you!

Why is hypertrophy harder in your 40s?

Hypertrophy is easy when your body is in its growing phase and your veins are pumping pure testosterone. When we hit our 40s, it takes much more effort, dedication and intelligence. 

The magic age seems to be 43. This is the average point in a human being's life that the body decides to stop building cells at a rapid rate and muscles will naturally start deteriorating. 

We can combat this muscle deterioration by regularly lifting weights, eating a high protein diet and supplementing our diet. 

In our 20s, we could get away with training a muscle once a week and still get great hypertrophy results. In our 40s, this muscle is going to have to be worked at least twice a week for similar results. 

For maximum muscle growth, we need to make sure that we are providing the body with enough clean protein. 

This can come from lean meats, fish, eggs, vegetables or protein drinks. A general guide is to take 1g of protein for every lb of lean body weight but as we get older, it becomes harder for our body to break down protein. 

For this reason, it is a good idea to up this to around 1,3g per lb of lean body weight. 

You can find your lean body weight by finding your body fat percentage and subtracting that percentage from your overall body weight. 

If your lean body weight is 200lbs, aim for 260 grams of protein a day. This may sound like a lot but having excess is not going to be a problem. 

If you struggle to get to this number with food, supplement with protein shakes or a protein isolate drink. These can provide 50g of fast-acting, easily digestible protein for around 200 calories. 

Assisted hypertrophy for the over 40s.

Cycling Steroids.

There are many ways that you can 'assist' with hypertrophy in your 40s. Some bodybuilders will opt for cycling steroids to assist with recovery and keep the body in an anabolic state. 

If this is your choice, make sure that you do it with proper medical supervision and are fully aware of the risks and side effects involved. It makes hypertrophy much easier but comes at a heavy financial cost and, if not used correctly, a heavy health cost. 

The strategy in this program is aimed at the natural bodybuilder in their 40s. 

The natural approach is going to be totally different to the assisted approach as we will need to train more frequently to keep our body in an anabolic state. 

We will also need to pay more attention to recovery with rest, sleep, nutrition and supplementation. 

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Another popular method is TRT which stands for testosterone replacement therapy. It will come as no surprise to learn that as we get older, our body will start to produce significantly lower levels of testosterone which are an important factor in muscle growth. 

Some lifters will opt for testosterone injections through private clinics. These can be very effective if you have really low testosterone levels but several downsides should also be considered such as blood clots, infertility and heart issues. 

Make sure you do your full research, have a medical beforehand and only use a reputable clinic if this is a route that you wish to embark upon.
Testosterone in the over 40

Factors that affect our testosterone levels.
  • Age - As we progress throughout 40s, we will naturally produce lower levels of testosterone.
  • Genetics - Genetics play a big part in our testosterone production levels.
  • Lifestyle - An active lifestyle with lots of heavy lifting will force the body to produce testosterone.
  • Diet - Eating a lot of trans fats and refined sugars will harm testosterone levels.
  • Health - Obesity is one of the major factors affecting testosterone production.

the best bodybuilding split for the over 40

How can I force my body to produce more testosterone?

We can force our body to produce more testosterone by losing excess body fat, becoming more active, eating a clean diet and regularly lifting weights. Heavy compound movements such as deadlifts and squats have been proven to put excessive strain on the central nervous system and force the body to produce testosterone. 

This is only a temporary release that lasts for less than an hour but by regularly performing these lifts, our overall testosterone levels will eventually increase. This will assist in the hypertrophy of the rest of the body during your accessory lifts. 

What we eat is also a major factor in testosterone production. Take a look at The Man Diet by Chad Howse. This book will change the way that you think about food and is packed full of great recipes. The full collection of eBooks is usually $47 but if you click on this link you can get them all for only $19.

The over 40 bodybuilding diet strategy.

Before we delve into the workout plan, let's take a quick look at the best diet to complement it. Many advanced lifters think of bodybuilding like a car. 

The workout is the body whereas the diet is the engine that keeps that body moving. What you eat is going to play a major part in muscle development, strength, energy levels, mood and general health. 

The strategy detailed below is very general. If you are a hard gainer looking to put on weight, up the calories so that you are in a higher surplus, if you are overweight and looking to recompose, reduce the calories so that you are in a slight deficit. 

Calories are required for the over 40 bodybuilder.

The first thing you need to know is your maintenance level. This is the number of calories that you need to eat each day to function. It can be estimated on various free apps such as MyFitnessPal or Apple Fitness. 

By taking your height, age, weight and activity levels into account, we can get a general idea. If you have an apple watch or fitness tracker, it will generate a more accurate number using a variety of metrics. 

Once we know our maintenance level, we can think about whether or not we need to be in a surplus or deficit. 

As a general guide, the average male will need around 2500 calories a day and a female around 2000. This, of course, will vary from person to person. 

Bodybuilding - Hypertrophy for the skinny over 40s

If you are skinny and looking to bulk up, you will need to be in a calorie surplus. Start at around 500 calories and scale it up if you feel that you are not gaining as much muscle mass as you think you should be. 

If you are constantly tired and fatigued, add more calories until you find your level. Various protein powders are aimed at bulking but the best method is to try to get the majority of your calories through lean meats, fish, healthy fats and whole grains. 

Only use these protein powders if you can not reach your goals with food alone. 

Bodybuilding - Hypertrophy for the obese over the 40s

By the time we get to our 40s, most of us have gained a few pounds. If you are only slightly overweight, regular training and eating a clean diet will take care of the body fat without worrying about calories too much. 

If you are in the obese category, you should train with a calorie deficit. Don't drop too much as your training will take its toll on your body and you will need enough in the tank to recover. 

Dropping 300 calories a day is a good starting point. If you feel tired all of the time, go for 150-200 calorie deficit, if you are not losing enough body fat and feel okay, drop the calories a little further. 

When looking to lose body fat, do not just go by the scales. Regular weight training will lead to an increase in muscle weight. Use other methods of tracking results. Even if it is just the mirror. 

A lot of lifters think that they can not gain muscle mass whilst in a calorie deficit. Whilst this is true for lean bodybuilders with a low body fat percentage if you have a lot of body fat, a calorie deficit is not going to be an issue. 

Your body will draw on fat stores for energy leaving your food to help with muscle hypertrophy and recovery. 

Hypertrophy when you're over 40 - the best supplements.

Some people are put off by the term 'supplements' and think that they can get everything they need just from their diet. 

Whilst this is not impossible, it is highly unlikely and you would have to eat a lot! There are quite a few supplements on the market today that will help with hypertrophy goals, digestion, mental alertness, fatigue and bodily functions. These are the ones that we recommend for this program...

Protein. Protein is essential for muscle growth and it can be quite hard to hit your markers with lean meats, fish, eggs and vegetables. 

Having a protein supplement in the cupboard is fairly essential for helping to g=meet your daily protein goals and for taking as a post-workout supplement. Whey protein is a fast-acting, easily absorbed form of protein so it is ideal as a kickstart to workout recovery. 

Whey protein comes in a variety of flavours from many manufacturers. Our recommendation is from MyProtein as it is easily digestible, it mixes well and there are some great flavour options. 

Whey protein for over 40

If you struggle to digest whey protein or find that it bloats you out, another good option is whey isolate. The clear whey isolate drink from AMFIT is great as it mixes into a clear, refreshing drink and comes in some great flavours. The orange and mango flavour is like an orange squash drink. 

Clear whey for hypertrophy
Multivitamins. Multivitamins are essential for mental alertness, physical health and overall wellbeing. Opt for a high-quality multivitamin and give it a few days to build up in your bloodstream. 

You will soon notice a difference in your energy levels and mental alertness. The body can struggle to digest cheaper multivitamins and often, any goodness is passed straight out through your urine. 

Take the time to read reviews and opt for a slow-release multivitamin such as Alphamen.

Fish oil for hypertrophy
Fish Oils. A good omega 3 supplement is not only great for your brain and heart function but also assists with joint recovery and repair. As we get into our 40s, this is obviously very beneficial. 

Healthy fats from eating fish, olive oil, avocados and nuts all help to contribute to this but supplementing with extra fish oil is not going to do any harm.

The best hypertrophy bodybuilding split for the over 40s.

Now that we have covered all of the boring bits, let's take a look at the best hypertrophy bodybuilding split. This is a five day per week strategy with two active recovery days. 

You can train on any of the five days and the recovery days do not have to be taken together. During recovery days, take part in light activities such as walking, cycling or swimming. 

Make sure that the diet and supplementation is consistent on rest days but allow yourself a cheat meal once a week. This can be whatever you like to eat but keep it to just one meal. 

The general structure of this hypertrophy workout plan is based on a push/pull split but there is a difference, we will be adding in lifts for muscles that are predominantly made up of fast-twitch fibres and require more frequent activation. 

This is similar to our HyperGrowth program where you will find the data and science that backs this practice.

Exercises can be substituted to suit your equipment or mobility requirements but try to keep the big compound lifts in place. These are the staple of the program and are required to release testosterone. 

You will notice that this split does not follow other conventional workout splits that you may have used before. Instead of opting for simplicity, we are using a scientifically backed strategy that aims to work each muscle as soon as it has fully recovered from its previous workout. 

The biceps, rear delts, calves and abs recover very quickly so they will be worked 4-5 times in a week. The lats and chest take a little longer to recover so they will only be hit a maximum of twice with a heavy load followed by a light activation on the last day. 

As the muscles will be getting activated frequently, you do not need to do countless sets and wasted volume. We will be hitting each muscle hard and heavy but only for a few sets on each workout. 

This has been proven to give better hypertrophy results in the older lifter. You may not get the pump that you would feel with a dedicated leg day but the overall results will be much better than that of a bro split. 

Finally, there is no leg day to contend with. Leg days are the first thing to get dropped by many lifters as they struggle to recover and can not be bothered with the limited mobility it can leave you with for a few days after. 

By splitting our leg workout throughout the week, we are getting the same volume as we would from a leg day but optimising it for hypertrophy and doing away with the DOMS. 

Day 1 - Push

Squat                                         6x3reps
Standing calf raises 4x15 on each leg
Incline bench press                   5x5reps
Dips                                          3x12
Dumbbell lateral raises (sset)   3x10
Skull crushers                           3x8
Close grip rope curls                3x drop set 15 followed by 15 at 50%

Day 2 - Pull

Deadlift                                    6x2 reps
Leg curl                                    3x8 reps
Lat pulldown (wide grip)         3x8 reps
Machine row (narrow grip)      3x10 reps
Face pulls                                 4x15 reps
Cable shrugs                            3x12 reps (for the first six reps hold the top for 5 seconds and lower slowly)
Wide grip bicep curls              3x12-15 reps
Machine crunches                    5x15 reps

Day 3 - Push

Front squat                               4x8reps
Seated chest press                    4x8-10 reps
Pec dec flyes                            3x8 reps (8-second negatives)
Seated shoulder press              4x6 reps
Tricep overhead extensions     3x10 reps
Seated calf press                      3x12 reps
Hanging leg raises                   4x10 reps

Day 4 - Pull

Stiff legged deadlift                4x8 reps
Pull-ups (narrow grip)            4x8 reps
Cable row (wide grip)            3x8 reps
Upright rows                          3x9 reps
Smith machine shrugs            4x8 reps
Dumbbell hammer curls         3x10-12 reps
Machine crunches                   4x15 reps

Day 5 - Hypertrophy

Leg extension                         4x8 reps
Leg curl                                  3x12 reps
Hip abductions                       3x12 reps
Chest dips                               2 mins AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
Standing calf press                 4x15 reps on each leg
Hanging leg raises                  4x10 reps
Machine preacher curl            3x10 (slow negative reps)
Tricep rope extension (FST7) 7x10-12 (20-second max rest between sets for stretching muscle)

It is recommended to complete this split for 12 weeks after which you should take 5-7 days off to de-load. You can then repeat the split as many times as you like. 

We hope that you enjoy this program and the results that come with it. Please comment below to let us know how you are getting on with it along with progress pictures. 

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