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Over-40 Beginners

Youth may have boundless energy and enthusiasm, but patience and wisdom are often in very short supply.

Bodybuilding has a proud tradition of men who displayed superior physiques well into their 40s and often beyond. Notable examples include Bill Pearl, Vince Taylor, Chris Dickerson, Toney Freeman, the late Don Youngblood, Sonny Schmidt and, of course, Ronnie Coleman. What about the guy who doesn’t really get started until he’s over 40?

In a society increasingly preoccupied with antiaging, more men begin serious training later in life. Did they miss the boat by not starting as teenagers, when energy and hormones run at their highest? You could say that, but watching my older brother Dana get serious about bodybuilding a couple of years after he hit 40, I’ve seen that there are some definite advantages to being a late starter. If you’re a newbie who’s passed the “new 30” and wonder how you could count yourself lucky, think about the following:

Mo’ money. The average 45-year-old doesn’t just make three times more money than a 15-year-old; he probably earns quite a bit more. That means he has disposable income to invest in better food, more supplements, a gym membership, books, magazines and DVDs—and perhaps even a personal trainer. Despite his relatively lower testosterone, all those factors—many of which the average teen can only dream of until he starts building a career—can still help him make very good gains.

Patience and wisdom. Youth may have boundless energy and enthusiasm, but patience and wisdom are often in very short supply. Theoretically, we all learn and grow mentally and emotionally as we get older, and that can serve us well as we train in middle age. Your odds of doing things the right way and not making foolish mistakes and errors in judgment lessen significantly. Because muscle growth is a very gradual process and requires a good deal of knowledge and strategy, an older man can have the upper hand.

Less wear and tear. One thing a man starting out in his 40s does not have that his counterparts who have been at the iron for decades do have is the wear and tear of those thousands of heavy workouts on the joints, tendons and ligaments. My brother is seven years older than I am, but I’m the one who always has some kind of ache or pain in the shoulders, lower back or elbows. Healthy joints and connective tissues mean you can train heavy on any exercise without being limited by pain or the risk of reinjuring beat-up areas.

—Ron Harris

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