Nothing is more frustrating than losing muscle mass with age to a person who has been active their entire lives. It would seem that the loss of lean mass with age is an inevitable consequence of the aging process, but this is only partially true. The fact is that you cannot show the same level of muscle mass at 70 as you did at 30 because some changes do occur in the body that is difficult to deal with. That's the bad news. The good news is that if you take some preemptive measures, you can maintain a large degree of muscle mass with age. But past a certain age, it's difficult to add new muscle mass. The reasons for this will be discussed in the following article, but two of the major reasons are a decrease in motor neuron activity and loss of satellite cell activity. Motor neurons are the neurons that innervate muscle tissue, offering a direct connection from the central nervous system to the muscles. Without sufficient motor neuron activity, muscles atrophy and slowly wither away. Indeed, recent studies show that the loss of lower body muscle mass in those past age 40 is largely attributable to decreased motor neuron activity in the lower body muscles. The good news is that much of that can be prevented by regular exercise, although it cannot be completely averted. You can see this in many elite bodybuilding champions over age 40, although the major changes don't occur until past age 50. What happens is a noticeable loss of muscle mass in the lower body, despite maintaining most of the upper body mass. Graphic examples of this can be seen when elite bodybuilders have attempted to make a comeback to a bodybuilding competition.
A few years ago, Kevin Levone, a top professional bodybuilder in the 90s, tried to make a comeback at the Mr.Olympia contest. To his credit, Kevin was able to reproduce much of his formerly heavily muscled upper body. But his legs were clearly not nearly the way they looked in his bodybuilding heyday. According to Kevin, this happened because he suffered a knee injury while preparing to compete in the Olympia and couldn't train his legs for the final three months of the contest. Still, at 52, he remained a remarkable specimen of human muscularity. His contemporary, Flex Wheeler, another elite bodybuilder of the 90s who could easily have won the Mr.Olympia several times if not for the presence of Ronnie Coleman, also attempted a comeback, not at the Mr.Olympia event, but rather at the new competitive division called "Classic bodybuilding." This division focuses on a smaller degree of muscle mass reminiscent of the way bodybuilders looked in the 60s and 70s. Flex at age 51 correctly reasoned that he likely could not achieve his previous level of muscle mass, so opted to compete in the Classic division. While he, similarly to Levone, looked extremely . . .