70-year-old-muscle-body

My brother sent me over a video last week that I felt compelled to share with you.

Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr. is a 70-year-old natural bodybuilder who started working out when he as 44 years old. The muscular physique and strength he has achieved is awe-inspiring (he deadlifts 405 pounds at a body weight of 176 pounds). I think we all can learn a lot from Sonny’s philosophy on aging and more importantly, live his message.

This article is timely as I’ve been answering a lot of questions recently about, “How do I train if I’m over 50 years old?” and “Why are there not more articles on BuiltLean.com for older folks?”. In my opinion, age does not dictate how you should train, or what exercises you should, or shouldn’t do. Choosing the appropriate training program is based on your body condition, not your age. If condition and strength are the same, the workout of a 60 year old and a 25 year old can be exactly the same.

This video was originally published in September 2013 by the Augusta Chronicle.

Sonny Facts:

  • 5-foot, 10-inches and 176-pounds
  • First started lifting weights at 44 years old as a result of a broken marriage
  • Works the graveyard shift at Kimberly-Clark as a forklift driver
  • Works out twice a day to build his body
  • Eats twice per day (eggs, bacon, and pancakes for breakfast + lean meat for dinner)
  • Eats 180 grams of protein per day mostly from protein supplements.
  • He feels the same as he did when he was 44 at 70 years old – no different.

    Top 10 Sonny Quotes:

    1. “People have the misconception that age makes you old, but I realize that it’s a state of mind that makes you old”

    2. “Age is just a number, and it gives most people – the majority of people – a reason to be lazy and not do anything.”

    3. “I want people to recognize what I’m doing and realize that it can be done.”

    4. “A lot of young guys, they go home, sit around, watch TV and do nothing – I’ve seen a lot of young guys who are older than me.”

    5. “People ask me when I’m going to retire. I say ‘never’.”

    6. “I really, honestly, I’ve never felt like I aged since I started bodybuilding at 44. I don’t feel no different.”

    7. “As long as I’m busy, I don’t get hungry.”

    8. “People ask me when I’m going to act my age. Well, I’m not an actor, and who set the rules about how you’re supposed to act at a certain age, anyway?”

    9. “Age don’t play a factor in how I feel in what I’m doing.”

    10. “If you start thinking you’re old subconsciously, your conscious mind is going to take hold of that and your body is going to start acting old, feeling old. Then you’re old.”

    What do you think of Sonny’s story?

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    57 Comments

    1. profile avatar
      Rajesh Mar 03, 2014 - 12:43 #

      This is the best post ever. Thank you Mark.
      Nothing can be more motivating than this.
      Am 40 and there are days when I wonder, how would my work out be in 15 or 20 years. I am sure now, that I wont wonder like that any more.

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 03, 2014 - 12:58 #

        Awesome, excited to hear that Rajesh!

        1. profile avatar
          Mike Baker Aug 16, 2016 - 12:26 #

          I’m 65 and have been working out for 36 years–heavy weight training for 25 of them–I feel the same way as Sonny. There’s no backing off because of getting older that’s just an excuse–6 days a week for me–once a day—Sonny going at it twice a day: He’s the man!!

        2. profile avatar
          Greg Aug 19, 2016 - 22:09 #

          Mike Baker just wrote into you 3 days ago, and he’s younger then me but is he taking supplements? I’m 68 just went on a no meat diet (because of hi cholesterol) and started working out a month ago. Is there a good supplement I could take to help build back my muscle lose? I’m a small guy always have been but kept myself in good shape. NEVER lifted weights before. I’m 155 lbs and 5’10” same as when I got out of the army in 1969.. Thanks Greg

    2. profile avatar
      Dan Mar 05, 2014 - 16:09 #

      This is just awesome 🙂
      I will turn 48 in 15days, had exactly the same path and almost the same body now 🙂 (starting from 93kgs in 2007 to 67kgs today)

    3. profile avatar
      Marq Mar 05, 2014 - 16:12 #

      Now that´s impressive! Living proof what resistance training can do to a person at any age.

    4. profile avatar
      NASH Mar 05, 2014 - 16:19 #

      Great Article.
      Even I am 44 weighing 178 lbs. But i have a very skinny physique. Waist 33 6ft 1 inches tall. I am a vegetarian and my nerves cannot take any supplements like whey or multi vitamins. I get very hyper if i consume them.
      Marc I would appreciate if you can suggest how i can increase my protein intake naturally and build muscle.
      thanks

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 05, 2014 - 21:34 #

        @NASH – We definitely need to write an article about protein for vegetarians.

        It’s tough to get ample protein as a vegetarian, but it’s possible. Of course if you can eat eggs / greek yogurt, that can help. Complimentary proteins can also help. The goal is to find foods you like that have a high protein/carb ratio.

        In terms of supplements, John Levya who is our technical editor swears by Plant Fusion, which is a vegetarian protein supplement.

        1. profile avatar
          NASH Mar 06, 2014 - 10:40 #

          Thank you Marc for a prompt reply. Unfortunately i also don’t eat eggs but I do consume milk , cheese and nuts etc. I would study as per your recommendation and increase protein intake and do some weight training to build up.

    5. profile avatar
      John den Os Mar 05, 2014 - 16:49 #

      I’m happy I finally found proof that you can achieve whatever you want, even at a higher age. I’m almost 54 now, and started with fitness and swimming three months ago.
      I just want to be as well shaped, as I was when I was in my twenties. My friends and colleagues say that’s impossible, and that I’m too obsessive. But how can you be obsessive if you really like the things you are doing?
      I’m sure I will do my workouts for the rest of my life, and the only thing I regret is that I didn’t start with it 20 – 30 years ago.
      I will share the video of Sam – “Sonny” to encourage others…

    6. profile avatar
      Zeeshan Mar 05, 2014 - 23:03 #

      Goodness. Resistance training must do your looks a lot of good too. The dude don’t look anything like 70 to me! Anyway, more reason why I need to start. I remember reading on my facebook page about a woman living in Russia who was above 70 and who would regularly exercise using her body weight in winter! So, its true. Age does not matter!

    7. profile avatar
      Khairul Mar 06, 2014 - 00:54 #

      This man just beat arnold schwarzenegger. Tortoise beat the hare.

    8. profile avatar
      David Mar 06, 2014 - 01:28 #

      My favorite quote is “People have the misconception that age makes you old, but I realize that it’s a state of mind that makes you old”

      Amazing

    9. profile avatar
      Oliver Mar 06, 2014 - 09:25 #

      Amazing story!!! I love reading stuff like this!

    10. profile avatar
      Mohamed Feroz Mar 08, 2014 - 08:03 #

      Really Amazing! Sonny Hats off to you. Marc thanks for sharing this ,

      Sonny story motivates a lot to me and hope others in any part of the world

      He proved ” Where there is a will ,there is a way!

    11. profile avatar
      Jairo Mar 08, 2014 - 08:04 #

      Awesome Marc, very inspiring.

      Quote 8 is the best 🙂

      Thanks for posting.

      1. profile avatar
        chrysalis Mar 10, 2014 - 20:39 #

        Agreed, Quote 8 really stood out for me, too!

    12. profile avatar
      Ken Mar 08, 2014 - 08:10 #

      I’m 53 years old, work part time as a personal trainer and thought I was in pretty good shape for my age. I gotta whole lotta catchin’ up to do.
      What an inspirational guy.
      You Go Sonny!!!

    13. profile avatar
      Randy Mar 08, 2014 - 08:30 #

      This guy is great. Yes, age should not be an excuse. I started jumping at 55 years old. I am a Masters All American High Jumper, Senior Games Gold Medal winner in the Standing Long Jump, and current World Record holder in the Standing Vertical Jump for my age.

    14. profile avatar
      Ken Holloway Mar 08, 2014 - 08:43 #

      Marc,

      Thanks so much for the great post. I’m a fit and hard-charging 52 years young, and I plan to stay healthy and active for the duration. I have the same expectations and philosophy that Sonny has (about how age is a state of mind), and it’s nice to see it in action and confirms my belief that we never have to get old. Awesome!

    15. profile avatar
      Steve Mar 08, 2014 - 09:07 #

      Hi Marc,

      I loved the video and the philosophy he has about
      Age.

      I wanted to add in regards to protein that beans
      Are an excellent source.

      Black beans, chick peas mixes with cottage cheese
      Are an excellent source as well as for fiber.

      Great content! Thanks.

    16. profile avatar
      vin Mar 08, 2014 - 09:23 #

      Brilliant article. I started working out 18 months ago at 63 when my massage therapist advised me to do some exercises with small weights to help with a back problem and i got the bug.
      Firstly I lost 31 lbs of fat by simply not visiting the fridge at night after dinner. Over the last 10 months i have put on11 lbs of muscle and i do have a six pack if not incredibly defined. I do a full body workout three times a week and love it.
      i want to put on another 8 lbs of muscle if i can over the next 18 months.
      The hardest part of all this was realizing that the people around me who thought i was strange at my age working out were wrong. I took me some time to realize i was the winner in this situation and not them.
      Thanks again for showing me i am on the right path with this article.

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 08, 2014 - 19:06 #

        Awesome, Vin. That’s great to hear! Yes, learning more about how your body moves and strengthening with exercise will help you have a much higher quality of life for many years to come.

    17. profile avatar
      Stephanie Mar 08, 2014 - 09:56 #

      This is an awesome story. Have you ever heard of Ernestine Shepherd? She a 74 year old body builder and she’s pretty awesome too. You should check her out as well. She’s in the Guiness Book of World Records.

    18. profile avatar
      ww Mar 08, 2014 - 11:57 #

      Marc,

      What an amazing story! I am so encouraged and motivated by this remarkable man!

      I am 52 and only started working out the past 2 years. I NEVER want to stop working out! I LOVE IT and wish I had started when I was young.

      This video, to me, is a glimpse of what MY future may be if I persevere. I sometimes get discouraged about “slow” progress. But this video puts things in perspective and now I realize that I just need to be consistent and patient and good things will happen!

      But, like we have all heard before, it really is NOT about the destination (albeit Mr. Bryant’s is AMAZING), but rather the journey itself. No doubt his life has been better the past 26

    19. profile avatar
      Ruth Morriss Mar 08, 2014 - 12:37 #

      Use it or lose it !

    20. profile avatar
      Johnny Mar 08, 2014 - 13:10 #

      Thanks for sharing this Mark, I started going to the gym 2 years ago and started doing lifting progressively a year ago. I started reading your articles recently and they have opened my mind and knowledge thanks to your writing, I can now comprehend many aspects of working out thoroughly. It’s openness like this that makes readers contribute to keep on sharing the knowledge. Thanks again.

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 08, 2014 - 19:07 #

        Thanks, Jonny.

    21. profile avatar
      Hiwot Mar 08, 2014 - 13:29 #

      Thank you much for all you bring to us !!! Inspirational article and video !!!

    22. profile avatar
      hm Mar 08, 2014 - 13:35 #

      Great video!

    23. profile avatar
      Rusty Mar 08, 2014 - 13:40 #

      Thanks for posting this article. Great motivation. Two years ago I was 55 years old, 259 lbs, and tired all the time. I did not start on a weight program, but rather on an elliptical workout, and better diet. My motivation was to “recapture my youth”, to be able to run bleachers and run “wind sprints” like a did in high wcho football. I just wanted to fell young again, to enjoy working up a sweat rather than avoiding it. I was able to lose 30 lbs in 10 months.

      Sadly though, my motivation waned, and I gained 15 of it back.

      Time to get busy again. This story has inspired me.

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 08, 2014 - 19:08 #

        Happy to hear that Rusty. Ultimately, fitness is a lifestyle, it’s not a destination. It’s good to set short term, and long term goals, but the magic happens in the process.

    24. profile avatar
      Dutchwhiskey Mar 08, 2014 - 16:08 #

      Hi, I didn’t see anything in the article mentioning TRT. Isn’t there a natural drop in testosterone as men age, resulting in muscle loss? While staying fit into your 60s, 70s and beyond is certainly possible, I find it difficult to believe such muscle mass as Sonny displays is naturally achievable without some type of testosterone maintenance.
      What do you think Mark?

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 08, 2014 - 19:18 #

        While Sonny does look very muscular, he’s only 176 pounds at a height of 5’10”. He’s not 200 pounds of muscle, in which case I would definitely think he was on something. I came across this article that (Testosterone Does Not Necessarily Wane With Age. Many studies that show decreases in testosterone and increases in body fat with age are based on studies analyzing people who stop exercising and give up on their bodies. So it’ based on correlation, not causation.

        I was just at a fitness conference the last two days and some of these male presenters in their 40’s and 50’s were as mobile as children. It was crazy. These guys would put 20 years olds to shame, and many joked how they felt much older at 25 than they do now in their 40’s and 50’s. I really do believe for the vast majority of our lives our bodies and minds can remain very strong, fit, and flexible if we continue to exercise, eat natural foods, and have a healthy lifestyle.

    25. profile avatar
      John Mar 08, 2014 - 17:01 #

      Good man! Im 43 and due to a very busy schedule have been thinking Im probably getting a bit too old to keep this up and working out is not sustainable as I have times when I don’t work out due to time constraints and family responsibilities which leave me feeling negative and mentally weak a couple of weeks later when I resume, I agree with Sonny, once over the mental barrier you feel better from workout 1. I like his simple approach to food too!

    26. profile avatar
      Denise Mar 08, 2014 - 19:26 #

      This video was so inspiring! Sonny has a great philosophy on life and exercise. I totally agree that age has nothing to do with how intense your workouts are. I am 66 and each year I feel like I am in better condition. I love to push myself and get those endorphins going!

    27. profile avatar
      George Godin Mar 08, 2014 - 20:31 #

      Hi Marc!

      Kudos for this excellent post. This is actually one of the best post I have read so far today. I really have to agree with Sonny that “Age is just a number, and it gives most people – the majority of people – a reason to be lazy and not do anything.” This is actually really true. I really admire him because at his age, he looks so young.

    28. profile avatar
      JMF Mar 08, 2014 - 20:41 #

      His performance is commendable without discussion!

      I personally must be missing something essential. I started working out at 52 – never did before- and am now 57. In my first session, I threw up on the static bike after 2 minutes just warming up. But since, my strength has been growing amazingly. I maxed out all of the machines in the gym. For example, I am now at 5 x 12 reps of bicep curls with 70 lb dumbbells, 600 fully weighted ab exercises 5 times a week, 40-50 chin-ups + dips to start with each time to warm up (x 3 sets), over 1000 lbs leg press etc without going into more details. I am 6 ft tall and 165 lbs. It has not changed since I started.

      There is absolutely no visible difference at all in my muscles, all still minuscule, as if I had never exercised in my life. I still have a huge belly, even though I am a tooth pick otherwise. Strength does build up, but it does not show at all externally. Some one told me I was likely lacking protein. I therefore have been eating 180g every day (protein supplement) for the last 2 years. No effect whatsoever, except an upset stomach at times when I over indulge in the stuff. 5 x 1.5 hours of gym per week. Big sweat each time. Muscle soreness 365 days per year. Testosterone levels too low? I had my doctor test me: normal levels.

      The only explanation I have (which was told to me by a doctor specialized in muscles that I consulted for a tennis elbow) is that I am too old to build any muscle whatsoever and shed the pear shaped trunk. The only thing that can happen is increase in strength, of which I now have way more than what I need.)

      If anyone has any useful advice on this matter – i.e. how an old fart can reduce strength gain and gain muscle mass instead – I would be much interested.

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 12, 2014 - 22:52 #

        I would recommend consulting with a medical doctor who is also very well versed with exercise/diet to look in detail at your nutrition and exercise regimen and run some hormone tests. If you are around Philadelphia, you could see Charlie Seltzer, who is a Medical Doctor who contributes to BuiltLean. He can likely help you out. It sounds like your issue is more complicated than simple doing a certain type of exercise or eating natural foods.

    29. profile avatar
      Ed Mar 08, 2014 - 22:37 #

      thanks for this, Marc; it’s inspirational for a guy like me who will soon be pushing 70. I can relate to still feeling young due to keeping in shape with weights and cardio.

    30. profile avatar
      Isaac Mar 08, 2014 - 23:04 #

      What an inspiration and physique!

    31. profile avatar
      Karen Rathbone Mar 09, 2014 - 06:13 #

      Brlliant article and I edorse every word. I am a 60 year old Personal Trainer and will never stop.

    32. profile avatar
      v.vidyanath sastry Mar 09, 2014 - 11:26 #

      Great.I am 62 year old and regularly do workout in gym,Yoga or long walks and pranayama for 40 minutes.I am showing your article to all my folks who keep question me whether workout I am doing necessary at this age.Thanks.

    33. profile avatar
      Ted Mar 09, 2014 - 19:46 #

      Good work Sonny – thank you for the inspiring role model. I am 67 and have just started weight training. I am working towards a fitness model body at 70. Like you say – deterioration with age is not a mandate – it is merely an option (Age Blasters)

    34. profile avatar
      Frank A. Mar 10, 2014 - 21:02 #

      Marc ! I sent a request from your website about “…info for guys over 70”, and your office was good enough to refer me to this site. Thank her for me. I turned 76 over the weekend. About 18yr.ago I found myself in the ER with a 98% blockage of the LAD (The Widow Maker). My cardiologist in the hospital (who has been my cardiologist since then) was a fantastic looking Latin from South America, who looked as if could easily play on a soccer team with ease. Little did I know he “Practiced what he preached to his patients”…..exercise and diet. He open my clogged artery and inserted a stent and here
      I am 18yr.later still passing stress tests and Echocardiograms….with little or no Rx’s.
      I asked him why I had my heart attack since I ate reasonably healthy (mostly veggies) and exercised routinely at Bally’s, NEVER smoked in my life (exposed to 2nd.hand smoke at work) and NEVER did drugs. HIS ANSWER: “Frank, if you had not practiced all that over the past years we probably could not be having this conversation.” . Right now I am at
      5’9″/177 (dripping wet), 23%BMI….and in spite of working out with weights and cardio three times a week I have hit a plateau. The “Trainers” at my 24-Hr.Fitness are young and I doubt seriously if they have had ANY experience with older men….and I sure don’t need to injure myself at this age (Older tends to heal slower….if at all.).
      I went through radiation and brachytherapy for prostate cancer back in 2000; have been in total remission since mid-2001. Testosterone therapy is out of the question even though mine is below the lower end of ‘normal’ .
      So, where do I go from here?

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 12, 2014 - 22:45 #

        Hey Frank, congrats on your success since surgery. It’s outside my scope of practice to make any recommendations given your medical issues. I recommend finding a smart physical therapist, or medical doctor who can help you. Daily exercise and eating organic foods that are not processed is something you should talk about with these people. I’m a big fan of daily exercise when your older especially.

        1. profile avatar
          Frank A Mar 13, 2014 - 10:38 #

          Good Morning, Marc !
          Allow me to clear up a few things. I never had surgery (neither for the clogged artery nor the prostate cancer). Cardiologist simply open’d up the clogged artery and inserted a stent (which is still wide open as of 4/2013). My prostate cancer was
          treated with radiation (external as well as 126 little rice size radiated pellets).
          I respect your statement about your scope as a trainer….greatly appreciated.
          I eat as much organic foods as possible….of course one never knows when one
          is eating at a restaurant.
          Frank !

    35. profile avatar
      santos Mar 11, 2014 - 01:11 #

      its amazing to c a 70 yr young guy doing xcercise so regularly and truly.
      its a hope for many to strive to achieve their dreams now as there is no age limit.

      I too am exercise fanatic and regular each morning to gym .

      1. profile avatar
        Frank A Mar 13, 2014 - 10:44 #

        Hey Santos !
        Thanks for the compliment. I really don’t regard myself as an exercise fanatic. My long time cardiologist suggested to me (as well as to other patients), that exercise and proper eating choices and habits MUST BE a “Life Style” change …….not a diet and “exercise program”. He also suggested that patients be “Proactive” in their health-care. Proactive patients tend to receive better care and certainly obtain better results.
        Frank !

    36. profile avatar
      Craig Mar 28, 2014 - 10:56 #

      Hi Guys, im 44 and have been training since I was 18, the exciting part of getting to a mature age you can not only look great and healthy, but you can become a better trainer with experience, Mark you are truly a legend I love your articles man.You ever do a seminar down under let me know man, Sonny looks great. we can all look in great shape if we believe, guys u want to check out a legend type in Tom haffey 83 this guy is a machine in speedos it be good everyone

      Love craig

    37. profile avatar
      Burt Aug 02, 2016 - 09:56 #

      This young man is the man. Great attidude

    38. profile avatar
      Kevin Christie Oct 17, 2016 - 04:27 #

      I’m 70,And I have joined my local gym so I’m going to train again .I have always been fit ex military few Years doing karate worked in film Retired at 68 need to do something to keep me fit, and this is it.

    39. profile avatar
      Mike Baker Oct 27, 2016 - 14:16 #

      There was a question about if I take supplements: No – I never take anything. No drugs or supplements of any kind. I just don’t believe in them. As far as diet, I believe food groups are over-rated and exaggerated. Portion control is the best practice no matter what you eat. And get as much sleep as you can. I believe sleep/rest is the most important thing you can do for staying healthy and being able to fight off illness.

      1. profile avatar
        Kristin Rooke, CPT Oct 27, 2016 - 14:44 #

        Those are all awesome lifestyle tips, Mike. It definitely sounds like you’ve figured out some of the most essential strategies to stay fit and healthy for the long-term. We also believe that sleep, nutrition, and exercise are all important, and we agree that supplements are unnecessary to reach your fitness goals. Thanks for sharing your insights!

        -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

    40. profile avatar
      Silas Jergenson Dec 12, 2016 - 16:18 #

      I have learned several just right stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how so much effort you place to make this type of excellent informative web site.

    41. profile avatar
      Fred Avery Dec 12, 2016 - 17:45 #

      The video I seen mentioned he was a vegan, he said he loves beans

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