For many seniors, exercise and staying active are extremely important to keep them mentally and physically strong. Adding strength training to your daily exercise routine can help ward of age-related muscle loss, promote mobility, keep bones strong, prevent falls and even help combat depression and cognitive decline.
For those that are not experienced in a gym or weight room, it can be somewhat intimidating to start exercising with weights. It’s all good! We are breaking down a simple strength training regimen to help you get started in a safe, effective and fun way that will make you a strong, active senior.
The key to getting started with weight/resistance training is to start slowly and to focus on maintaining proper form while working out. You should work with weights and resistance that is comfortable and allows you to keep control during the movements. This will reduce your risk of injury and allow you to get maximum results.
When performing a particular resistance exercise, work yourself up to completing three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Once you are comfortable with that weight and repetition, you will want to increase the amount of weight in order to increase your strength. Depending on the exercise you’re performing, resistance bands can also be great alternatives to traditional free weights like dumbbells.
If you need help perfecting your form or learning what movements target specific muscle groups, working with a personal trainer for some one-on-one sessions. Youtube.com is also a wonderful resource for searching up short videos that will explain workouts and proper form.
The goal starting out should be to aim to do strength-training exercises three to four days per week, on nonconsecutive days. On days that you are not strength-training, perform cardio exercises.
You may have some muscle soreness after your first few workouts. That is not a bad thing, it is just your body’s way of telling you that it’s getting stronger. You will want to give your body plenty of rest and time between workouts.
The Top Strength Exercises for Older Adults
The key is to strengthen your body’s largest muscle groups through resistance training of natural and functional movements. This will equate to improved performance of everyday tasks like carrying groceries, climbing stairs and playing with the grandchildren.
You can perform these exercises individually: Aim for three sets of 10 to 15 reps. You can also do them as a circuit workout: Perform a set of exercise one, a set of exercise two, and so on. Once you’ve completed all five exercises, that’s one round. Do three rounds total.
Exercise #1: Squat
Exercise #2: Incline Push-up
Stand facing a sturdy object such as a bench or counter top. Place your hands on its edge, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and extend your feet back behind. Keep your arms straight. Do not bend at the hips or bend your back or knees. Keep your back straight and core braced, bend your elbows (they will flare out slightly from your sides) to lower your shoulders to your hands. Pause, then push back through your hands to return to start.
Your arms should be perpendicular to your body. Keeping your back straight and core braced, bend your elbows (they will flare out slightly from your sides) to lower your shoulders to your hands. Pause, then press through your hands to return to start.
Kick It Up A Notch: You probably want to start out bracing yourself against a taller object, but as you build your strength, you can increase the difficulty by bracing against lower objects. Eventually, you will be able to perform standard push-ups with your hands on the floor or even declined push-ups with your hands on the floor and your feet elevated! The elevated push-up is definitely a pro level exercise!
Exercise #3: Row
For this exercise, you will need a resistance band. Tie the band around a banister (or anything that won’t move) at elbow-height. Grab each end of of the bands with your palms in. With feet about shoulder width apart and chest up, pull the band straight back until your hands are at your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring your hands back. To increase the resistance, move back from the banister (or wherever the band is tied to). If you are at a gym, you can perform this exercise on a cable machine.
Make It Harder: If you’re using a band, you can ramp up the intensity by increasing your distance or speed of movement. If you’re using a machine or dumbbells, increase the weight or intensity.
Exercise #4: Lunge
Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and engage your core. Take a big step forward with right leg and start to shift your weight forward so heel hits the floor first. Lower your body until right thigh is parallel to floor and right shin is vertical (it’s okay if knee shifts forward a little as long as it doesn’t go past right toe). If mobility allows, lightly tap left knee to ground while keeping weight in right heel. Press into right heel to drive back up to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Make It Harder: Hold a set of dumbbells or a medicine ball to add weight.
Exercise #5: Dead Bug
Lie flat on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling, directly over your shoulders, with knees bent 90 degrees over hips, calves parallel to floor. While keeping your shoulders down and feet flexed, engage your core and extend your right arm and left leg away from you. Next, tap your heel to floor and return to center. Immediately repeat on the opposite side in order to complete one rep.
Make It Harder: Once this becomes easy, try performing it with your legs fully extended, rather than bent.
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