Strength Training For Seniors

Strength training is essential if you want to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle. It helps you to maintain independence and reduce risks related to chronic diseases like heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and diabetes.

150 minutes is the recommended duration of moderate exercise per week to improve flexibility, balance and maintain muscle mass.

Between the ages of 50 and 60, you lose 1-2 percent of muscle strength per year and after that it’s 3 percent a year. Strength training will help to retain muscle mass and slow down the aging process. It can help to improve mobility and cognitive decline. Your weight training program will increase strength in your upper and lower body and enhance your metabolic fitness. Increased strength will allow you to also improve your performance when running, swimming or other cardio activities.

It is recommended that older adults perform strength training at least twice a week. Before starting your strength training program, have a medical checkup with your doctor for the green light.

Body Weight Exercises

If you have never lifted weights before, you may want to start out doing body weight exercises to avoid injury. Before lifting weights you should be able to manage your own body weight.

The following body weight exercises are recommended:

  • Squats (strengthen legs and trunk)
    • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
    • Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
    • Stand back up, squeezing your butt and keeping your core tight.

  • Reverse Lunges (strengthens hips, butt and thighs)
    • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
    • Step backwards with your left foot, landing on the ball of your foot. Bend your knees.
    • Return to standing using your right heel.
    • Repeat with other leg.

  • Wall Push-ups (strengthens arms, shoulder and chest)
    • Face a wall, standing a little more than arm’s length away with feet shoulder-width apart.
    • Lean your body forward and place palms against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
    • Hold the position for 1 second.
    • Slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight.
    • Repeat 10-15 times, rest and repeat 10-15 more times.

  • Side Lunges (strengthens hips, butt and thighs)
    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
    • Take a big step towards your right.
    • Bend your knee and do a side lunge.
    • Repeat on the other side.

  • Shoulder Presses (with water bottles, strengthens shoulders)
    • Stand upright while holding a bottle in each hand.
    • Raise the bottles to shoulder height one at a time. Rotate your wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing forward.
    • Push the bottles upward until they touch at the top.
    • Pause briefly and then slowly lower the weights back down.
    • Do 10 reps for 2 sets.

  • Side Step Squats (quadriceps in front of each thigh, hips and glutes)
    • Stand tall with feet together and hands on hips.
    • Step to the right with your right foot, keeping feet a bit wider than shoulder-width.
    • Bend your knees lowering into a squat.
    • Straighten your knees and return to the starting position.
    • Repeat on the other side.

Strength Training With Weights

Once you have accomplished the body training for 4 weeks, replace with or combine with dumb bells. Do the strength work on nonconsecutive days and include walking or cardio in between the strength training days.

Two or three different weights should be sufficient for a full-body workout. Strength training with free weights involves doing two sets of repetitions with a one minute rest in between.

When first starting out, choose a weight that is heavy enough to do eight to 12 reps comfortably. Near the end of your set, your muscles should start to feel a little tired. Don’t choose a weight that is too heavy or you could end up with injuries. If you have to arch your back or swing your body to lift the weight you know it’s too heavy. Always keep your body in control when performs the reps.

Start with these strength training exercises:

Overhead Press:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  • Hold your dumbbells at your shoulders
  • Lower into a squat, keeping your chest upright and your knees over your toes.
  • As you return to standing, press the dumbbells overhead.
  • Lower the weights to return to the starting position.
  • Do two sets, 12 reps in each set.

Arm Curl

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms straight down.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift one dumbbell toward the shoulder and the elbow is pointing to the ground with the forearm almost vertical. Exhale while lifting.
  • Lower to the side position
  • Repeat with other arm. Inhale while lowering the weight.
  • Alternate until the set is complete.
  • Do 10 curls with each arm for two sets.

Dumbbell Front Raises

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. The weights should hang down.
  • Hold the dumbbells across the thighs horizontally.
  • Lift the weights upward with arms out in front.
  • Bend elbows slightly.
  • When the arms are horizontal to the floor, pause briefly.
  • Return the dumbbells to the starting position.
  • Do 12 reps, rest for one minute and repeat for one more set.

Triceps Extension

  • Stand with legs hip-width apart.
  • Lean forward from the waist.
  • Elbows are bent 90 degrees at your sides.
  • Straighten arms behind you.
  • Do 12 reps, rest for one minute and repeat for one more set.

Front Lunge

  • Stand with feet together and a dumbbell in each hand by sides.
  • Step forward with the right foot, lowering until both knees form 90-degree angles
  • Push off the front heel to step back and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
  • Do 12 reps on each side.
  • Repeat for one more set.

Balance And Flexibility

In addition to strength strengthing, you should include an exercise program that focuses on balance and flexibility. Your program should include full-body, multi-directional movements. This will improve your mobility and flexibility. As you age your balance decreases over time resulting in dangerous falls and injuries.

Include these exercises into your program every other day:

Flamingo Stand

  • Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Touch the wall with both hands outstretched.
  • Raise one leg, and hold for ten seconds.
  • Repeat with the other leg. 
  • As you improve your balance, try it without touching the wall.
  • To increase the difficulty, close your eyes as you hold your raised leg.

Leg Swings

  • Stand on your right leg and raise the left leg three to six inches off the floor.
  • With arms at your sides, swing your left leg forward and backward, touching the floor for balance.
  • ,Repeat the moves, but don’t allow your foot to touch the ground.
  • Swing the left foot to the left side, holding the right arm out. Switch legs and repeat.

One-legged Clock

  • Balance on one leg with head up and hands on hips.
  • Visualize a clock and point your arm straight overhead to 12.
  • Next, point to the side at three.
  • Circle low and around to nine without losing your balance.
  • Switch to the opposite arm and leg and repeat.

Head Toward Knee Stretch

  • Sit with the right leg stretched out in front of you and the left leg bent.
  • Lengthen the spine and slightly rotate the torso toward the stretched leg.
  • Gently fold forward.
  • Hold for 20 few seconds
  • Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder and Chest

  • Kneel or standing.
  • Clasp hands behind back and straighten arms.
  • Raise hands as high as possible and bend forward from the waist and hold for 20 seconds.

Arm Across Chest

  • Place one arm straight across chest.
  • Place hand on elbow and pull arm towards chest and hold for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat with other arm.

Triceps Stretch

  • Place one hand behind back with elbow in air.
  • Place other hand on elbow and gently pull towards head and hold for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat with other arm.

Standing Calf

  • Place feet in front of each other 18 inches apart.
  • Keep back leg straight and heel on the floor.
  • Push against a wall to increase the stretch and hold for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat with other leg.

Flexibility, strength and balancing exercises is all about functional movement. Incorporate these into your exercise program and it will improve your lifestyle with great vigor and endurance!

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