Strength training becomes more and more important as you age.
If you’re a senior and you’re not doing weight training, you may want to start. There are countless benefits to finding the right training program like strengthening your bones, improving your flexibility, and helping your heart and lungs stay healthy.
Here, you’ll find everything you need to know to get started.
What Is Strength Training?
Strength training is any kind of exercise that involves using resistance to build muscle. This could mean using dumbbell or barbell weights. Exercises like bicep curls and chest presses typically use these kinds of weights.
Strength training can also involve exercising in the pool, where the water acts as resistance. Likewise, it can consist of bodyweight exercises, like lunges or push-ups. You can also use resistance bands.
When your muscles come up against any type of resistance, they are forced to work harder than usual. This extra exertion stresses the muscles and can even cause them to have micro-tears. After the workout, these micro-tears in the muscle tissue repair themselves.
During the repair period, muscles rebuild themselves thicker and stronger. That way, they’ll be able to handle the next workout. This is how strength training helps our muscles grow.
Can Seniors Strength Train?
The short answer is: absolutely! Seniors can, and should, definitely strength train, they just have to take certain precautions. Getting set up with the right program can help a ton, too.
Before getting started at the gym, seniors should book an appointment with their physician. They should speak with their doctor about what kinds of exercise would be best for them and how to start. Their doctor will be able to suggest what activities are safe and healthy for them to try.
Seniors should keep in mind that they might not be able to hit the ground running right away. With age and inactivity comes muscle deterioration and a loss of flexibility. If you’re a newcomer to the gym, start by working on your range of motion.
Strength Training for Seniors: Getting Started
After you’ve consulted with your doctor and have been cleared to exercise, take a look at the following exercises. Start with the basics and work your way up to a more intense workout routine.
Improve Your Range of Motion
Range of motion refers to the degree to which your joints can bend and flex. Stiff joints or tense, underused muscles can contribute to a low range of motion. Improving your flexibility and muscle elasticity will improve your range of motion.
If you’re a beginner or if it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised, doing basic stretches every day is the best way to start. Once you see improvements in your flexibility and mobility, consult your doctor. If they give you the green light to move onto other exercises, try yoga next!
Yoga is a great way to continue improving your flexibility and range of motion. It also introduces some bodyweight strength training into your routine.
Don’t worry about knowing what each pose is called or having all the right equipment. Your local gym or recreation center will likely offer beginner classes you can try. Once you start going, you’ll be surprised how quickly you get into the flow of it!
As you advance, you may try moves like downward dog, chair pose, and tree pose. These will help improve your upper and lower body strength as well as your balance. Yoga has been shown to provide a variety of health benefits, so give it a shot!
Now that you’re becoming more limber, it’s time to consult your doctor again. Ask them if you can begin cardiovascular training.
Cardiovascular training is one of the best things to do if you’re a senior. Try starting with a low-impact exercise like swimming or water aerobics. The water will support your body weight and provide cushioning for your joints.
Start small in the pool by walking from one side to the other as fast as you can, and work up to doing 5-10 laps. You can also take a water aerobics class with your friends. This is a fun, social way to get a good workout in, and it won’t hurt your joints!
You can also try using the elliptical at the gym or jog. Just know that jogging is a bit harder on the joints. Make sure you’re prioritizing low-impact exercises as much as possible.
As you start to build strength, you should start incorporating some bodyweight exercises into your routine. Always remember to start with a 15-20 minute warmup.
A few exercises to get you started include seated shoulder raises, bodyweight squats, and push-ups. You can improve your balance and core strength with basic crunches or planks.
For shoulder raises, sit on a bench or medicine ball. Bend your arms at the elbow so that your forearms are parallel to the floor. From here, lift your elbows out to the side slowly. Slowly lower them and repeat for 5-7 reps.
For squats, make sure you have something stable, like a bar or a wall, to use for balance. Take these slow and make sure you sink into the squat as if you were sitting down into a chair. Don’t let your knees pass over your toes.
Push-ups can start with your knees on the ground. Make your first goal small and work up to doing more push-ups each time you’re at the gym.
Practice Without Weights
If you’re planning on using weights eventually, start training those muscles beforehand. Do this by performing the same exercises without weights. In other words, do bicep curls without the dumbbells. Or complete a set of chest presses without a barbell.
Doing that will prep your muscles and get them used to completing the motion of each exercise.
You’ve made it to the level where you can start using weights! Congratulations. Unless your doctor says otherwise, start with 3-5lb dumbbells.
Try connecting with a personal trainer at your gym. They’ll be able to ease you into weight training. They’ll also be able to create a program for you to follow.
If there’s a move you’ve always wanted to try, let them know! They may be able to help you work toward it.
Take Your First Step in Prioritizing Your Health
Strength training for seniors is not only important but necessary for good health. Combat the toll that aging takes on the body by taking a proactive approach. To learn more about how helpful exercise can be for seniors, check out this blog.