Safe Weight Training for Seniors

By |2021-10-12T21:26:19+00:00October 12th, 2021|Caregivers, Seniors, Wellness|

What is the benefit of strength training and muscle building for seniors?

It’s no secret that staying fit at any age is incredibly beneficial to your overall health and wellness, but if your workout doesn’t include some form of strength training or muscle building, you may be missing a vital part of your fitness routine.

According to senior exercise experts, weight training after 60 can be a great way to avoid the mobility difficulties and muscle loss that often accompany aging. In addition, it can help to keep your bones strong and your mind sharp.

However, before you attempt to be the next circus strongman, it’s important to learn how to safely weight train as a senior.

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Can seniors do weight training?

If you are new to strength training or have little experience with it in your older years, the smartest thing to do is start small. There is no reason to stress about fancy equipment or a home gym. Instead, try focusing on the basics, like using your own body weight to perform simple-yet-effective exercises.

Weight training exercises to try using only your body weight.

If you are new to strength training or have little experience with it in your older years, the smartest thing to do is start small. There is no reason to stress about fancy equipment or a home gym. Instead, try focusing on the basics, like using your own body weight to perform simple-yet-effective exercises.

Squats

Squats are a simple and effective weight training exercise that can tone up the muscles in your legs and hips using only your body weight. 

To perform a squat, simply stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold your arms out straight in front of you at shoulder level, brace your core, and lower your body straight down slowly into a squatting position without letting your knees cave. Once you do so, pause briefly before pushing your body up through your heels to return to a standing position. Do this about 10 to 15 times for an effective senior workout.

If you have trouble doing free-standing squats, you can make it a little easier by standing in front of a dining chair and slowly lowering your body to the seat with measured control. Then, return to a standing position as soon as your rear touches the seat.

Incline Pushups

Incline pushups are a great way to exercise your chest, arms, back, and shoulders. To perform an incline pushup, stand facing a table, dresser, or wall, and place your hands on the surface or edge about shoulder-width apart. Then, move your feet back until you are at a comfortable angle, keeping your arms straight and perpendicular to your body.

Once you find your starting position, bend your elbows to slowly lower your chest toward the object or wall, pause, and then press back up to straighten your arms. Be sure to keep your body straight throughout the entire movement. Do this about 10 to 15 times for a good set.

You can work your way up the rungs of the exercise ladder the stronger you become, but to make this workout more simple, position yourself more upright. The taller the object you place your hands on or the higher up the wall you go, the easier the activity will be.

Stationary Lunges

Lunges are a great way to engage your core while working out your hips, thighs, and legs. To perform a standing lunge, start by standing tall with your arms down at your sides. Then, step back with your right foot, placing your toes on the ground while keeping your heel lifted.

From this stance, bend your front (left) knee and slowly lower your body as far as is comfortable. Allow your back (right) knee to bend as you do so until it hovers just a few inches above the floor. Be sure to keep your weight centered on your front (left) heel. As you do this, draw in your belly and lift your chest. Pause briefly in this position, and then press through your front foot to raise your body back to a standing position. Aim to do this about 10 to 15 times on each side of your body.

If you have joint issues, especially in your knees, you can make this exercise easier by leaning forward slightly to alleviate some of the joint pressure. You can also place your hands on the back of a chair or wall for added support.

Weight training exercises to try using dumbbells.

Once you’ve gotten more comfortable and stronger from body-weight-based strength training exercises, you can move on to some more advanced techniques involving simple equipment like dumbbells. However, if you attempt dumbbell exercises, make sure you do not use weights that are heavier than you are physically comfortable lifting, as this can result in injury.

While there is an endless variety of dumbbell weight training exercises you can perform, here are a few common activities that collectively provide a great weight training routine for seniors.

Arm Curls

Arm curls are a classic dumbbell exercise designed to target the biceps. This can be a great exercise if you are interested in seeing results in both arm strength and definition. To do arm curls properly, use comfortable weights and begin by standing tall with your feet about hip-width apart. Be sure to keep your abdominal muscles engaged. 

Hold one dumbbell in each hand, letting your arms relax down at your sides with your palms facing outward. Keeping your shoulders relaxed and your upper arms stable, begin by bending your arms at the elbow and lifting the weights until they approach your shoulders. Be sure to keep your elbows tucked in close to your ribs and exhale as you lift. Then lower the weights to your starting position, and repeat about 8 to 10 times. Rest before doing one or two more sets.

Overhead Press

The dumbbell overhead press is a beginner-level weightlifting exercise that is especially effective on shoulders. This exercise can be done in either a standing or seated position, with dumbbells held horizontally at the shoulders.

To start, stand or sit upright and keep your back straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, at the shoulders, with an overhand grip (thumbs on the inside and knuckles face up). Exhale as you raise your weight above your head in a smooth, controlled motion. Pause briefly at the top of the motion, and then inhale as you return the dumbbells to your shoulders. Aim for about 8 to 12 reps to ensure a good workout.

Triceps Extension

The triceps extension is a slightly ,more challenging dumbbell exercise that targets — you guessed it — the triceps! You can begin this exercise by lying face up flat on a gym bench, except for your lower legs, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. The exercise is then performed by extending your arms above your chest with one end of your dumbbell firmly secured in both handstand  your elbows unlocked and shoulder-width apart.

Begin your rep by flexing your elbows and lowering the weight down toward the top of your head (be especially careful not to hit your skull with your weights!). Keep your upper arms relatively perpendicular to your body, keeping the tension on your triceps rather than your shoulders.

Continue lowering your weight behind your head until the bottom of the dumbbell is just about in line with the top of your gym bench. Then, reverse the movement until the weight is above your chest in the original starting position. Refrain from locking your elbow, as this defeats the purpose of the exercise. Repeat this about 5-10 times for a well-rounded set.

What’s the best way to maintain an exercise routine as a senior?

As we age, it is incredibly important to stay active and practice living a healthy lifestyle. Whether you are looking for an exercise routine for yourself or for a love done, there are many different activities you can try without ever having to leave your home.

The benefits of regular exercise are obvious, but if you or your loved one is over 65, it can be harder to stay safe and effective in your workouts. Luckily, many retirement communities, senior living facilities, and nursing homes hold regular classes and programs designed to help seniors stay fit.

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