Seniors, Whole Health

Strength Training Basics – For Seniors

We start losing muscle after the age of 40.  Resistance training, AKA strength training, works to prevent this muscle loss and helps to maintain and build healthy bones.

During strength training muscle pulls against bone.  The force of the muscle pulling against the bone stimulates bone building  and improves calcium retention.  This increased strength will help to:

  • prevent falls
  • climb stairs
  • get up out of a chair
  • increase muscle elasticity
  • strengthen connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments.

In general, exercise and strength training will improve quality of life by helping to slow down and even reversing some diseases that are caused by a sedentary lifestyle such as: type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart and metabolic disease.

Just starting out?

Begin slowly.  Start with no weight or very little weight and then slowly increase the amount of weight.  This is called Progressive Overload, progressively placing greater demands on the muscles and bone.

Increase loads as is comfortable.  Resistance bands or household items such as cans of soup, bags of rice or potatoes can are a good alternative to using dumbbells.

Do enough repetitions so that the muscles become too tired to lift any more.  This is referred to as training to failure (momentary muscle failure).

Aim for three sets of 8 to 10 reps.  When the exercise becomes too easy, either increase the amount of the weight or add more reps.  Lifting lighter weights for more repetitions is just as effective as heavy ones for fewer reps.

Try to perform at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises once a week.  You will, no doubt, experience muscle soreness – sometimes not until a day or two later.

Muscle soreness is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is an indication that the body is becoming stronger.  However, do not over-do it, and be sure to give the body plenty of time to recover from an exercise routine.

Also, exercise recovery tends to take longer as we age.  For people with lower bone mass, exercises such as walking or low-impact aerobics is a safe choice.

For most people, exercise should not be a problem.  However, for some individuals increasing their level of physical activity can have an adverse effect.   These people may need to seek medical advice concerning the most suitable type of activity to fit their needs.

Please consult with your professional healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise regimen as to whether the activity/exercise is appropriate for you.  Strength training exercises for older adults may include squats, deadlifts, lunges and overhead presses.  Over time, increase weight to increase difficulty and intensity.  Examples:

Shrug2  Shrug

  1. Stand up straight with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold dumbbells in each hand with palms facing in (toward torso).
  3. Keeping arms straight, elevate (raise up) shoulders high.  Pause.
  4. Lower shoulders back down to normal position. That is 1 rep.
  5. Do 10 – 15 reps.

UprightRow  Upright Rows

Increase strength in both the back and upper arms.  Improve shoulder range of motion shoulders and elbow joint mobility.

  1. Stand with good posture; feet are about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold dumbbells in each hand in front of torso.
  3. Leading with the elbows, lift the weights together upward toward the chin. Or alternate lifting one hand at a time.
  4. Keep abs tight, using your core muscles.  Do not arch back.
  5. Return to starting position.  That’s one rep.
  6. Repeat for 10 reps.

DeltoidRaise  Front Deltoid Raise

  1. Stand with good posture; feet are about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing thighs.
  3. Keeping arms straight raise the dumbbells at arm’s length overhead.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 8 – 10 repetitions for each arm.

Squat  Plie Squat (Dumbbell Between Feet)

  1. To start, sand straight up with feet wider than shoulder distance apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell by one end.
  3. Bend knees until thighs parallel to floor, and the other end of the dumbbell touches the floor.
  4. Pressing through your heels stand back up to the starting position.
  5. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.  Do 6-8 reps.

 

Wall Sit  Wall Sit

Performing the wall sit will strengthen the quadriceps (front of thighs) muscles.

  1. To start, place your back against a wall.  The feet should be shoulder width apart and forward from the wall.
  2. Engaging the core muscles, slide down leaning against the wall until knees are at a 90° angle (thighs parallel to the floor).  Knees should end up directly above ankles.
  3. Hold this position for 20 – 30 seconds.
  4. Compete with yourself by gradually increasing the hold time to 60 seconds or longer.