Strength training is a vital ingredient to staying fit and healthy as we age.
Strength training shouldn’t be seen as intimidating or something only reserved for bodybuilders and the World’s Strongest Men. Far from it – it’s something everyone should incorporate into their fitness routine, whatever their age, whatever their gender.
In fact, muscle loss is an unfortunate part of ageing, which means actively trying to develop strength and supporting muscle growth is the ultimate way to slow down ageing. Muscle loss is not only bad for making everyday tasks harder due to reduced strength, but muscles are where your body burns most of its calories. This means with increased muscle loss, your body can’t burn as many calories so it can often lead to weight gain and an increase in body fat.
Luckily, you need expensive supplements or the latest celebrity diet – you just need a bit of hard work and dedication.
Strength training takes many forms – free weights, exercise machines, resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises. They all help develop strength.
Strength training is undeniably one of the top activities to combat the signs of ageing – so what are we waiting for? Unbox those vests from the 70s, and let’s start building some strength!
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Benefits of Strength Training for Over 50s
If you’re still not convinced of the benefits of strength training over 50, here are some key takeaways that’ll inspire you to head down to the gym this afternoon!
- Improved functional fitness and movement
- Improved Bone Health
- Improved Mobility and Flexibility
- Improved Hormones
- Improve Stability
- Increase in Muscle Mass
- Increase in Absolute Strength
- Improved Mental Health
- Fat/Weight Loss
- Lower risk of Injury and Falls
- Lowers risk of Chronic Illness
So without further ado, let’s get into some strength training exercises and workouts you can start doing today to improve your strength.
Strength Training Exercises and Workouts
The list below includes 7 effective strength training exercises that you can start doing today. These are easy on the joints, help develop overall strength and are fun to do. For best results, it’s always worth having a mixed and varied workout routine. This will mean you avoid repetitive strain injuries and benefit from all the different types of movements and strength training exercises.
This means incorporating Olympic lifting movements as well as bodyweight exercises into your strength training plan.
Strength training exercises can broadly be categorised into “push” and “pull” exercises. The perfect training plan with incorporate both push and pull exercises to ensure you train body parts evenly and don’t end up with an imbalance.
1. Push Up
The humble push up is a fantastic bodyweight exercise that helps develop strength and power, simply by using the weight of your own body.
To begin with, don’t hesitate to rest your knees on the ground to reduce your bodyweight. This will help ease into push ups if you’ve never done them before.
This means you can do them wherever you are and don’t need any specialist equipment.
They are perfect for over 50s as it allows you to build functional strength by recreating movements and requirements in daily life. In comparison, being able to bench press a heavy load may sound impressive, but it probably isn’t as useful as being able to push yourself up.
There are plenty of versions of the push up that help add variations and subtle nuances to your strength training workouts.
2. Overhead Press
The overhead press is a great upper body exercise. It requires your arms, shoulders, chest, back and core to all contribute to the movement, helping create a really effective all round strength training exercise.
This is another very practical movement that is likely to come in handy in daily life. Having the strength to lift and carry things over your head means anything from trimming the hedge to getting the loft ladder down will suddenly feel like a piece of cake!
Your grip should be about shoulder width apart, with your legs also about shoulder width apart. Barbells are usually 20kg so bare that in mind before you think about adding any additional weight.
Similarly, this movement can be done with resistance bands or dumbbells.
3. Seated Row
The seated row is a great strength training exercise for the back. This pulling movement will help strength your whole back and combat years of poor posture.
The pulling movement of seated rows will also help strength your forearms, biceps and overall grip. Exercises that also develop better grip are ideal options of anyone, but particularly in the over 50s.
Seated rows require a straight back and good form. Poor form during this type of exercise could lead to injury.
Seated rows are usually performed on a cable machine. The bar you pull can often be interchanged with variations, which means you can make subtle changes to what muscle groups are worked. For example, a wide grip will target the laterals more, compared to a close grip which will engage the inner/central back more.
The motion should be slow and controlled. For added benefits, try and squeeze your back and hold the bar for a second when you’ve pulled it to yourself.
4. Bicep Curl
Nothing exudes strength like big arms so bicep curls make our list as a top exercise for building strength over 50.
Bicep curls help strength your biceps and forearms. Having strong arms is also really beneficial of lots of other exercises to help stabilise and support pulling/pushing movements.
The perfect bicep curl should be performed slow and steady. Don’t rock your back (this is a sign the weights are too heavy).
You can use dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or even kettlebells – there’s plenty of room for mixing it up when it comes to bicep curls.
5. Weighted Lunges
Lunges are hard…But incredibly effective.
Lunges will help give your whole lower body a complete workout. Adding weights, such as dumbbells in each hand will add another layer of difficulty.
Lunges will help develop strong, powerful legs, forming the building block of functional fitness.
6. Bench Press
The bench press is another great exercise to build strength and power. They are also one of the top exercises for a developing a tighter chest.
Bench press primarily targets the chest, but as its a compound movement, its really a great all round upper body exercise. It will no doubt leave your triceps and shoulders aching the next day!
Bench presses are usually done on a flat bench with a barbell but can equally use dumbbells (which is often referred to as a dumbbell chest press).
7. Lateral Pulldown
Lateral pulldowns predominantly target your laterals and develop your “wings.”
Stronger laterals mean improved pulling movements and overall upper body strength.
Lateral pulldowns are usually performed using a cable machine but could equally use resistance bands.
Tips for Strength Training Over 50
Before you get started with strength training, follow some of our tips below to help you get the most out of strength training.
To get the best fitness results, diet and nutrition will play a defining role. Your body will need the right kind of fuel and intake to perform strength training exercises to the highest standard.
Everyone is different and so as opposed to recommending a strict diet, it’s simply about being aware of what you’re consuming and trying to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Protein is the building block for muscles so ensure your diet includes plenty of protein.
Building strength is about consistency. It won’t happen over night but over time you will see results and experience the benefits that come with sticking with strength training. Create a strength training program that is realistic to follow and stick to. It’s better to do a few sessions a week over the whole year than train every day for a week and then give up because it was too intense.
Pace yourself and enjoy it.
Remember to warm-up, cool down and stretch before and after any strength training workout. This will help avoid injury and ensure your body is ready to perform whatever exercises you throw at it.
Strength training isn’t about trying to lift the heaviest weights in the gym – realistically, you might need to start with very light weights and slowly build yourself up. Aim for somewhere between 6-15 reps for each exercise. If you can do 15+ easily, then think about going heavier. If you’re struggling to do 6 reps, the weight is probably too heavy.
Remember to target each muscle group. There’s no good developing really strong arms if you’re legs are weak and feeble. Each week you should have trained your legs, core, back, chest, shoulders and arms. Compound movements are great at getting multiple body parts involved.
Strength training and lifting weights is all about form. Bad form can cause injury and long-term issues. It’s really important any exercise follows the correct form. Lifting weights that are too heavy can often be cause for bad form, so again, start light and slowly increase.
Rest is as much a part of your fitness routine as the exercises themselves. Not resting enough can cause injury or lead to declined performance in the gym. Have a clear program that outlines days you’ll train and days you’ll rest.
To begin with, you may want to think about using a physiotherapist to help with recovery and provide a review of potential muscle soreness/injury.
Using a Personal Trainer is a great way to get started. Personal Trainers can create customised workout programs, analyse your form to ensure it is correct and offer motivation and support during workouts.
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So, there you have it, 7 exercises you can start doing today to build muscle and strength over 50. Once you start, you can slowly up the weights and incorporate more exercises and more complex movements to continuously challenge and work your muscles.
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