If you are taking exercise classes or using the fitness room, but neither include any sort of strength training, it might be time to switch it up a little bit. Strength training can play an important role in helping prevent age-related muscle loss and falls, promoting mobility, keeping your bones strong and helping to combat depression. We understand that if you have not performed any sort of strength training in the past, it can be intimidating to know where to start. No need to worry, we are here to help you start strength training in a safe and fun way.
Strength Training Basics
If you are new to strength training, do not worry about all of the weights and exercise equipment you probably picture. Instead, think about performing exercises using your bodyweight. This will help you learn the correct form and start to build a base layer of strength. By focusing on bodyweight strength training, you will reduce the risk of exercise injury, while also becoming more familiar with strength training.
When performing bodyweight strength training, it is important to begin with a small amount of sets and reps. The starting amount of sets and reps will vary from person to person, but just know it always better to start smaller and add more reps, than to do too many reps and injure yourself.
The last thing to keep in mind as you begin strength training is the recovery. It is best if you are able to do strength training a couple times per week, with cardio exercises on the off days. However, it is important to allow your body time to rest. If you are sore after an exercise, it is best to wait until the soreness is gone before you start your next strength training session. In general, muscle soreness is not a bad thing, but as we age, recovery tends to take longer. Making sure our body has enough time to recover is essential to making sure you get the best possible benefits.
3 Strength Training Exercises
Below you will see a list of 3 bodyweight strength training exercises. Each exercise will give a suggested set and rep target, a way to make the exercise easier and a way to make the exercise harder. Please keep in mind that the set and rep target are only suggestions. Please start where you are comfortable and work up from there. If you have any concerns about strength training exercises, please consult your doctor.
Exercise #1: Squat
Stand tall with your feet shoulder- to hip-width apart. Hold your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder level, and brace your core. This is your starting position. From here, push your hips back, and bend your knees to slowly lower your body into a squat, not letting your knees cave in as you do so. Pause, then push through your heels to slowly to return to starting position. That’s one rep. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.
Make it Easier: Stand in front of Chair. Keeping your weight on your heels, bend your knees to slowly lower your body to chair. As soon as your rear touches the seat, push through your heels to return to standing.
Make it Harder: Hold a dumbbell at your chest throughout the exercise.
Exercise #2: Incline Pushup
Stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the surface slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Move your feet back until you are at a comfortable angle, keeping your arms straight and perpendicular to your body. Bend your elbows to slowly lower your chest toward the object, pause, and then press back up to straighten your arms. Keep your body straight throughout the entire movement, making sure to engage your abs and squeeze your rear. That’s one rep. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.
Make It Easier: The more upright you stand, the easier it will be.
Make it Harder: As you get stronger, reduce the incline. So if using the wall starts to get easy, try using a countertop. When that feels easy, try using a bench, and then finally the floor.
Exercise #3: Stationary Lunge
Stand tall with your arms down at your sides. Step back with your right foot, placing your toes on the ground and keeping your heel lifted. From this staggered stance, bend your front (left) knee to slowly lower your body as far as comfortable. Allow your back knee to bend as well until it hovers a few inches above the floor, but keep your weight pressed into your front heel. Draw your lower belly in, and lift your chest. Pause, then press through your front foot to raise your body back to standing. That’s one rep. Aim for 10 to 15 reps on each side.
Make it Easier: Place your hands on the back of a sturdy chair or wall for support.
Make it Harder: Bodyweight lunges should be plenty taxing for most older adults, but if you need an extra challenge, you can hold a small weight in each hand.
The AgeWell Wellness Center as Tanglewood Park has various exercise classes that focus on strength training, which would be a great place to start. We also have a fitness room with a variety of exercise equipment that can help get you started with strength training. If you have any questions regarding strength training, give our office a call at (231) 733-8642 or stop by our center and talk to one of our certified personal trainers and fitness specialists. If you have any concerns about strength training, we would suggest you consult your doctor prior to attempting any strength training exercises.
About the Author
The Wellness Center Team is made up of wellness and fitness professionals and certified personal trainers, who have a combined 50 years in the fitness industry.