Resistance training is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, especially for aging seniors. It can help older adults maintain strength, muscle mass, and bone density while also reducing their risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
Resistance training provides a number of benefits for seniors, but there are certain exercises that are better than others, especially for those who have not exercised in a long time. Listed below are four of the best resistance training exercises for seniors, along with four of the worst.
Best Resistance Training Exercises for Seniors
Squats are a great compound exercise (an exercise that works multiple muscle groups at once) that helps strengthen the lower body and improve seniors’ ability to perform daily tasks like standing from a chair without pain. For seniors who are new to exercise, bodyweight squats are a great place to start. More experienced gym-goers can use resistance bands, dumbbells, or even a barbell for an additional challenge.
Push-ups help strengthen the chest, arms, and the core, which is comprised of all the muscles in the trunk, including the abdominals, low back, and hip flexors. Push-ups are great for seniors because they are easy to modify. If strict push-ups are too difficult, it’s fine to put the knees on the floor. Push-ups can also be made easier by elevating the hands on a bench or even leaning against a wall.
3. Grip Strengthening Exercises
Grip strengthening exercises are another functional resistance training exercise that all seniors should prioritize. Training the muscles in the hands, wrists, and forearms improves seniors’ ability to grip weights in the gym. But, it also transfers over to daily life. For example, seniors with a strong grip will have an easier time with tasks like opening jars and carrying groceries into the house. There are tools designed to help strengthen the grip, but exercises like light dumbbells curls and farmer’s carries are also effective.
Worst Resistance Training Exercises for Seniors
1. Leg Extensions
A leg extension machine is designed to target the quadriceps (the muscles on the front of the thighs). Leg extensions are not ideal for seniors, especially those with knee problems, because it’s easy to hyperextend the leg and put unnecessary stress on the knee joint. Squats are a good alternative to leg extensions, as are walking or stationary lunges.
Core strengthening exercises are great for helping seniors work on their balance and avoid back pain. But, crunches are not a good option for training the core. Crunches put a lot of pressure on the neck and back and can do more harm than good if done incorrectly. They also only target the abdominals, whereas exercises like planks and bird dogs target the entire core.
3. Overhead Presses
Overhead presses involve lifting dumbbells or a barbell straight overhead. This exercise isn’t a good option for seniors who aren’t experienced weightlifters. It puts a lot of stress on the rotator cuff (the tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder joint) and other muscles in the shoulders and upper back. Many seniors actually have rotator cuff injuries and don’t realize it, so even experienced weightlifters should do this move with caution. For those who are new to resistance training, exercises like lateral or front raises are good alternatives.
Seniors should prioritize resistance training at least 2-3 days per week to reap all of its benefits. Those who are new to resistance training should keep these guidelines in mind so they can get the best results without increasing their risk of injury.