Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders and athletes. It’s for anyone, whether one is young or old. It rather becomes more important as you age to remain healthier, more energetic and, yes, younger.
What Is Strength Training?
Strength training is a type of physical exercises specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction. They help build strength, endurance, and size of muscles. In other words, it’s a method of improving muscular strength by gradually increasing the ability to resist force through the use of free weights, machines, or the person’s own body weight.
To quote Gavin McHale, a Winnipeg-based Kinesiologist and Certified Exercise Physiologist who works primarily with older adults: “Strength is the fountain of youth. Benefits of resistance training (strength training), and subsequent strength gains, in older adults include better control of symptoms of chronic disease, pain and depression, as well as prevention of falls, maintaining existing muscle mass, improving posture and stability, increasing bone density and remaining functional.”
How Strength Training Is Beneficial For Seniors?
Strength Training helps the older adults to:
(i) Maintain bone density (reduces sarcopenia)
(ii) Improves balance
(iii) Enhances coordination
(iv) Makes mobility easier
(v) Leads to better, more regular, deeper, longer sleeping patterns
(vi) Decreases depression
(vii) Boosts confidence, self-esteem, and well-being
Moreover, Strength Training also helps assuage chronic issues and many life-style diseases such as:
(i) Arthritis: Reduces the stiffness and pain while enhancing range of motion and strength
(ii) Diabetes: Aids manage glycemic control
(iii) Osteoporosis: Lessens risk of fractures by increasing bone density
(iv) Heart disease: Reduces risk by regulating lipid profile and improving overall fitness
(v) Obesity: Boosts metabolism so helps with longer-term weight control
(vi) Back pain: Builds core muscle strength curtailing pressure and stress on vertebrae
Strength Training Without Equipment At Home For Older Adults
You may think you need costly gym membership or intricate equipment for strength exercises, but results are possible just by using your own body weight.
Note: If you have any limiting conditions such as bad knees, hypertension or a replaced joint, talk to you doctor before beginning any exercise routine. Generally most seniors and elderly can safely begin a fitness program.
Tip: Start small. Some is better than none, more is better than some. Everyone has a different starting point.
Here are 8 best equipment-free strength workouts that you can do at home to build strength and feel young, no matter what your age is:
- Lying Hip Bridges
(i) Start lying flat on your back, your knees bent and your arms in low V by your hips. Your feet should be flat on the floor, about hip-distance apart with your heels a few inches away from your butt.
(ii) Push through your heels to lift your hips up while squeezing your glutes. Try to create one diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees.
(iii) Pause for 1-2 seconds, then lower back down. To get the most out of this simple move, you have to do it slow.
That’s 1 rep, do 10. Repeat for 3 sets total.
- Squats To Chair
(a) Take stairs without struggle into old age
(b) Improve your ability to get up from a chair and walk
(c) Pick things up off the floor
(d) Steady your body for better balance and safety.
(i) Stand in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your knees over your feet.
(ii) Keeping your chest upright, bend your knees to slowly lower your bums toward the chair without actually sitting down.
(iii) Be sure to tighten your abdominals to help support your back.
(iv) Keep your knees over your ankles and place your weight in your heels throughout the full range of motion.
(v) At the bottom of the squat, your upper body should be leaning forward only slightly. Placing your arms out in front of you may help your balance.
(vi) Pause, then while pushing through your feet straighten your body upright and repeat.
Tip: Beginners can try 1 set of up to 8 reps. More conditioned exercisers can try 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
- Wall Push-Ups
(i) Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart. You may move closer to the wall to make the exercise easier.
(ii) Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
(iii) Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows diagonally to your sides while lowering your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion. Keep your body in a straight line and let your heels come off of the floor.
(iv) Pause for 1 second, then while breathing out slowly press through your hands to straighten your elbows and return to start until your arms are straight.
Repeat up to 10-15 times. Rest; then repeat up to 10-15 more times.
4. Side Lying Circles
(i) Lie on one side on the floor, keeping your hips directly over each other and your legs stacked on top of each other. Your bottom arm extended straight past your head. Rest your head on your bottom arm and squeeze your abdominals to pull in your belly. Lean your legs forward a bit so they are slightly in front of your torso. Point your toes.
(ii) Lift your top leg to hip height and move your leg in small circles in air. Pause, then reverse direction of the circles.
(iii) Lower your leg to the bottom leg. Repeat on the other side.
You can do three sets of 8-10 reps, each side or for as much numbers, which you can do comfortably.
- Quadruped Opposite Arm and Leg Balance
This exercise is beneficial for those who want to develop strength in their lower back to reduce their risk of injury due to muscular weakness. It’s also included in physical therapy programs of those recovering from spinal stenosis and sciatica. Overall it’s good for improving balance, coordination and strength in the back and abdominals.
(i) Kneel on a mat on all fours with your hands positioned directly underneath your shoulders and your knees lined up directly underneath your hips. Your spine should remain neutral throughout the entire movement. Do not allow your torso to twist.
(ii) Extend your left arm up and forward while simultaneously extending your right leg up and backwards straight behind your hip until both limbs are parallel to the floor.
(iii) Hold the top position for three breaths (or as long as you can maintain balance) and then return both limbs to the floor. Repeat on the opposite side. If you prefer, you can perform all assigned repetitions of one arm and leg before switching sides.
A common training volume assigned by therapists for strengthening is to perform three sets of 10 repetitions on each side.
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The dead bug exercise is a great way to strengthen your abdominal muscles and all the front side of your core without putting strain on your lower back, which can be a concern with sit-ups and many other common ab exercises.
(i) Begin lying on your back with your arms and legs extended above in the air toward the ceiling, your knees bent. Try to bring your feet, knees, and hips up to 90 degrees.
(ii) Maintain contact between your lower back and the floor throughout the movement as your back is going to want to arch. Lower one leg until your heel just about touches the floor while also lowering the opposite arm toward the floor above your head.
(iii) Lift them back up to return to start, and repeat on the opposite side. You can make this exercise harder by keeping your legs straight rather than bent.
(iv) Repeat on the opposite side, alternating until the set is complete.
Do as many sets (up to three) comprising of reps (10-12), which you can do comfortably. Then increase them gradually as you gain strength and endurance.
Read here to learn Best Core Exercises For Seniors
- Side Planks
This side plank basic version will improve side-to-side core stability. Side Plank requires you to balance on one arm, so this is a great exercise to strengthening your shoulders, the joints that can otherwise give many older adults problems.
(i) Lye on your side with your knees straight. Prop your body up your left elbow and forearm, keeping your elbow directly below your shoulder.
(ii) Raise your right hand until it’s perpendicular with your torso. Your body will be forming a “T”. Squeeze your core by contracting your abs. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from ankles to your shoulders.
(iii) Hold the above position for 60 seconds while maintaining good form. If you can’t make it to 60 seconds, hold as long as you can and rest; continue for 1 minute.
(iv) Lower your hips to return to start, and repeat on the opposite side.
- Wall Angels
This is an upper body mobility exercise that helps stretch open the chest, shoulders and increase the range of motion in the shoulder joint. By opening up your chest and working your shoulders it improves your posture.
(i) To begin, stand with your feet wide and your head and back flat against a wall.
(ii) Ideally, your heels would be as close to the wall as possible, while making sure that your hips and entire spine are pressed into the wall.
(ii) Keeping the back of your head touching the wall and your arms straight down by your sides, tuck your chin to your chest.
(iii) Bring your arms out to your sides at shoulder height and bend your elbows 90 degrees with the elbows parallel to the ground, keeping your shoulders, arms, and the backs of your palms lightly touching the wall.
(iv) To get to the stretch-and-strengthen part – although you might already feel some tension while holding the arms at 90 degrees – begin to straighten the arms directly overhead as high as you can, trying to at least keep the elbows sliding up against the wall. Pause, and then lower your arms to return to start.
Do two or three sets of 15 reps.
Note: keep your abs tight! That will help ensure that your spine stays against the wall.
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Tip: If you feel pinching, you can limit your range of motion or lift your arms slightly off the wall.