As we get older we tend to become more careful with our bodies–which to a degree I understand, but being too careful can result in injury and do our body more harm than good. No, I am not saying start out with the 100lb dumbbell or kettlebell, but instead choose a weight where the last few reps of your set are difficult. Working up in 5-10 pound increments is a good standard for increasing weight.
One of the biggest concerns I get from individuals is picking up a weight that feels too heavy, so they opt for the lighter weights. You might be putting your body through the motions, but if you aren’t picking up a weight that is making your body put in some work, then you are doing just that, putting your body through the movements.
I have some pretty amazing older individuals in my group fitness class here in Morgantown, West Virginia. They range between early 50’s to mid 60’s and quite honestly – they move better than some of my younger warriors (no offense – you know I love all of you), but the reason they are doing so well is because they understand that if they want their bodies to continue getting stronger, they need to continue challenging it.
Fitness After 50
After the age of 50 our body begins to lose muscle mass; For women, osteoporosis may start to settle in, metabolism starts to significantly slow down, our bodies stop burning fat efficiently, and we just feel tired all the time.
Strength training is still quite new to many older individuals, so they return to what they have done in the past—walking, biking, swimming, etc. While any movement is good movement, and conditioning exercise keeps the heart nice and strong, strength training can help to rebuild muscle, speed up metabolism and fat loss. Even a 20-minute strength training routine two days a week can significantly increase muscle mass in an older individual by a significant amount.
One of the biggest things I try to do with my Warrior Body classes is provide a functional fitness approach for everyone. I hate to use the word “functional” because it has become a buzzword. It gets thrown around because it is the “cool” way to stay fit these days. But, in all honesty picking things up and putting them back down is the way to stay strong and keep our bodies doing everyday tasks.
Step-ups, deadlifts, overhead pressing, even flipping tires and beating them with sledge hammers are all moves that mimic everyday activities. Performing three sets of 10 bicep curls may look cool and all, but are they really going to help you get up the stairs to your front porch?
5 Reasons to Strength Train After 50
- Increases bone density
- Revitalizes muscle cells
- Keeps minds sharp
- Reduces resting blood pressure
- Improves blood lipid profiles
I have one incredible member who is in her early 50’s who spoke with me after class about how she has been on blood pressure medicine for quite some time and she couldn’t believe how much it had dropped after starting my exercise and nutrition program. How exciting is that?
Weight training is not just about looking the best, looking like a model, or having six-pack abs. It’s about longevity and keeping yourself as strong and as healthy as you can. If looking a specific way is what keeps you motivated then go after it. Understanding the “why” of exercise will take you so much further and provide long-lasting results than chasing after a specific look.
Here are sample exercises to include into any plan, but will also be additionally beneficial for those in their 50’s and older:
- Overhead pressing
- Rows – work on posture and keep your back strong
- Core strength – the foundation of the body
- Carrying – whether it is kettlebells, sandbags, or kegs—all fantastic for building a strong body