8 Best Muscle Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
Completing regular muscle-strengthening exercises can significantly boost the quality of life for seniors. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest adults, including seniors, complete muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days weekly by working all major muscle groups—and performing balance exercises if they’re at risk of falling.
Seniors should aim to complete a good balance of strengthening exercises based on their physical ability. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests older adults complete eight to 10 exercises targeting major muscle groups, with goals of 10 to 15 repetitions for each exercise. Be sure to check in with your doctor before beginning new exercise programs, and wear a support brace or compression gear if your doctor recommends it.
1. Dumbbell Arm Exercises
Strengthening your upper body is the key to injury prevention, overall strength, and keeping energy levels high for seniors. Choose dumbbell weights that are light enough to help you complete at least 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise. Choose standing or seated biceps curls, shoulder presses, chest presses, lateral raises, front raises, and triceps kickbacks—just to name a few.
2. Core Exercises
A strong core is key for seniors seeking increased strength, mobility, and day-to-day physical functioning. Check out instructions for 12 core exercises provided by the Mayo Clinic. Examples include plank, side plank, superman, and abdominal crunches. If you’re unable to do some of the core exercises from this list—it’s okay! Choose simple ones like the modified plank, bridge, abdominal press, and segmental rotation to start with.
You can also complete standing oblique exercises using a dumbbell—simply keep your arm straight and bend at the waist (toward the dumbbell side of your body). Standing trunks twists are another excellent option.
3. Medicine Ball Workouts
Change things up a bit by using a medicine in place of dumbbells to boost strength and coordination, and to prevent workout boredom. There are so many types of medicine ball workouts to choose from that work well for seniors, such as crunches, chest passes, chest press, biceps curls, triceps extensions, front raises, overhead press, squats, walking lunges, and trunk twists.
4. Body Weight Exercises
You don’t need weights or expensive gym equipment when using your own body weight for resistance. Examples include squats, lunges, regular push-ups, wall push-ups, calf raises (while holding a chair, wall, or railing), and chair triceps dips.
5. Chair and Stability Ball Exercises
You can perform just about any strength-training exercise (especially upper body dumbbell workouts) from a chair if your mobility is limited or while sitting on a stability ball to work on balance. You can even practice doing squats using a chair. Slowly squat down to a sitting position in your chair, and then slowly stand back up to complete the squat. Choose from a variety of stability ball exercises, as well, to get your blood pumping.
6. Resistance Band Exercises
Using resistance bands is a lightweight way to boost strength from the comfort of home, and many band exercises can be performed from a chair if you have limited mobility. The American College of Sports Medicine department provides examples of strengthening exercises seniors can perform using bands—such as chest presses, seated shoulder presses, standing upright rows, seated rows, seated leg presses, chair squats, lateral raises, front raises, biceps curls, and triceps pull-downs.
7. Step-Up Exercises
You can use a small wooden plyometric box or just a staircase to complete step-up exercises. Simply step onto a step using one leg and repeat at least 10 times—then do the same thing by stepping up with your other leg to boost strength.
8. Theraputty Exercises
Strengthening your hands and grip is crucial for seniors who want to boost fine motor skills. You can reap numerous health benefits by incorporating theraputty into your day-to-day routine—including increased mobility, decreased arthritis pain, better strength and flexibility, stroke recovery, and boosts in hand and finger recovery post surgery (carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, for example). For best results, check out instructions for theraputty exercises and chat with your doctor before you begin.
When choosing muscle strengthening exercises, there are a few simple tips seniors should keep in mind. Aim to change up your routine regularly, and get your doctor’s approval before you begin. Aim to work every major muscle group at least twice weekly, and avoid doing the same muscle strengthening workouts two days in a row. Use a brace or compression gear to help decrease swelling and injuries during workouts.
- Becky McDowell