Strength Training Over Age 50

You might think strength training over age 50 isn't for you once you're "over the hill" of 40 or 50. On the contrary, you're still going up the hill!

Weight training is one of the best methods of strength training! If you want to start weight training safely and effectively, with the best info, diet, and routines, check out the 5 Day Beginner Weight Training Course!


Strength training is just as good as we grow older as it is for the youthful. It can also provide an excellent complement to aerobic cardiovascular exercise.

Strength training as you get older is a good idea, but overdoing it isn't a good idea for anybody. Particularly because injuries heal more slowly the older we get, weight training seniors should be especially careful to moderate their exercise.

Gradually working your way into an increasingly strenuous workout will provide the best results while avoiding injury. Don't get injured.

Here we'll discuss strength training over age 50 with reference to the American College of Sports Medicine's physical activity guidelines.1 Keep in mind that the ACSM recommends a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training.

Start Slow

The most important thing to remember when strength training over age 50 is, "exertion without pushing yourself too hard." If you're just starting a weight training routine, you should do enough exercise to raise your heart rate and maybe break a sweat, but still be able to have a conversation. Take short breaks if you need to catch your breath or stretch before continuing on.

While you may want to set a goal of establishing a half-hour or hour-long workout, start with a shorter routine at first. Ten or twenty minutes a day is great to begin with. For people beginning strength training over age 50, there's no rush to get into a big, complicated, overly involved workout routine.


Do a Bit at a Time

Committing to strength training doesn't have to mean committing to a long, strenuous workout. Short bouts of exercise throughout the day can be just as good as a longer continuous routine.

Work three or four ten-minute strength training sessions into your daily schedule if it's difficult to find time for a longer workout. If you're really determined, you can always find time to workout.


Keep a Schedule

The more regular your exercise, the better. Whether you decide to strength train twice a week or every day, set a regular schedule for yourself and stick to it. Work your way up to a schedule of more frequent sessions and more strenuous exercises.


Stretch!

Staying flexible is particularly important for strength training over age 50! You don't have to be able to do the splits, but take time to stretch the muscle groups you exercise for a few minutes before and after your workout.


How Many Repetitions?

The ACSM recommends doing 10 to 15 repetitions of each strength training exercise in your routine, more strictly endurance work. However, what's important in deciding how many repetitions you should do is finding out how many you can do comfortably.

You should have to exert yourself, but exertion doesn't mean straining to make an arbitrary quota. Start small, and find out how many repetitions makes a good exercise for you. Add more repetitions as you grow stronger to continue challenging yourself.

Keep in mind that the number of 'reps' per set you do defines what kind of training you're doin'. 5-7 For pure strength, 8-15 for pure strength, and 15+ for endurance more than strength training.

But when you're just starting, do what works best for your body. Infuriating but true advice, right ;-)


Variety

Choose strength training exercises for each of the major muscle groups: arms, shoulders, trunk, and legs. Strength training over age 50 is about maintaining and improving overall fitness, so exercise all your major muscle groups.

On top of that, try mixing up your routine to include exercises for different specific muscle groups within each major area. For example, start with the biceps, then switch to a leg exercise, then go back to the arms and work the forearms, and so on.


Get Together

It's always been easier for me to exercise with friends. Get a group together to encourage, motivate, and look out for one another! You can exchange ideas for exercises, help each other stretch, and make your time at the gym fun.


Do What You Can


Strength training over age 50 is about exerting yourself, but find out where your limits are and don't overdo it. Be smart.

It's good to push yourself to do that one more repetition, but it's no good to injure yourself doing too many. When in doubt, take it easy, and if an exercise or stretch hurts badly, don't keep doing it.

On the other hand, add a little to your routine as you grow stronger. Increase the number of repetitions or how much weight you life as exercises become more manageable. Make your workouts longer, or more intense, or more frequent to keep it comfortably challenging. The more you're able to do, the more benefit you'll receive.

Oh, and be sure to sign up for the e-zine Starting Strong to get monthly strength training, exercise, and diet tips e-mailed to you - and access to the free e-book Train Smart, Eat Smart: Exercise Nutrition Hacks!

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References:
1. American College of Sports Medicine. "Physical Activity and Public Health Guidelines". American College of Sports Medicine. http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home_Page&TEMPLATE=CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=7764 (Accessed March 2, 2010)

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