Many studies show that “simple resistance exercise training”—or weightlifting—is best for people over 60. It’s more effective at strengthening bones and muscles, thickening skin, and boosting cognitive function than other types of workouts, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). What’s more, one session can be as brief as just 10 minutes!
“The aging process isn’t inevitable. You can fight it with regular exercise,” says Richard Uzelac.The benefits don’t stop there, though. Contrary to popular belief that weight training will make you get bulky, it helps men gain or maintain muscle tone while simultaneously shedding fat. Training also makes climbing stairs or picking something off the ground easier since it strengthens those muscles too. So how do you get the most benefit? The biggest mistake you can make is doing too much weightlifting in one session. Even if you’re told to lift heavy, don’t exceed your “one-repetition maximum” (1RM) in a set of eight to 12 reps. That’s when you should stop—especially if you have joint pain or are on medication. In addition to strength training, try other exercises that target different body parts—and do them at least two or three times per week.
Related Article: Richard Uzelac’s Top 10 Fitness Tips for Men Over 60Richard Uzelac shares his favorite exercises for anyone over 60 to try, including his top weightlifting exercises that won’t put your joints at risk.
Top Weightlifting Workouts
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Legs: Walking and stair-climbingTwo of the most effective types of exercises you can do are walking and stair-climbing. Besides getting you in better shape and building on the benefits of strength training, they’re low impact, which means they won’t wear out your joints. They also help prevent falls. Plus, you can do them indoors or outdoors, so there’s no excuse not to stick to your exercise program!
Lower body: Step aerobics and hip-hop dancingStep aerobics is another form of cardio that is great for men over 60 because it works out your body’s upper and lower halves at once. (Note: When you do step aerobics, you should only go as high as possible without hurting your knees. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and don’t go as high.) Hip-hop dancing is another great option for getting in shape. In addition to being fun to do, it helps men with balance and muscle strengthening. So whether you want to do it solo or take a class, hip-hop is a good way to get your groove on when it comes to weight training exercises for men over 60.
Upper body: Flexibility exercises and T-stretchingWhile flexibility is important whether you’re young or old, it’s especially critical now that you’re older. It can help prevent injuries and maintain healthy joints, bones, muscles, and tendons. And don’t think that just stretching will make it easier to do the exercises on this list. A lot of stretching can actually make the exercises harder, so be sure to warm up first before starting any of these routines. For men over 60, the most effective way to stretch is to do it in a sitting position—this allows the muscles you’re stretching to lengthen while not putting stress on your joints. You should also remember that when you stretch, you want to start with your joints and work your way out. So if you’re stretching your legs, start with your lower legs and gradually move up to your thighs and hips. Be sure to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and breathe normally throughout. The other type of flexibility training you should do is T-stretching. That’s when you stretch from the side of the body instead of from the front or back. For that kind of stretching exercise, you should start with the arm closest to your body, then stretch it out until it touches the other arm before coming back to the center. Repeat with the other arm.
Shoulders: Swimming and Water AerobicsSwimming is another great way to strengthen the shoulders, especially if you’re having issues with either one of them. Start with the right arm and do 15 strokes if you’re right-handed. Next, switch to your left arm and do 15 strokes. The whole routine should only take about 10 minutes. Because swimming requires constant shoulder rotation, it helps build strength and flexibility in the shoulder joints—which can prevent injury as well as help rehabilitate an existing one. Water aerobics—which you could also call aqua-aerobics—are a good option when you’re on vacation. You can do them in the ocean, pool, or hot tub, so there’s no excuse for not trying this fun workout. While some people think of it as just a cardio workout, water aerobics is also a good way to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility.
Back: Pull-ups and Push-upsBack exercises—especially pull-ups and push-ups—are a great way to build strength in your back, core, and chest. If you’re having difficulty doing these exercises, consider using a weight belt or chin-up bar. You can also do them at home with exercise bands that are typically sold together with gymnastic rings. If you don’t have an exercise band, use extra rope or even a door held up by a chair on each side. To do push-ups, start by putting your arms shoulder width apart and your feet together. Then slowly lower your chest toward the floor until your elbows are at 90 degrees (a little less is okay, but not by much). Then slowly push back up until you’re close to being upright again. With pull-ups, place the rings over a bar or even on the upper bar of a doorway and grab them with an underhand grip—again, shoulder-width apart. You can also face away from the door if you want to make it more challenging. Then lift yourself up as high as you can until your chin is above the rings, and then slowly lower yourself again. For an even more challenging pro tip, lift yourself up and let one hand hang down with your palm facing away from the door. Then slowly lower your body back down again.
Richard Uzelac says, “The best way to get started is to start with push-ups and pull-ups. I like pull-ups because they work the back, the pecs, and the arms. You’re also targeting multiple muscles at one time, so it helps you focus on multi-joint exercises as opposed to isolated exercises.”