6 Muscle-Boosting Strength Training Exercises for Seniors

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What is Strength Training?

Strength training is a style of exercise that makes you flex your muscles. Through such muscle contractions, when properly performed, this form of physical exercise bears a number of positive health effects, working to improve strength, endurance, size of skeletal muscles and bone density. Just like muscles, bones naturally get weaker as we age. These strength exercises for seniors put weight on bones and muscles throughout the body to maintain mobility and prevent future injuries.

Strength training commonly uses the technique of progressive weight training. This is when you add weight in small increments to increase resistance and the amount of effort your muscles use. However, beginning without any weights at all is a great way to start. Start low, and use one or two-pound weights to get your training started without injury

6 Strength Exercises for Seniors

ALL of these strength exercises for seniors can be completed WITHOUT WEIGHTS

Dumbbell Shoulder Squats

A vector image of a woman demonstrating a dumbbell shoulder squat

Starting with legs, dumbbell squats are great leg and hip exercises for seniors that will strengthen muscles and tendons in your hips, hamstrings, and glutes. This makes for a great exercise that improves balance and prevents falls.

How to:

  • Pick up your dumbbells and stand tall with your feet at a shoulder width’s distance apart. 
  • Next, rest the dumbbells on your shoulders with the dumbbells and your elbows pointing forward.

If you are not using dumbbells, hold your arms out straight in front of you. Or, if it is easier, place your right hand over your chest and on your left shoulder, and then place your left hand over your right arm on your right shoulder.

  • Brace your core and push your hips back, bend your knees and slowly lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Pause for a second, then slowly lift yourself through your heels to return to the starting position.

Note: For those who wish to have more support, placing a chair behind you as you do this exercise may help with your form and the intensity of the workout 

Forward Lunge

A vector image of a man demonstrating a forward lunge

Now let’s do another leg workout that works your hips as well. The forward lunge is a bodyweight exercise that will work all of your legs, primarily focusing on your upper leg muscles like the quadriceps and hamstrings.

How to: 

  • Start by standing tall with your arms down at your sides with your dumbbells in hand. 
  • Step back with your right foot, placing your toes on the ground with your heel lifted. 

If you choose not to use dumbbells, simply let your arms rest down by your sides, maintaining the same starting position.

  • Next, slowly bend your left knee forward as far as is comfortable for you. Allow your right knee to bend as you carefully lunge forward.
  • Draw your lower belly in, and lift your chest. 
  • After a quick pause, lift your body back up by pressing through your front foot until you’re standing again. 
  • Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times, being sure to alternate feet in the process.

This is a great exercise for balance, check out some more exercises for better balance to incorporate into your routine.

Tricep Extension

A vector image of a man demonstrating a tricep extension

For this exercise, you’ll just need one dumbbell or weight of choice. Even a water bottle is enough weight for this strength training exercise. Also, using one or two-pound dumbbells is a great, low-weight alternative for seniors. 

How to:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, brace your core and hold the weight tightly with both of your hands.
  • Lift the weight towards the ceiling until your arms are fully extended.
  • Ensure that your palms are facing the roof and your elbows are pointing forward.
  • Next, bend your elbows and squeeze your triceps as you slowly lower the weight behind your head, almost making a “V” shape.
  • Pause for a second, then extend the dumbbell back up towards the ceiling to return to the starting position.

As with all of these exercises, repeat the tricep extension according to your workout program or repeat it as many times as you feel is necessary. This is just one of many easy upper body exercises you can do to maintain strength.

Lateral Raises

A vector image of a woman demonstrating lateral raises

For this strength exercise, your primary piece of exercise equipment will, once again, be dumbbells. Before starting, be sure to choose a weight that feels comfortable until you feel you can work your way up to heavier weights. However, it is ok not to use weights for this exercise.

How to:

  • First, stand with your feet at a shoulder width’s distance apart. Ensure that your back is straight and that your feet are firmly planted on the floor. 
  • Hold the dumbbells with your arms down at your sides.

For those not using weights, simply place your hands at your sides so that your palms are facing inward.

  • Next, slowly lift the weights or your arms out to the side, inhaling as you raise the weights with your arms straight out, elbows slightly bent and palms facing down.
  • Pause when your arms are parallel to the floor and slowly lower them back down to the starting position as you exhale. 
  • Repeat this exercise according to your workout program or until you feel you need a break.

Bicep Curls

A vector image of a man demonstrating a bicep curl

Next, we will focus on a classic exercise targeting your arms. Bicep curls are a simple, yet effective exercise to help seniors build muscle and maintain bone and tendon strength.

How to:

  • Start by standing tall, with a dumbbell in each hand, ensuring that your back is straight and your feet are a shoulder width’s distance apart. 
  • Next, make sure that your grip on your weight of choice is firm and correct: 
    • Hold the weights horizontally at the thigh level with your palms facing outward.
    • Make sure that you aren’t holding the dumbbells directly across your thighs.
  • Exhale and bend your elbow, contracting your bicep muscle. 
  • Continue to raise the weight until it reaches shoulder level.
  • Pause for a second, then slowly return the weight to its original position. 

Seated Rows

A vector image of a woman using a resistance band to demonstrate a seated row

At a gym, there are a few options to complete this exercise. Machines built specifically for seated rows are a good option when available, as they ensure that your body has the correct form down before completing the exercise. For this strength exercise, the main piece of equipment is the cable machine. But, if you do not have access to a machine, use an object as a handle. This can be a resistance band, small rod, a walking stick, or cane.

How to:

  • Sit upright on a flat surface and plant your feet on the floor. 
  • Extend your arms to grab the handle and move your shoulders back and down. 
  • Next, simply exhale and bend your elbows to pull the handle towards you. 
  • Pause for a second and then extend your elbows outwards to the count of three. 
  • Without letting go of the handle, repeat this exercise as outlined in your workout plan or as you feel fit.

This exercise is a great way to build strength for your back, biceps, shoulders, and core. For more information on core exercises, check out our guide on easy, but essential core exercises for seniors.

Exercise is an integral part of leading a healthy lifestyle as we age, and strength training, in particular, is an important part of exercise to help seniors maintain proper health,  balance, mobility, and more.

At Iora, our care teams take the time to help you uncover your health and wellness goals. We care for the whole person, addressing physical, social, and mental health. We also work with each patient to achieve their health goals through nutrition and exercise classes designed for all ability levels.

Now that you’ve learned about the best strength exercises for seniors, then you might want to learn about the benefits of strength training for seniors to boost your workout.