There is no disputing the fact that the benefits of strength training as we age are astonishing. It can increase our overall physical strength and burn calories but also improve our brain function, metabolism, blood sugar and balance.
And furthermore, regular strength training has been proven to make us feel more confident and less stressed. With research from the University of Sydney, Australia discovering that people who regularly lifted weights significantly reduced their symptoms of depression. So it is important for our health as we age and it can make us feel happier, but where do we start?
What is strength training?
Some people find the terms “strength”, “weight” or “resistance” training intimidating. It conjures images of bodybuilders or athletes lifting heavyweights. However, strength training exercises are safe and suitable for everyone, both men and women, at all ages and fitness levels. And trust us it’s never too late to start!
At Gym Plus we work with members of all ages to design customised fitness programmes that contain the appropriate strength-training elements. We will recommend specific exercises that incorporate free weights (barbells, dumbells and kettlebells), resistance bands, suspension trainers and/or other machines.
Below we have outlined a guideline to strength training at different stages of life. So let’s take a look at what we recommend for both men and women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
The 20’s : Start As You Mean To Go On
For men, testosterone levels peak in their early twenties and as a result, their bodies are primed for creating muscle. Therefore capitalising on this and following a consistent programme of weight training and cardiovascular exercises will help build a solid foundation for their later years.
And for women in their early twenties, a strength training programme can help them to develop a well-balanced body composition as well as improve posture and overall strength. At this age, you can certainly get away with more but it is still important to create a routine that will help balance the late nights and excess food and drink.
What we recommend
As a beginner to strength training, we recommend working with a professional fitness trainer to help you perfect your form. Then begin with 30 minutes of cardio followed by 30 minutes of weight training 3 times a week.
Try weightlifting exercises that work for multiple muscle groups at once, also known as compound movements. These include:
- Deadlifts (lifting a barbell from standing)
- Renegade rows (lying in a plank and lifting weights in a row-like motion)
- Pull-ups (holding on to a bar and lifting yourself up so your hands meet your hands)
In no time you start to feel comfortable with these weights and start to feel the physical, mental and emotional benefits that come with your progress. Then if you want to take your training to the next level you could try a class at Gym Plus. This advanced barbell exercise class is suitable for those who have a strong general technique and want to learn a new skill and increase their confidence under the instruction of our expert weight trainers.
In your the late twenties, stick with using free weights, kettlebells and TRX (suspension training) to build strength. Suspension training classes are a fun and challenging way to help you get stronger using your own body weight as resistance. The suspension straps can be adjusted to suit different fitness levels.
The 30’s : More with less
As our lifestyles tend to get busier throughout our thirties, it can be difficult to make time for exercise. Longer hours sitting at a desk, commuting to work and family commitments can mean we’re stretched for gym time. You will notice your body isn’t as resilient as it was during the previous decade. So keeping fit at this age means working a little harder.
Our top tip is to try HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) style classes a couple of times a week that incorporate both cardio and strength training exercises. Or a circuit training class that complements your resistance training sessions. You will exert near-maximum effort in a shorter space of time with HIIT, meaning you can fit it into your schedule (even during your lunch hour) and still achieve that full-body workout.
What we recommend
As a beginner to strength training, we recommend working with a professional fitness trainer to help you to perfect your form. Then why not try 1 hour of a HIIT style workout 2-3 times a week and you will be amazed at how great you feel even within a few weeks.
- Classes such as Burn at Gym Plus are great for achieving a full-body cardio and strength training in one fast-paced session. Using a mixture of treadmills and weights you will perform exercises such as split squats, step-ups, bicep curls and dumbbell lunges under the instruction of our expert trainers to achieve a tough but effective workout.
- Or why not try Combo class, a HIIT workout that encompasses strength and cardio exercises that strengthen the core while blasting fat and building power.
- Isolation exercises using weights to focus on specific muscle areas. For example for the legs, hamstring curls, leg extensions and weighted calf raises. Or tricep isolation exercises such as lying tricep extensions, cable pushdowns or decline dumbbell tricep extensions.
The 40’s : Use it or lose it
According to the Harvard Medical School, getting older is associated with a loss of muscle mass and strength. Our muscle mass peaks around age 40, after which it declines. Therefore strength training, combined with aerobic exercise becomes vital to build into our fitness routine at this age or we will lose that important muscle mass. But don’t worry, even if you haven’t exercised in a long time and are nervous about doing so, don’t be, this is the perfect age to start.
In fact, with as little as 40 minutes of strength training 2-3 times per week, you can gain muscle at the same rate as adults 20 years younger. And after only a few weeks you may notice that you have more energy, you will feel physically stronger and will look more toned.
What we recommend
As a beginner to strength training, we recommend working with a professional fitness trainer to help you to perfect your form. Then start with 40 minutes of weight training 3 times a week in addition to 20 minutes of cardio.
- Suspension training exercises and machines
- Bench presses, shoulder presses, rows, squats and deadlifts to work the entire body.
- Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges and dips.
50+ : Less is more
The benefits of a regular strength training routine over 50 includes better balance and reduced risk of injury. It will also help you feel more confident, focused and can boost your mood. It’s very important at this age to start slowly and seek the help of professional trainers who will help you perfect your form.
Over 50, you can do fewer sets performed 2-3 times a week and still build considerable muscle mass, spaced between rest days. In addition to following a healthy eating plan, containing lots of proteins.
What we recommend
- Exercises should concentrate on the major multi-joint movements such as squats, deadlifts, chest presses and overhead presses.
- A trainer may also recommend some single-joint moves like bicep curls, tricep pulldowns etc. but the focus should be on multi-joint movements.
- Classes at Gym Plus such as Tempo Lift and Kettlebells are a great way to build strength training into your weekly workouts in a fun and friendly class environment.
And for those in their 60’s, resistance training using free weights, weight machines and resistance bands have been shown to positively impact muscle and bone health. In fact, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that men in their 60’s who completed the same programme as men in their 30’s increased both strength and muscle size in their legs and lats.
Safety Tips For Strength Training
Regardless of age, it’s very important to start slow when beginning a new strength training programme. Performing any exercise with poor form can cause an injury and when you add in weights, those injuries can be more serous. But you will be amazed at how quickly your body adapts to the training and in a few short weeks, you will feel stronger both physically and mentally.
Also, a friendly reminder to eat healthily and drink plenty of water during your training, making sure your body is fuelled and hydrated adequately to maximise your performance. And finally, ensure you warm-up before weight training and perform stretches pre and post-workout to avoid injury.
As a complete beginner to strength training, we recommend meeting with a professional fitness trainer who will create the right health and fitness programme for your age and fitness level. Ask as many questions as you can during this first session, informing the trainer of any injuries or conditions you may have.
If you are interested in meeting with a member of the Gym Plus fitness team to have a chat about how to create a strength training programme that is tailored for you, enquiry today HERE.