Reasons to exercise change as you age. In my 20s it was all about matching my leg warmers to my headband and mimicking moves from Flashdance. I took back-to-back aerobic classes (obsessive much?) and ended up with a stress fracture of my foot thanks to the unforgiving floors of that era.
High impact on concrete floors can hurt you. Who knew?
After more than 35 years of exercising, I’ve tried just about everything, some with more success than others. Today, high-intensity workouts – P90X, CrossFit (a whole story in itself), Insanity – do not motivate me or intrigue me.
My knees hurt just thinking about some of the moves.
But I’ve never wavered in one modality: resistance training. No matter what else I did, I never stopped weight training.
I’ve had a love-hate affair with weights ever since I hoisted my first dumbbell. You can’t get the same results walking or just doing any kind of cardio.
So I’ve gathered my top five resistance exercises for women over 50 that target a few of the biggest trouble spots.
Keep in mind that you also have to eat clean (ditch the junk food and cut back on portions!) and do cardio at least 30 minutes a day for best results. Plus, once you master these moves be sure to add to them to keep making progress.
Do these 3x a week, 12 – 15 reps, 1 set to start and work up to 3 sets.
SQUATS: Done properly, squats hit all the major muscles of the lower body, particularly the glutes. Most women do not squat low enough or use enough resistance to see results. If your knees hurt (like mine!), start with a thorough warm-up (5 to 10 minutes of walking or biking) and a modified version and do them fewer times per week. Even once a week helps if you’re also doing cardio.
—Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
–Engage (tighten) your abdominals and bring your arms out in front to counter balance.
–Keep your weight on your heels as you lower yourself towards the floor by bending at the hips and knees; push your glutes out as if you’re about to sit on a public commode.
–Continue squatting until thighs are parallel to the floor or until your heels begin to lift off the floor. Pause a second or two and then slowly raise back up, pushing through your heels.
You should feel this in the front of your thighs and glutes. Repeat 15 times for three sets. Add weight with dumbbells or a weighted bar as you progress.
PUSH UPS: Push-ups tone and strengthen the entire chest as well as the backs of the arms, too (triceps act as stabilizing muscles). If you’re starting out, try them against a kitchen counter and work your way up to knees and then up to full push-ups on the balls of your feet.
—Lie face down on the floor and bring hands out to your sides next to your chest, fingers pointed in front of you. (If you have wrist pain as I do, grasp onto dumbbells instead of putting your hands flat on the ground.)
–Come up onto the balls of your feet or on your knees if you need to modify the move.
–Keep your body in a straight line and abs engaged as you push yourself up; lower and repeat as many times as you can, aiming for 15 reps. Do 2 to 3 sets.
PLANKS: Best core exercise ever. Did you know over 20 muscles comprise the core? That’s right. Planks strengthen your core, back, abs and your entire midsection. Again, you can start by standing, with your forearms against the wall, and progress to traditional on-your-toes planks. Start with 20 to 30 seconds and work your way up to a minute or more.
—Lie on your stomach and prop yourself up on your forearms and the balls of your feet, elbows directly under your shoulders.
–Engage your abdominals as you raise your body off the ground until you’re in a straight line: shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should all align.
–Do not allow your hips to hike up or sag. Hold 20 to 60 seconds. Repeat.
ROWS: A hunched-over posture ages you more than anything, and strengthening your back can help you stay upright. Use a simple piece of exercise tubing, medium to heavy resistance. These also tone your biceps, since they assist you in pulling.
–Using a piece of exercise tubing with a handle on one end, attach the center of the tubing to a door hinge or wrap it around a sturdy object.
–Stand facing the door hinge in a staggered position, one foot in front of the other, for stability.
–Grasp the handles of the tubing and step back until your arms are straight and you feel tension on the tubing. Pull the handles back as you squeeze your shoulder blades together (without shrugging!); pause and slowly return to starting position. Do 12 to 15 reps for 3 sets.
LATERAL/FRONT RAISES: This move does double duty for shoulders. By bringing weights out to each side and then in front you target all the major deltoid muscles. Strapless dress, anyone?
—Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold dumbbells, one in each hand, facing in towards your body down to you sides.
–Keeping arms straight but not locked out, raise dumbbells out to the sides until they’re parallel to the ground; slowly bring them back to starting position and then raise them straight up in front of you until they’re once again parallel to the ground. Repeat the side to front motion for a total of 10 to 12 reps. Repeat for 2 to 3 sets.
Do you have a favorite exercise? Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you! And please share this with your ageless friends. I’d be forever grateful :).
In the meantime, stay fit, fab and ageless!
Your ageless body coach,
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.