Contrary to popular belief, powerlifting is not a fitness program only for the younger crowd. Rather, it can benefit individuals of all ages, including seniors. With this in mind you might be looking forward to starting a powerlifting program for seniors. But before you do, there are several things you need to know about novice powerlifting for seniors. Today we discuss the must-knows about powerlifting for seniors.
Is Powerlifting Good For Seniors?
Indeed! Powerlifting is vital amongst seniors because it has been linked to many benefits. For one, the exercise program improves bone and muscle health among seniors. This is important because due to the natural aging process, most seniors experience sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia refers to the loss of muscle mass due to the natural aging process (4). When muscle mass decreases, an individual experiences a reduction in body strength (4). Consequently, they also experience balance and gait issues.
Exercising is crucial for an individual with sarcopenia because this condition eventually impacts their ability to perform daily activities like walking or lifting objects (4). To revert this condition most doctors recommend senoirs powerlifting.
Is 60 Too Old To Start Powerlifting?
Generally speaking, it is never too late to start a powerlifting program. It is a rewarding fitness program that benefits everyone regardless of age (5). However, before you to get started you need to take heed to these powerlifting tips (5):
- Learn the correct form to minimize injury risk.
- Focus on a good diet because powerlifting requires large amounts of protein and carbs.
- Develop the right mindset.
- Get started with the help of your instructor.
Powerlifting Workouts For Seniors
A senior powerlifting program can have the same training results as younger adults. However, the exercises and intensity differ due to the differences in fitness levels. That said, it would be best to talk to your trainer and doctor when crafting a senior powerlifting program. Here are some of the most recommended senior weightlifting exercises:
Weighted Step Ups
Step-up exercises are crucial amongst seniors because they build leg strength. Additionally, they also tone the lower body by targeting most lower body muscles (5).
Muscles targeted: Quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Equipment: Pair of dumbbells, plyo box, bench, or step
- Stand in front of a step, bench, plyo box, or elevated surface. Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands at shoulder height.
- Step up with the right foot, then press through the heel to straighten the right leg.
- Bring the left foot to meet the right one on top of the step. Be sure to engage your core during the movement actively.
- Bend the right knee to step back down with the left foot.
- Bring the right foot down to meet the left one on the ground.
Weighted Glute Bridge
The glute bridge exercise is one of the best powerlifting exercises for seniors. It targets the glute muscles, which makes tasks like moving around easier (1).
Muscles targeted: Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, biceps femoris, semitendinosus and gracilis (3).
- Grab a pair of comfortable dumbbells, then lie on your back. Bend your knees and press your feet flat on the floor. Make sure the feet are directly underneath your knees and not in front.
- Place the dumbbell on top of your lower abs below your navel and above your hip bones. Hold the dumbbell in place using both hands to prevent it from moving.
- Slowly push your hips toward the ceiling while engaging your abs and squeezing your glutes. Lift only your bum and hips off the floor until your body forms a long diagonal plane from your shoulders to the knees.
- Hold the movement at the top and clench your glutes. Make sure you arch your spine or sag your hips. Keep your abs and butt muscles actively engaged throughout the movement.
- Slowly lower to the ground to complete one rep.
The goblet squat is similar to other squatting exercises in that it targets your glutes and quads. However, it also stabilizes your core and targets your lats and upper back muscles because of how you perform it (1).
Muscles targeted: Glutes, quads, lats, core, and upper back muscles.
Equipment: Pair of dumbbells or a kettlebell
- Stand upright with your feet at the hip or shoulder-width distance and toes pointed straight ahead. Tighten your core and hold the kettlebell at chest height. Make sure you hold the sides of the handle and have it close to your body.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, push your hips back, then bend your knees to lower into a squat. Keep your chest up and back straight then squat as low as possible without disrupting your form. Stop lowering if you start to round your back.
- Push through your feet to stand and clench your glutes at the top of the movement.
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Weighted Bird Dog
Muscles targeted: Glutes, erector spinae, and rectus abdominis
Equipment: A pair of dumbbells
- Start on all fours. Make sure you have aligned your knees with your hips and your wrists with your shoulders. Keep your back straight, and your face gazed at the floor.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Next, slowly raise your right arm and left leg simultaneously until the two are entirely straight with the body.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds and then slowly release and repeat for the opposite leg and arm.
Muscles targeted: Quads, calves, hamstrings, and glutes
Equipment: A pair of comfortable dumbbells
- Start in a standing stance with a dumbbell in each hand and arms by your sides. Make sure the palms face your thighs and feet slightly less than shoulder-width distance.
- Breathe in, take a huge step forward with your right leg, and land on the heel.
- Bend at the knee until the right thigh is parallel to the ground, without letting the right knee go past the tip of the toes. On the other hand, the left leg should be bent at the knee and balanced on the toes.
- Breathe out and step the right foot back to return to the starting position.
- Repeat with the left leg.
Dumbbell Standing Shoulder Press
The shoulder press exercise is a compound move that targets mainly the muscles in your deltoids and upper arms. It is an excellent exercise for strengthening seniors’ shoulders and upper back muscles (2).
Muscles targeted: Arms, shoulders, chest, and upper back
- Start in a standing position with your feet at a shoulder-width distance with a dumbbell in each hand, shoulder height, and overhand grip.
- Press the dumbbells up above your head until your arms are fully stretched.
- Pause at the top of the movement for a few seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.
As the name suggests, this exercise targets your latissimus dorsi, better known as the lats. Lats are the muscles beneath your armpits that spread across and down your back (2).
Equipment: Lat pulldown machine
Muscles targeted: Shoulders, back, biceps brachii, and rotator cuff
- Sit on the seat of the lat pulldown machine while facing it. Be sure to adjust the cushion above your thighs if necessary.
- Stand upright and grab the bar with your hands positioned at a shoulder-width distance and using an overhand grip.
- Slowly lower into the seat and extend your arms above your head.
- Squeeze your lats, then drive your elbows down to pull the bar towards the top of your chest. Note that you may have to lean back during this move slightly.
- Hold the bar and the move once it reaches the top of your chest, then slowly release it to the starting position. Be sure to breathe normally.
- That’s one rep. Repeat.
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Overhead Tricep Extensions
Equipment: Set of dumbbells
Muscles targeted: Core, lower back, and glutes
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a pair of comfortable dumbbells in each hand.
- Tighten your core, then slowly lift the weights until your arms are fully extended. Make sure you engage your core and face your palms towards the ceiling and elbows pointing forward. This position marks the starting stance.
- From this position, bend the elbows, squeeze your triceps, and then slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head.
- Slowly return to the start position and repeat.
The Bottom Line
Powerlifting for seniors is crucial because it fights sarcopenia, characterized by muscle loss among seniors. By doing powerlifting exercises, seniors increase their muscle size and mass and improve daily functioning. The most recommended powerlifting exercises for seniors include weighted step-ups, shoulder press, tricep extension, glute bridge, goblet squat, and bird dog. Lat pulldowns and dumbbell lunges are also excellent considerations for such a workout plan. It would be best to talk to your doctor and trainer before starting such a program.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- “If they can do it, I can do it”: experiences of older women who engage in powerlifting training (2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Arm Exercises to Tighten and Tone (2004, webmd.com)
- Healthy Lifestyle: Fitness (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Sarcopenia: What you need to know (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
- The Intensity and Effects of Strength Training in the Elderly (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)