If you’re 65 or older, starting a strength training routine can seem daunting for a variety of reasons. 

You don’t want to hurt yourself. You have existing injuries or pain that you don’t want to exacerbate. You don’t want to feel stupid or inadequate if you’re working out around other people. 

Maybe you don’t think you can make any progress even if you do start. 

I’ll detail where to start and how to start strength training if you are 65 or older in this article. 

Prior to reading this article, I would recommend reading this one about whether you should lift light or heavy, and this one about whether or not you can actually gain muscle at 65 or older.

Strength training for seniors and where to start

Exercise, particularly strength training is the best thing you can do for yourself to prevent falls, maintain independence, and keep your ability to get up from the floor all the way to skiing down black diamonds (if that’s your thing). 

Since we lose 1-2% of muscle mass per year after around the age of 35 it’s critically important that we make lifting weights a normal part of our weekly routine. 

The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that in addition to 5 days per week of walking for 30 minutes (aerobic), that you also get two times per week of resistance training, also known as lifting weights. 

Two times per week for 20-30 minutes is a great starting point.

Here are my recommendations for beginners in bullet point format:

  • Start off all exercises with 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Keep the intensity (difficulty level) low. This is so that you can learn the movements without getting too sore. 
  • Use light weight to start with to get your body used to the movements.
  • Pick two days out of the week and block off 20 to 30 minutes on your calendar. 

Common misconceptions about strength training

“I’ll keep being really sore after every workout.”

This is a common belief however it’s not accurate. If you lift weights routinely you will be able to push yourself with higher-difficulty activities and not feel very sore at all. This takes time and practice but even after a couple of weeks of lifting the soreness generally completely dissipates. 

“I need to workout 5x/week to see any progress.”

You will see progress from your workouts even if you only workout 1x/week. I’ve had many clients that i’ve trained over the years who have worked out once per week and made massive improvements. 

Basic four exercises to start with

Box Squats

Shoulder Press

Floor Transfer

Bent Over Row

If you can do these four exercises you are moving in the right direction!

Here are a couple of related articles if you’re looking for more exercise options:

Can you strength train if you have knee, hip, or back pain?

You can strength train if you are having knee, hip, or back pain, however, you will likely want to make some modifications to your exercises if you notice the movements are making your symptoms worse. For a detailed breakdown of this please click the link earlier in this paragraph and it will take you to an article I wrote a while back about this exact topic.

Key Takeaways

  • Strength training is incredibly important if you are 65 or older. It helps to maintain bone density and muscle mass. 
  • Start with light weights and low intensity and build up over time