Muscle bulk starts to decline around the mid thirties in men and women and more or less accelerates as you age past fifty. However, you can at least arrest or slow this muscle decline and maintain or even improve strength (from a sedentary base) for the decades beyond thirty. Here's how to do it.
It's one thing to retain heart and lung fitness by doing aerobic exercise like walking and jogging, but you also need to work on that upper body: the arms and shoulders and the core muscles of lower back and abdominals. Without that work, you get a little unbalanced in your overall fitness.
- Strength and bulk in the upper and lower body
- Improved joint health, balance and stability
- Weight management
- Bone density maintenance
How to Train with Dumbbells
Weight training utilizes repeats of exercises called sets and repetitions. A repetition is one completion of an exercise and a set is one group of repetitions. A typical training workout exercise is 3 sets of 12 repetitions. You will often see this written as 3x12. You should rest for 1 to 2 minutes between each set.
For each exercise, do 8 to 12 repeats (repetitions) of the exercise before resting. The last lift in each set should feel that it somewhat difficult to complete but not exhausting. Aim to do 2 or 3 sets of each exercise, but start slowly and build up if you are starting out. Get your doctor's approval as well if you suffer a chronic illness or are very unfit.
Get a Medical Checkup
Weight training is not dangerous for older people as long as you take a few precautions.
- Ask your doctor for clearance
- Take advice about medications. Diabetics using drugs or injectable insulin may need adjustments.
- Drink sufficient fluids -- more if it’s hot.
- Stop if something hurts – other than the discomfort of muscular effort. See How to Lift Weights Safely
- Start slowly and work up to heavier weights and more repetitions to suit your existing level of fitness and capability.
The Exercise Program
Do up to 7 exercises at least twice each week.
Start out with two sessions and see how you react. Ensure you rest for at least one day between sessions initially. You may wish to build it up to 3 or 4 sessions each week if you don’t do too much other exercise. A dumbbell weights program is a good complement to a walking program.
Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise.
Start at 2 sets of 8 if you feel 3x12 is too much to begin with -- or even less if that's what it takes to get you started. Try not to skip any of the 8 exercises in the program unless you have medical reasons for doing so. Rest between sets for 60 to 120 seconds -- or more if you need it.
Make sure you are well balanced
for each exercise, wear appropriate footwear and have access to water or fluids.
Take care of your joints.
Don’t over-stress the joints if you have existing or past problems, especially in exercises like the squat and the lunge. This means using lighter weights and not extending the joint through its full range of motion in the early stages of your program. Weight training can improve your joint health, so build up to the full program specifications when you feel sufficiently strong and flexible.
- Overhead press
- Arm curl
- Triceps extension
- Shoulder squat (Or with dumbbells at the sides if this works better for you.)
- Forward lunge
- Standing or bent over rows. (Standing will work the shoulder muscles. Bent over will work the back muscles. Use the standing position until you're sure your back is strong enough for the bent over exercises.)
Remember to ease into the workout if you have not exercised with weights previously, then build up to your best work over weeks and months.