AllAges Strength Training

By Nicole Radziszewski |

How many times have you heard — or even used — the excuse I’m getting too old for that?

It’s easy to buy into myths of diminishing function long before they become a reality. The problem is, once you stop challenging yourself, you start aging a whole lot faster.

Worse, as you lose muscle, agility, and balance, you run a much greater risk for health challenges and injuries that can markedly reduce your quality of life — and your satisfaction in living.

“For most people, functional longevity is what really matters. They don’t necessarily want to live to be 120, but they want to be able to do the things they need to do and like to do for as long as possible,” says Cody Sipe, PhD, cofounder and vice president of the Functional Aging Institute, which specializes in science-based training programs for older adults.

“When we look at functional aging, we think about all different domains: physical, social, cognitive, emotional, and mental. Exercise and physical activity really lie at the heart of all of  these.”

So, what exercise prescription is most effective for helping people age well? Sipe prefers to take a holistic approach, building strength, endurance, energy, flexibility, and balance.

“As you get older, a lot of systems — including balance, coordination, power, and sensory — start to -gradually decline, to the point where you can’t do the things you want to do,” says Sipe. Your training program needs to address each of these systems.

Regular cardiovascular exercise lowers the risk of many illnesses, and a 2014 study found that people with more muscle mass are likely to live longer.

Sipe also recommends high-intensity interval training, both to boost metabolism (which naturally slows with age) and to enhance cognitive functioning. A recent analysis of studies on exercise and cognition found that a combination of cardio and resistance training might be the most effective way to protect against degenerative brain changes associated with aging.

Sipe designed the following strength workout to help you get and stay optimally fit, regardless of your age. (If you’re in your 20s or 30s, pay attention to which exercises you find most challenging now and make them a priority.)

Here’s the takeaway: The better you can do something now, the better you’ll be able to do it when you’re older.

The All-Ages Workout

Trainer and workout designer Cody Sipe, PhD, suggests performing the following workout two or three days a week, with a minimum of 48 hours of recovery between workouts.

You can also incorporate these movements into your existing training program.

Workout Format

  1. Repeat the complete circuit (exercises 1 through 6) for a total of two or three rounds.
  1. Moderately heavy dumbbells

Tap and Squat

No exercise is more functional than squatting, and, in fact, rising from a seated position without using your hands for assistance is directly linked to longevity. This squat variation helps you stay powerful as you age.

  1. Repeat 12 times.

Completely sit on the chair before rising to standing.

Perform a jump right after you tap the chair. Land softly on the balls of your feet and sink back onto your heels.

Split-Stance One-Arm Row

Rows strengthen your upper back and boost lower-back stability, improving posture and staving off aches, pains, and injury. Standing during this movement forces you to engage your core muscles to avoid rotating your trunk.

  1. Perform 12 reps. Switch sides.

Hold one handle in each hand and perform alternating rows.

Step backward into a lunge as you initiate a single-arm row on the same side. Return the handle to the starting position as you step forward to complete the lunge.

Single-Leg Deadlift

This unilateral move builds serious glute strength while also challenging your core and balance.

  1. Repeat 12 times. Switch sides.

Practice balancing on one foot for up to 30 seconds.

Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell for added resistance. Use the hand that gives you a greater sense of balance.

Pall of Press

This move focuses on antirotation, in which you use your core to fight rotational forces, stabilizing and protecting the lumbar spine.

  1. Perform 12 repetitions. Switch sides.

Press the handle forward and hold for 10 seconds. Rest. Repeat five times.

Add resistance, step farther away from the -anchor point, or perform the press while seated on the floor with legs extended in front of you.

Kneeling Shoulder Press

Performing this exercise with one arm and in an offset stance not only works your shoulders, but also challenges your core and hip stability.

  1. Substitute with single-arm lateral raises: Stand with a dumbbell at your side, and raise it, with palm facing down, to about shoulder height. Lower the weight, then repeat for 12 reps.

Perform the press in a full kneeling position.

Bird Dog

This move challenges rotary stability, which means your core muscles stabilize your hips and spine while you move your arms and legs.

  1. Perform 12 repetitions. Switch sides.

Move your extended arm and leg out to the side slightly then back to a neutral position for each repetition.

Extend your same-side arm and leg.

Like the standing split-stance row, this version of a chest press requires greater core activation, resulting in more muscles worked and in a more real-life context than other chest exercises (think pushing open a heavy door). Hold one handle in each hand and perform alternating, reciprocating chest presses. As one arm pushes forward, the other moves backward. Step forward into a lunge as you initiate a single-arm chest press. Return the handle to the starting position as you step backward to complete the lunge. Alternate lunging with your right and left leg until you complete 12 presses with one arm, then switch sides. Alternating legs while pressing with the same arm will add challenge your balance and core strength. This quick, rotational movement is effective for building core strength, power, and coordination. Perform the chopping movement without the lateral step. Step into a lateral lunge as you perform each woodchop.

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds in a circuit format. Repeat two times.Quickly shuffle your feet to one side. Alternate crossing your trailing foot behind and in front of your lead foot. Switch directions. If this is too difficult, shuffle sideways without crossing your feet.Alternate hopping from one foot to two feet, making sure to switch feet while in a single leg stance.Walk forward on a line, trying to stay up on your toes.

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