Strength Training 101 For the 50+

By Jeff Tomaszewski, Chief Life Transformer, MaxStrength Fitness

Many people exercise and for a variety of reasons. Most people tend to focus on the cosmetic, but the number one thing that I’m interested in as an exercise professional is their “Functional Ability.” This is the ability to carry out everyday tasks with ease. You name it: walking, getting up from a chair, lifting, climbing stairs or partaking in your favorite activities. The unfortunate reality is that as we age, most people lose their “functional ability” and it doesn’t have to be that way. We should be able to maintain a high level throughout our lives.

The group of people who are most affected by losses in functional ability are the elderly and they can see a rapid reversal of this condition. The problem is that the elderly are often considered frail and viewed incapable of performing intense strength training. Strength training stimulates skeletal muscular strengthening. All reasonable expectations from exercise are accessed through the skeletal muscles—the only window into the body—by strengthening them. One’s expectations should include:

  • Improvements in bone density
  • Vascular efficiency
  • Metabolic efficiency
  • Joint stability
  • Muscular strength
  • Improvements in balance
  • Cosmetics

The elderly are just as capable of performing productive exercise as anyone and stand to gain as much, if not more, from strength training. Research has shown that exercise programs for elderly patients have a role in preventing illness and injury, limiting functional loss and disability, and alleviating the course and symptoms of existing cardiac, pulmonary, musculoskeletal, and metabolic disorders. Of course exercise safety is paramount when discussing training programs for elderly populations. It is crucial to abide by preliminary exercise considerations. Attempting to stimulate physical improvements would not be worthwhile if one got hurt in the process.

Strength Training 101 For the Elderly:

  1. Choose only 1 to 2 days per week to engage in strength training. All of the “good stuff” happens while we recover from exercise and this can take 3 to 7 days. Recovery periods may need to be even longer as we age or become more advanced in our exercise performance.
  2. Choose the minimum number of exercises that produce the greatest effect. These tend to be a combination of Leg Press, Pulldown, Chest Press, Compound Row, and Overhead Press.
  3. Select a load that produces muscular failure in a range of 6 to 10 repetitions done in a very “specific manner.”
  4. Use the slowest speed of movement that produces the smoothest movement possible. It makes the exercise both harder and safer.
  5. Train to fatigue: the point where you are incapable of producing another repetition in spite of your best efforts.
  6. Breathe Free! Never hold your breath during exercise. Listen to your breath sounds; note that your breathing should increase to a rapid rate as you fatigue.
  7. You should maintain a blank expressionless look on your face no matter how hard the exercise gets and NEVER move your eyes or head around the room while training. This protects the neck and improves muscular recruitment.
  8. Seek professional advice from experts with experience in dealing with special needs of the elderly. Adjustments and considerations may be needed for those with injuries, arthritis, postural issues, and debilitating weakness or illness.

For more information on how you or a loved one can obtain the benefits of strength training and improve their functional ability, contact MaxStrength Fitness (Willoughby 440.226.8080 or Westlake 440.835.9090) or go to and request your FREE Initial Consultation and Demo Workout and 2 FREE sessions! Hurry, because this offer is limited to the first 11 applicants who are serious about improving the quality of their lives.