Strengthening your arms is critical to maintaining independence and overall well-being as you age. But which arm exercises are best for seniors? Fortunately, ETNT has got you covered. We spoke with Tracie Haines-Landram, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and nutrition coach with Barbend, who answers that exact question. Haines-Landram designed a productive arm-strengthening workout for seniors, recognizing the unique needs and considerations that come with aging.
As you enter your golden years, maintaining arm strength becomes essential for daily tasks like lifting groceries, reaching for items on high shelves, and maintaining grip strength. According to a 2022 study, those with relatively weak hand grip strength displayed signs of accelerated DNA aging. Conversely, their strong-gripped counterparts exhibited slower (and healthier) signs of genetic aging.
"Upper-body strength is an essential component of health and well-being for older adults," Haines-Landram explains. "Strong arms, shoulders, and grip contribute significantly to daily activities, such as picking up groceries, reaching overhead for items, and getting in and out of a seated position. Improving strength and mobility helps to maintain independence and quality of life."
While you may dismiss arm-strengthening exercises as movements exclusive to bodybuilders wanting to build bigger biceps, incorporating these movements into your fitness routine can boost your grip strength, adding healthy years to your life. So, whether you're a senior who's new to fitness or have many years of exercise under your belt, Haines-Landram's arm-strengthening workout is designed with your needs in mind. Read on for detailed breakdowns and instructions for each exercise. Then, don't miss the 7 Balance Exercises a 60-Year-Old Yoga Instructor Does For Peak Mobility.
Machine Shoulder Press
A key component of strong arms is having strong shoulders, and using the shoulder press machine is a fantastic way to target those deltoid muscles.
Adjust the seat, and select a comfortable weight challenging enough to press overhead without injury. Grab the handles, align your elbows with your shoulders, and push upward, extending your arms fully. Aim for four sets of eight to 12 reps with one minute of rest, focusing on controlled movements to build shoulder strength.
Machine Chest Press
While it may seem counterintuitive to use a machine that focuses on the chest to strengthen the arms, the chest press machine isolates the back of your upper arms (triceps).
Adjust the seat, and choose an appropriate weight. Grab the handles, align your elbows with your shoulders, and push forward to extend your arms. Perform four sets of eight to 12 reps with one minute of rest between.
While lat pulldowns primarily target your upper back and lat muscles, they also engage your biceps and forearms.
To perform this movement, attach a wide-grip bar to the cable machine, sit down, and grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Pull the bar down to your chest level while squeezing your shoulder blades together, pause for one second, then return to the starting position. Complete four sets of eight to 12 reps, resting for one minute between sets.
Seated rows are another effective back exercise that works your middle and upper back while strengthening your biceps.
Sit at a cable machine, adjust the settings, and grab the handles. Pull the handles toward your chest, keeping your back straight. Pause for one second, and slowly return to the starting position. Aim for four sets of eight to 12 reps with one second of rest, focusing on a smooth, controlled motion throughout.
Dumbbell Bicep Curls
This classic exercise has been a staple in arm workouts for decades, and for good reason. Bicep curls can add size to your upper arms while improving grip strength.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, keep your elbows close to your body, and curl the weights upward. Perform four sets of 12 to 15 per arm, alternating between each rep. Rest for one minute between sets.
Tricep dips are a stellar bodyweight exercise that tones and tightens your upper arms. (Bye-bye,
"Using a bench or chair, place the palms of your hands behind you with your elbows bent, supporting your weight, and extend your arm to press your body away from the bench," says Haines-Landram. "Strong tricep muscles play a key role in the pressing motion of using your arms to assist you in and out of a seated position." Complete four sets of 12 to 15 reps with one minute of rest.
Forearms are an often overlooked body part in strength training, but they're crucial for building and maintaining grip strength.
Sit with a light dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing up. Flex your wrists upward and then lower them. Perform four sets of 15 to 20 reps per arm to boost grip and forearm strength.