Regular exercise offers a multitude of benefits, particularly for individuals who are 50 and above. Engaging in consistent physical activity not only enhances essential qualities like strength, balance, coordination, and mobility, which are crucial for aging gracefully, but it also contributes significantly to your mental well-being. Beyond the evident physical advantages, exercise serves as a powerful catalyst for fostering motivation and happiness. So if you're over 50, listen up, because I have 10 of the absolute best weight-bearing exercises to add to your routine.
The interplay between the physical and mental benefits of regular physical activity forms a dynamic duo. This combination underscores the importance of incorporating weight-bearing exercises into your fitness routine. By doing so, you prioritize your physical health and fortify your mental resilience, creating a holistic approach to overall well-being.
Explore the selection of the top 10 weight-bearing exercises for adults over 50, below. These exercises promise a fun and exciting workout experience—whether at the gym or in the comfort of your own home. Rest assured, my recommendations are backed by a wealth of experience working with clients and athletes across various age groups. You can trust that these exercises are verified, ensuring a reliable and effective means to elevate your overall well-being.
Keep reading to learn all about my 10 best weight-bearing exercises for adults over 50. And when you're finished, be sure to check out the 7 Yoga Exercises a 69-Year-Old Instructor Does To Look Half Her Age.
While moving external weights like barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells is valuable, the significance of moving your body weight becomes increasingly crucial as you age for overall health and longevity. Incorporating bodyweight exercises such as pushups is essential for a well-rounded fitness routine. Pushups effectively target the pecs, shoulders, triceps, and core. Functionally, they play a vital role in facilitating movements like getting up and down from the ground, making them a key component of a comprehensive fitness regimen.
Start by positioning your hands beneath your shoulders. Assume a plank position by keeping your arms straight. Squeeze your core, and lower your body close to the ground, pause, then push back up. Repeat for desired sets and reps, prioritizing form. Perform three to four sets of six to 12 reps, allowing 90 seconds of rest between sets. If you find it challenging to meet the designated rep range, push yourself to complete as many reps as possible and then conclude the set with negatives—controlled lowering reps starting from the top.
Well-developed glutes contribute both functionally and preventatively. Functionally, as the largest muscles in your body, they play a pivotal role in movements such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, and core exercises. On a preventive note, training your glutes assists in alleviating lower back pain, hip pain, and stabilizing your core, pelvis, and legs. In simple terms, strong glutes are an essential part of a fit physique.
To perform glute bridges, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Squeeze your core, then push your hips up, squeezing your glutes at the top, maintaining a straight line from shoulders to knees. Slowly lower your hips back down, focusing on controlled movement. Keep your core engaged, and avoid excessive arching when completing your reps. Coach tip: Pause at the top of each rep for two to three seconds to reinforce glute development. Compete three sets of eight to 12 reps with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows
Unilateral lifts take the lead in promoting functional muscle development and coordination, proving value not only as we age, but in all phases of life. Single-arm dumbbell rows are notorious for strengthening your lats, rhomboids, serratus anterior, and biceps. Here's a little secret: When executed correctly, they can also enhance thoracic mobility.
For the dumbbell row, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge forward with a flat back until nearly parallel to the floor, and use a bench, box, or rack for support. Hold a dumbbell, straighten your arm, pull your elbow up in a rowing motion, then lower it slowly. Repeat on the other side. Perform three sets of 12 to 15 reps per side with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
Choose any squat variation—goblet, back, or front—for a highly effective workout that provides numerous benefits as you age. Squats are excellent for facilitating functional movement patterns, strengthening the core, and improving full-body mobility. Enhance your workout by incorporating tempos and pauses, intensifying without necessarily increasing weight. If full-depth squats pose a challenge, diversify your routine with box squats, adjusting the target height as your strength and mobility improve.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes forward, and maintain an upright chest and engaged core. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest, gripping it firmly. Hinge your hips back, and lower into a squat. Lower to a desired depth, then push through your whole foot to return to the starting position. Work through three sets of six 6 to 12 reps for goblet squats with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
Forward lunges benefit individuals above 50 by enhancing lower-body strength, promoting balance and coordination, and improving joint flexibility and stability, all the while supporting cardiovascular health. Lunges are an excellent unilateral movement to add to your workout program. If the dynamic movement of stepping is a little tough, regress into split squats to develop single-leg strength!
To execute a forward lunge, begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with your right foot, and lower your left knee toward the floor. Keep your front knee above the ankle, your back knee slightly above the floor, and your torso tall. Push off with your right foot, returning to the starting position, and bring your right foot back beside your left. Repeat the process, alternating legs. Complete two to three sets of eight to 12 reps per side with 90 seconds of rest between sets. Perform with bodyweight or various holds using dumbbells, kettlebells, or med balls.
Single-Arm Overhead Press
The overhead press is a vital exercise for those over 50 who are seeking to enhance upper-body strength and stability. Opting for the single-arm overhead press offers more advantages than the conventional barbell press, as it intensifies the challenge of stabilizing the weight with one arm. This variation targets your delts, triceps, and upper back while promoting stability in your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. Perform this exercise with dumbbells or kettlebells, focusing on a controlled and smooth tempo for optimal results.
For overhead presses, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold the weights at shoulder height with a neutral, full grip. Engage your core, then exhale, and press the weight overhead, straightening your arm. Keep your head neutral, and lower the weight back down with control. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform three sets of eight to 15 repetitions with 90 seconds of rest between sets. If opting for slower tempos, stay in the lower rep range, ideally eight to 10.
Band pull-aparts focus on your shoulders—specifically targeting the rear delt, rhomboids, traps, and crucially the smaller muscle groups constituting the rotator cuff. In essence, this exercise encapsulates strength and support in a single, efficient package. The added advantage is that band pull-aparts necessitate only a band, allowing you to incorporate sets at home, in the gym, or even at the office.
Hold a resistance band in front of you with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Pull the band apart, squeeze your shoulder blades, and extend your arms to the sides. Return to the starting position with controlled movement. Maintain a slight elbow bend, and engage your core. Complete two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
The bird dog exercise enhances stability in the shoulder, core, and hips, making it highly effective for strengthening key joints and muscles. When incorporating this movement into your workouts, begin with static holds lasting 20 to 30 seconds. As you progress, transition to shorter holds with more repetitions for an advanced challenge.
To perform bird dogs, start in a tabletop position. Extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously, keeping them parallel to the ground. Hold briefly, then return to the starting position. Repeat with the left arm and right leg. Focus on slow, controlled movements to enhance core strength and stability. Perform three sets of 20 to 30-second holds with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
The suitcase carry is an excellent exercise that is a staple in many of my programs. It focuses on your core, lower back, and shoulders, all while challenging your grip strength. Few exercises rival its functional benefits in a workout routine. Integrate suitcase carries to build your core, enhance stability, and elevate overall functional strength.
Select a challenging dumbbell or kettlebell, pick it up with one hand, and walk in a controlled manner, keeping it by your side like a suitcase. Focus on squeezing and stabilizing your core, maintaining a tall posture. Carry the weight for a set distance or time, then switch hands. Start with a lighter weight, and progress gradually for optimal results. Complete two to three sets of 30 to 60-second reps with 120 seconds of rest between each set.
The forearm plank is a fundamental core exercise that shines a spotlight on core engagement. Widely incorporated in strength and core-focused routines, planks are renowned for their effectiveness. Mastering the art of engaging your core not only enhances strength during workouts but also cultivates resilience and vitality in daily life. As you progress with bodyweight variations, consider adding resistance to further challenge and elevate the exercise.
To perform a forearm plank, start in a prone position with your forearms on the ground, your elbows directly below your shoulders, and your legs extended straight. Engage your core to maintain a straight line from your head to your heels. Keep your elbows below your shoulders, and head in a neutral position, and gaze your eyes to the floor. Hold the position, aiming for at least 20 to 30 seconds initially, and gradually increase the duration. Focus on steady breathing and core engagement. Perform three sets of 20 to 40-second holds with 90 seconds of rest between sets.