StrengthLog’s Training Program for Seniors is designed for, you guessed it, seniors looking to benefit from all the positive effects strength training has to offer. From greater muscle strength to stronger bones, and improved quality of life – if you are 60 or above, this program is for you! Of course, feel free to follow it if you are younger, too. It’s not age-restricted and will work for you as well. It’s just written with the senior lifter in mind.
The program is based on the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s recommendations for strength training for older adults, which means evidence-based and safe training for you.
We designed StrengthLog’s Training Program for Seniors for those of you who want to take up weight training or have just started. If you are already an experienced senior lifter, you probably already know your body and what works best for you. As such, you also have the experience and tolerance for training that make age largely irrelevant. You can, of course, use this program regardless of experience, but it is mainly written with the beginner in mind.
Also, we assume that you are in good health. If you have any kind of medical condition or serious injuries, please consult your doctor before taking up this or any other training program.
When and How Often Should You Train?
One training session per week is better than none. However, if you want real results from your efforts, you should aim for two sessions per week. Working out three times per week is even better, but the additional benefit from going from two training sessions to three is marginal compared to going from one to two.
At the same time, it’s essential to consider your ability to recover from your training and other related factors. If you start training two times per week, you can add an extra workout as you gain experience and feel comfortable with your new routine. If you want to, that is. That’s a great plan which allows you to start gently but effectively, and increase your training intensity and volume if and when you want to!
You can choose which days to train according to your preferences. Hit the weights whenever it fits you. The only thing to keep in mind is to schedule at least one day of rest in between each training session.
If you train twice per week, this is very easy to manage. As long as you don’t train two days in a row, you simply can’t go wrong.
Lifting three days per week, training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is probably the most common way to do it. That schedule frees up the weekend. However, any other combination of days works just as well. Feel free to pick any training days you prefer.
How Often Should You Train Each Muscle?
Training all the major muscle groups every workout is an excellent option for results. This way, you can plan both your training frequency and training volume to allow for proper recovery. Or rather, StrengthLog’s Training Program for Seniors does the planning for you.
Also, frequent whole-body workouts mean that you only do a few sets per muscle each training session. You only need 10 or so exercises per workout to train your entire body. Your workouts become more varied and fun, and you don’t have to spend overly long in the gym.
How Many Sets Per Exercise Should You Do?
If you are new to the world of strength training, one set per exercise is enough. After a month or two of training, you can add a set per exercise. Perform two sets per exercise for another month or two. Then, if you feel that you recover properly from your training, you can add a third set per exercise, if you want to.
(One set = several repetitions)
(One repetition = when you lift and lower the weight once)
In summary, two sets are better than one, once you’re past the beginner stage. Three sets are even more effective. Beyond that, the workouts get longer, but there is no evidence for additional benefits.
So, start with one set per exercise. An excellent long-term goal is adding a set every few months until you perform three sets per exercise regularly. Take it slow. Ramping your intensity, frequency, or volume up too fast, can lead to an increased risk of injury.
How Heavy Weights Should You Use?
As a beginner, you should pick a weight you can control comfortably. Also, you should use a high repetition range, between 10 to 15 repetitions per set, to begin with. Once you feel comfortable performing the exercises, gradually increase the weights and do 6 to 12 repetitions as the program calls for.
After using light weights with which you can perform a fairly easy 6 to 12 reps for a month or so, gradually start increasing them. You have to make your muscles do something they are not used to if you want to keep getting stronger. If you continue using light weights you can handle with ease, you give your muscles no reason to develop increased strength. They can already handle everything you throw at them! The initial light training eases you into the workout routine in a safe manner, but once you are past the first phase, you need to slowly start using heavier and heavier weights.
Gradually increase the weights you use until you reach 75 to 85% of the weight with which you can perform a single, max-effort repetition. That weight, the weight you can barely lift a single time, is called your 1RM. You don’t have to establish your 1RM in the various exercises of the program using trial and error. Just estimate it. The important thing is that you challenge your muscles, or your results will diminish and eventually grind to a halt.
Do You Have to Exhaust Yourself?
No, you don’t have to train until you are exhausted or until you can’t perform another repetition. Doing so might be detrimental and increase the risk of injury. If you train to failure, safely controlling the weights becomes more difficult. Put the weight down when the last repetition feels challenging, but you’re still confident that you could do a few more if you had to.
This is what your whole-body workout looks like. It works your entire body effectively and will make you stronger and better prepared for an active life.
- Leg Press or Alternate Choice: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Lying Leg Curl or Seated Leg Curl: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Machine Row or Lat Pulldown: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Machine Chest Press: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Machine Shoulder Press: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Machine Biceps Curl or Dumbbell Preacher Curl: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Machine Triceps Extension or Dumbbell Triceps Extension: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Standing Calf Raise, Seated Calf Raise, or Heel Raise: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Abdominal Crunch or Machine Crunch: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
- Back Extension, Floor Back Extension, or Machine Back Extension: 1–3 set x 6–12 repetitions
Remember to log your training in some way, be it with a good old pen and a notebook, or with a training app. Take note of the weight you use in the different exercises, and how many repetitions you do. Over time, try to increase either the weight or the number of repetitions.
Feel free to try our StrengthLog app for all your logging needs, along with many other nifty functions.
About the Exercises
Leg Press: you have several alternatives to choose from here. The two most common types of leg press machines are the 45-degree leg press and the horizontal sled leg press. The latter is easier to get in and out of, and it doesn’t raise your blood pressure as much. Also, most horizontal sled leg press models allow you to easily adjust the weight from the seated position. That way, you don’t have to get up to add or remove plates. We recommend the sled leg press if you have access to one.
Leg Curl: both the seated and the lying leg curl are great for training the muscles on the back of your legs, your hamstrings. Choose whichever one you prefer. It might be easier to sit down in a machine rather than lying down on your stomach and getting back up after you’re done. Try them out and feel which you like the best. They are both equally good.
Machine Row or Lat Pulldown: these two exercises target different parts of your back. You can switch between them to train your entire back. Your back is made up of several muscles, and you can’t train them all effectively using just one exercise. At the same time, doing more than one exercise as a beginner might be too much.
Machine Chest Press: performing the exercise seated in a machine is easier and more comfortable than lying down on a bench with a pair of dumbbells. This could make machine training the better option. At least as a beginner or if you have balance issues or a hard time getting up and down in general, especially while holding something.
Machine Shoulder Press: machine shoulder presses give you greater stability than using free weights, something that can be useful when you’re new to the strength training game. However, using free weights, like a pair of dumbbells, activates other muscles as well. These muscles act as stabilizers for other parts of your body. Don’t be afraid to eventually try out and maybe switch to free weights.
Machine Biceps Curl or Dumbbell Preacher Curl: this one is easy. Just pick the exercise you like the best and feel most comfortable with. They are both safe and effective exercises with a very low learning curve. Also, the bicep is not a complex muscle and does not require any advanced exercises, even when you get more advanced yourself.
Machine Triceps Extension or Dumbbell Triceps Extension: if your gym has a triceps extension machine, it’s a safe and effective alternative to free weights. If not, you can perform the exercise lying on a bench, using either one dumbbell or a pair of them. It’s just as effective, but you need to be able to lie down on and get up from the bench while holding the dumbbell(s). If you find that hard, feel free to do the Tricep Pushdown exercise instead.
Calf Raise: most gyms have machines specifically designed for this exercise. Make use of it if yours does. Note that standing calf raises will put pressure on your spine. This is not dangerous unless you have osteoporosis issues. The exercise itself is safe. If, however, you have a medical condition that limits the amount of pressure you can put on your spine, use your body weight only or perform the exercise in a seated calf raise machine instead. Another option, if your gym isn’t equipped with a calf raise machine, is to hold a dumbbell in one hand, hold onto something sturdy with the other hand, and simply rise on the balls of your feet, then slowly return to the starting position, one leg after the other.
Abdominal Crunch: if you have access to an abdominal crunch machine, it’s a great way to train and strengthen your abdominal muscles. If not, the lying abdominal crunch is the traditional version. When you get strong enough to easily perform the intended number of reps without any additional weight, you can hold a dumbbell or barbell weight plate to your chest to add some resistance.
Back Extension or Machine Back Extension: you can perform this exercise in different ways depending on the training equipment at your disposal. In the more advanced version, you use a machine where you lie down on your stomach with your legs secured. Then you raise and lower your upper body. The exercise in itself is both safe and effective, but not suitable for elderly persons with balance issues or who get dizzy easily. In that case, you’ll find seated back extensions in a machine where you press your upper body back against a backrest or cushion, the better option.
StrengthLog’s Training Program for Seniors works your entire body, strengthens all major and important muscle groups, and won’t stop working after a certain amount of time. You can keep using it for as long as you like.
There are many other great exercises out there, exercises you can use to spice up your training once you’re past the absolute beginner’s stage and strength training is part of your regular weekly routine. However, the basic exercises in StrengthLog’s Training Program for Seniors provide an excellent foundation from which to make weight training not only a part of your life but also the way to a stronger and more functional body for life.