Just because you’re a senior, doesn’t mean that you can’t build muscle mass. Yes, you’re at a disadvantage because you have lower testosterone levels and you’re older. But you can still build muscle, gain strength and be physically fit.
Muscle mass does decrease at a surprising rate as people age.
UCLA’s Dr. David Heber claims that a person might lose a solid 10 pounds of muscle mass between the ages of 60 and 70.
The problem is that a lot of seniors view this muscle deterioration as an irreversible occurrence. And this is not the truth.
Can seniors build muscle mass?
New studies are pointing to yes. In fact, there was a recent study published in the Medicine & Science journal which found people that begin lifting weights, even after the age of 50, can curb age-related muscle loss.
In fact, you can win the battle against muscle loss.
But don’t take my word for it. A prime example is Sandy Palais. Sandy is a 73-year-old woman that hits the gym six days per week. She trains hard, and she stays in the gym for about an hour a day. She’s your regular 73-year-old, and she didn’t start going to the gym until 10 years ago.
The reason for her going to the gym was muscle deterioration and osteoporosis.
Of course, she didn’t start by going six days a week. She started lifting weights just three days a week, and within in a year, she entered the senior Olympics in her area. She chose weight training, and it’s something you should try, too. Resistance training has been shown to build bone mass and muscle mass.
Studies, 39 in total, prove that adults over the age of 50 can increase their muscle mass by an average of 2.5% in as little as five months. Age-related muscle loss stopped in its tracks, and the studies also showed that the participants actually gained muscle mass.
Weight Training and Building Muscle Mass
Muscle mass requires resistance training. Going to the gym and barely pushing yourself to your limits will not provide you with the maximum benefits. If you really want to build muscle, you need to work really hard.
Studies show that intensity provides more dramatic outcomes.
The idea is simple: lift heavier weight and gain more muscle. Studies show that seniors that push their limits and lift the most weight boost their strength by nearly a third more than those that lift light weight.
Researchers around the world agree that seniors can build muscle mass. And it’s something that every senior should try to do, as falls are attributed to lack of muscle strength and balance.
Seniors tend to live sedentary lives, and this means that they’ll need to start lifting weights slowly over time.
You can start like Sandy and go to the gym, or lift weights at home 3 times per week for an hour a day. Keep up this pace for 2 – 3 months before adding in one or two more days. Ideally, you’ll be going to the gym at least five times per week and engaging in physical activities the other two days of the week.
If you’re a fan of the gym, go every day of the week.
Proper diet and nutrition is also recommended to help you lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Heavier weight should be your goal, but you can start with three sets of ten repetitions with light weight before progressing to lifting heavier weight for fewer repetitions. Time under tension is the key to building muscle mass.
Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
Can seniors build muscle mass following a normal routine? Yes, but there are a few key areas that you may want to focus on that a younger person at the gym may ignore:
- Standing. Practice standing up out of the chair 10 times for three sets. Add weights in 5-pound increments after mastering standing with proper balance. Dumbbells are a great option for adding weight. This exercise is very important because the ability to stand up out of a chair is greatly compromised after age 65 without weight training.
- Side Leg Raises. Balance starts with your hips, so perform side leg raises to help improve your balance. This is done by laying on your side and lifting one leg up in the air while keeping the knee straight. Add in ankle weights as you progress.
- Back Leg Raises. You can perform back leg raises by holding on to a chair and lifting your right leg straight back into the air. Add in weights as you progress to make the exercise more difficult.
- Marching. Hip flexors make sure that your feet are picked up off of the ground properly. Marching simply requires you to stand and lift your legs straight to your chest with your knee bent (one at a time of course). Ankle weights can also be added. If you have poor balance, hold on to a chair or perform your marches while sitting down.
Yes, these are all basic exercises, but they are exercises that you should perform for keeping general mobility. You don’t want to stop here. You can also perform any exercise you want at the gym as long as you know it won’t aggravate an injury.
Work all of your muscle groups: core, back, legs, shoulders, biceps, chest, triceps and even your ankles.
The key most important thing is to push your limits by lifting heavier weight that you may only be able to do for 6 repetitions. You can just increase the number of sets to ensure that your muscles get a good workout.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.