Weight Lifting Workout for Over 50 Year Olds

weight lifting for over 50 year olds

By Darvis Simms

If you are over the age of 50, weight lifting is one of the most important forms of exercise you can do to stay firm and fit. Weight lifting builds muscle, makes you stronger, and revs-up your metabolism.

As a personal trainer, I hear statement such as these a lot. “Every since I’ve turned 50 I’ve gained some extra weight that I can’t get rid of” or “my body is just not as firm as it use to be.” The major culprit of these conditions and a lot of other aliments associated with ageing is muscle loss.

Losing muscle is detrimental to your health and fitness because it is the component of your body that is active and burns the majority of the calories you consume. Even when you are resting your muscles are burning calories. So, when you lose muscle mass your metabolism decreases and those extra calories that are not being burned are stored as fat.

Exercise from 40 Onwards

Around the age of 40 you naturally start to lose muscle mass. You can lose as much as 10 to 15 pounds of muscle each decade beginning at age 40. Fortunately, you can stop and even reverse the process of muscle loss by weight lifting. Studies have shown that people in their 80s and 90s  gain muscle and strength when they start weight lifting.

Now that you are convinced about the importance of weight lifting, here’s one of my favorite beginner’s routines. Do the following routine regularly and I promise you will look and feel better in just a few weeks.

The Over 50 Workout

In this strength training program for over 50s, you will work all the major muscles in your body. This routine is designed for you to do every third day. For example do this program Monday, Thursday, and Sunday etc. Spacing out this routine is important to give your body a chance to recuperate between workout sessions. Weight lifting tears down muscle fibers, so your body needs the proper recovery time to rebuild those fibers stronger.

You should do each exercise for two sets of 10 repetitions with at least one minute but no more than two minutes between each set. For each  exercise select a resistance with which the last three repetitions are difficult to complete. Do this routine for two months, and then move on to the Intermediate Routine.

Warm-up and Stretching

Warming-up before you work out and stretching after you work out are two very important activities to include in your fitness program. A  proper warm-up reduces you chance of muscle strains and pulls during exercise, while stretching afterwards improves flexibility and lessens soreness.

Always warm-up before every work out session. This gets your muscles warm and ready to exercise. You can warm-up by doing at least five  minutes of any type of cardiovascular activity at a slow to moderate pace. After each workout always do some stretching.

Exercise 1. Lat Pulldown

over 50 weight trainer performing a lateral pulldownThe lat pulldown is a great exercise for strengthening and developing the upper back muscles that are critical for good posture. People whose shoulders are slumped forward most likely have underdeveloped upper back muscles.

First, sit down and adjust the thigh pad to a position that firmly fits over your thighs. Then select a resistance with which the last three  repetitions are difficult to complete. If this is your first time doing this exercise, it may take experimenting at several weights before you find the right resistance.

Next, grip the bar a little wider than shoulder width, sit down on the seat and place your knees firmly under the pad. Start with your arms fully extended and your chest held high. This is your start position. Now, pull the bar slowly down to the base of your neck while squeezing your shoulder blades back and together.

Slowly return the bar to the starting position. (It should take about three seconds to pull the bar down and about two seconds to return the bar to its starting position). Proper breathing is very important, so remember to exhale as you pull the bar down and inhale as you return the bar to the starting position.

Exercise # 2 – The Seated Row

over 50 weight trainer performing a seated rowThe seated row is also an exercise that targets the muscles of the upper back. I like to incorporate two movements for the upper back because these muscles are often neglected and weak in most clients that I see. Weak upper back muscles not only lead to posture problems, they also lead to neck and shoulder problems.

Place the pin in a resistance with which the last three repetitions are difficult to complete, again you may have to experiment to find the appropriate weight for you.

Sit on the bench, and place your feet on the foot rest. Lean forward, and grab the attachment. Slide back until your legs are almost fully extended and hold the attachment waist height with your arms fully extended.

This is your start position. Lift your chest high, and slowly pull your hands to your naval, while rolling your shoulders back and pinching your shoulder blades together.

Then, slowly return to the starting position. Your breathing pattern for this exercise is to exhale when you are pulling in and inhale when you are returning to the starting position.

Exercise # 3 – The Dumbbell Chest Press

over 50 weight trainer performing a dumbbell chest pressThe dumbbell chest press is one of the best dumbbell exercises for developing and strengthening your chest, and the front of your shoulders. Again, you will have to experiment to select the proper weight to use.

Pick-up a dumbbell in each hand, and sit on the end of a bench. Place the dumbbells end-up on your knees, then lie back on the bench and position the dumbbells chest height at your sides. This is your start position.

Press the dumbbells up over your chest until your arms are fully extended, being careful not to lock your elbows. Slowly return the dumbbells to the start position.

Your breathing pattern is to exhale as you press up and inhale as you return to the starting position.

Exercise # 4 – Lateral Dumbbell Raises

over 50 weight trainer performing dummbell lateral raisesThe lateral dumbbell raise develops and strengthens your shoulders. Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of you.

Position your feet shoulder width apart, slightly bend your knees, and hold your chest high. This is your starting position.

Bend your elbows slightly and raise your hands out to your sides about shoulder height (with your palms facing down).

Then return to your starting position. Be careful to keep your forearm and your elbow at the same level at the finish of this movement. Your breathing pattern is to exhale as you raise your arms up and inhale as you return to start.

Exercise # 5 – Leg Press

over 50 weight trainer performing a leg pressesThe leg press is one of the best exercises for overall strength and development of your legs. First, sit in the seat, positioning your feet about shoulder width apart and chest high on the platform.

Adjust the seat height by pulling the handle and sliding forward until your thighs are parallel to the platform. This is your start position (make sure that your lower back is pressed firmly against the back of the seat).

With your feet flat, slowly press upward until your legs are fully extended but short of locking. Slowly return to the position where the weight almost touch the weight stack.

The breathing pattern for this exercise is to exhale as you press up and inhale as you return to the start. Again, you will have to experiment to find a weight with which the last three repetitions are difficult to perform.

Exercise # 6 – Step Ups

over 50 weight trainer performing a step upsStep ups are great for developing and shaping your butt and should be part of every over 50 gym workout.

With this exercise you will do 10 repetitions on one leg followed by 10 repetitions with the other. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and position yourself in front of a bench.

Place one foot flat on top of the bench, positioning your body to make a right angle at your knee.

With your chest held high and shoulders square step up through your heel and lightly tap the bench with your other foot before returning to the starting position.

Breathing pattern for this exercise is to exhale as you step up and inhale as you step back down.

Exercise # 7 – Rollups

over 50 weight trainer performing rollupsRollups shape and develop the back of your legs and calves.

Lay flat on your back, extend your legs and place a therapeutic ball under your heels. This is your starting position.

Lift your hips off the floor, and pull the ball toward your butt. Now, press through you heels and lift your hips as far as possible.

Then, slowly return to the starting position. Breathing pattern for this exercise is to exhale while rolling the ball towards you and to inhale while returning to the starting position.

Exercise # 8 – Seated Ball Twist

over 50 weight trainer performing a seated ball twistThe seated ball twist is a very good exercise for abdominal and lower back development and strength. Sit on the floor with a slight bend in your legs.

Hold a therapeutic ball (stability ball) with your arms fully extended in front of you. Lean back slightly, pick your chest up high and pull in your naval.

Now, turn your shoulders to one side, and touch the ball to the floor. Then turn to the other side, and do the same. A complete revolution counts as one repetition.

Be sure you arms stay extended throughout this exercise. Breathing pattern is to exhale as you touch the ball to the floor and inhale as you bring the ball across your body.

Workouts for 50 year olds are not all that different from standard workouts – the main difference is that exercises should be performed in a more controlled manner, with less plyometric and high intensity training. As we get older, our bodies take longer to repair, so minor injuries can set you back. Take it easy and be consistent.

This workout was provided by Darvis Simms @coachdrs, a personal trainer that specializes in helping over 40’s to get back in shape. He is also author of Forever Fit and Firm which is available on Amazon.com.

46 Comments on “Weight Lifting Workout for Over 50 Year Olds”

  1. Not just the excercises but motovation and energy levels. After a long day at work, it’s hard to find the strength and energy to work out and see results. At 53 and married, not much drive to go work out to impress the girls if you know what I mean.

  2. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi T.H. I am not a young man myself, married with kids. My motivation? I want to be around to support my family, and hopefully have grandchildren and see then grow up. I do not want to be the fat dad at the school play, I want to remain the strong figure of authority, mentally and physically. Strong heart, strong mind and hopefully a strong back too!

  3. I am 60 for all practical purposes or will be in a little over a month. I have lifted weights faithfully for 4 years now. The primary difference in my weight program is I preform a circuit with the goal of constant movement for 45 minutes. I also change my workout every 4 weeks or when I find myself getting bored. Also, muscle soreness or stiffness will cause me to change the workout or the weight used. The result is that on many hiking trips into the mountains I can keep up with the 30 somethings. But there is no hope of keeping up with the 15 year olds more or less.

  4. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Jerry, great work! If you can keep up with the 30 year olds then you are in fine shape indeed. Your experience is also a good reminder that every plan you read is always just a guide to get you started. Always modify your plan to fit with your needs. As you learn what you are capable of you can get more out of your workouts – a lesson for all our readers.

  5. kenny mcgaugh says:

    I’ve been lifting for a long time now I’m 5’11 195 love to workout please give me a good workout plan. Mondays (chest) Tuesday (back) weds (arms) Thur (shoulders) I do anywhere from 6 to 8 reps mid heavy 10-20 low weights. I take creatine, hmb and protein. I do cardio as well.

  6. Anyone that has reached the ripe old age of 50 (and older) and still continues to front up at the gym and throw weights around regularly is going to have the advantage. Regular weight training is a lifestyle choice and offers all the benefits that correct choices have.

    Good article. Keep training and stay young.

  7. I believe one benefit people don’t keep in mind is that keeping this muscle mass AND the sense of balance one gets from lifting free weights while standing, can: (a) potentially keep one from falling and breaking a bone later on in life; and (b) if there is a fall where a hip or other bone contacts the ground, the bone may be less likely to break due to the support and cushioning provided by the muscles. The bones themselves are also strengthened by weight-bearing exercises. There are just too many positive factors to completely forgo weight training.

  8. MotleyHealth says:

    I agree entirely Tim. Funny, as I was talking about the dangers of falling earlier today after clearing ice and snow from some paths around my home. Once you are over the age of 60, falls become a leading cause of mortal injury.

  9. Tim – It is a myth that older people fall and their hip contacts the ground and breaks. Fact is, the majority of the time, the hip joint is brittle. While the person is standing or walking, the hip breaks, causing them to then fall.

    However, I can’t argue with the benefits of lifting weights. Keep at it!

  10. dan in white rock bc says:

    When I turned 49 years old I challenged myself to get into the same shape I was in my 20’s by the time I turned 50. Unrealistic I know but hey, I had a goal. At the time I weighed 210 lbs, I’m 5’9 and haven’t done any exercise in at least 20 years. I joined a fitness club and started going there after work every second day to walk on the treadmill. I would do 30 minutes, then worked up to 1 hour. It felt good to exercise again. I started lifting weights after the treadmill as well. Just a set or two of curls or bench press. I started to lose weight and began to enjoy the weights more than the treadmill. Long story short now I warm up on the treadmill and spend a good 45 minutes doing arms, chest or shoulder exercises with free weights or machines. On my 50th birthday in March my weight was down to 185 lbs. Wow. Not what I weighed in my 20’s but so much better than I have been for decades. I plan to lose another 10 lbs but am thrilled where I am now. As well I can’t believe how muscular I look for my age. People notice my physique now which is amazing. I now go 3 times a week to the gym and spend no more than 1 hour there. It feels good to get out of the house rather than just watching TV and it is inspiring seeing all the great bodies at the fitness center. Sometimes I look around and can tell i’m the oldest guy there which seems weird but I just keep my head down and go for it. If I can do it you can too! It will change your life. I haven’t felt so good for years. Go for it my friends!

  11. MotleyHealth says:

    That is fantastic Dan, good on you!

  12. Ray Navarrette says:

    Does the recuperation period for a muscle increase as you get older ? I read in a Gold’s Gym Mass Building book that people over the age of 50 can work a muscle group once a week and still make good gains as long as that muscle group is stimulated enough to justify the long recovery period. So if I hit my Chest hard on Monday, I shouldn’t have to hit it again until the following Monday. Does this sound right ? Thanks

  13. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Ray, yes, recovery does become harder as we get older. Also testosterone levels fall, which means building muscle becomes harder. Rest is vital, so splitting your workouts is a very good idea. Ensure that you are getting plenty of good carbs and proteins too, and straight after the workouts.

  14. I am a 54 year old that needs to lose 70lbs and now I am doing bench presses, squats, standing lunges, Bicep arm curl, Bent over pull ups, Triceps skull crunches and ball crunches. I do 3 sets about 15 to 20 reps each. I have lost weight the first week but I know that my body will adapt in about 3 weeks. I am looking for other routines to do. I do not go to the gym and I only have 2- 15lbs and 1-25lbs barbells at the moment. Can you recommend me some other routines without going to the gym or purchase anymore barbells. As I get stronger I will need to get heaver barbells but cannot afford them right now.

  15. MotleyHealth says:

    For chest push ups are good, and your bodyweight is going to work you harder than a 25 pounds barbell. Bench / chair dips are also good for the triceps. Adding more bodyweight exercises in general will help to improve overall strength and fitness. AS you get stronger invest in more weights though, this is the easiest way. Ebay.com often has some cheap second hand weights

  16. I am an older lifter (53) and have lifted for most of my life. For looks, its about lifting, diet, regular cardio and hormonal health to see the results, but mostly diet. I can’t lift heavy any more and I have to pay attention to what my body is telling me about my joint health. I would suggest that anyone in their 40’s or 50’s have Testosterone levels checked and have a regular physical. I find that high rep training (15 to 20 per set) works well for me at this age. Good luck to you all!

  17. MotleyHealth says:

    Great tips Joe. Happy lifting!

  18. I am 56 and want to get back into weights to get some of my previous posture and strength back. I am 6′ 4″ and weigh in at around 220lbs. Unfortunately a good portion of the weight is on the wrong form, i.e fat! :) I used to do a fair bit of weight training around 10-15 years ago and have done odd bits since but want to gain some muscle bulk and good definition again. Not only for my physical health, but to make me feel more self-confident again like I used to. Any tips/advice would be a real boost for me. Thanks

  19. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi John, I think the best advice is to just get started again. Start with light weights to get back into lifting and work on building up some endurance first. Consider taking cod liver supplements to help keep the joints well lubricated. For bulk you need to start lifting heavier weights in time and get plenty of protein. Get some light cardio too and clean up the diet to help cut the fat – this will help with definition. Happy lifting!

  20. And what about supplementation for 50+ guys? What does work and what doesn’t? I mean, the testosterone is on low level and therefore building muscle is not as easy. Apart from the usual: multi vitamines, whey protein, Zinc, Fish oil, etc. what would be good to increase the testosterone level naturally? I can tell you right away that all those “tribulus” and DAA supplements don’t rally work.

  21. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Jerry, I think if there was a guaranteed way to safely raise testosterone naturally it would be all over the press. Did you see this article about Dr. Life?

    He advocates taking testosterone – he gives himself injections. I am not suggesting that you do this, but there really is no guaranteed alternative. As you say, all those supplements are pretty unreliable and there is no scientific evidence that any work (as far as I could determine).

    Have you had your testosterone levels checked by a doctor? Some doctors do prescribe testosterone replacement treatment to correct the hormone deficiency; if there are health reasons to do so this may be an option.

    As for supplements in general – a good whey protein will certainly help, plus plenty of recovery between sessions.

  22. I think one thing not mentioned here are the use of BCAA’s for us 50 and over crowd and not enough mentioned here on diet. I am nearly 60 years old and am 6’3″ now weighing 217 pounds (my high school weight) from 265. I have always worked out off and on and played collegiate football but my eating habits went south because of laziness with a busy work schedule. I pushed myself back into doing compound muscle exercises like dead lifts (which I hated even when playing football), squats, overhead presses and bench press as well as isolation muscle exercises. I also went on a strict high protein, high fat (good fats), low carb diet and haven’t felt this good in 25 years. Went back to old school diet of lots of eggs, steak, lean meats and green vegetables. People were amazed at the results at the gym and now several others are on the same diet plan but still have the mental weakness on doing the squats and dead lifts. Start slow and work up gradually and you will be glad you did. My strength is back lifting much more than by body weight on all big three exercises. Best off luck to you all and supplement with BCAA’s before your workout (they are not processed through your liver and go directly into your muscles and prevents catabolism to your muscles during workouts and not only increase the rate of protein synthesis, but they also increase the cell’s capacity for protein synthesis) and have some whey protein after your workout with a multi vitamin…

  23. Miles Hanley says:

    I work out at home. I have a barbell and numerous weights. I don’t have access to a leg press machine. Would a barbell squat be a good replacement exercise for the leg press exercise?

  24. MotleyHealth says:

    Absolutely, Miles!

  25. I’m a 56 yr male I love lifting heavy when I lift light it does nothing for me. I feel much better hitting 6-8 reps. Also I wonder about testosterone do to it having side effects mood swings etc. I also do push-ups, pull ups as part of my workouts. I’m always looking for different workouts what do I have

  26. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Kenny, that’s great – lifting is good. We cannot advise about testosterone, that is something for you to research and decide on.

  27. kevin easter says:

    am 50, getting back to gym, want to drop from 260 to about 220, with muscle gain as well. Did it when i was 40 but got lazy and busy, and slowly lost my gains. But I do have a good feel for what it takes in the gym and in the kitchen and supplements. Assume it will be harder now 10 years later :(

    My question is this. I have really bad knees from sports when i was young – all cartilage-related stuff (chondromalacea, Miniscus damage, arthritis), not ligament/structural damage. But its really bad, my knees both grind bone-on-bone (patella/femur) if i bend them, even if i don’t have body weight on the joint (like if i’m sitting, and do a leg extension – you can actually hear it grinding). On squats/leg extensions, i use the machines, and only go down about 1/4 of the way – more than that and the grind/pain is too great. any tips for leg excercises, or is what i’m doing about as much as i can do?


  28. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Kevin, to be honest, it’s probably best to book some time with a weight lifting coach or fitness trainer that has some experience with this. A few sessions with a qualified professional will probably pay dividends.

  29. Being over 50, I find that lifting heavy leaves me more achy than sore. I’ve chosen to go for lighter weights and more reps. I have also incorporated more interval training and functional type lifting. I have also started more active stretching too. These workouts leave me feeling that I’ve been active and the weight loss has picked up (except when I screw my diet up). Thanks for your tups and insights too.

  30. Richard Brouillard says:

    Age is just a number! does not matter how old you are to lift. I did this workout for 2 years, 1st just to prove I could do it then, to keep doing it. It is alot of reps. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Workout Routine – Muscle and Brawn. The one thing I did learn (I’m 54 by the way) is 1/2 of your gains is from eating right. A few times a week I take vitamins. I do a workout now 4 times a week.

  31. Janice mills says:

    Fantastic just what I have been looking
    For , as I have just re entered the gym and get concerned about some of the trainers for our age , thankyou for your valuable program !! Here goes 8 weeks

  32. Michael Neilson says:

    Looks good
    I’m going on a dash diet for high colestral
    I will give this a try

  33. Greg McKee says:

    Just did this for the first time. I’m 54, not in horrible condition but need to improve. We will see what happens, can’t wait for next workout!!

  34. Greg McKee says:

    So I’ve been doing this for almost two months. I’ve started add more to it, including cardio, I look and feel so much better than I have in years! Thanks!!

  35. MotleyHealth says:

    That’s great to hear Greg!

  36. What about other core work? Planks, bird dogs, etc. Would you incorporate that in here or use those on off days?

  37. Joel Chrisler says:

    I have been following your program for 2 weeks and am enjoying it. I have 2 questions: 1) Do you have suggestions for warm-ups and stretching after? 2) Is it appropriate to do a walking workout on the off days? Can that increase my weight loss?

  38. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Joel, for weight training the best warm up is light cardio, such as a little walking, and then performing a light set for each exercise. Walking workouts on off days is totally fine, and will help burn more calories, so yes, will aid weight loss.

  39. MotleyHealth says:

    IT’s OK to do core, this is just an intro really, so by all means improve on the workout with exercises for areas you wish to focus on.

  40. Brent Williams says:

    This references an intermediate workout. But I can’t find a link to it. I have done this workout for awhile now and have seen tremendous results. Ready to go to the next level. Where can I get the intermediate workout or others?

  41. Boris Shnayder says:

    I have been working out since I’m 30 (I’m 48 now). I used to lift heavy, workout 5 days per week and now things have changed. I have lost my energy, start missing gym for month because of work and lost tons of muscle weigh, which start to transform to fat. I’m looking for a new routines and new splits to get back to shape and start feeling good about myself again. What would you suggest?

  42. Has anyone found where the intermediate routine is and what it consists of? It is referenced in the section of the article just before the “Warm-Up & Stretching” section of the article and is to be performed after performing this routine for two months. Maybe nobody stuck with this routine for more than two months…?

  43. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Eric, we did contact the author several years ago asking for an update, but had no response. Maybe we’ll put together our own intermediate workout.

  44. MotleyHealth says:

    Boris, I suggest consistency over any specific workout. Start a routine you are familiar with, and make the time to do it. Do more cardio, and lift 2-3 times a week, and go for more volume and less weight.

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