A Low-Impact Strength-Training Workout for the Over 50 Crowd

The number of athletes over 50 (aka masters athletes) has been increasing steadily, keeping pace with population growth, an aging subpopulation of "baby boomers" and an increasing fascination with sports and fitness, according to a 2015 review published in the journal Sports Health.

It's never too late to start a working out. (Image: nd3000/iStock/GettyImages)

If you're in your 50s and looking to become a master athlete yourself, it's not too late, according to an August 2019 study published in Frontiers in Physiology. Researchers found the muscle mass of masters athletes over 60 was far greater than non-athletes of the same age. They also noticed that there was little difference in muscle mass between those who started running young and those who started after age 50.

Whether you're just starting an exercise program or you're looking to modify your current higher-impact exercise routine, the research is on your side. Get started with this low-impact strength-training workout from certified personal trainer Stephanie Mansour.

Warm-Up

Do: Three to five minutes of dynamic stretches to loosen up the legs and hips.

The Workout

Do: Each of the following exercises for the given reps. Repeat the circuit four times total, resting 30 seconds in between rounds.

  • 60 seconds of marching crunches
  • 10 squats
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 sumo squats
  • 10 triceps dips

Move 1: Marching Crunch

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, interlacing your hands behind your head and opening your elbows wide.
  2. Drive your right knee up to your chest, activating your core as you lift.
  3. Twist and crunch to bring your left elbow to your right knee.
  4. Set your right foot down, then drive your left knee to your chest, crunching on the opposite side.
  5. Continue to alternate knees as quickly as you can for 60 seconds.

Tip

Modify by marching in place with slower speed and lower knees or take the crunch out.

Move 2: Squat

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward.
  2. Bend your knees and hips as if you're sitting back into a chair.
  3. Lift your arms parallel to the floor as you squat down.
  4. At the lowest point of your squat, make sure your back is straight and your knees are over your toes with your feet anchored firmly to the ground.
  5. Press through your heels to stand up straight, activating your glutes and the backs of your legs as you lower your arms.

Tip

Modify by not going as low in your squats, lowering and lifting only as far as your strength and hip mobility allow.

Move 3: Push-Up

  1. Start on a mat in a high plank, arms extended and body straight from head to heels. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders.
  2. Keeping your body in a straight line, engage your abdominal muscles and bend your elbows, lowering your chest toward the floor.
  3. Before your body touches the floor, press into your hands to lift back up to the plank.

Tip

If the standard push-up is too hard, drop to your knees or put your hands on a step or box for incline push-ups.

Move 4: Sumo Squat

  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart with your toes turned out at an angle.
  2. Bend your knees and hips to lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your abs engaged. As you lower yourself down, lift your arms out in front of you.
  3. At the lowest point of your squat, don't let your knees extend farther than your toes.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and push down through your heels to press your legs straight to standing, lowering your arms as you go.

Tip

If you’ve mastered the sumo squat, try adding weight by holding a dumbbell in each hand or a large dumbbell or kettlebell at your chest.

Move 5: Triceps Dip

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair or bench and grip the edge on either side of your hips.
  2. Extend your legs straight out in front of you, heels on the ground.
  3. Press down into your palms, straightening your arms, and lift your body off the chair. Without moving your hands or feet, slide your body forward so your bottom is in front of the chair.
  4. Lower your body down, bending your elbows, keeping your shoulders pulled down away from your ears.
  5. Straighten your arms, pressing yourself back up to the starting position.

Tip

If dips hurt your shoulders, substitute with a seated overhead triceps extension using a dumbbell. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and raise your arms straight up over your head. Bend your elbows to lower the weights behind you.

Cooldown

Do: 20 crunches, then a few stretches that you hold for 15 to 30 seconds each while breathing slowly.

Move 1: Crunch

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and pointing toward the ceiling.
  2. Place your hands behind your head, elbows pointing out.
  3. Using just your abdominal strength, lift your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor.
  4. Lower down with control.
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