9 Essential Strength-Training Exercises for Your 50s, 60s, 70s and Beyond

closeup of a senior woman and man doing a forearm plank at home
Building core stability and strength can help you maintain good posture in your daily activities.
Image Credit: Halfpoint/iStock/GettyImages

No matter what you may hear, it's never too late to start a new strength-training routine, especially as you age.

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Although strength training is important for anyone looking to stay strong and mobile, it's a big part of staying injury-free through the years. There are a handful of exercises to focus on throughout different decades of your lifetime.

Learn the best strength-training exercises for older adults, whether you're in your 50s, 60s or 70s and beyond!

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The 3 Best Strength Exercises for Your 50s

In your 50s, your priority is maintaining as much muscle mass as possible, Melissa Garcia, DPT, CSCS, a Washington-based physical therapist, tells LIVESTRONG.com. Age-related muscle loss is a common part of getting older, but it can put you at higher risk of falls and injury.

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"During this time, the focus should be on maintaining current levels of muscle mass with progressive strength training," Garcia says. Progressive strength training means slowly increasing the resistance as you get stronger and the current weight you're using starts to feel too easy. Balance training is another factor Garcia believes adults in their 50s should practice to maintain stability in future decades.

These three exercises target both strength and balance. Plus, they train your core, too, helping you maintain an upright posture and healthy back, Garcia says.

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Move 1: Single-Leg Reach

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level Beginner
Reps 10
Activity Body-Weight Workout
  1. Stand with your legs hip-width distance apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Keeping your left leg rooted, bend your left knee slightly and begin to lift your right leg straight behind you.
  3. At the same time, lean forward with your arms stretched out in front of you.
  4. Lean forward until your torso is about parallel to the ground.
  5. Pause here for a moment.
  6. Reverse the motion.
  7. Do all reps, then switch sides.

"This is a really awesome dynamic balance exercise," Garcia says. This one strengthens your lower body and core. But it's also a balance builder, challenging your foot and ankle stability.

Move 2: Goblet Squat

Skill Level Intermediate
Reps 10
Activity Kettlebell Workout
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hold a kettlebell by the handle at chest height, elbows tucked into your ribs.
  3. Bend your knees and push your hips back.
  4. Lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground (or as low as you can comfortably go).
  5. Press into your heels and push your hips forward to return to standing.

Body-weight exercises are great, but adding even a light weight can help build more strength and muscle, Garcia says. This compound exercise is an efficient way to train because it targets several muscle groups at once.

Move 3: Forearm Plank

Skill Level All Levels
Time 30 Sec
Activity Body-Weight Workout
  1. Kneel on the floor.
  2. Place your forearms on the ground, stacking your shoulders above your elbows. At the same time, walk your feet straight out behind you.
  3. Form a straight line from the top of your head to your hips to your heels. Brace your core muscles and glutes and tuck your tailbone under slightly to keep your lower back from arching.
  4. Hold.

Tip

Planks build core strength and stability so you maintain good posture in your daily activities. If needed, you can modify this one by placing your knees on the floor. Just be sure to keep your upper body in a flat line. Intentionally tucking your pelvis under a bit and squeezing the glutes will help you do that.

The 3 Best Strength Exercises for Your 60s

Age-related muscle loss varies from person to person, but can start to become more noticeable in this decade, according to Garcia. For this age group, Garcia prioritizes exercises that build both strength and stability.

Your 60s are also a good time to set yourself up for success in your 70s (more on that below). As you age, your body's ability to recover and heal slows down, so you want to focus on building stability as an injury-prevention measure.

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This is also the decade in which people may start to get replacements in their hips and knees. These moves are great for building strength around those sensitive joints, which will help keep them healthy and functional for longer.

Move 1: Single-Leg Balance Swing

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level All Levels
Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place your hands on your hips.
  3. Put your weight into your left foot.
  4. Raise your right leg off the ground.
  5. Gently swing your right leg forward and back, keeping your balance.
  6. Do all reps, then switch sides.

This exercise focuses on balance and stability on one leg at a time, Garcia says. One-sided (aka unilateral) exercises like this help build equal strength on both sides of your body because you're not able to rely on your dominant side for extra help.

Move 2: Body-Weight Squat

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level Beginner
Reps 10
Activity Body-Weight Workout
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and brace your core. Focus on keeping your feet rooted into the ground and your core tight the entire time.
  2. Extend your arms out in front of you and slowly bend your knees as you push your hips back to lower toward the floor. Focus on lowering your body as if you were going to sit on a chair.
  3. Lower down as far as comfortable, or until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
  4. Pause for a moment at the bottom of your squat.
  5. On an exhale, reverse the motion by pressing through your heels to return to standing. As you stand, lower your arms back to your sides.

Squats are a movement pattern you do every day when you sit down on the toilet or stand up from the couch. Practicing this motion with the air squat can help prevent injury in your day-to-day activities.

Move 3: Plank

Skill Level Beginner
Time 30 Sec
Activity Body-Weight Workout
  1. Lie face down on your stomach with your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders and your toes on the floor.
  2. Take a deep breath and press through your palms to lift yourself up into the top of a push-up position. Your body should make a straight line from your heels through your hips to the top of your head.
  3. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
  4. Look at the floor directly below your head to keep your neck in a neutral position, and breathe normally.
  5. Hold.

Tip

This is a modified version of the forearm plank above. If this one feels too challenging, you can either place your knees on the ground or walk your feet farther apart. If you have wrist pain during the exercise, it can be best to do this exercise on your forearms.

The 3 Best Strength Exercises for Your 70s and Beyond

As you get into this age bracket, you can expect quite a few changes in your body, Garcia says. With this age group, the ability to heal and recover starts to slow, so safety is a number-one priority during strength training.

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"You want to make sure that you are able to move around pain-free," Garcia says. In some cases, it may even be good to consider getting some in-person guidance from a fitness professional, especially if you're experiencing any pain or difficulty with certain movements.

The goal of these exercises is to maintain strength with as much safety as possible. That's why Garcia likes to use household objects to provide a little extra support.

Move 1: Supported Single-Leg Balance

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level All Levels
Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
  1. Stand in front of a chair with your arms at your sides.
  2. If needed, place both hands on the back of the chair for extra support.
  3. Keeping your right foot rooted, bend your left knee and raise your left foot a few inches off the ground.
  4. Hold here.
  5. Do all reps, then switch sides.

This exercise focuses on your hips and ankles, which are generally big problem points for this age demographic, Garcia says. Gaining some stability in these joints goes a long way with injury prevention.

Move 2: Sit to Stand From Chair

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level All Levels
Reps 10
Activity Body-Weight Workout
  1. Sit in a chair with your arms straight out in front of you and your feet planted on the floor.
  2. Press into your heels and push your hips forward to stand up straight.
  3. Bend your knees and send your hips back to lower gently back into the chair.

"The majority of falls with older adults occur during functional tasks, such as getting out of a chair," Garcia says. "It is so important that we apply our training to everyday function." This modified squat translates really well to daily life.

Move 3: Dead Bug

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level Beginner
Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
  1. Lie on your back with both arms reaching up toward the ceiling. Lift your feet off the ground so your legs are bent at 90-degree angles.
  2. Slowly and with control, extend your right arm over your head and extend your left leg out straight. Lower your limbs as far as you can while keeping your lower back anchored to the ground.
  3. Exhale as you return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat with the left arm and right leg, switching sides with each rep.

Tip

As you do the dead bug exercise, focus on keeping your entire back flush against the ground, Garcia says. You can also place a thin, folded towel under your lower back if you can't stay flat against the ground.

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