Here’s why grabbing a pair of dumbbells may be the smartest thing you can do!
Jack LaLanne once noted that “It’s better to wear out than rust out.” Yet, in today’s sedentary society, many Americans are rusting! One of the best ways to stop rusting and get back into the game called life is with resistance training. Lifting weights—or using your own body weight to create resistance—increases strength, improves balance, and helps maintain good health. It’s so effective that scientific studies have validated numerous health benefits of weightlifting—for both men and women.
Here’s why resistance training matters: From birth to around age 30, your muscles are programmed to grow stronger and larger. But somewhere in your 30s, research indicates that muscle mass and function begin to decline at a rate of three to five percent per decade. This is called sarcopenia. But if you are physically active and engage consistently in resistance/weight training, you can maintain most of your muscle mass well into your 70s and 80s. How to get started? Our simple guide will point you on the way, whether you’ve never lifted a dumbbell or you used to be a regular in the weight room.
Mobility, range of motion, strength, and stamina are of primary importance to meet the demands of daily life, especially as you age. The more functional you are, the better able you are to handle the tasks of daily living. Here are some of the best resistance exercises—using both your body weight and free weights—to include in your workouts.
Bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere, anytime—no equipment needed!
Plank: To do this core-strengthening exercise, lie face down on a mat with your forearms on the floor in front of you. Extend your legs behind your body and rise up on your toes. Keeping the back straight, tighten your core and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds (or as long as you can). Repeat 3 times.
Superman: Lie face down with your arms and legs extended. Keeping the torso as stable as possible, simultaneously raise the arms and legs to form a small curve in the body. Hold for as long as possible, then repeat 3 to 5 times. Cape optional.
Overhead Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes facing forward. Reach your arms overhead with your palms facing each other. Lower into a squat. Be sure to keep your core engaged and your chest up to avoid leaning too far forward. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.
Kettlebell Swing: To work your hips, glutes, hamstrings, back, abs, shoulders, chest, and grip, stand with legs slightly wider than shoulder-width and grasp the kettlebell with both hands. Raise the kettlebell straight out in front of you until it is shoulder height. Swing the kettlebell down between your legs as you bend your knees. Keep your back straight, and your glutes and abs fully engaged. Smoothly swing the kettlebell back up until it is no higher than your shoulders as you return to a standing position. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.
Kettlebell Squats: Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell in both hands in the center of the chest. Lower into a squat to a count of 4, keeping your core engaged and your chest up. Straighten your legs as you raise your body to the starting position. Work up to 3 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions each.
Seated Dumbbell Bicep Curls: Seated on a chair or bench with your back straight, start by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward and your arms extended toward the floor. Keeping your elbows at your sides, turn your palms up as you slowly bring the dumbbells towards your shoulders. Hold for a few seconds then slowly lower your arms back to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Triceps Dumbbell Kick-backs: Bending over a flat bench, place your left knee on the bench with left hand gripping the front of the bench to support your upper body. With a dumbbell in your right hand and your upper arm against your side, bring the dumbbell back as you straighten your arm. Repeat for 12 repetitions and then switch sides. Complete 3 sets per side.
Tips for a Better Workout
- Aim to lift weights two to three times per week.
- Include at least one exercise that works your core (abdominal muscles) during each weight-training session.
- Start with a low weight and adjust the weight upward as you become stronger.
- Track your form and control the full range of motion for each exercise.
- Add a 30-minute aerobic session on two or three of your off days.
5 Additional Benefits of Weightlifting
- Weight loss. As you build muscle, your body composition changes. Fat doesn’t turn to muscle. When muscle size increases so does your metabolism and you will burn more calories just by moving your body.
- Cognitive function. Exercise is as much a way to stay mentally sharp as it is a way to stay physically fit.
- Bone density. You can protect the amount and density of the minerals in your bones with weight-bearing exercise.
- Weight training increases muscle strength and keeps the skeleton in alignment. Plus, the slow rhythmic movements used in weightlifting stimulates the development of new motor patterns in the brain that foster better balance.
- Cardiovascular health. Resistance exercise has been shown to improve left ventricular function in the heart, as well as heart muscle strength and endurance. It also improves blood flow throughout the body.