Q: For a person in his 70s who never did resistance training, what’s a good way to get started?
A: Old-fashioned resistance training — lifting heavy weights multiple times — is the best way for men to slow and even reverse age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia. It can also increase your strength, protect against falls, and help you live a more independent life.
Resistance training (also known as strength training) consists of doing upper- and lower-body exercises using free weights (like dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells), weight machines, resistance bands, or just your own body weight.
The constant challenge with resistance training is finding the Goldilocks zone between doing too little and too much. You want to stress your muscles enough to see and feel a difference, but not overdo it, where you risk injury.
Ideally, see a certified trainer before you embark on a resistance training program. It’s worth the time and investment, as he or she can create a routine unique to your needs, and more importantly, teach you proper form and speed.
However, if you want to get started on your own,..
Here Are Some Resistance Exercise Basics:
Type: Do one to two multi-joint exercises per major muscle group. There are six main muscle groups: chest, back, arms, shoulders, legs, and calves. So this means six to 12 exercises per workout.
Weight: Use enough weight or resistance so you can perform 10 reps with good form. The last two should be tough to complete. Alternatively, start with 70% of your maximum one rep. Maximum one rep is the amount of weight you can safely lift just once.
Reps: Do anywhere from six to 12 reps per exercise. I suggest beginning with 10 to 12 reps. Then as you progress, you should aim for six to eight reps with increased weight or resistance.
Sets: Start with two sets per exercise. Always rest in between each set for 30 to 60 seconds to help you recover.
Frequency: More is not always better when it comes to resistance training. Two or three workouts per week can produce the desired muscle tone and strength.
Keep in mind that it can take time to see increased muscle mass and feel stronger. Consistency is essential, but if you don’t notice changes after about eight weeks, you are not training hard enough and need to mix up your routine by increasing your weight or sets or the number of exercises.
Howard LeWine, M.D., is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.
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