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Total Body Strength for Seniors

This total body workout is a great way for seniors to get started with strength training.  The exercises focus on building total body strength with an emphasis on improving balance, stability and flexibility.  See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any pain, injuries or other conditions you're dealing with.  Take your time with the moves and only add weights or resistance when you feel comfortable with the exercises. 

See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other conditions and modify any exercise that causes pain or discomfort.

Equipment Needed
Various weighted dumbbells, an exercise ball, a resistance band a medicine ball, a chair and a step or staircase.

How To

  • Begin with a 5-10 minute warm up of light cardio (walking in place, etc.).
  • Perform each exercise as shown for 1 set, using no weight or light weights to get used to the exercises.  Weights are suggested for each exercise, but modify according to your fitness level and goals.
  • To progress, add a set each week until you're doing a total of 3 sets of each exercise with 30 seconds of rest in between each set.
  • Click on the links or pictures for a larger picture and more detailed instructions.
  • Do this workout 1-2 non-consecutive days a week, taking at least one day of rest between workouts. For best results, combine this workout with regular cardio and a healthy, low-calorie diet.
Chair Squat
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Stand in front of a chair with feet about shoulder-width apart. Sit down and, as soon as you make contact with the chair, stand back up and try to do so without rocking back or using momentum. You can place your hands on your thighs if you need to. Hold weights for added intensity.  Repeat for 12 reps.
Ball Taps
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Sit in a chair and place a ball front of both feet (a mid-sized ball works best). Sit straight up and try not to rest against the back of the chair, keeping your back straight and your abs contracted. Lift your right foot and tap the top of the ball and take it back down to the floor. Switch sides and do the same with your left foot, alternating each foot for all repetitions. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
Step Ups
Step Ups
You can do this exercise on a staircase with rails or on a step if you have one. If you're on a staircase, stand at the bottom step and step up with your right foot. Bring your left foot up onto the stair next to your right and then step back down on the floor (hold onto a rail if you need to). Perform all reps by stepping up and down with the right foot. Then switch sides and start with your left foot. You can use a resistance band under the working leg (as shown) or hold weights for added intensity. Repeat for 1 set of 12 reps on each leg.
Hamstring Curls

Stand in front of a chair and hold onto it for balance if you need to. Loop a resistance band around your ankles (optional), keeping it looped under the standing foot.  Bend your right knee, bringing your foot up behind you (like you're kicking your own butt) and keeping the right knee pointing towards the floor and right next to your left knee. Slowly lower back down and repeat for 12 reps on each leg.  You can also use ankle weights instead of a resistance band.
Knee Lifts with a Med Ball

Hold a light weight or medicine ball (e.g., 2-5 lbs) straight up over your head in both hands. Lift the right knee up to waist level while bringing the arms down, touching the weight to the knee. Return to start and repeat on the left side. You can add intensity by speeding the movement up (while still maintaining control of the weight and your body) and lifting the knees as high as you can. Alternate each side for 30-60 seconds (or more). If you have back or knee problems, you may want to avoid the upper body portion of the move and just do the knee lifts. 
Side Leg Lifts
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Stand sideways to a chair or wall for support and tie a resistance band around your ankles (optional).  Lift the left leg out to the side, foot flexed and hips, knees and feet in alignment. Try to lift the leg without tilting at the torso--hold the torso upright as you lift the leg a few inches off the ground. Lower back down and repeat for 12 reps on each leg. You can also use ankle weights if you don't have a band.
Wall Push Up
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Stand a few feet away from a wall or stair rail (as shown) and place hands on wall at shoulder level, a few inches wider than shoulders. Pull the abs in and, keeping back straight, bend elbows and lower body towards the wall until elbows are at 90 degree angles. Push back to start and repeat. The further away from the wall you are, the harder the exercise. Make sure you don't sag in the middle--keep the abs tight and the back flat.
 Chest Squeeze with Med Ball
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Sit on ball or chair, back straight and abs in. Hold a medicine ball (suggested weight:  4-6 lbs) or any type of ball at chest level and squeeze the ball with the palms of hands to contract the chest. While continuing to squeeze the ball, slowly push the ball out in front of you at chest level until elbows are almost straight. Continuing the pressure with your hands, bend the elbows and pull the ball back to chest. Repeat for 12 reps.
Lat Pulls With Bands
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Stand or sit holding a resistance band in both hands up over your head. Hands are wider than shoulder-width apart and back is flat, abs engaged. Keep the left hand in place and contract the lat muscles (at the sides of your upper back) to pull the right elbow down towards the ribcage. Press back up and switch sides, alternating right and left for all repetitions.
Lateral Raises
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Stand or sit holding dumbbells (suggested weight:  3-8 lbs) in both hands at the sides. Keeping the elbows slightly bent and wrists straight, lift the arms up to the sides only to shoulder level (palms face the floor). Lower back down and repeat for 12 reps.
Bicep Curls
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Sit or stand holding dumbbells (suggested weight:  5-10 lbs) in both hands, palms facing out. Contract the bicep (front of the arm) and curl the weight up towards your shoulder (without touching the shoulder). Lower back down, but keep a slight bend in the elbow at the bottom--don't swing the weight and keep the elbows in place as you curl the weights. Repeat for 12 reps.
Tricep Extension

Sit or stand and hold a dumbbell (suggested weight:  5-10 lbs)  in the right hand straight up overhead and directly over your shoulder. Your palm should face the front and you can use your other hand to support the right arm. Bend the elbow and lower the weight down a bit behind your head (the elbow should be facing the right side of the room) to about 90 degrees. Contract the back of the arm to pull the weight back up and repeat for 12 reps.
Bird Dog

Begin on hands and knees with the back straight and the abs pulled in. Lift the right arm up until it is level with the body and, at the same time, lift the left leg up and straighten it until it is parallel to the floor. Hold for several seconds, lower and repeat on the other side, this time lifting the left arm and right leg. Continue alternating sides for 12 reps. Modify by lifting the arm and leg a few inches off the ground until you're able to balance.
Seated Rotations

Sit tall on a ball or chair and hold weight (I'm using 8 lbs) at chest level, shoulders relaxed. Keeping the hips and knees facing forward, rotate the torso to the right as far as you comfortably can. Focus on squeezing the muscles around your waist. Rotate back to center and then to the left, keeping the movement slow and controlled. Continue alternating sides for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.
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