Start Strength Training After 60 With These Targeted Moves

By , Rachel Straub, MS
If you have reached the age of 60 without any aches, pains, health problems or injuries, congratulations! However, the vast majority of the population by this age has had their fair share of challenges, which makes exercising all the more difficult. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that all adults weight train at least two non-consecutive days a week, in addition to regular cardio work. Not only will regular resistance training make you feel like a superhero when you're picking up the grandkids, but you'll also be decreasing your risk of heart disease, decreasing blood pressure and improving cholesterol, among other benefits.  
By the time you reach the age of 60, what should your strength-training program include to reap the benefits, though? The weight room can be intimidating for anyone who's never lifted weights, and with so much equipment available, finding the right combination of exercises can be downright confusing. Any resistance training routine should include three elements: Exercises that increase flexibility, increase your strength for all major muscle groups and be selected with care to avoid aggravating past injuries or causing new ones, most importantly. For your first foray into the weight room, keep these 16 moves in mind and get ready to get strong.


When working out the legs, the focus should primarily be on working the muscles surrounding the hips and knees. Squats are a great place to start focusing in on these areas. Not only does the squat strengthen the muscles around the knees and hips, but it is also a fundamental movement necessary for activities of daily living and independence, including once-simple acts such as getting into and out of a chair.
If you have bad knees, learning how to squat without knee pain is essential. If you struggle with knee pain, try not squatting as deeply or eliminate some of the weight by holding on to the kitchen counter as you lower your body. Keep in mind that proper form is essential here, so check in with your body throughout the movement to be sure your knees are aligned with your ankles and that you're not feeling any pain. If squatting is still a challenge, leg presses are an alternative that works the hip and knee musculature, but decreases the loading on your knees compared to squats. Use leg presses to build strength in your legs until you can progress to a full bodyweight squat.
If neither squats nor leg presses are an option, start with exercises that strengthen the hips exclusively. A lying abduction is not only low-impact, but it is also a beginner move that targets that whole hip area. Research has shown that strengthening your hips alone can lessen knee pain. Once your hips are stronger, you can progress to exercises that incorporate both hip and knee strengthening such as those mentioned above.


A strong back is key in maintaining proper posture, which will prevent future lower back and shoulder pain. Unfortunately, many of people—especially those at or over 60—are rounded at the upper back and shoulders, a condition which is referred to as kyphosis. To combat this, find exercises that stretch the chest wall and strengthen the muscles that pull the shoulder back into proper alignment. Unfortunately, many people tend to focus primarily on lat pulldowns or rows, neither of which is especially effective for correcting common postural alignments. On the other hand, the reverse fly, which can be performed with a resistance band or with dumbbells and a medicine ball, is a fantastic exercise option for targeting the length of the upper back.


Working your chest after age 60 is important for flexibility, postural enhancement and strength. While many people rely on chest presses to work this area, they are often a primary cause of chronic shoulder problems. Focus on chest flies, instead, which are essential for those with hunched shoulders. Flies not only strengthen the chest musculature, but they will also help to stretch the area, which helps to open the chest wall and mitigates postural problems as we age.


For arms, the two most popular options seem to be biceps curls or triceps extensions, with there being endless variations for each. Being that the triceps make up approximately 75 percent of your upper arm, this is where you should focus your time, particularly later in life. Tightness in this particular muscle leads to a loss of shoulder mobility, thus focusing on strengthening the triceps could prevent future issues. Generally speaking, triceps extensions that place your elbows near your head are the most effective, as they provide the greatest stretch to the triceps, so keep that in mind when you perform this exercise.


By the age of 60, many people focus on shoulder raises—both lateral and front—to work this important area. However, shoulder raises are often performed incorrectly, which can aggravate prior shoulder injuries or cause brand new ones. Multiple variations of the move are also necessary to target the entire shoulder region, rather than just part of the muscle. A better option is Fred Stellabotte's Complete Shoulder Move, a four-step move created more than 50 years ago to address shortcomings with standard shoulder exercises. Use very light weights as you raise shoulders up, together, out wide, rotated down and then lower back down by your sides. This multi-faceted move is a must try.

Photo courtesy of "Weight Training Without Injury"


The options for your core are endless and varied. There are five basic types of core exercises: those that round your lower spine, those that round your upper spine, exercises that arch your spine, those that twist or side bend the spin, and exercises with that utilize a neutral spine.
By the age of 60, many people suffer from slouching issues, so exercises such as reverse crunches, which round the spine, are nonessential. Exercises that arch your spine and place dangerous loads on the lumbar, including Supermans, should be done with extra caution, as should any twisting or bending movements. Thus, after hitting the 6-0, it's recommended that you focus on core exercises that maintain a neutral spine. The basic plank is a superstar move that will challenge the abs in unexpected ways. If getting down on the floor is too difficult or impossible, try using an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or the arm of your couch, instead. The higher the surface, the easier the move will be to perform. You can also start with your knees on the ground to build strength, before gradually progressing to a full plank.

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LOSER05 6/22/2020
thanks Report
GRALAN 6/18/2020
I've found that just getting started at a level that with no weight for perfecting form helped me tremendously. I start 0lb 5sec out, 5sec in (or up-down), then start adding weight. I was able to move thru into progressively up to 5lbs now.
Thanks for the article, and the links. I even downloaded a free sample of the book you shared an image from.
Cool beans, heavy, really groovy. Report
COOLMAMA11 6/10/2020
Thank you for the article, but would love to see more pics to make sure we are doing them correctly! Report
Long as I don't have to get down on the flood, I'll do weights. Report
KITTYHAWK1949 5/30/2020
I also like to see examples. Report
MSROZZIE 5/28/2020
Good need-to-know information, thanks! Report
CONNIE10071961 5/28/2020
More pictures would help - I will start trying! Report
ETHELMERZ 5/28/2020
Get yourself some videos of Jack LaLanne’s old TV show. Report
Good article. I agree that it would be helpful to have direct links to exercise demos. Went to SparkPeople search page when I needed more detail about specific exercises. You can opt to search within Spark pages where there are a lot of exercise demos or the web (YouTube is great for this). Report
DWG2504 4/12/2020
Informative article but demonstrations would be helpful Report
GRANNYOF05 3/10/2020
Thanks Report
CECTARR 2/7/2020
Thanks Report
PLCHAPPELL 1/22/2020
Like the targeting Report
3CATSLEP 12/19/2019
Definitely need more pics so that we do these correctly. Thank you for the info! (61) Report
CECELW 12/12/2019
I turned 60 this year. I have been strength training for well over 30 years. Oddly enough, you'd think i'd be really thin. I just can't seem to leave the sweets alone! Report
NEPTUNE1939 11/7/2019
ty Report
SUEMAL 10/26/2019
Good info!
I appreciate any good information after 60! Though I'd have loved if more exercise pics were included. Report
Interesting article! Report
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
Excellent article. Good need-to-know information! Report
Nice article Report
I'm 60. I do these exercises quite frequently. I also use hand weights or a weighted body vest Report
Most of these look like great exercises for many over 50 except for those older women who have had pelvic sling surgery or bladder surgery, of which is particularly common in older women. I can't do squats or lunges anymore and no crunches. Report
I walk regularly at a gym where I observe people from all ages perform multiple strength training exercises. As someone who believed I had no idea where to start, this article was excellent for me. Can’t wait to get back to the gym on Monday. Report
The picture of whimpy exercises made me laugh and read the article. I'm 66 and started Olympic weightlifting 6 yrs ago in crossfit class, but had done all kinds of exercise classes at the gym over the years since joining in 1996. From the comments, I guess I'm really blessed with good health and am enjoying the rewards of longtime exercise. 60 ain't old! Go for it!!! Report
I don't know what some of the exercises are that the author mentioned. A simple link to a video demonstration would be great! Report
Been lifting since I was in my 20's. Had to go to an all men's gym back then. Thank goodness times have changed Report
Good ideas but how about adding pictures to show how to do some of the exercises Report
Good ideas but how about adding pictures to show how to do some of the exercises Report
Awesome... Report
Nice article. A few commentors missed the point that some senior folks are having more aches & pains than when younger as their bodies wear down. For them these are good tips & photos would be helpful. On my phone w/ this app I don't have the option to save these articles.
However I must really be a koala cuz I started walking a few weeks ago then added very easy arm exercises. Shortly thereafter my pelvis went out & tendonitis flared up so I am again doing what I love, laying down knees propped up w/ a hot pack doing nothing & considering more naps. This time it's by doctor's orders so it may be that I am allergic or at least ill suited to exercise. It seems that way cuz whenever I start a new program no matter how slowly or gently, my back goes haywire. Thank goodness there are no calories in pain pills! Report
good article Report
great information! Report
Great information. Thanks. Report
I like the comments from #MARYDOBBS & #SUSANBEAMAN onthis article about exercise over 60 yr. Wish I could leave comment on their profile page ! Report
Thanks for the great article Report
I am in my 60s, live on a ranch in Colorado, take care of horses, gardens, general ranch work. What is this 60s is old idea? Only if you buy into it. My 80 something neighbor still throws hay bales around. We are only as old and we think we are Report
thanks Report
Thank You for a great article. Report
Thank you. Report
Some good information. Thanks. Report
Could have used some specific exercises with pictures. Report
Thanks, Report
The older I get, the harder it gets. Report
I am 63 with arthritis in both knees. I cannot do squats but I can get out my weights that have been gathering dust in the spare room. I would not have thought of doing weights at my age but I can see the advantages. Thank you for this article. Report