Should seniors do the same exercises as younger folks? In most cases, yes. Basic exercises in a balanced routine remain about the same at any age (except for possible adjustments for individual medical reasons). Though the intensity and/or workout duration will usually decrease as we age.
Here’s what I mean. The Gray Iron Fitness Beginners’ Routine for Seniors is about the same as the beginners’ program (with just a couple of tweaks) from Ed Yarick’s gym from way back in the 1950s. Yarick's was my own first gym membership. And age didn’t matter. Young or old, or somewhere in the middle. A beginner was a beginner.
Why Yarick’s? Superstars like Steve Reeves trained there. And some of the strongest men in the world often lifted
there. You couldn’t ask for a better trainer/coach, or nicer guy, than Ed Yarick.
Your first workout at Yarick’s, if you were a youngster or a senior, was an orientation, where you’d do one set of about 12 reps of two exercises per body part. You learned to exhale on the push or pull (the concentric contraction) of a movement; you inhaled on the return (the eccentric contraction). The weights were always controlled in a steady up and down motion. No swinging or “cheating” them up, as many young beginners will do, attempting to use more weight than they can properly handle.
So much for weight training history. But you may ask: if the old ways were so darned good, why bother to tweak them at all?
For one thing, back in the 1950s, structured cardio usually wasn’t a part of training. Why? Because most new gym members in those days were guys (and a few gals) who were on the skinny side and
just wanted to put on muscle. They went directly to pumping iron and ate like a horse. Forget running on treadmills or cycling on stationary bikes. It was all about muscle. Period. And if you stuck with it, you packed on weight, most of it muscle. It worked.
Today is very different. Yes, there are still some skinny guys around, wanting to add bulk. But most beginners nowadays, young or old, have the opposite problem: they start out overweight, being fat. The sedentary life has taken its toll. So reasonable cardio — when added to pumping iron — helps trim them down.
The trick is to do enough cardio to exercise one’s heart and lungs, but not so much that it becomes catabolic. In other words, you want to build muscle and also trim fat. Always.
Another tweak is that in Yarick’s day the vast majority of beginners were young
men and a few young women. Because of their youth, they could be pushed faster and harder. Following the first workout orientation, the second workout immediately jumped to two sets per exercise. Then it was three sets at the third session. You worked out three days a week (usually Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) and that ended the first week of training. Starting week two, the quest began to lift heavier weights and pack on muscle.
Pushing seniors like you would an 18-year-old is foolish. They’re likely to get discouraged or even injured. Allow their progress to be gradual and they’ll be fine. So you push, but push gently.
See what I mean here. It’s absolutely free.
Stay healthy. Stay fit.
Senior Exercise Central
My Photographs: Subscribers ask when the newsletter photo at the top and my website pictures were taken. As I write this, I’m 85 years old. The photos were taken when I was a mere 70. Though I remain active, I am no longer nearly as muscular as I was 15 years ago. —LF
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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.
I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.
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