When I was a teen, I interned at a local radio station. Part of the job was to do on-air news, traffic, and weather. There was just one problem: I had zero radio experience and no formal education in broadcasting. I was being offered on-the-job training, and I had to step up to learn something new.
On my first day, the station manager sat me down in front of a microphone, handed me a page of news copy, and said, “Somewhere in your mind, you know what a newscaster sounds like. Aim for that sound and do the best you can.” Fortunately, I wasn’t being inserted into a live broadcast as that first recording was a demo tape to be used for training and progression in what would eventually become a career. It took time to develop the confidence and skill that was necessary for the professionalism that was required to go on the air.
In life, when it’s time to attempt new things, we need to tap into experiences we’ve already had that serve as a reference point and will help us develop a new skill. When it comes to your health and fitness, the same is true. While it is impossible to get through life without some level of physical competency, you may have found yourself in a new stage of life with zero experience in a gym, lifting weights, or with any notions of athleticism. However, you can always start at any age and any fitness level. You always have the life experience to draw on, which is a reference point for being a beginner at anything you do.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends weight training for all people over 50 and even people well into their 90s. You’ve probably already heard about some of the benefits of weightlifting, like maintaining muscle mass, improving mobility, and increasing the healthy years of life.
Take Hilary Topper, for example. She was reaching 50 when she decided to get her fitness in order and became a triathlete! It may sound extreme, but you don’t have to be in your 20s to dream big and turn your life around. Below are three steps to slowly but steadily start weightlifting training.
If you’re feeling lost on how to get started, where is a good place to begin? You can start right now with things you have around the house. Weightlifting is “the activity of lifting heavy objects either as a sport or for exercise,” and you have objects around your house that are perfectly suitable for beginning a weightlifting routine.
There’s no need to join a gym or purchase at-home gym equipment to get started. For example, canned foods make perfect 1-to-2-pound weights. You can hold them in your hands while performing many different exercises. There are even entire exercise routines online that are centered around lifting cans of soup.
Additionally, there are many daily tasks that require lifting, pushing, or pulling some type of weight, so you can likely modify things you’re already doing to create a weightlifting routine. If it’s a laundry basket full of clothes, you can turn it into a weightlifting exercise by performing multiple repetitions of squatting down and picking up the basket multiple times in a row before walking to the next room. Another idea is to walk up and down the stairs multiple times while holding that full basket of clothes. The extra weight in the basket will challenge your leg muscles, especially helping to build muscle while also working to improve balance and coordination.
Beginning a weightlifting routine through daily tasks is a great place to start. Once you’ve made that mind-to-muscle connection, it’s time to invest in a set of weights and resistance bands that will help you focus your weight training on some new specifics. Dumbbells are often used for joint-isolation exercises like biceps curls, chest flies, or shoulder raises. Using dumbbells for full-body movements allows you to easily increase or decrease the amount of weight depending on the specific exercise.
For ideas on dumbbell exercises you can do at home, read “A 10-Minute Workout Routine You Can Do At Home”. There are several different weightlifting exercises demonstrated in this article that can be done with dumbbell weights.
Resistance bands are another affordable, easy-to-store option for increasing the resistance on your muscles while you exercise. Using elastic or fabric bands will add tension or resistance during exercise, making it more difficult to do movements and engaging more muscles, which helps build strength. You can loop them around legs and arms, and they come in all different shapes, sizes, and resistance levels.
With the progress you’ve made from finding a way to do weightlifting training through daily tasks, then upgrading to at-home resistance workouts, it’s now time to challenge yourself even further! The gym will offer you many more options, from weighted assist machines to targeted resistance workouts and personal training.
I have a favorite weightlifting routine called the “5×5 Muscle Building Workout”. Included in this workout are several different methods of weightlifting, including the following:
Inside my 5×5 Muscle Building Workout, I’ve demonstrated each of these exercises so that you can be sure to perform them confidently and with proper form.
It’s never too late (or too soon) to begin a weightlifting routine. Weightlifting and resistance training will benefit you at every stage of life. It does more than just keep your muscles strong. Strength training as we age has many benefits, including increased bone density and muscle mass, better function, increased range of motion, and better balance. These important things will improve your quality of life at every stage of life.