The idea of using your body weight to get stronger is exciting, but it’s not exactly new. People of all ages have been doing push-ups since the early 1900s. Bodyweight or resistance training is getting a makeover these days, though, as more and more fitness experts are recommending it to their clients, especially us “older folks.”
What makes this form of exercise a popular choice? There are many benefits to bodyweight training, but, for most, it boils down to convenience. There are different varieties of exercises, too, so it works whether you are just getting started or have been exercising your whole life. Consider some bodyweight exercises that are perfect for those over the age of 50.
What is Bodyweight Training?
First, what is bodyweight training? The name kind of says it all. Bodyweight training (or resistance training) is doing exercises that use only your body weight to strengthen muscles. The push-up is an excellent example of this resistance training technique.
To do a push-up, you get face down on the ground and place your palms near your shoulders. You press up with your arms and lift your body off the ground. Your muscles become stronger because you are lifting your body weight.
As with many bodyweight exercises, there are different forms of push-ups, so you can make the move easier or harder. With each one, you are still using your body weight as a tool to help you work out.
There are a variety of modifications for push-ups, including:
- With your knees remaining on the ground, so you are lifting less weight.
- At an angle, so gravity makes lifting the weight harder.
- Standing against a wall, which is a great move for people who need to work up to the full push-up. If you are just starting out and haven’t been lifting weights, it would be best to start this way so as to not overdo.
What are the Benefits of Bodyweight Training?
Besides the obvious fact that you don’t need to buy any equipment or go to the gym, bodyweight training lowers your risk of injury. You are not tugging around heavy dumbbells that can potentially hurt you, and you have more control than you would with fancy nautilus machines, too.
5 Bodyweight Exercises for Those Over 50
The push-up is just one example of a resistance training exercise. There are others that work different areas of your body using nothing but your weight.
1. Hip Bridges
Hip bridges are another old favorite resistance training exercise that forces you to lift part of your weight off the floor to strengthen the buttocks, hips, and back.
Here’s How It’s Done:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat.
- Put your arms to the side with the palms facing down.
- First, round out your back to press it further into the floor.
- Squeeze your bottom as you pull your hips up into the air.
- Hold for five seconds then release.
The full move requires you to lift your hips all the way up until there is a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. To modify it, try just lifting half way before lowering back down.
To challenge yourself lift one leg off the floor as you hold the move.
2. Wall Squat
Wall squats use your body weight to work the hips and thighs.
Here’s How It’s Done:
- Lean your back against a wall. Your legs should be slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees as you slide your back down the wall.
- Lower your body until your knees are in line with your middle toes.
- Hold for 30 seconds then push back up.
To modify this exercise, put your feet closer together to reduce the weight you are lowering.
Challenge yourself by stepping away from the wall. Lower your backside without the wall support as if you are going to sit on an invisible chair.
3. Side Planks
Side planks are one of the best resistance training exercises because they work the core, hips, arms, and legs.
Here’s How It’s Done:
- Lie down on one side.
- Prop up on your elbow. The elbow should be directly below your shoulder.
- Keep your feet stacked one on top of the other.
- Squeeze from your core and lift your body up until there is a straight line from your shoulder to your feet. Hold for as long as possible and then lower back down.
To make this a little easier, bend the lower leg, so the knee provides extra support as you lift up. You will still lift until your body is in a straight line, but just one leg fully extends off the floor.
Once your body is in a straight line, raise the top arm up as if trying to touch the ceiling.
The plank is a similar resistance training exercise, but you do it facing the ground.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Lie face down on the ground with your hands pressed to the floor and further than shoulder length apart.
- Lift your head, so your neck is in line with your back.
- Keeping your toes grounded into the floor, squeeze your core as you lift up onto your forearms. Your body should be a straight line from the top of your head to your heels and you should be resting on your elbows with your forearms pressed into the ground. You should also be balanced on your toes. Think about a plank of wood with one end on a sawhorse.
- Hold for as long as possible then return to start.
Do the same movement but with your arms resting on a chair.
- Kneel down in front of the chair and place your forearms and elbows on the seat.
- Lift your hips until your body is a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
Once in the plank position, stretch one arm out in front of you while lifting the opposite leg off the ground.
5. Standing Calf Raise
Nothing says bodyweight exercise quite like standing calf raises. You are literally lifting your body weight off the floor and perching on your toes.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Stand with your hands against a wall or resting on the back of a chair.
- Pull your heels up off the ground until you are resting on your toes.
- Hold for 15 seconds and then lower back to start.
If you are struggling to hold up on both legs, try doing one at a time.
Stand to the side of the chair or wall and just barely touch one hand to it. This version will challenge not only your muscles but your balance, too.
Why do bodyweight training? The real question is why wouldn’t you do it? It is something you can do wherever you are without equipment and it is just as useful for basic strength training.
Always check with your physician before beginning any new fitness routine.