In my last post I wrote about the concept of “Successful Aging”, and gave a brief overview of 9 “Habits of Successful Aging”. My next few posts will describe and explain each of these habits in greater detail and suggest some avenues and options to more successfully include them in your lifestyle. The first of these habits is

Stay Strong!” 

Strength Training 101

 Maintaining strength (staying strong) is now recognized as perhaps the most effective way to maintain and improve independence and a great way to ‘Energize your Aging”!

  Strength Training is not rocket science, but there are some basic guidelines that, if followed, will ensure safe and effective exercise as well as keeping you on track for success. Happy Lifting!


  • Choose exercises that work your body’s major muscle groups (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Abdominals, Low Back, Legs)
  • Balance your routine by using a ‘Pushing’ exercise followed by a ‘Pulling’ exercise for opposing muscle groups e.g Chest (Push) with Back (Pull). Thighs (Push) with Hamstrings (Pull).
  • Work your larger muscle groups before your smaller ones (e.g. Chest and Back before Biceps and Triceps)
  • Start with 4-6 basic exercises for the first 4 weeks and then add one exercise each week up to a maximum of 10 as your skill and strength increases. A good ‘starter’ routine would be (in this order) 1. Chest Press, 2. Row, 3. Leg Press, 4. Leg Curl, 5. Abdominals, 6. Back Extension
  • Adjust each machine to best fit your body shape and size, using trial and error. Make a note of each adjustment and set them in place before each exercise
  • Start with a resistance (weight) you can comfortably perform for 10-12 repetitions. For the first few sessions, as your muscles adapt to their new work, aim for an effort of around 5 out of 10 on a ‘How hard does this feel?” scale (where 10 is the maximum and 1 the minimum).
  • Once you are familiar with the machines and exercises you can start to progressively add additional weight/resistance. Your goal will be to eventually work up to a resistance that feels between 8 and10 on your “How hard does this feel?” scale
  • Your ‘rule of thumb’ for progression is to add weight once you are able to complete 12 repetitions with good technique for 2 consecutive sessions. Add no more than one block of a machine weight stack (or approximately 5% of your previous resistance, whichever is least) for each progression
  • Focus on good technique throughout each exercise.
    • Take a breath in at the starting position of the lift
    • Breath out as you perform the lift
    • Breath in as you return to the starting position
    • Continue with this breathing rhythm for the required number of repetitions
  • The speed of movement for each exercise should be approximately 2 seconds   for the ‘lift’ phase and 4 seconds for the ‘return’ phase’. However don’t get bogged down by the ‘arithmetic’! Focus on “Slower back than out”
  • Perform one set of each exercise 2 to 3 sessions per week. You can obtain similar strength gains from 2 sessions per week as from 3, so you don’t have to worry too much on a busy week.
  • Use a Training Log to record your progress. Apart from keeping yourself on track, looking back to see how far you have progressed is highly motivating!  NOTE: Contact me and I will send you a training log via email

If you follow these general guidelines you will be able to safely complete a strength training session in 30 minutes or less including warm up and cool down, even with the maximum of 10 exercises. NOTE: This post is based on “Lifestyle Habits of Successful Aging” an article which appeared in my ”Energize your Aging!” column for the December Newsletter of “Aging with Grace” a nationally renowned aging services company whose mission is to educate, coordinate, and facilitate individualized eldercare options one family at a time. Check out their Newsletter @

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