a senior woman lifting a light weight toward the camera for weight training

A Guide to Weight Training for Seniors

When we say weight training, we’re not necessarily talking about a bench press or a 300-pound squat — although if that sounds like you, more power to you! Think more about light weights, more repetitions, and consistency. All you need to do to reap the benefits of basic weight training for seniors is to establish a low-weight, high-repetition routine you can do every day, and stick to it.

The Benefits of Weight Training for Seniors

Weight training can help you improve your balance, ease the symptoms of arthritis and other joint and muscle pain and aches, and help you manage your weight. Like all forms of exercise, it has a direct effect on your cognitive functioning, which can improve your mood, sharpen your mind, and regulate your sleep. And of course, weight training increases your strength and muscle mass and improves your metabolism, improving your overall health, wellness and longevity.

How Basic Weight Training for Seniors Works

When you pick up a weight and pump your muscle a few times, you’re “shredding” or “ripping” your muscle fibers apart. Then, protein helps rebuild those muscle fibers in bulk. Bodybuilders who lift a lot of weight at one time in short bursts are ripping their muscles all at once, seeking a faster, bulkier muscle rebuild. When you lift lighter weights, more slowly and more times, you’re changing your muscles more gradually. Appearance-wise, you’ll develop longer, leaner muscles, more evenly distributed along your limbs. Internally, your longer, leaner muscles are supporting your bones, which have weakened with age. Your balance and posture will improve due to your support network of muscles spanning your entire body.

It’s called “training” for a reason. You’re training your body to meet the challenge of lifting the weights, and once you’ve successfully trained it, it’ll be time to learn some new tricks. When you’re no longer challenging your muscles to work in new ways, you’re no longer growing your muscles, so you have to switch up your weight training routine once your body has mastered it.

How to Get Started

If you live at Sagewood, getting started is easy — just head to the fitness center. We have everything you need for low-impact weight training for seniors. If you’re training at home, you just need a few dumbbells. Start very light, with 2 pounds, 2.5 pounds, and 3 pounds. You can test them out at the sporting goods store to see what an ideal weight for you to start out with is. You may also use exercise bands and a mat to lay on. If you’re just beginning weight training for seniors, start with full-body workouts, so you’re targeting all your major muscle groups every day. If you find you enjoy weight training and you’re able to keep up with it every day, you can start focusing on your legs one day, arms the next, core the next, and so on. But for now, let’s start with a lightweight, full-body workout every other day of the week.

Example Weight Training Routine for Seniors


  • Body squat. Hold one weight in your hands in front of you and complete 12 squats, keeping your back straight, engaging your quads, and flexing your glutes at the top of your squat.


  • Bicep curls. Hold a weight with your forearm facing up, and bring your fist to your shoulder 12 times on each arm.
  • Tricep extensions. Hold the end of one weight with both hands behind your head. Extend your arms up above your head to engage your triceps 12 times.


  • Chest-flys. Lay on a surface like a bench so your arms are able to hang below your body laterally. With a weight in each hand, broaden your wingspan. Lift your arms up, across your chest so the weights meet above your head with your arms extended 12 times.


  • Rows. Kneel on the bench with your left knee and ground yourself with your left hand. With a weight in your right hand, pull the weight up so your fist comes closer to your right armpit. Engage your right lateral back muscle. Repeat 12 times on each side.


  • Overhead press. Stand with a weight in each hand, elbows bent so the weights are near your ears. Lift both weights at once so they meet above your head 12 times.


  • Crunches. Lay on your mat with the soles of your feet on the ground, knees bent. Place your hands behind your head and keep your elbows wide for this exercise. Use your core to lift yourself up with the intention of bringing your head to your knees. When you’ve reached the peak of your extension of this exercise, release back to the ground. Repeat 12 times.

Repeat the entire exercise three times.

This is a great start. Do this workout designed for beginning weight training for seniors every day — work it into your daily routine after breakfast and before you ready yourself for the day, or in the evening after dinner and before you wind down to go to bed. In two months, when your body has this routine down and lifting the weight is much easier than it was for you when you started, it’s time to switch it up. Find some new exercises to challenge your muscles in a new way, or increase the amount of weight you’re lifting. And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back — this is a huge accomplishment and a contribution to your health your body will thank you for.

At Sagewood, our HealthyLife® Services program focuses on four key areas vital for maintaining optimum health — fitness, nutrition, active life, and well-being. We offer tons of life-enriching activities, including weight training and other fitness classes, so you can live well your way. Check out a sampling of a month’s worth of activities, and start thinking about what your life at Sagewood could look like — healthy, active, busy and totally you.