One mistake middle aged people make is in thinking that free-weights are something they shouldn’t do, or that aerobic exercise is sufficient to maintain overall health.
The bones and muscles are very important in keeping a body together, however. Middle age often means osteoporosis and weak bones. Lifting weights facilitates calcium uptake and strong bones.
My personal free weight workout is focused on muscle and bone strength, not on developing muscle mass. Bones tend to become thinner and weaker as a person ages and weightlifting is one way to counteract that.
The first rule of a middle aged workout is the one most often broken. Take a long warm-up. Stretch. From having injured myself several times over the years, my warm-up periods have been extended.
My free weight workout equipment consists of barbells, dumbbells, a bench press, a squat stand, and a “lat machine.” The “lat machine” uses a cable to lift weight in pull-down or press-down exercises. The bench press has a setting allowing me to do incline or decline bench presses.
I prefer the barbells but I often alternate 35 lb.dumbbells to do flys, arms curls, and sitting triceps extensions.
After the warmup, my typical free-weight workout begins and ends with either bench press or squats. If I start with squats, I end with the bench press. If I begin with the bench press, I end with squats.
I do a minimum 3 sets of bench press with 140 lbs for the first set. I do a minimum of eight repetitions, as many as sixteen. I go up to 170-175 lbs. About three years ago, I sustained a rotator cuff injury with considerably more weight on the bench press. When it healed, I decided to set an arbitrary top limit on my bench and squat lifts.
Next, I do a rapid circuit training with a minute or two between sets. I alternate between barbell arm curls with 60 pounds, behind-the-neck pull-downs with 90 lbs, and triceps press-downs with 45 pounds. I go continuously until I’ve completed three sets of each exercise. The number of repetitions for these is eight to twelve.
Squats are my least favorite exercise. Isn’t it the same with everyone? Done properly, however, squats are a whole body exercise that engages most of the muscles in the human body. Keep the back straight, the head up, the tail down. Don’t lean forward. I generally do eight to ten repetitions, four sets. I begin with 150 lbs and up to 200 lbs by the third set.
People who are heavily into weightlifting generally don’t do bench press and squats on the same day. I would agree with that if the person is doing much heavier lifts than I am doing. The purpose of my weightlifting is to maintain overall body strength, not to build massive muscle size.
Just as I begin a workout with stretching, I often end the workout with stretching, too. The weightlifting part takes an hour or an hour and a half.
Anthony Ventre is a freelance writer who has written for several weekly and daily newspapers, including the Palo Alto Times. He is a former news director for radio station KPEN in Los Altos, Calif. He enjoys news and fiction writing and is currently working on a crime novel.