Even small movements help build bone and muscle mass.
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The importance of strength training doesn't diminish with age. It can help strengthen your bones and relieve some symptoms of diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Strength training can help you sleep and help your heart stay healthy -- and it can help you maintain your weight and increase blood glucose control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But don't rush in expecting to become the next Olympic weightlifter. Low-weight barbells help you build strength, but they're not meant to add bulk.1.
Visit your doctor before starting your weightlifting routine. Undergo a complete physical to ensure lifting weights is safe for you, and ask if there are any major muscle groups you should avoid working while lifting barbells.2.
Start with no weights. Learn the feel of the bar, which has a bit of weight of its own, before adding weight plates to it. Perform exercises such as biceps curls, where you hold the bar in both hands in front of your hips and bend at the elbows to bring the bar up toward your shoulders, as well as multi-muscle moves such as squats. To squat, place the bar across the back of your shoulders, holding it with both hands, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lower your buttocks as if you're sitting down in a chair, keeping your knees above your toes. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions.3.
Rest between sets and different exercises. Young athletes might take short, one-minute breaks, but seniors should take longer breaks to avoid problems such as shortness of breath and dizziness. Take at least two to three minutes between exercises and sets, or longer if necessary until your breathing returns to normal.4.
Add weights gradually. Start with the smallest available plates, which are often 2 or 5 lbs. When you're comfortable with the moves and weights of the bar by itself, perform the same moves with equal light weights on each side of the bar. Start with 10 repetitions, then work up to 15. Stop immediately if you feel sharp muscle pains or have trouble breathing. When you can easily perform 15 reps, increase the weights again by the smallest size available, such as adding 2 lbs. on each side.5.
Vary your routine to avoid stressing one muscle group too strongly. Strength training two to three days per week for 20 to 30 minutes is typically sufficient, according to the CDC, so alternate muscle groups each day. For example, one day, work your leg muscles, and during the next workout, focus on your arms and upper body.
- Always work out with a spotter to ensure you don't injure yourself by dropping the barbell if your muscles become overly fatigued.
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