Is Strength Training Safe if You’re a Senior? (Important Do’s and Don’ts)

The thought of strength training may intimidate and overwhelm if you're a senior. It can't be safe, right? Learn if you should be worried here.

Two senior male powerlifters chalking their hands in gym

Think of strength training, and your mind will often conjure images of young, strong-looking men and women crushing it in the gym. Rarely would you think of older individuals (who’re typically associated with the descriptors "weak" and “frail”) — even if you’re a senior yourself.

You may harbor deep-seated skepticism about strength training as a senior 😬

  1. Is it safe? Will you end up breaking something like a hipbone, for instance? Or faint?
  2. What’s the point of strength training anyway? Isn’t walking good enough?
  3. Wouldn’t strength training further hurt your joints, which are already in a world of pain?
To all that, we say, it’s time to put your skepticism away for a while.

Strength training is one of the best things a senior could do. And we'll show you why in this article. Better still, we'll also detail the important do’s and don’ts, so you safely embark on this exciting, new, gains-filled journey.

Is strength training safe if you’re a senior?

Let’s address the most pressing question in your mind: is strength training safe if you’re a senior? Well, we think the answer should be pretty in-your-face right now.

Regardless of your age or individual characteristics, strength training is the single safest exercise you could engage in (provided you take a few precautions — which we’ll cover in just a bit).

But, of course, it goes beyond safety.

Chilling on your sofa while nursing a hot coffee mug is also safe. So why should you give up that comfort and choose to sweat, grind, and grunt in the gym?

Answer: all its physical and psychological benefits.

Benefits of strength training if you’re a senior

Here are just a few things you could expect from strength training as a senior:

💪 Improved muscle mass: We all lose muscle mass as we get older (a phenomenon known as sarcopenia). Research shows that while your rate of loss hovers around 3% to 8% per decade after the age of 30, it accelerates after you cross your 60th birthday. And this involuntary loss of muscle mass, strength, and function may, in turn, cause you to fall more frequently, plus be at increased risk for several health conditions, like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis. That’s where strength training as a senior comes into play. By promoting your muscle mass, strength training could alleviate or potentially eliminate sarcopenia-related consequences.
⚖️ Healthy weight maintenance: Here’s the surprising but worrying thing. Despite the natural age-related muscle mass loss, research shows that older adults gain 0.45 to 0.90 kg (1 to 2 pounds) yearly. Where’s all this weight coming from? Fat. And unfortunately, plenty of studies link excess body fat to major causes of death and disability, including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, fatty liver, and depression. By increasing your energy expenditure, a “senior-oriented” strength training routine could help you achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight for your age. In turn, translating to better health.
🦴 Increased bone density: After age 50, bone breakdown outpaces bone formation — and you experience a “net bone loss”. An obvious consequence of this is that you face an increased risk of sustaining bone fractures. In truth, though, there are other, far-reaching repercussions to consider. Because your bones aren’t likely to heal quite as fast as they did (when you were young), bone fractures could hurt your ability to carry out activities of daily living (i.e., ADL), like washing, toileting, and dressing, for extended periods. So how does strength training as a senior help? Well, remember how strength training promotes muscle mass in the elderly? The increase in “pressure” on the bones essentially nudges bone-forming cells into action — countering the natural age-related bone loss rate.
😌 Enhanced joint mobility: Think you can’t engage in strength training as a senior because of osteoarthritis? Think again. As it turns out, a large body of evidence finds that resistance training improves pain and physical function in joints affected by osteoarthritis, from the knees to wrists to elbows. Unconvinced? Perhaps this quote from a study published in Clinical of Geriatric Medicine could help: “people with OA will benefit from strength training, no matter their age — even the oldest old with OA”.

PS: Exercise isn’t bad for your knees. Really.

Is Exercise Bad for Your Knees?
The knee cartilage wears out with usage - so you should avoid working out ... right? Wrong. Exercise isn’t bad for the knees. At all. Here’s why.

Do’s and don’ts when strength training as a senior

Excited to start strength training as a senior?

As safe as it may be, there are still a handful of precautions to note:

  • Get the all-clear from your doctor: This is super, super important. Especially if you’re on any form of medication at all. Ideally, your doctor should also provide you with exercise guidelines specific to your condition (e.g., avoid doing high-intensity exercises because you’re on X medication).
  • Start slow: Regardless of age, they should start slow when beginning a new exercise routine. The same applies to you as a senior starting on strength training. While the recommendation is for you to strength train 3 to 4 times weekly, don't rush into that frequency immediately. Instead, start with 1 or 2 times a week, get used to it, then gradually increase once you feel ready.
  • Watch your form: Seniors must watch their form when strength training. Poor form could injure you — taking you out of your workout routine for longer than you’d like. Hiring a personal trainer (at least for a while) may help with this. You should also incorporate mobility work into your program for maximal safety.

See what you should look out for in a personal trainer:

What to Look for in a Personal Trainer
Find a personal trainer. Transform your physique. Oh, if only it were that easy. Here are 4 things to be mindful of when selecting a trainer.

Note: a “senior weight training routine” doesn’t have to look different from a “normal” one

Strength training is beneficial, and you should do it, even if — and especially if — you’re a senior.

Don't worry about "special senior-adapted" exercises, either. In most cases, barring unique conditions, your workout routine will likely be indistinguishable from a younger person who’s also new to strength training.

By the way, the articles below are designed to help you learn how to program your very own workout routine:

How Many Sets and Reps Should You Do to Build Muscle?
The higher your training volume, the more gains you’ll get ... right? Wrong. Find out exactly how many sets and reps you should do right here.
How to Build Muscle Faster in the Gym with Progressive Overload & Deloading
While there are no shortcuts, there are two methods you can use to build muscle more effectively: progressive overload and appropriate deloading.
How to Minimize Cardio and Strength Training Interference
Sometimes, it’s impossible to do your cardio and lifting on separate days. Here’s how you can minimize the interference effect for maximum gains.

Need more help getting started with strength training as a senior?

GymStreak could help. In addition to planning your workout routines, it also allows you to track and log your sessions, keeping you accountable and motivated. Check it out below:

Transform Your Life And Health With Strength Training

We're ready to help you. Just download the app, and you're all set.


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Fruh, S. M. (2017). Obesity: Risk factors, complications, and strategies for sustainable longterm weight management. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 29(Suppl 1), S3–S14.

Hong, A. R., & Kim, S. W. (2018). Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinology and Metabolism, 33(4), 435–444.

Jan, M.-H., Lin, J.-J., Liau, J.-J., Lin, Y.-F., & Lin, D.-H. (2008). Investigation of Clinical Effects of High- and Low-Resistance Training for Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Physical Therapy, 88(4), 427–436.

Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(24), 4897.

Latham, N., & Liu, C. (2010). Strength training in older adults: The benefits for osteoarthritis. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 26(3), 445–459.

Mozaffarian, D., Hao, T., Rimm, E. B., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2011). Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. The New England Journal of Medicine, 364(25), 2392–2404.

Osteoporosis. (n.d.). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from

Volpi, E., Nazemi, R., & Fujita, S. (2004). Muscle tissue changes with aging. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 7(4), 405–410.