As you age in your 30s, 40s and 50s, maintaining strength and mobility throughout your body is critical to ensuring you can sustain a high-quality, independent lifestyle and maximize your “golden year.” Resistance training is a key component to keeping your body healthy and strong well into your 50s. However, some exercises can place unnecessary stress on the joint in the arms and shoulders. In some cases, performing these common exercises can do more harm than good, especially if you already have a history of injury to these areas of your body. Today, you’ll learn seven exercises that are too hard on your arms after 50, so you know what to avoid.
Arm exercises that require heavy weights, complex movements, or intense pressure are typically among the worst offenders. That said, ignoring these areas of the body is not the solution. Rather, you need to adjust your exercise routine and exercise selection to ensure you can strengthen various muscles in your upper body without causing further damage.
In this article, I’ll walk you through seven of the most common exercises I’ve seen hurt my clients who are over 50. Either way, I’m going to discuss an alternative exercise you can perform to ensure you’re still benefiting from the amazing effects of strength training. The benefits associated with resistance training far outweigh the overall risks, so please don’t avoid resistance training simply because some exercises can be problematic.
Read on for seven exercises that are too hard on your arms after 50. And besides, be sure to check out 5 Fitness Habits That Are Destroying Your Body After 40.
Push-ups are a classic exercise that targets the chest, shoulders and triceps. But they also put significant pressure on the wrists, which can lead to pain or injury for people over 50. If you have a history of shoulder injury, they can also exacerbate any nagging pain. While many 50-year-olds can safely perform push-ups, there are also many who cannot.
Alternative: Bench press with parallel grip dumbbells
The parallel grip dumbbell bench press is a good alternative for strengthening your chest, shoulders and triceps. Keep the dumbbells held in a neutral grip, palms facing each other, to minimize strain on the shoulder.
The bench press is another excellent exercise for building chest strength. However, like push-ups, it can be challenging for those with shoulder problems or weaker wrists.
Alternative: Chest press machine
A chest press can provide the same benefits as a flat bench, but with more control and less strain on your joints. Make sure you adjust the machine to fit your body correctly, and use a weight that allows you to complete your reps without straining yourself.
Bicep curls are the classic arm-strengthening exercise seen in virtually every muscle-building routine. However, using a barbell can sometimes cause elbow strain.
Alternative: Dumbbell hammer curls
Dumbbell hammer curls are a safer alternative. They work the same muscles but allow for a more natural wrist position, reducing the likelihood of strain or injury. Maintain neutral grip, palms facing in with thumb side up.
Triceps dips can be hard on your shoulders and wrists. Also, doing them incorrectly can lead to injury. I generally advise my older clientele to avoid them.
Alternative: Triceps kickbacks
Triceps kickbacks are a low impact alternative that still effectively target your triceps. The neutral grip limits strain on the elbow while still providing an excellent tricep pump.
The barbell overhead press is a thorough upper-body exercise, but it can exacerbate shoulder and neck problems and carries some risk of injury if you also lose control of the barbell. Many clients can do them safely, however, seated dumbbell presses are a solid alternative.
Alternative: Seated dumbbell press
The seated dumbbell press allows you to maintain better control, reducing the risk of injury. Make sure your back is firmly against the backrest. Maintain a neutral grip if you feel tension in your shoulder as you push the dumbbells up.
Pull-ups are great for upper body strength, but they can be demanding, which often leads older clientele to neglect the entire movement pattern. This leads to weak back and ultimately limited overhead strength, both of which pose numerous risks to everyday life, ranging from back pain to the inability to safely reach overhead objects .
Alternative: Lat sag
The lat pulldown machine can mimic the benefits of pull-ups while providing better control and less joint strain. Adjust the weight so you can complete your set without discomfort. Use a neutral or reverse grip if you have shoulder or elbow problems.
Skull crushers target the triceps but can be hard on the neck, elbows and shoulders. Additionally, the position of the weight above the face can be cumbersome and dangerous.
Alternative: Triceps rope extensions on the cable machine
The triceps rope extension is a good alternative for strengthening your triceps. Using a weight stack machine eliminates the safety concerns associated with having a weight over your face. Also, the range of motion is a little easier on the joints overall.
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