Training the core and abdominal muscles can be done using these core exercises. Older adults can derive great benefits from implementing these core exercises into their workout regime. These benefits could be an improvement in living standards through improved health, strengthening the lower back muscles and core muscles.
No spam – just thoughtful training advice
As a senior adding core and resistance training into your wellbeing habits can be one of the most effective ways to improve your health. If you are looking to stay active throughout your later years try these 10 exercises which are perfect for seniors. We have also created a core workout and full body session for seniors to try today.
Loss of muscle mass is one of the major effects ageing has on the body. Research including the study "Sarcopenia: A Time for Action. An SCWD Position Paper"(1) by the Society for Sarcopenia, Cachexia, and Wasting Disease (SCWD). The paper was published in 2010 in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia, and Muscle.
In this paper, the authors discuss the age-related loss of muscle mass and function, known as sarcopenia. They review the available evidence showing that sarcopenia is a common condition that affects many older adults, and is associated with an increased risk of disability, falls, and mortality.
This loss of muscle mass can cause a lot of health issues, most notably the risk of falling and causing a serious injury. Improving core strength and full body strength can reverse this muscle loss (2) and drastically reduce risk of mortality whilst improving quality of life. Its clear that regular exercise and proper nutrition, can prevent or delay the progression of sarcopenia, making it worth while adding it into your routine.
Adding core training and resistance training into your routine as an older person can be one of the most powerful ways to improve your lifespan and quality of life. This can be the difference between being able to stand up out of a chair or not, which can have a huge impact on your quality of life.
This was shown in a Meta Analysis “ Resistance Training Improves Quality of Life in Older Adults With Sarcopenia: A Meta-Analysis” (3) The results of the meta-analysis showed that resistance training significantly improved quality of life in older adults with sarcopenia, as measured by various instruments. Specifically, the authors found that resistance training improved physical function, vitality, and general health perceptions in older adults with sarcopenia.
Using core exercises will also help improve your balance, this will in turn help prevent falls and injures. Falls and injuries can have long term impact on both quality of life and length of life. As they cause a further reduction in movement they are very dangerous for elderly populations. A review of how falls effect elderly populations “Falls in the Elderly: A Review of the Epidemiology, Pathophysiology and Risk Factors” (4) discusses the pathophysiology of falls, explaining how they can lead to injury, disability, and even death. Falls can result in fractures, head injuries, and other serious injuries, which can lead to hospitalization, prolonged rehabilitation, and a decline in overall health and function.
The danger of falls illustrates the importance of resistance training to prevent them. A study on the effects of resistance training (5) on falls found found that resistance training significantly reduced the number of falls and improved balance and mobility in older adults.
Seniors should follow all the same principles as anyone else using resistance training. They may want to take extra care especially if they have a previous injury or have not exercises for an extended period of time. Core training can be implemented in two main ways:
This involves doing a 15-20 minute stand alone core workout 1-2 times a week. We have provided a sample 10 minute core workout for seniors bellow that you may consider doing. This style of training is extremely effective for people who are very short on time or are doing core work to supplement other forms of physical activity like running or playing tennis.
This includes a long full body strength training session in which core training is incorporated. Full body resistance training involved training multiple movement patterns in one session, rather than isolating muscle groups. This allows us to perform 1-2 sessions per week and perform enough volume to have a meaningful impact on your physiology.
This really depends on how much time and effort you want to put into resistance training. Both are excellent ways to develop core strength but the full body resistance training will have a much greater impact on general health and wellbeing of seniors. Building just one aspect of your body like the core is better than nothing, but developing a full body training regime can have a huge impact on your day to day life.
The most important thing to consider when getting started is picking exercises which match your current ability to enable you to create a sustainable training programme, with exercises you can perform with good technique. In the study, Exercise selection for resistance training, the importance of exercise selection is discussed with the author stating "Exercise selection plays a critical role in achieving the desired physiological adaptations and enhancing performance.” (6) Every individual is different and needs exercises that match their needs and current abilities. When picking exercises to use from this list of core exercises make sure you take that into consideration.
Finally you should use progressive overload to make your training slowly more and more challenging. There is no rush here, no need to make big leaps in difficulty or complexity, try to be methodical and patient with using progressive overload, this will prevent injury and allow sustainability.
The Banded deadbug hold will give a more advanced senior an opportunity to challenge their already established anterior core. This isn’t for seniors beginning their strength and conditioning journey, it is for those with a little more experience, enough so that they have mastered the deadbug hold. The key to success with this exercise is to not let the band pull the lower back off the floor. If you can resist this banded tension you’ll be able to improve the strength in the abdominals.
The modified dead-bugs with Isometric press is one of the most basic exercises in our movement library. It allows us to feel out the dead-bug movement and is perfect for seniors who are just getting started with these sorts of positions. For more advanced individuals this exercise will be of little use, so make sure your exercise selection is accurate.
The deadbug on bench exercise is a great bridge between the previous two exercises, slightly harder than the modified deadbug with isometric press but much easier than the banded deadbug hold. Again this will challenge your ability to resist extension and keep the lower back pressed into the bench.
Janda sit ups are a gem of an exercise that often get overlooked. We don’t even have traditional sit ups in our movement library, so you can gather from that we do not consider them an exercise to add into your training. But the janda sit up is a great tool, especially for beginners who are learning how to move their body through the various positions within strength and conditioning. Performing this exercise is like finding the deadbug position multiple times in a row, making it great training for both optimal positions and physiological adaptations.
The classic plank position, when done correctly, is a classic for a reason and seniors can use this exercise to great effect. With this exercise we are looking to build strength and endurance in the anterior core muscles, so maintaining the posterior pelvic tilt is crucial if you want this exercise to be effective.
The plank march is a much more challenging variation than the plank, as you will be required to shift your bodyweight from one foot to the other whilst maintaining tight core positions. If you cannot comfortable hold a 45” plank, avoid this exercise. If you’re able to perform it, it is a great progression to the traditional plank, working the core on three points of contact instead of four really ups the intensity.
Walk outs can be a great way for seniors to learn to take their body weight. Obviously this should only be done by seniors who are able to hold a press up position comfortably. This needs to be performed slowly with control, small hand movements and intentionally spending a long time on a single hand. There should never be a point where you fall to the floor, seniors often lack mobility and may find the initial part of the movement difficult, if this is the case this movement should be either changed or not selected.
Seated flutters are one of the most challenging exercises we have in this list and it is reserved for those who have a lot of experience working their anterior core muscles. This exercise can be regressed to an easier exercise by placing one foot on the floor at a time and alternating which leg you lift off the floor. Maintaining a tight core throughout this exercise is very challenging, but if the back becomes arched the exercise becomes much less effective, so if you cannot maintain the correct positions consider changing the exercise.
The bear crawl hold is one of my go to exercises when coaching seniors. It is often the first exercise I use to see if a senior or just individual in general is able to take their own bodyweight. This can be a very challenging step for people who havn’t been mobile for a while, so easing them in with positions like this is great. For seniors this will likely target the muscles of the upper body as well as the anterior core so you may want to avoid doing this after horizontal pressing specific work.
The bird dog is an excellent way to stabilise the core muscles of the lower back and is one of my favourite prescriptions for those which low level back pain. It is crucial to pause at the end of the repetition, tensing the glutes and the lumbar spine, this will make the exercise much more effective than if you race through it with no intention.
Complete 3 rounds
If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.
This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.