Seniors often find easing into resistance training a very challenging endeavour. This is because most of the exercises available are for intermediate to advanced individuals while the majority of seniors require beginner level exercises. In this article I aim to provide exercises that seniors can use to build towards their first push up and build pushing strength.
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The push up is a horizontal press movement . The horizontal press is a movement category in resistance training that is very important for building a strong and resilient body. It is important to train the body in movement categories as just focusing on specific exercises like the push up can limit you too few exercises, when in fact there are a huge variety of exercises you can use to progress the push up. This is why my list contains exercises with weights, that are not technically push up variations but move through the same movement pattern.
Push ups require a good deal of upper body muscle mass and force production. Although we see them often in films and the media, it is pretty rare for someone who isn’t regularly doing resistance training to be able to perform them competently. Females who typically have much less upper body muscle mass and strength can find them extremely difficult, even if they are resistance training 1-2 times a week. So try not to get too frustrated if you find them challenging.
Seniors find push ups more difficult, along with many other exercises in resistance training because of sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is age related muscle loss, as we age we slowly lose muscle over time. This means that force production is reduced, making exercises like push ups even more challenging than they previously were.
Picking the correct exercises for your current ability is crucial for numerous reasons:
If you want to avoid injury then you will need to pick exercises where you are not compromising good technique and risking injury.
If you are selecting exercises which are too easy or too challenging you are either not applying enough stimulus to adapt or applying too much and not providing any space to grow into. The key to selecting the correct intensity is starting slightly easier than expected and slowly increasing over time while you progress.
When exercises are too easy they are mundane and do not feel effective. When they are too hard they are frustrating and can create a negative feeling tone. When the correct level of challenge is selected, you will be able to feel as if you are being challenged whilst not having a feeling of frustration.
The press up on high barbell raises the point of contact of the hands so much that the push up can be made very achievable. That being said, for those who are very weak in the horizontal press movement this can still be too challenging. If so consider using the eccentric only version of this exercise. If too challenging still then use the weighted exercises below.
The hands elevated lateral crawl is another exercise where the hands are raised to reduce the amount of force required. This exercise give individuals a chance to learn to take their own bodyweight with less force required. If you are worried about this being too challenging, start with an Hands Elevated Opposite Shoulder Tap .
The DB Bench Press is a brilliant way for seniors to gain strength in the horizontal press movement pattern. It allows you to start with extremely light weights, meaning it has no barrier to entry. It is also very easy to progress overtime, moving up kilo by kilo as more strength and muscle mass is gained.
The single arm DB press is another weighted horizontal movement pattern that can help seniors develop their push ups. This exercises also shortens the range of motion compared to when it is done on a bench, just ensure that the elbow is traveling to the floor with control and never at risk of slamming into the floor due to the weight being too heavy.
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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.