Agape Physical Therapy

Strength Training for the Older Adult


Aging is an inevitable part of life and the biological changes that naturally occur as we age make us more vulnerable in a number of ways. Even in the absence of chronic disease, aging is associated with decreases in skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function. These changes increase vulnerability to injury. Strategies for both prevention and treatment are necessary for the health and well-being of older adults. 


There are numerous benefits to strength training throughout life, but those benefits are even more critical as we age. Some of the most important benefits include:
1. Building Strength
2. Maintaining Bone Density
3. Reducing Risk of Falling
4. Maintained Independence
5. Improved Mental Health

People often have other forms of exercise that they participate in, but research demonstrates that strength training is superior to walking, swimming or bicycling for all of the benefits listed above. 


Often, as we age, other health issues arise, and barriers to exercise is a common complaint heard in the clinic. It is important to understand that people with health concerns often benefit the most from an exercise program. Those conditions that exercise benefits includes:
Arthritis — Reduces pain and stiffness; increases strength and flexibility
Diabetes — Improves glycemic control
Osteoporosis — Builds bone density; reduces risk for falls
Heart Disease — Reduces cardiovascular risk by improving lipid profile
Obesity — Increases metabolism; burn more calories
Back Pain — Strengthens back and core muscles to help support movement

Exercise Prescription 

If you are new to exercise, a good rule of thumb with regards to exercise prescription is shown in the chart below: 

Type Sets Repetitions Rest Weight
Strength 3-6 6-12 30-90 sec 67-85% 1RM*
Endurance 2-3 >12 <30 sec <67% 1RM*
*1 RM is the maximum amount of weight that a person can possibly lift for one repetition. 


If you strength train consistently, your original weights should become easy after consistent weight training. If you are able to lift your weights several more than 6-8 repetitions, you are not appropriately challenging yourself from a strength building perspective. The proper way to progress your resistance exercises appropriately looks something like this:
○ Upper body - increase by 2–5 lbs
○ Lower body - increase by 5–10 lbs 

While strength training has shown some of the best benefits for overall health in the aging population, movement is key and any type of exercise is better than no exercise. Keep moving!

Nicholas Antonio, PT, DPT, CSCS
Clinic Coordinator
Physical Therapist
[email protected]
Hi my name is Nick Antonio and I am a graduate of Nazareth College's Physical Therapy program. I was born and raised in Rochester and look forward to practicing in Rochester. Outside of work, I am an avid sports fan, movie/show binge watcher, and DIY home remodeler. The reason I became a physical therapist was to be able to work together with individuals to help them get back to the things they love to do without restriction.