Whether you’re starting strength training in your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s, or simply interested in learning best practices so you can strength train for many years to come, this Tonal Talk is for you. Liz Letchford — a Tonal strength coach, athletic trainer, and Ph.D. in kinesiology and rehabilitation science — shares insights on how you can train for longevity on Tonal and why building muscle is critical for any age.
Why we need to strength train as we age
As part of her Ph.D. research, Coach Liz focused on programming for seniors, and the majority of her clients are over the age of 50 and 60. She explains that training for longevity takes a combination of strength, endurance, and balance training. “I have been working with this population for many, many years. It’s really interesting for me to understand and hear what’s going on — not only physically for people as they get older — but also the psychological, mental, emotional [benefits] of strength training as you age.”
“There are some biological concerns with aging. Once we hit 40, research shows a decline in muscle mass and bone density, a lot of which can be mitigated by strength training. Even at 90, strength training can increase your bone density. Some studies say that if you’re a 90-year-old, on bed rest, or in a nursing home, you can still increase your muscle mass and bone density. So if you’re struggling with either of those things, if osteoporosis or sarcopenia is of concern to you, strength training can be the best medicine.”
Pro Tip: Coach Liz has several workouts on Tonal that will teach you how to activate important joints and muscles properly. Check out Shoulder the Weight and Back Relief.
“We also see concerns around the risk of falling with the aging population. I used to be an EMT and would respond to a lot of heartbreaking falls in nursing homes. I spoke with people who fell and did not have the strength to push themselves back up. There’s a real autonomy issue there. That ability and independence to be viable and have the strength to push yourself back up is essential. That’s just one reason to do pushing movements and focus on being strong.”
“Along with the physical strength you’re cultivating through exercise, you’re also cultivating strength of mind. That’s the case at any age, but it’s especially important as you get older. We see people succumbing to this idea that they’re going to be frail. Let me tell you, I work with people who are pushing 70 and 80 that are ripped and have cultivated strength of mind.”
Pro Tip: Watch the Tonal Talk from 16.30-23.20 min. Coach Liz walks through modifications for knees, shoulders, and lower back and demonstrates ways to work around certain mobility issues or injuries.
Important things to remember for strength training at any age
It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 20s or 90s — these principles apply to strength training at any age.
- Good form: “I’m always going to encourage you to focus on moving correctly. Do things with good form.”
- Work within your range: “Move within your largest range of motion. If your shoulders can only move up to a certain point, strengthen within that range of motion while also focusing on how to help your body feel comfortable in this optimal range of motion.”
- Forget training at all costs: “Forget about the beach body, and working out at all costs. Those costs are absolutely not worth it. I also train coaches who come to me because they worked out in this way and their bodies hurt and need to be fixed.”
- Build a strong foundation: “That means feeling comfortable and confident in your movements and building upon that foundation. You’ve got a long life ahead of you! So if you’re in your 40s now, set your foundation and get out bad habits and focus on moving well so you can be strong forever.”
- Be patient: “I promise you will continue to get stronger. It’s not about doing this rep scheme or specific workouts. High-quality strength training is about listening to your body and figuring out how it moves, and integrating all of that so you can build a foundation for the rest of your life.”
Pro Tip: Watch the Tonal Talk from 26.00-30.00 min, Coach Liz shares tips for tweaking single-leg deadlifts to help increase mobility.
Training on Tonal versus the gym for people who are aging
Strength training at any rate is great, but Tonal has added benefits for older populations that want to get the most out of their movement.
- Make the most of your time: Having an all-in-one gym at home is convenient and saves you wasting time. “If you’ve lived longer than me, you know how incredible life is and how nice it is to not spend that time stuff in traffic on the way to the gym. Life is too short and important for that. Being able to walk into your living and work out with a machine like Tonal is so exciting.”
- Tonal is a safer way to train: “I really like the ability to turn weights on and off with Tonal. So if you find yourself in a position where you aren’t comfortable because of some joint or mobility issues or lack of strength, you can just click the weight off at the touch of a button. That isn’t possible with traditional weights at the gym.”
- Coach-led programming: “On Tonal, you have programming that is specific to everything I mentioned: proper form, modifications, and technique. You’re not going to get that if you go to a gym and hop on the machines. Even if you can do the movement, who knows where the compensatory patterns may lie? So having that confidence and coaching to teach you how to move correctly is huge.”
- Movement Replacements: This Tonal feature will give you the option to replace any move that doesn’t work for you. “Tonal has modifications for many different reasons. If you want the same movement pattern or a different one, you have alternative options that will still help you achieve the goal of that particular workout or program.”