It's Never to Late to Lift

Research shows that weight lifting is one of the best forms of medicine older adults can take to optimize their health. [1, 2, 3]

Aging is all too often associated with frailty, weakness and a number of physiologic and functional declines that can contribute to increased disability and a poor quality of life.

How many times have you heard someone say, “Getting old sucks.” or “I'm just getting old.”

While it's easy to say such statements and believe it to be so – it's just not true.

For every person who says, “My bones are just old and weak.” or “I'm too old to do that.” there's another person out there, the same age – doing the same things that supposed “old people” shouldn't be doing.

You see, getting old doesn't suck.

All getting old does is shed light on our vulnerabilities and years of physical neglect.

The older you are, the more time has passed to allow you to see things the things that have been missing in your life.

Getting old is a blessing, and with it comes experience, knowledge and understanding.

What people should say is, “Maybe it's time I do something different?”

Many of the contributing factors that we associate with “aging” are the loss of muscle mass and strength.

Current research has demonstrated that strength-training exercises have the ability to combat weakness and frailty and their debilitating consequences.

This means you can prevent and even reverse the effects of what we accept as aging.

Done regularly (e.g., 2 to 3 days per week), and just like chiropractic adjustments, weight lifting builds muscle strength, preserves bone density, independence, and vitality with age.

In addition, strength training also has the ability to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and the signs and symptoms of numerous chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes, while also improving sleep and reducing depression.

The Deadlift

While there are many weight-lifting and strength training exercises you could do, one move you should always include is the deadlift.

The deadlift is a simple-looking movement yet acts as a full body workout.

From a squatting position, you grab a weighted barbell and then stand while you lift the bar with straight arms.

The barbell rises to about mid-thigh level. You hold for a second and return to the starting position.

It's a short, quick movement, but much happens during that time.

The deadlift is a highly functional exercise that carries over to many everyday movements.

For instance, deadlifts can increase lower-body strength and power, which improves mobility, balance, and stability.

Deadlifts are also great for working your hamstrings and core, particularly the gluteal muscles in the buttocks.

These are all the muscles that help you to pick up things, lift and carry items, and protect your body from strains and injury.

Worried about poor posture or hurting yourself?

Deadlifts strengthen a weak lower back that can cause stooped shoulders.

They also can improve grip strength, and some research has suggested that performing compound movements like deadlifts may increase bone density.

If you don't have access to a barbell, holding a dumbbell or a kettlebell in each hand also works.

You don't need to do many deadlifts to feel the results.

A typical approach is three sets of five to eight reps with a break in between. A higher number of reps can cause your form to break down and lead you to round your back.

Three Phases of Lifting

The deadlift consists of three phases: the starting position, upward movement, and downward movement.

Starting position. Begin with the barbell on the floor. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes under the bar. Squat down, keeping your chest up to help maintain a neutral spine position. Make sure you don't round your back and that you squat and not just bending over. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, with your arms just outside your thighs. Pull your shoulders down and back, so your chest sticks out. Brace your core to help stabilize and protect your spine during the movement.

Upward movement. With your core engaged, push through your heels to begin the lift. Engage your back and abdominal muscles, and keep your shoulders pulled back to avoid rounding the shoulders. Stand and pull the bar up with straight arms, keeping the bar close to your body as it moves upward. The bar should rise to about mid-thigh level and should always stay in contact with your legs and not lift away.

Downward movement. Hold the lift briefly, then slowly lower the bar toward the ground while maintaining a straight back. Bend your knees so the bar and your hips lower at the same speed. Finish with the bar on the floor, so the weight comes to a dead stop. You should end in the original starting position. This completes one rep. You can immediately go into another rep, or reset your position from the beginning.

Check Your Mobility

Check your mobility and flexibility before weight lifting!

Of course, if you are new to weight lifting or strength training or maybe it's been 20 years since you've lifted… you're probably going to need to work on your flexibility and mobility.

The main reason why people hurt themselves during a deadlift is because they lack flexibility in the hips and ankles to do deadlifts correctly.

So make sure you do the proper prep work before lifting, otherwise you risk putting undue stress on your lower back.

A quick test is to see how close you can come to touching your toes with straight legs.

If you have trouble, then it would be wise to first work on flexibility of your back muscles before attempting deadlifts.

To do this, I'd suggest starting with a straight-leg lift exercise:

  • Lying flat with one knee bent, one leg straight, tighten your abs and raise the straightened leg off the floor.
  • Tighten the muscle on the top of your thigh as you slowly lift your leg, keeping your knee straight.
  • Lower it and repeat several times with each leg.

What Can You Do?

Start lifting weights or improve your “lifting” technique today.

Older people who have never taken part in sustained exercise program have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained master athletes of a similar age.

Research shows that even those who are entirely unaccustomed to exercise can benefit from lifting weight or weight training. [4]

Obviously a long term commitment to good health and exercise is the best approach to achieve whole-body health, but even starting later on in life will help delay age-related frailty and muscle weakness.