3. Seated Overhead Press
How: Begin seated with your back supported and 5- to 8-pound dumbbells resting at your shoulders. Sit up tall and ensure that your elbows are below your wrists. Press upward so that your elbows are in front of your body, and not out to the sides. End with the dumbbells directly over your head, palms forward, with elbows fully extended, but not locked. Slowly release down following the same pattern of movement, ending at the start position. That’s one repetition. Aim for 10 to 12 reps.
4. Standing Calf Raise
Why: “One of the greatest concerns as we age is the risk of falling,” says Perkins. “This move improves the stability and mobility of your feet and lower legs, and the ability to know where you body is in space. This sense is called proprioception and gives you control and power over your body.”
How: Hold a 5-10 pound dumbbell in your right hand, and place your left hand on a chair or sturdy object for balance. Shift your weight onto your left foot and lift your right foot off the floor. Stand with a long, tall spine and allow the dumbbell to hang at your side. Press into the ball of your left foot so that you move upwards onto your toes. Keep your left knee fully opened without locking it. Press upward as high as possible, then slowly lower back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Aim to complete 15 reps on this leg, then switch and perform the same on the other.
5. Bent Over Row
Why: “Due to gravitational pull, we are constantly fighting a battle to keep our body upright with good alignment,” says Perkins. “This move strengthens all of the muscles in your back improving both bone density of the spine and proper integration of the spinal column. It also helps to fight off the decrease in bone that occurs over 50 and will keep your posture upright.”
How: Using 8- to 15-pound dumbbells, stand behind a chair. Place your feet under your hips and fold forward so that your head can rest comfortably on the chair or surface. Keep your knees slightly bent and your neck relaxed. Begin with your palms facing each other directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells towards you until your palms are next to your ribs. Draw the shoulder blades together at the top. Pause for two seconds, then slowly release back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Aim for 12 to 15 reps.
Why: “This move is one of the number-one strengthening exercises that physical therapists use for back health,” says Perkins. “It strengthens your ‘posterior chain’ muscles that guide nearly every move you make, including your core, glutes, back, and shoulder muscles all at once, while helping to open the hips and shoulders.” (Try these 12 hip-opening yoga poses for even more strength and flexibility.)
How: Begin with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Contract the muscles of your core and stabilize your pelvis and shoulders. Shift your balance onto your left knee and your right hand. In one movement, extend your right leg back behind you and your left arm outin front of you. Extend both as far as possible and hold for 2 seconds. Slowly release both back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Immediately switch sides and perform the same with the left leg and right arm. Continue alternating sides for a total of 20 reps.
7. Chest Fly
Why: “The chest muscles (pectorals) for all women are particularly weak and underdeveloped,” says Perkins. “By increasing the mass in this muscle group you are adding a substantial percentage of lean mass towards your overall health. Additionally, the chest muscles are responsible for supporting breast tissue. This move will bring a bit more lift to your chest.”
How: Lie on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat. Hold 5- to 8-pound dumbbells directly over your chest with your palms facing each other. Press your shoulders away from your ears and downward toward your hips to stabilize your core. With a very slight bend at the elbows, open your arms out to the sides until your upper arms touch the floor. Do not fully release the tension in your arms, or allow your wrists to touch the floor. Contract the muscles in your chest to return the dumbbells back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Aim to complete 12 to 15 reps.
8. Dumbbell Pullover
Why: “This move improves your ability to pull heavy objects more safely and with ease,” says Perkins. “Plus, nearly all of my 50+ women first complain about the soft tissue that is on the back of their upper arms. This move directly targets the triceps muscles to bring more muscle and more tightness to this area.”
How: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a 10- to 15-pound dumbbell by one end so that the other end is on the floor when you extend your arms overhead. Begin with your core engaged, and draw your shoulders down away from your ears and toward your hips. From there, lift the dumbbell off the floor, keeping your arms long, and make a big arc over your body until the dumbbell is over your chest. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the floor making the same arc. That’s one repetition. Without fully releasing the dumbbell to the floor, immediately lift it again and complete 12 to 15 repetitions.
9. Biceps Hammer Curl
Why: “The muscles of your upper arms are very small from a volume perspective. Due to the muscle loss that has occurred since your 30s (sarcopenia), these muscles are atrophied,” says Perkins. “It’s critical to keep your biceps muscles strong so that you are able to carry objects safely and easily. It’ll also make your arms look great.”
How: Stand with your feet under your hips and hold 8- to 10-pound dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing inward. Stand with a long, tall spine. Bend your elbows and bring the dumbbells upward toward your chest, keeping your palms facing each other. Pull the dumbbells up until they touch the front of your shoulders. Pause here for 2 seconds and contract the muscles in your upper arms. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Aim to complete 10 to 15 reps.
10. Basic Ab
Why: “For women over 50, there is a propensity to develop a distended belly,” says Perkins. “This movement is fantastic for bringing the abdominal muscles inward toward your spine, making your ab muscles stronger and tighter.”
How: Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent so that there’s a 90-degree angle at the back of your knees. Place your hands on your thighs with your upper body relaxed. On an exhale, slowly roll your chin towards your chest and lift up until your shoulders lift off the floor. Your hands will slide upward toward your knees. Continue lifting up until your shoulders are completely off the floor or your fingertips reach your knees. Pause at the top for 2 seconds, then slowly lower back down to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Aim for 20 to 30 reps.