The Art of Aging Well: Build Strength and Muscle Tone

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Photograph of Skeeter Lifting Weight Courtesy of Trish BrakkoBrats

Photograph of Man Lifting Weight Courtesy of Paul Moore

How to Age Well by Building Strength and Muscle Tone

Guest Blog (Part Two in the Strength Training Series) by Kim Miller, American Council of Excercise Personal Trainer

Our muscles have an innate capacity to respond to stimuli by growing in size, density, and strength. Here’s how to smartly proceed in a healthy aging strength training program weeks 4-12.

Weeks 1-3 of a Strength Training Program

The first 3-4 weeks are designed to learn proper technique as well as allow the ligaments, tendons, and muscles to adjust to the increased stress that will be placed on them incrementally in ongoing weeks. These opening 4 weeks lay the foundation not only for the body physically, but for the mind mentally.

Strength Training Weeks 4-12

There are pros and cons of using machine weights and free weights. As a novice, machine weights will be a much better option in weeks 4 through 12 of your strength training program. Since this time period is primarily to build strength progressively, machine weights will offer more convenience increasing your chance of continuing your new program, as well as allow you to focus more intensely on working each muscle group rather than on correct body positioning. With machine weights, once you are set up properly, there is little room for misalignment.

Basic Machine Set Up With a Trainer

If you haven’t already hired a personal trainer to get you set up properly in each machine, then now would be a good time. At a minimum have the trainer show you the appropriate settings. You should write them down and have the trainer allow you to practice setting each machine as well as executing each machine so that he may provide feedback. This feedback will be invaluable in ensuring you will practice correctly on your own thus decreasing injury occurrences.

It will take a minimum of 4- 5 sessions with a trainer to acquire the basics. During these sessions, ask the trainer for detailed specifics on how and when to with weights and reps. A good trainer will not overwhelm you but will help you make sense of these opening 12 weeks of base strength training and will assist you in making adjustments for physical limitations.

Machines For Base Strength Training

• Leg Extension
• Leg Curl
• Hip Abductor
• Hip Adductor
• Leg Press
• Chest Press
• Lattisimus Dorsi Pull Down
• Shoulder Press
• Bicep Curl
• Tricep Press Down

Days of Training

For progressive strength gains aim for training 2-3 days per week implementing all of the above exercises in the order indicated. It will be necessary to take a day or two off in between to allow your muscles to rest.


Perform each exercise one time aiming for 10 – 12 repetitions for upper body and 12 -15 for the lower body. You should strive to use a weight that is heavy enough that by time you get to the 10th -12th repetition for upper body and 12 -15 for lower body, the muscle is moderately fatigued.

After you have been doing the upper repetitions in three consecutively training sessions then move up in weight. Most weight machines will have increments of 5 and 10 lbs. If you can at least perform 8 repetitions for the upper body, and 10 for the lower body then keep the increased weight and proceed from there.


Since your objective during this 12 week period is to gain strength primarily for healthier aging, one set of exercise performed to fatigue, according to research, is the most effective means for increasing strength. (The reason many people need to do multiple sets is that they didn’t perform the first one at maximum intensity.)

Your main priority should be to focus intently on each exercise and fatique each muscle group thoroughly. Quality, not quantity, is paramount in gaining muscle and bone strength, density, and most importantly a body that ages well!

Until the next posting, think about this, “Healthy aging may not imply living longer, but do you think it can mean living with less disease, more fun and more vitality?” If so, make just one healthy aging change in your life today.

Don’t push yourself to change everthing all at once. There’s no hurry. One change is good. We’ll work on others later. Life is good. Call if you need to. 904-501-6002

Kim Miller, American Council of Exercise Certified Personal Trainer, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical Education from Cleveland State University. ACE is one of the top three accreditation groups in the United States. Kim is also certified as a wellness coach with Wellcoaches. Wellcoaches has earned the coveted endorsement of the American College of Sportsmedicine.

Kim is the owner of BodySmart Inc., and has been writing a weekly health e-newsletter for over a year and a half to an ever increasing readership that extends the globe.

Last Updated May 10, 2010 by Dr. Vee

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