Liz Hilliard, 68-year-old trainer, owner and creator of Hilliard Studio Method in Charlotte, North Carolina, focuses on arm strength for both herself and her clients. And personally, she’s stronger now than she was in her 30s because she added resistance training for her arms to her routine of working out three times a week. she says.
“We start losing muscle mass around age 30,” says Hilliard. “Conventional training, such as cardio and stretching, is important, but nothing beats resistance training for strong bones and a healthy body.”
Upper body strength, especially grip strength, is a ‘biomarker’ of general health and is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease, chronic disease, and various forms of cancer. To be clear, grip strength by itself won’t protect you from these conditions, but a strong grip is an indication of good overall health.
“Naturally, people with better strength tend to have better balance, bone density, and overall physical function,” says Rami Hashish, Ph.D., body performance and injury expert, DPT. I told Well+Good before.
So, whether you’re new to resistance training or just want to increase the volume of your existing workouts, adding upper-body focused moves is a great idea for your long-term and short-term health. Here are three arm strength moves Hilliard recommends for seniors and people of all ages.
1. Incline push-up
- Place your hands slightly wider than chest-width on the edge of a stable surface such as a stationary countertop, bed, or sofa.
- Pull your leg back so that it forms a straight line from your head to your heels. Bring your feet together, close to the balls of your feet, engage your core, keep your neck long, and look forward.
- Bend your elbows and lower yourself until your chest is in line with your elbows. Squeeze your core, chest, and biceps to straighten your arms.
2. Tricep Dips
- Sit on a stable chair or sofa, place your hands on the edge of the seat, scoop your tailbone, and lift your feet apart until your knees and hips form a 90-degree angle.
- Keeping your core engaged and your shoulders relaxed, bend your elbows to lower your body just below the seat.
- Squeeze the triceps at the back of your arm to straighten your arm.
3. Iron cross arm circle
- Stand up straight with your toes turned slightly out and lift your heels 2 inches off the floor so they touch each other. Bend your knees slightly to form a diamond shape with your legs and engage your quadriceps and core in a balanced manner.
- Hold a 3-pound weight in each hand and raise your arms sideways to shoulder height to form a T-shape (or “iron cross”).
- With your knuckles facing the sky and your palms facing the floor, start moving the weight in a circle about the size of a softball.
Complete each move 10 times before proceeding to the next move. Hilliard suggests completing his three sets at a time and increasing the reps to 20 as he builds strength.