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Bench presses help middle-aged athletes maintain upper-body strength.
Middle age isn't an automatic slide into arthritis and low bone density. Lifting weights after age 50 helps maintain strong muscles, bones and joints, and no movements aid this effort more than the powerlifts: squats, deadlifts and bench presses. Those three exercises are highly effective builders of strength and stability and should be part of a well-rounded weightlifting routine. For best results, over-50 lifters should combine them with regular stretching and mobility work.
The back squat builds strong legs and knees, laying a foundation of healthy sitting and standing in middle age and beyond. The movement is performed with a barbell racked across the upper back and feet shoulder-width apart. Holding your chest up, take a deep breath and hold your abs tight. Send your hips back and down, then drive off the heels to stand. If mobility issues prevent full range of motion, lower only as deep as you can safely squat.
Perhaps the most straightforward of the powerlifts, the deadlift is a potent strengthener of hamstrings and glutes. These posterior-chain muscles are critical in walking, bending and lifting everyday objects off the ground, which can grow more challenging as you age. Lifters over age 50 should master basic mechanics in this lift before adding any weight to the barbell. The professional eye of a trainer or coach can help you steer clear of injury.
The bench press, a classic chest and shoulders exercise, is particularly effective at developing upper-body bone density and power in middle age. When you bench, be sure to place your heels flat on the floor and keep your eyes focused on the ceiling to ensure a straight bar path. Elbows should stay close to the body for proper shoulder positioning. Always have a spotter assist you in getting the bar in and out of the rack to prevent injury.
Also commonly called the military or overhead press, the shoulder press is a supplemental lift that should be part of any over-50 powerlifter's routine. The press's range of motion overhead builds a stable, strong torso that supports spinal health and functionality in middle age. When you press, your elbows should be slightly in front of the bar, not behind it. It's also important to engage your abs and glutes to keep your back straight.
Stretching and Mobility
Full range of motion in powerlifts is always the goal. For lifters over 50, extra stretching, massages, yoga or myofascial release can help you loosen up trouble spots. For example, if you cannot squat to full depth -- with knees below the crease of your hips, weight on heels and back straight -- without compromising your form, you should stretch your hips, hamstrings and quads regularly. This type of complementary work will boost your powerlifting program in the long run.