It’s not uncommon for patients to tell me they would like to ‘get back to the gym’ but they are not sure where to start.  They are confused about what exercises they should do, what exercises are safe, and sometimes discouraged because they can't do what they used to be able to do.

What exercises you chose to do for your resistance training which is an important part of any program but especially if you are over 40, depends on many things but most importantly it depends on your goals.

What are you training for?

For me, my goals are simple: have life long fitness, be able to be active and enjoy my life with my family for the entire extent of my life.  It occurred to me to write this blog a while back when I was a the gym.  I was warming up on the treadmill and there was an older man beside me, I’ll guess in his early 70’s.  He was running pretty steady and had a marathon finisher shirt on.  As I was warming up he was finishing up and so I asked him what he was training for?  The answer stuck with me..” nothing special just my 100th birthday” was the answer.  So that’s what I’m training for now.

Although cardiovascular exercises are important this blog is about what resistance type exercises will help you reach your goals. According to renown exercise coach Dan John, there are 5 essential movements that you need to be able to do throughout your life: Push, Pull, Squat, Hip Hinge, and Carry. If you design a resistance program around these 5 essential movements you are off to an excellent start.


Good examples of push exercises would be: bench press, pushups, overhead press (if your shoulders are healthy)


Good pull exercises would be any of the rowing variations including, bent over rows, seated rows, renegade rows etc.  Pull-ups are also excellent.


As I write this I can think of more squat variations than almost any of the other movement patterns.  Basic ones would be: body weight squats, rear leg elevated split squats (Bulgarian split squats), sumo squats or any of the other dozen or more variations.

Hip Hinge

This is one ofthe most important of the patterns especially for those with sore backs and disc issues.  A good hip hinge will allow you to bend at the waist and pick stuff up safely.  Ironically I find this is often one of the hardest movements to help people get right. Some exercises that help are deadlifts, one-legged deadlifts (Romanian deadlifts), good mornings, and kettlebell swings.


This sounds simple but is so very important for activities of daily living because a good carrying exercise also trains your grip.  Examples would be: suitcase carries, farmer walks, rack carries and waiter carries.

Designing a program around these 5 basic movement patterns and consistently implementing it can help ensure that you can function and move well for years to come, play with the grandkids, get up and down off the floor independently, get in and out of the tub without a pull support, go up the stairs when the elevator breaks and so on and so on.

So if you are wondering how to start, pick one or two exercises from each of the above movements and you are off to an excellent beginning.

What are you training for?

Sample Beginner Program.

Advanced Movement Sample Program.

Dr. Russell Baron


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