A 68-year-old trainer’s favorite arm runs for the elderly

TShe’s stuck with Michelle Obama’s bulging arms inspo of the Obama presidency for a long time, and for good reason. A strong upper body is associated with longevity, and helps with essential functions with age, such as maintaining balance. Not to mention that toned shoulders, biceps and triceps look impressive on anyone.

Liz Hilliard, a 68-year-old trainer and owner and creator of the Hilliard Studio Method in Charlotte, North Carolina, focuses on arm strength for both herself and her clients. And he says that, personally, his arms are stronger today than they were in his 30s, because he adds arm resistance training to his workout routine three times a week.

“We start losing muscle starting at age 30,” says Hilliard. “While traditional workouts like cardio and stretching are important, nothing beats resistance training to keep our bones strong and our bodies healthy.”

Body surface area strength—and grip strength in particular—is a “biomarker” for overall health and has been linked to the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease, chronic illness, and various types of cancer. To be clear, grip strength alone does not protect you against this condition, but if you have strong grip strength, it indicates that your overall health is in good condition.

“Surprisingly, people with good strength also have better balance, bone density, and overall physical function,” performance and injury expert Rami Hashish, PhD, DPT, previously told Well+Good.

So whether you’re new to resistance training or looking to add volume to your existing workout, adding the body-focused moves above is a great idea for your health in the long and short term. Here are three of Hilliard’s favorite arm strength moves for seniors and people of all ages.

1. Incline pushups

  • Place your hands slightly wider than chest-width apart on the edge of a stable surface such as a countertop, bed or sofa that will not move.
  • Walk your legs back so that you are in a straight line from head to heel. Glue your feet together, come to the balls of the feet, engage the core and keep your neck tall and looking forward.
  • Bend your elbows, lowering your body until your chest is in line with your elbows. Return to straight arms, engaging the core, chest and biceps.

2. Tricep dips

  • Sit in a stable chair or sofa, then place your hands on the edge of the seat and move your tailbone, walking your legs apart until your knees and hips are at a 90-degree angle.
  • Engage your core and keep your shoulders relaxed as you bend your elbows and lower your body just below the seat.
  • Press back up with straight arms, engaging and squeezing the triceps muscles on the backs of the arms.

3. Iron cross arm circles

  • Stand straight with toes slightly turned out and heels touching each other two inches off the floor. Bend the knees slightly to form a diamond shape with the legs engaging the quads and core for balance.
  • With a three-pound weight in each hand, raise your arms out to the sides to form a T shape (or “iron cross”) at shoulder height.
  • Begin to circle the weight up and around in a softball-sized circle with knuckles toward the sky and palms on the floor.

Complete each step 10 times and then move on to the next. Hilliard suggests that you try to complete three sets at a time and work your way up to 20 repetitions as strength increases.

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