Seven exercises to never do after 50

Baby boomers have to exercise if we want to keep living active lives with youthful lifestyles. That’s why we like this piece from, a website for Minnesota’s Twin Cities Public Television. California Boomer Linda Melone, who specializes in writing about health, fitness, and wellness for women over 50, today gives us Seven Exercises to Never Do After 50.

Working out the same way in your 50s as you did in your 30s sets you up for a world of hurt. Changes in flexibility, muscular strength, bone density, and recovery time make injuries more likely if you don’t adjust accordingly.

In fact, you might be better off skipping some exercises altogether.

Melone_stretching“Obviously, there are no absolutes because people are built differently,” says Benjamin Butts, director of rehabilitation services and performance therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “With all exercise, make sure you have the flexibility and range of motion to be able to perform the exercise using proper form. And only increase weight and repetitions incrementally over time to ensure you are able to handle the new stress.”

In general, experts suggest avoiding the following exercises if you are over 50:

Leg extension machine

This exercise involves extending the legs up out in front of you with resistance in front of your ankles while in a seated position. It targets the quadriceps in front of the thighs.

“This exercise puts an unnecessary stress over the knee cap area, causing wear and tear,” Butts says. Instead, do multidirectional (forward and side) lunges or squats.

Back extension on a Roman chair

The Roman chair back-strengthening exercise involves bending forward from the waist with your thighs supported, where you use your lower back muscles to pull yourself back up. “This move can cause issues for you if you have lumbar (lower back) instability or stenosis,” Butts says. Stick with planks and quadrupeds for core strength instead.

Pull-downs or pull-ups behind the head

These challenging exercises work primarily the back as well as the biceps and involve pulling a bar behind the head. Behind-the-neck pull-downs use a machine that requires the exerciser to lean forward and pull a bar down behind the neck; in pull-ups you lift yourself up to a stationary bar also behind the neck.

“They put an unnecessary amount of stress on the front of your shoulder, leading to potential shoulder injuries,” Butts says. Safer and equally effective alternatives include pull-ups or pull-downs in front of, not behind, the head.

Plyometric exercises

Plyometrics or “jump training” involves explosive movements and includes exercises such as box jumps and depth jumps, popularized by CrossFit, for example.


“They are great exercises for adding strength and explosive power,” says Dr. Luga Podesta, sports medicine physician at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. “However, they can be dangerous if they’re not performed correctly or if the person does not have enough base muscle strength to perform the exercises. They place tremendous stress across the body parts and joints.”

You need at least a little of these fast twitch-type exercises, though, since we lose these muscle fibers with age, says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym.

“Doing plyometrics one day a week on a low platform (six inches) can be a good compromise. It’s a gray area, where you need to challenge yourself but you can still stay injury-free,” notes Holland. Only attempt these explosive exercises under close guidance with a trainer experienced in plyometrics and sports training.

Overhead presses

Lifting weights straight overhead, such as in a military press or dumbbell press (both shoulder exercises), places tremendous stress across the shoulders and rotator cuff tendons, Podesta says. Since rotator cuff injuries are most common after age 60, substitute lateral shoulder-raises or front-raises in place of overhead presses.

Heavy weights

Lifting weights to see how much you can bench gives you bragging rights in your younger years but loses its relevance as you age, Holland says.

“There’s no reason to go super heavy and be able to get only four to six repetitions.” For the greatest strength benefits within a safe range, aim for a weight where you can get ten reps, and where the last couple reps are challenging, Holland says.


While it’s a good idea to periodically increase your workout intensity, adding sprints to a running or jogging routine could put you at greater risk for injury after 50, Holland also says.

“Some people can do a seven-minute mile after age 50, but most benefit more from a slow and steady pace.” Sprinting, especially without an extended warm-up, comes with a much greater risk of injury as we age. “The faster the speed, the greater the chance of pulling a muscle or developing some other lower-body injury.”

“In general, I recommend all exercises in moderation,” says Dr. Podesta. “Plus, you need to consider any underlying medical condition before making specific recommendations.” Lighter weights using combined motions, such as squats versus leg extensions, work best, versus single joint movements that are not as functional.


  1. I attend Silver Sneakers exercise classes at my town’s senior center. They’re available through most fitness centers (L.A. Fitness, for one) and are designed for seniors. There’s no “jump training!” Some insurance programs even pay for them.

  2. Cool article, but as an adaptive fitness trainer of 10 years and a 62 year old boomer, I have a few comments and pardon me for the links to my website.
    1 – Most of the isolation machines in a gym are not the best choice for anyone, except maybe for some physical therapy. Leg extension machines can do big-time damage to the knees. Most isolation machines set you up for injury because they work the isolated big muscles and provide built-in support for the smaller muscles and core muscles that are the most important. The result is that the bigger muscles become to strong for the smaller muscle to support thus opening the door for such injuries as tendinitis and bursitis. One should avoid isolation machines and work on doing full-body functional exercises using cables/bands ( and/or body weight. This will build your core while developing full-body fitness. This is very important for us boomers. Trust me, I know.

    2 – no sprinting? Really. That may be good advice for some de-conditioned boomer/senior but a lot of us boomers can safely incorporate sprinting into our fitness regime. Here’s an example….

    again, pardon the personal links. I do share the links to your articles with my boomer followers! Keep on Rocking! 😉
    Jim Jensen

  3. Our body also age as we get older, that is why we sometimes need to lessen activities that we normally do when we are in our 20s or 30s. We can always replace extreme types of exercises into lighter and easier ones.

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