Keo, 85: Top 5 Strength-Building Tips for Seniors

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Meet Keo Capestany. He’s one of the 2022 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes, and he’ll be sharing updates on his health & wellness journey through the rest of this year. In preparation for his upcoming live exercise session, Keo is sharing his top 5 strength-building tips for older adults. At age 85, Keo pumps iron and breaks stereotypes that claim weakness and fragility are an inevitable part of the aging process.

I am not a coach or an expert in exercise, but I am a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete. I will be 86 in a few weeks, and I am a very ordinary old man! I firmly believe that as older people, we need strength and power to avoid fragility. It is my opinion that barbells and strength training are not only the best, but the only means to that end. The following tips are a summary of what has worked well for me since becoming a Sponsored Athlete at the beginning of this year.

1. Remember to Warm Up

Before you start exercising, I recommend a general warm-up. Try jumping or jogging in place, or going up and down the stairs a couple of times. I also practice a specific warm-up for weightlifting. I lift an empty bar ten times — without any weight plates, the bar itself weighs 14 pounds. (If you are a beginner, you can continue using the bar by itself for your main lifts until you build enough strength to add weight.)

The warm-up prepares me for my lifting routine. After resting for about a minute, I am ready for the deadlift. I add a couple of 25 lbs. plates to the barbell and do five repetitions. I rest for three minutes before adding some more weight, and continue at a pace that is challenging yet doable for me. I rest for five minutes and move on to squats in a similar fashion. Then it’s the bench press, and finally standing press. I do only functional, compound exercises that activate multiple muscles of the body.

2. Take Time for Recovery

“It has been established that one gets strong not during the workout, but during the recovery.”

This is a very important part of getting strong. Rest between sets, rest between exercises, and rest at least 48 hours between workouts. Not “active rest” but real rest! You don’t have to stay in bed, but you should be limited to lighter activities. It has been established that one gets strong not during the workout, but during the recovery.

3. Keep a Slow Cadence

It may seem counterintuitive, but in every exercise, I slow down for faster results. In order to gain strength, I lift the weight at a quicker pace, but I bring it down slowly. I lift the barbell fast to gain power and then bring it down slowly to gain strength. If I let it down fast, I am wasting a very important part of the exercise.

4. Add Weight Over Time

After every workout, increase the amount of weight you’re adding to the barbell. If you are using dumbbells or hand weights instead of a bar, you can move to a heavier set (going from 3 lbs. to 5 lbs. for example). In my case, in January of this year, I was able to deadlift 77 lbs. After increasing my weight in small increments, by June 2, I did repetitions with 132 lbs.!

5. Set Goals for Yourself

Goals are of supreme importance. I have committed myself to deadlift 200 lbs. by the end of this year. My idol is a very fragile-looking older gentleman that I saw on YouTube who, at the age of 93, lifted 230 lbs. in a deadlift competition. He started pumping iron at age 88!

Remember that everyone’s goals will look different. Establish a starting point that is safe and comfortable for you, and go from there. If you’re just starting out with weightlifting, a good coach can go a long way to help you build strength the right way, and to achieve your goals.

An Invitation…

If you would like to learn more about strength training as an older adult, join me on Wednesday, June 15 at 3:00pm EDT right here on I will be demonstrating some of my favorite weightlifting exercises and techniques from my homemade weight room. I hope to see you all there. Let’s get stronger together!

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