Archive for Strength Training Exercises
I was recently asked by a client if they would experience any benefit from two sets of a strengthening exercise as opposed to performing one set.
Strength Exercise to Improve Posture
The exercise in question was the Floor M. I recommended this exercise because the client needed to improve and strengthen her posture.
She was doing the exercise with a 3 pound sand weight on her upper back and shoulder region to provide additional resistance. However, she told me that the second set of the exercises was too much. Would one set be adequate?
A Second Set Matters … A Lot!
Studies have shown that that you can achieve up to a 40% increase in strength when you increase your number of sets from one to two. The improvement is significant.
I suggested that my client try to get to the two set threshold. One suggestion that I had for her was to reduce the weight of the sand bag from 3 pounds to 1 or 2 pounds for the second set. That would allow her to gradually build up her strength.
A small change to your exercise program can have a significant effect on your overall success. Adding one set to your strength exercise program can improve your strength dramatically.
Can someone tackle a chronic health problem, such as back pain, and use the opportunity to improve their fitness level and reduce their weight? A client of mine here in Ottawa for both my Physiotherapy and Personal Training services successfully managed to make all those changes.
Monique spent four years working with an Orthopedic Specialist and a Chiropractor to address a chronic lower back condition. Even though she felt she was receiving excellent care, she was not making the progress she hoped for and believed that it was time to try another approach. She also wanted to use the opportunity to change other aspects of her health.
Monique came across my website while doing a Google search for a Physiotherapist with a fitness or Personal Training background in the Ottawa area.
When we first met she told me about her back problem and stated that she wanted to “remake” herself. I sensed that Monique was committed to the changes she needed to make to improve her health and well-being.
I completed her initial evaluation and we reviewed the results together. We agreed to the following:
- She was carrying too much fat and we needed to reduce her weight.
- We would address her back problem with an exercise program that incorporated strength exercises.
- She would modify her eating habits.
Monique and I agreed on the following action plan:
- Increase her protein, fruit and vegetable intake. Monique needed a more balanced food mix. She needed the right nutrients to support her goals.
- Establish small achievable goals, which included getting up and moving every half hour. Sitting and moving in ways that supported her back as well as taking Omega 3 and drinking plenty of water.
- Daily walks that gradually increased in distance and pace over time. Monique was doing very little exercise when we first met. A daily walking routine is a great start.
- Incorporate strength exercises into her routine. Like most inactive people, Monique needed to increase her strength. This was particularly important given her history of back pain.
- Since Monique lives in a small community just outside of Ottawa (with limited access to gym facilities) her exercise program should be home based. We both wanted to make sure that she had no excuse not to exercise!
How did Monique do? Did she stick with her exercise and nutrition programs and achieve her goals?
Here is Monique’s step-by-step progress plan:
- Meet Regularly with Your Fitness Professional: Monique and I met once a week for the first three weeks to get her started. Follow-up sessions were spread further apart to encourage independence.
- Commit to Change: Her commitment to personal change overcame her resistance to exercise regularly. She forced herself to complete her prescribed walking and strength exercises.
- Reenergize: Her back felt worse when she missed her morning walk and her energy lagged. She was finally getting hooked on feeling reenergized!
As you can see in her photos, Monique is well on her way to her personal transformation.
In Monique’s words:
“Well being is the natural result of putting exercise first in your daily routine.”
Monique has not had a flare up of her back pain for several months.
Many health and fitness professionals design exercise programs for older women that progress at a slower rate than exercise programs for their younger clients. They believe that the possibility of injury is higher in older clients during exercise. This thinking has solidified the assumption that as you get older, you cannot possibly keep up with younger people.
Thankfully, a new study published in this month’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research(1) has been turned this assumption upside down. Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine in Brazil conducted a study “to examine the possible influences of age on exercise intensity progression in healthy women.”
The study determined that healthy women, without previous training, can exercise safely and improve the strength of their muscles and heart at any age.
In other words, age is not a barrier to a progressive exercise program for women.
Fit Past Fifty
At times, I also train young athletes (often the sons and daughters of my “50 plus women”). I frequently guide both groups through similar programs and set progress targets that are very much alike for both groups. Like the authors of the study, I have found that both groups can progress at a similar rate of improvement.
I must note that I often get clients who are older, de-conditioned and have a medical issue that requires attention. As a Physiotherapist, my medical background allows me to assess their unique situation (such as diabetes or recovery from an injury, etc) and address their specific health concerns. As a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, I am able to design an exercise program that allows them to attain their fitness goals.
I believe that older clients can safely achieve their fitness and health goals while taking into account their unique medical profile.
Two groups of women underwent 13 weeks of exercise training. They both followed the same exercise program and results documented and recorded during the study period. The two study groups were:
- Seventeen young women (29.1 years old, plus or minus 5.7 years)
- Sixteen older women (64.5 years old, plus or minus 4.5 years old)
The 13 week exercise program (for both groups) consisted of :
- Stationary cycling (known as cycle ergometry)
- Whole body resistance training. Specific exercises included bench press, leg press, seated row, knee curl, shoulder press, calf raise, triceps push-down, bicep curls, and abdominal exercises.
- Stretching exercises
The exercise program for women was designed to develop aerobic capacity, muscle mass and strength, and flexibility and was performed twice a week during the 13 week study period on all participants. The exercise intensity of the aerobic and resistance training was increased whenever an individual displayed improved performance.
A comparison of the progressions across all of the individual exercises between the two groups was not significantly different – meaning that the performance improvement of the older group was not that different than that of the younger group.
I believe that the implications of this study are very significant.
- As a society, our population is aging and inactivity can lead to significant health problems and have a detrimental affect on an individual’s independence as they get older. I believe many “older” people do not exercise because they think “If I am not going to make significant progress in an exercise program, why bother?” This study challenges this thinking. If we can get more of us onto a safe exercise program, the payoff to society (in terms of reduced long term health care costs) will be significant.
- As an individual, you now know that when you exercise properly, you can progress as well as your younger friends. You can take this new found learning into the New Year and start an exercise program. You may be surprised by your progress!
- Ciolac, EG et al. (2010) Age Does Not Affect Exercise Intensity Progression Among Women. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Vol 24, Number 11: 3023-3031.
This is the second part of my video presentation on how to build strong hand grip. Part 1 focussed on flexibility exercises for your hand. In this second video, Adrian Das brings us through his exercise program to build strength in your hands and massage techniques to reduce pain and discomfort.
Since posting the first video, I have had several clients approach me about exercise programs for their hands – in other words a personal training or Physiotherapy program for their hands. Many people experience hand problems because of extended use of their hands when gardening, working at the computer, or playing their favorite musical instrument. Repetitive activities can lead to imbalances and injury. That was why I asked Adrian to show me his program and share it with you. I hope you enjoy both videos and start using some of the exercises, stretches and massage techniques.
We use our hands everyday of our lives in our work and play. Hands that have a strong grip, are flexible and mobile can significantly affect the quality of what we do and the quality of our lives. I asked Adrian Das, an Ottawa Massage Therapist and rock climber, to share with me (and you) his workout routine for his hands. The video is the first of tow that I have for you. Part 1 is focussed on exercises that promote flexibility of the hands and Part 2 is focussed on exercises that promote strength of the hands and hand massage techniques.
As a Massage Therapist, Adrian’s strong hands are his livelihood. As a rock climber, Adrian’s strong hands allow him to enjoy what he loves, safely. Adrian calls his exercise program a “pre-hab” program that promotes flexibility, mobility and strength in the hand.
Although many of us will never need the hand grip strength Adrian has, we all can learn from his program. Your work or play can cause imbalances in your hand. Repetitive strain through activities such as golf, tennis, gardening, piano and guitar playing, computer keyboard use and other hand intensive activities can lead to problems down the road.
I highly recommend that you look at these videos. You probably not use all of the exercises, but I can guarantee that there are a number of them that you will find will help you improve the quality of your activities and reduce your chance of hand injury.
Happy viewing. And if you are in need of Massage Therapy in Ottawa, I strongly recommend Adrian!
The Horse Stance is an excellent exercise to build deep core spinal stabilization. I encourage many of clients who visit me at Function to Fitness Physiotherapy and Personal Training in Ottawa to incorporate it into their training program.
If you saw my Horse Stance – Part One video and did not find the exercise challenging enough, then you are ready for the more advanced (and challenging) positions demonstrated in Horse Stance – Part Two. Even if you are not ready for the more advanced and demanding poses in this video, your should still take a look so that you can see how you can progress with this exercise.
One important note: It is important that this exercise be executed properly to receive the maximum benefit. As a result, it important that you work with a Personal Trainer or Physiotherapist that knows how you should do this exercise and understands your personal capabilities.
The Horse Stance is a very important exercise and should be considered as one the staples of anyone’s exercise program. It is one of the most valuable exercises in terms of strengthening the deep stabilizer muscles around the spine.
I encourage all of my physiotherapy and personal training clients to make it part of their personal training exercise program. This video is the first of a two part series on the Horse Stance in which I cover the basic position and moves. In Part Two, I will cover more advanced positions.
A natural follow up to my The Perfect Plank article is a discussion of The Perfect Pushup. Here it is.
The pushup is “pushed” by personal trainers everywhere and is a basic staple in many people’s personal training program. I like the pushup. When done correctly, it encourages core and upper body strength, both very important to an overall wellness program. People at all stages of fitness can benefit from pushups. For example, if you lose your balance, you need core and upper body strength to grab something and stabilize yourself. Remember falls can lead to fractures for people with osteoporosis or osteopenia.
My concern is when I see people on a personal training program that emphasizes quantity of pushups and not the quality. When someone is pushed to hard to hit a target number of pushups in a set period of time, the person frequently loses form and loses proper postural alignment.
Take a look at my video where I explain (and demonstrate) The Perfect Pushup in some detail. If you are considering a personal training to improve your fitness, remember to keep in mind the importance of quality.
In one of my earlier blog posts, I told you about my recent interview with the Toronto Star. I was pleased with the way the writer captured and presented many important messages regarding exercise and osteoporosis and especially the importance of finding the right exercise program for osteoporosis.
However, the article included a picture that needs addressing. The picture showed a client in a “Plank” position. The plank is an excellent way to develop core strength but to be effective, it must be executed properly. In fact, if it is not done well, it can cause problems for the client.
In the picture, the client has her head tilted down. Take a look:
It is important to maintain a proper posture with all your exercises.
To be clear: I am not blaming the Personal Trainer for the client’s position. I did not participate in the session so I cannot state whose fault this is. Perhaps the photographer took the photo before the Personal Trainer had a chance to fix her client’s posture.
I decided that I should illustrate how I like my clients to execute this pose. Note the difference in the alignment of my body. I try to keep a straight line from the back of my head to my heels:
I have also posted a short video on the topics where I discuss how to achieve that “perfect plank”.
An exercise program that promotes bone health will include exercises for balance, flexibility, posture, strength and aerobic (or cardiovascular) conditioning. Each of these exercise groups has a role to play in strengthening your bones and reducing your risk of a fall. A well-designed aerobic conditioning program can have a significant impact on the strength of your bones. Before you start your next aerobic workout, you should take the following points into consideration:
- Your aerobic program should include activities that incorporate weight bearing. Weight bearing exercises are exercises that cause you to carry weight or load through your skeleton.
- Not all exercise activity is equal when it comes to the benefits of weight bearing. For example, brisk walking has been shown to build bone but not as much as more intense physical activities such as martial arts, hockey or gymnastics. The more demanding the activity is on your bones, the stronger your bones will become.
- The weight bearing activities you incorporate into your exercise program should be consistent with your current level of fitness. If gardening has been your primary physical activity, then a brisk evening walk would likely be an appropriate start for you instead of playing basketball or jumping rope.
- Your choice of exercise should be based on a number of health considerations—this includes the health of your bones and their ability to resist a fracture. If your bones are fragile and are at a high risk of fracture, then the weight bearing exercises you choose will be very different than those selected by someone who is at a low risk of fracture.
Putting Weight Bearing into your Aerobic Workout
Examples of activities that would be appropriate for someone who is at a high risk of fracture and wanting maximum bone building benefit include:
- Brisk walking
- Nordic walking
- Stair climbing
- Low impact aerobics
Someone at a moderate risk of fracture and wishing to experience maximum bone building benefit include:
- Running or jogging
- Jumping rope
A person with a low risk of fracture has a wider array of activities to choose from. More strenuous activities should be part of their aerobic program, including:
- Martial Arts
Finding Out Your Fracture Risk
A bone mineral density test, also known as a Dual X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA), along with your family history, medication history, age and gender are used to help determine your risk for a fracture.
If you are comfortable using the web to research your health information, you can go to my web site www.melioguide.com to take a fracture risk questionnaire. At the conclusion of the questionnaire, you will be given your fracture risk and assigned a free comprehensive exercise program based on your fracture risk and activity level.
Following a bone building aerobic exercise program will not only help you strengthen your bones, it will also help you build muscle, lose fat, reduce back pain and make you fitter and firmer.