Archive for Strength Exercises
You know that exercise is important. However, you may not know why exercise increases in importance as we get older.
As we get into our middle years (and on), our body goes through a number of biological changes. One very significant change is the decrease and loss of muscle mass. A reduction in muscle mass leads to weight gain. This is one of the reasons why I always encourage my clients to incorporate strength training into their personal training program.
Muscle Mass and Weight Gain Explained
A recent news article by National Public Radio on why we gain weight as we age provides a good description of what happens to muscles with the passage of time. Here is a quick summary of what they have to say:
- As we get older, muscle mass decreases and the muscles that are left over are smaller and weaker than those of a younger person. Young muscles repair naturally. That is not case for older muscles. We are not sure why this happens – we know it just does.
- Muscles are the “energy powerhouse” of the body. It is where the calories get burned and where your metabolism plays out.
- If your percentage of muscle mass decreases as you get older, then your ability to burn the incoming calories also decreases over time. And this is why we gain weight as we age. As a muscular 25 year old, you we able to easily consume (and burn) 2500 calories a day without gaining any weight. As a 45 year (who has not been on a regular exercise program), those same 2500 calories per day have lead to a noticeable weight gain.
- Exercise, at any age, causes muscle cells to get bigger and stronger. And bigger, stronger muscles burn calories.
Now you can see why I encourage my clients to make strength training a component of their personal training exercise program. Many people come to me because they want to lose weight and look trim. Frequently, they have had injuries in the past or feel that their bodies cannot take the stress of exercise. As a Physiotherapist, I complete a full medical assessment of their fitness level and gauge what they are capable of doing. As a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and fitness professional, I develop safe and effective exercise programs that let them achieve their fitness goals over time and free of injury.
Now that you know the affect muscle has on weight gain, here are some takeaways that I would like to suggest:
- Exercise is not just for the young. It is important at any age and the benefits of strength training extend beyond being strong to weight maintenance.
- Do not delay starting an exercise program. The NPR article talks about the benefits people get from starting an exercise program late in life. I agree that there are benefits, but what I have noticed is that some of my older clients who have been de-conditioned for an extended period are limited in their development. I have younger clients who are also de-conditioned, but I have noticed that they are able to turn it around faster and achieve a higher level of fitness than my older clients. To my knowledge, there is no definitive scientific study identifying the relationship between age and ability to achieve specific fitness levels. However, my suggestion is the sooner you start, the better you will be throughout your life.
- It is important you follow a safe exercise program tailored to YOU. What you are capable of will be determined by your fitness history, medical condition, the presence of injuries and other factors. Your personal training program needs to include a thorough assessment by a medical and fitness professional and only then can a program be prescribed.
- Your exercise program needs to account for the risk of joint inflammation and injury. The NPR article makes note of the frequent result of joint inflammation as a result of an exercise program. Unfortunately, they do not describe how this can be avoided. An exercise program needs to include a medical assessment so that the fitness professional understands the limits of your joints. Once this is understood, the exercise program should be designed to stress your muscles to grow without aggravating the joints.
- Your exercise program should grow with you. The NPR article refers to a lady who started a Yoga program and quickly experienced more endurance, a loss of weight and an improved outlook on life. This is good news. But one needs to keep in mind that there will be immediate benefits to any exercise if you start from a low level of fitness. Your exercise program will need to challenge you as you make progress in order to continue on the path to fitness and to keep you engaged and interested.
If you are interested in the NPR article you can find it here:
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.
The Plank Exercise is frequently used by many personal trainers to build core strength. But it also is effective for weightbearing through the wrist and forearm (important to people with osteoporosis to reduce the risk of fracture in case of a fall) as well as developing shoulder stabilization.
Remember that your exercise program should reflect your fitness goals and capabilities. In the case of the plank exercise, if your goal is core abdominal strength then you should choose the lower angle position. If your goal is to develop shoulder strength and reduce your risk of fracture from a forward fall, then the elevated plank stance is probably more appropriate.
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.
The following are some important tips regarding your posture when you strength train:
- When weight lifting it is critical that you use good posture.
- Your feet should be hip-width and parallel to each other.
- Your knees should have a slight bend
- You should allow your buttocks to sit back slightly with a neutal arch in your low back.
- Your spine lengthened to comfortably make yourself as tall as possible.
- Tuck your chin slightly and relax your shoulders and arms (let your shoulders roll back, not drop forward).
- Your ear, shoulder, hip joint, (knee, and ankle – in standing) should all align when viewed from the side and you should be comfortably balanced on your feet.
- Finally, your tongue should be resting on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth.