Don’t Waste Your Time Strength Training

The Center for Disease Control recommends that seniors do at least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles. Strength training is of utmost importance as we age. So why did I say don’t waste your time strength training? As a personal trainer, the workouts I see many older people doing at the gym frustrate me. Too often they are at best ineffective or dangerous and can cause injury.

Frail and elderly do not need to go hand-in-hand. You are never too old to build new muscle. An 80 year-old who has never exercised to build muscle will lose half of her muscle but a 70-80 year old who does regular strength training can be in as good as or better condition than a 20 something who isn’t active.

To build muscle and strength, certain criteria needs to met.

  1. Know what muscle you are working. Your body is an efficient machine which will adapt to doing an activity in the easiest way possible. What physical tasks have you undertaken that were difficult at first and as time went on it became easier as your body adapted to the activity? There is a mind muscle connection. When you think about the muscle you are working, there is a better chance of that muscle being engaged instead of your body taking the easiest way. Take a chess press for example. If you sit down at the chest press machine and just push it forward, your arms will automatically do most of the work. If you think about engaging your pectoral muscles, those will be the muscles engaged. I tell clients to concentrate on squeezing your cleavage, that will engage the larger pectoral muscles first and the arm muscles will be assisting the larger muscles to complete the movement.
  2. Consistent–Have a regular schedule to workout. Twice per week for 20 minutes is enough to build strength. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time if you are consistent with your workouts. However, a recent study found that one week of inactivity can cause a significant loss of muscle. Consistency is key to becoming strong.
  3. Progressive–If you perform the same workout with the same weight, over time your body will adapt and it will become easy. Easy doesn’t build muscle. If you can do 12-15 repetition of an exercise, it’s time to increase the weight to one you can do 6-8 repetitions of. It’s a good idea to occasionally switch up the exercises. If you always do machines, do free weights for awhile.
  4. Correct–If an exercise is not done correctly, it won’t be effective in building strength and can even cause injury. Working with a personal trainer to assist in putting together a program for your needs and abilities and to learn the correct way to perform the exercies can be well worth the investment.
  5. Eat to build and repair muscle. Protein is the building block for new muscle. As you grow older your body doesn’t process the protein as efficiently making eating enough good protein important. Protein triggers the growth of new muscle. Good sources of protein are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nut butter, buckwheat, quinoa and protein supplements such as grass-fed whey protein powder. Immediately after your strength workout is the best time to have some protein. The muscles are ready to use protein The protein will trigger new muscle growth. Muscles aren’t build while you are working out but afterwards when the muscle repairs itself.

Strength training can make the difference between an old age of frailty, falls and fear, needing assistance for basic daily needs or one of activity, adventure and independence. At any age, building strength can improve your quality of life. You are not too old and it’s not too late.

Contact me if you would like help with your strength training program.

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