Benefits of Strength Training for Seniors

strength training senior citizensOld age is not an excuse for skipping fitness. Exercise is for all ages. This is why many experts think that people should train for strength regardless of their age. There’s an appropriate training routine for people of all ages. Some people above 40 or 50 think they are too old to gain muscle and strength, but that’s just not true. You can gain muscle and strength even if you are above 60, maybe a tad slower than young people, but you can go stronger, fitter, and healthier. Even the CDC advocates this workout for senior citizens.

Here are several reasons why you should consider strength training.

Regaining Balance

The older you get, the worse your balance gets, and it’s not just because you’re aging. It’s also because we tend to be less active as we get older. That causes us to lose muscle tone and bone density, two things that exercise, particularly strength training, can reverse. Restoring your muscle tone, or at least some of it, can improve your balance and reduce chances of falls and resulting injuries.

Increasing Bone Mass

Adult men and women lose bone mass as they age. This can be prevented, slowed down, or even reversed through proper nutrition and exercise. Strength training, coupled with proper diet, is the best way to avoid losing bone mass and even regain them. By slowing down or reversing bone density loss, you’re reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

Improving Muscle Strength

The average Joe who doesn’t train for strength loses at least 5 pounds of muscle by the time he’s 30. He would lose 5 pounds more by the time he’s 40. Ten more years, and he would lose another 5 pounds. You lose muscle mass, tone, and strength. You grow weaker and with muscle mass loss follows bone loss as well. You also tend to pack more fat as you lose muscle. Muscle burns calories. The bigger, more active your muscles are, the more calories you burn and the less fat you store. Strength training increases muscle tone and metabolism, and this is true even for seniors past 60.

Restoring Heart Health

Any form of exercise is good for your heart. Strength training when done at a proper pace trains your cardiopulmonary system and later on improves cardiac health. Because strength training tends to burn fat, your cardiovascular profile improves. It also trains your heart to handle greater physical demands.

Reducing Arthritis Pain

Strength training has been shown to reduce joint pain in people with arthritis, which is quite a common ailment among the elderly. Unlike running and many cardio exercises, strength training is not a high-impact sport that soon becomes taxing for the joints. Lifting weights or training with resistance strengthens not only the muscles but also the bones, tendons, and joints. Calisthenics, for instance, is a type of strength training that benefits people with joint pains and injuries. The secret is to train according to your strength levels and follow a well-structured program designed for you.

Keeping You Healthy

The older we are, the more diseases we suffer from. Seniors are more likely to get cardiovascular disease, diabetes, colon problems, sleep disorders, and osteoporosis. Strength training helps you manage chronic disorders and allows you to live a better life. For instance, it allows your body to better control blood sugar and body fat, thus curbing or even reversing the progress of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Also, any form of exercise helps people sleep better and fight stress, even if it’s just spending time on a vibration machine.

Strength Training Tips for Divers

diver strength trainingIt may seem as though that diving is its own training. Meaning, if you’re a diver, all you have to do is dive, and that alone is sufficient to your strength gains. But only untrained and uninformed people would make this assumption. The truth is you need to complement your underwater training with weight training in the gym. Both types of training work differently but complement each other.

How do you get stronger as a diver?

You have to get strong muscles. That’s all there is to it. If you want to be stronger, you have to train your muscles for strength and endurance.

Train all muscle groups.

You use all your muscles when you’re diving, so work out all your muscles in the gym. If you’re new to strength training, start with compound workouts three times a week. These exercises include barbell squat, leg press, lat pull down (or pull up), bench press, and shoulder press. Once you build decent strength, you can progress to muscle-specific isolation exercises, such as standard curl, cable extension, trap raise, leg curl, step up, and calf raise.

Have a solid workout plan.

You don’t go to a gym and just use machines randomly. If you have no idea what to do, ask the gym instructor. You don’t train like everyone else. Know your strength levels and strength training experience, and start from there. If you have been diving for a while and are considering upping your muscular strength and endurance, you probably have some decent strength level, which can be measured by how much weight you can lift properly for 8 repetitions.

A solid workout plan involves properly structured workout schedules and rest/recovery days. Beginners start from full body workout using compound exercises, build strength through progressive overloading, and then include isolation exercises.

Lift BEFORE you dive, not after.

Most divers who also lift weights go to the gym before their scheduled dives. When they are diving on multiple days in succession, they skip weight training altogether until their off days. If you have a diving schedule that conflicts with your strength training schedule, do the strength training first. After the dive, rest. Reduce your activity after a dive to avoid formation of micro-bubbles in the body, particularly in the joints.

Include cardio.

Cardio should be part of any fitness program. The main purpose of cardio is to train your cardiovascular stamina. You also burn calories in the process too. Your muscles are not the only ones working hard when you dive but also your heart and lungs. Do cardio 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes each session. Do cardio after weight training. You can hop on the treadmill or just jog.

Do warm ups and cool downs.

A proper warm up prepares your body for the workout. It raises up your heart rate and breathing rate and wakes up your muscles. The purpose is to improve circulation of blood and oxygen to your muscles. Working out your “cold” joints and muscles increases the risk of injury.

After your intense workout, you should also cool down to gradually bring your heart and breathing rate slowly and avoid pooling of blood in your extremities.

Warm ups and cool downs can be anything from dynamic stretching to jogging. Cardio for 5 minutes is excellent for warm up and cool down.

Tips for Building Muscle Safely

building muscle safelyBuilding muscle is about knowledge, discipline, patience, and perseverance. When you don’t have these things, you fail. We’ve seen many guys hit the gym, spend two hours doing exercises one after the other, and then disappear because of an injury (e.g. shoulder impingement, elbow tendonitis, and stress fractures). You don’t want to strain a muscle, a tendon, or a joint. You want to build muscle safely in the long run. What should you do?

Consider your current strength level.

You’re probably a beginner, so you have to be realistic. Most beginners will have a hard time doing workouts for the first time properly. When we say properly, it means doing it with correct tempo and form. Beginners have yet to build decent muscle mass and are at base, average strength levels. Many of them would have difficulty squatting 45 pounds in perfect form. That’s because they have not yet built the neuromuscular coordination for weight training. During the first few months, you will have to train using lighter weights. The goal is to train your nervous system and your muscles.

Do the exercises with proper form and technique.

Strength training isn’t just about doing 8 reps of barbel rows or bench press. It’s about doing each rep properly. Gym instructors and fitness coaches insist on the proper form for two reasons–to hit the muscles properly and to avoid injury. You may think you can just squat 90 lbs however you want, but no. You could risk getting spine or knee injury when you do squats wrong. You’re not supposed to progress to the next weight or to harder versions of an exercise before you learn how to it correctly.

Warm up!

You need to prepare your joints, tendons, and muscles before weight or strength training. That’s why you need to do warm-ups, which can be anything like jogging or cardio for 10-15 minutes. A proper warm-up should raise your heart rate and increase blood flow to the muscles, prepping them up for the following intense activity.

Have enough rest and sleep.

You don’t build muscle in the gym or in the kitchen. You tear muscles in the gym. You nourish your body in the kitchen. But building and repair happen during sleep. You don’t get enough sleep? You don’t build muscle. It’s as simple as that.

Be patient and determined.

You don’t go from skinny to super ripped overnight, not even in three or six months. It takes at least a year to see significant changes. Don’t listen to “experts” online who are out to sell you their so-called muscle building products.

Do not overdo sets, reps, and weights!

More sets and reps don’t mean more muscle. Over-training yourself is a sure way to end up on painkillers and trips to doc. Progress safely. Gradually build the intensity and difficulty of your workouts. There are no safe shortcuts here. When you’re done with your program for the day, get out of the gym.

Kettlebells vs Dumbbells: Which is Better for You?

kettlebell vs dumbbell

Kettlebells and dumbbells are both popular workout tools. However, in discussing which between the two types of tools is better, it’s worth looking at your goals in working out. One is better than the other under certain circumstances. In a nutshell, dumbbells are more like your strength training companions, while kettlebells are your cardio and endurance training companions.

What’s the difference really?

Well, the first thing you would notice is their shape. Dumbbells are like little barbells. So they are basically bars with weight plates in both sides. You hold a dumbbell on the center and use it usually as a free weight tool.

Kettlebells, on the other hand, look like metal globes with handles. These are fixed weights, unlike dumbbells, whose plates can be replaced with heavier ones as you progress through your strength training. If you want heavier weights for your kettlebell workouts, you just have to grab a heavier kettlebell.

Different Centers of Gravity

With dumbbells, you’re holding the weight directly in your hands. The center of gravity of the weight is in your hands. This is good in training certain muscle groups for strength. Kettlebells, because of their shape, put their weight and the center of gravity away from you. Training with kettlebells requires you to use more muscles for stability than training with dumbbells. However, while kettlebell exercise do recruit more muscles, thereby burning more calories, they don’t necessarily add so much strength and mass to them.

Different Exercises

As mentioned, dumbbells are used as strength or weight training tools. Depending on your strength levels, you start with 5, 10, or 20-lb dumbbells and perform different exercises (e.g. dumbbell rows, bicep curls, and lunges). As free weights, they allow you to focus more on working out muscle groups.

Some strength training exercises that can be done with dumbbells can also be done with kettlebells, albeit with different effects on your body overall. As mentioned earlier, kettlebells recruit more muscles for stabilization. However, you can only progress so much with these tools until it becomes impossible to advance on the workouts with heavier kettlebells.

Most kettlebell workouts are done at cardio pace for endurance and fat loss. While dumbbells can are also great cardio tools, they are basically strength training tools.

So is one better than the other?

No, neither is better than the other. Dumbbells and kettlebells are just two different tools geared to people with different fitness goals. If you want to build muscle, stick to dumbbells. If you want to build endurance, stick to kettlebells. In other words, go with dumbbells if your goal is to have bigger, more muscular arms or chests. Go with kettlebells if you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance and fitness.

Strength Training Tips for Cyclists

strength training for cyclists

Many cyclists do not know the benefits of strength training to their performance. But that’s not surprising because they are led to believe that they should be training for endurance and not strength. However, strength and endurance go hand in hand when it comes to overall cycling performance. Plus, it is a great way to train in the off season.

When you are a cyclist, you need to have strong upper body, core, and lower body. It seems you are only need your leg muscles, but the truth is you need a full body coordination and balance, which demand work from both your upper body and, especially, your core. Hence, it is vital that you get the right training to be an effective athlete.

The common mistake beginners do is to skip training for strength and head for the road. The thing is you do not develop muscle faster when you start training for endurance on the road. You build stronger muscle for cycling when you train both for endurance and strength. You need that extra muscle strength for demanding tournaments.

In fact, you train not only the lower extremities but your whole body. You are working not only your thigh and leg muscles during cycling but also recruiting your stabilizer muscles to keep you in balance throughout the ride.

Cyclists who include strength training to their overall training program tend to perform better than those who don’t. Contrary to what you might have been told, strength training does not impede or reduce your endurance. There’s a common misconception that athletes should not build muscle because doing so makes them slower in their sports. This is a myth that has no scientific basis.

Fact is you need both muscular strength and endurance to be more effective and more resistant to muscle fatigue. So how do you train for strength?

If you are new to strength training, it’s a bad idea to hit the weights right away. The first thing you have to do is condition your body by prepping up your joints and muscles. You start doing bodyweight exercises, such as air squats and lunges. Core exercises like planks and the different variation of planks are very important. As a cyclist, core strength is basic.

Lift weights!

Strength training requires muscle tension that is provided by lifting weights, not just any weight, but one that’s heavy enough for you to lift for no more than 8-10 reps in the right form. If you can go more than 10 reps, increase the weight. Basically, you would be doing certain weight training exercises for different muscle groups using free weights preferably.

Squat

The squat is like the king of all strength training exercise because it targets some of the biggest muscle groups in the body. We’re talking about the quads, which are basically doing much of the work when you are pedaling on the road. This exercise also targets the glutes. As mentioned, use weights heavy enough for you to do 8-10 reps. Do 3 sets.

You should also do lunges, dead lifts, calf raises, and leg presses. Again, watch your form! You can’t keep doing these exercises with the wrong form without the risk of sustaining an injury and not training your muscles optimally.

Strength training is better done during the off season, usually in winter, to prepare your body for the next cycling season. Come back to the tracks stronger and better. During cycling season, keep your muscle strength by including strength training once a week when you’re not pushing the pedals on your bike.

Strength Training Tips for Beginners

strength training for beginners

Building your strength is often a personal choice that stems from wanting to improve the physique or improve health and fitness. However, it’s a decision that entails a lot of discipline and patience. You don’t improve your strength levels without changing your diet and lifestyle. It’s a major switch, one that discourages a lot of people either at the onset or in the long run.

Motivate yourself.

No one else can do this for you. You have to make the decision on your own. It doesn’t matter how many people tell you to hit the gym and make yourself look robust. If you don’t have that intrinsic motivation, that drive from within yourself, then you don’t have that real foundation to start with. You will end up just like so many others who gave strength training a bit of a try, coming in and out of the gym for months only to abandon the training completely.

Choose your program.

Most people would tell you to go to the gym. What would you do there? Many fitness centers and gyms have machines and free weights. The beginner without proper guidance may find the entire gym intimidating. Without prior knowledge what to do on your first day of strength or weight training, you will be at a loss. You can find some tips here if you want.

Ask yourself what you want to do. You can train with machines, free weights, or TRX trainers. Wait! You can train out of the gym. That’s right. You can do calisthenics, plyometrics, crossfit, or parkour. There are different ways to train your strength and build muscle.

However, since you’re a beginner, and you don’t want to be intimidated by difficult and complicated exercises, start simple. Begin with either basic calisthenics or free weight training. The former is great for people who don’t have access to the gym or don’t have free weights at home.

Assess your strength levels.

Each of us has various strength levels, depending on our muscle mass, experience, lifestyle, and health. Train according to your strength level. Choose weights with which you can do 5-8 reps in the right form. If it’s too easy, load another 5 or 10 lbs. If it’s too difficult or too heavy, reduce the weight. Don’t push it! Progressive overload should be done gradually. Do not shock your body by lifting too much load and risk suffering from an injury.

Bodyweight exercises can be difficult for beginners, too. Non-athletic starters may have difficult performing even one rep of a standard push-up. Start with elevated push-ups or knee push-ups. Standard chin-ups too difficult? Start with negative chin-ups–grab the chin-up bar, jump, and then slowly descend.

Don’t let gym rats intimidate you.

Going to the gym can be daunting for skinny or overweight beginners, who most likely will be surrounded by ripped guys. Don’t mind them. Chances are, they don’t care about you. Chances are, they’re focusing on their own sets as much as you, too, should focus on your own. But don’t decline offers to spot you or assist you. You will need assistance at some point.

Top Foods That Help Build Muscle

foods that build muscleBuilding bigger muscles primarily involves weight training, adequate rest and sleep, and good diet that’s rich in protein. The basic rule when you’re working out for muscle gain is to increase your calorie intake, but you can’t just make calorie gains by eating anything. You have to choose the right type of foods.

Eggs

Eggs have got a bad rep because pseudo-experts are saying they raise your cholesterol levels. But research showed us that cholesterol in eggs does not raise people’s risk to heart disease. Instead, the cholesterol we find in egg yolks are good in manufacturing hormones. Not to mention, egg yolks are nutrient dense. More importantly, eggs are rich in protein, which you need for building muscle.

Beef

Lean beef is one of the best sources of B-complex, iron, zinc, and creatine, all of which are necessary for building muscle mass. Even lean red meat contains some fat, but your body needs some of this fat in manufacturing testosterone, a hormone vital for building and strengthening muscles. Also, some fatty acids present in beef are good for the heart.

However, the most important thing about beef is it contains a lot of protein, but it’s not loaded with calories. Three ounces of beef and 1.5 cups of beans contain roughly the same amount of protein, but the former packs less calories. Beef, is thus, great for people who want to gain muscle mass without gaining body fat.

Chicken

Chicken is another excellent source of muscle-building protein. You can buy raw chicken and cook it as you prefer, hopefully not fried. If you’re out of options, you can always buy rotisserie chicken, and help yourself. Just don’t eat the skin because it’s rich in bad cholesterol and fat.

Fish

Of all protein sources, fish is unique because it’s a combo of high quality protein and healthy fats. Any type of fish is a good source of protein, but the best two are salmon and tuna. For instance, a quarter of salmon’s weight is protein, which means a 100-gram serving has 25 grams of protein. Both tuna and salmon are celebrated for containing the famous omega-3 fatty acids, which are not only good for your heart but also good for your muscles.

Nuts

Of course, you do not put nuts on a platter and have them for dinner. But they are great for snack time. If you’re looking for something to munch on in between meals, then nuts are the best option, especially because you’re concerned about gaining muscle mass. Cashew or almonds have good amounts of protein and good fat. Munch on a handful if you’re feeling a bit famished hours before mealtime.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese has a lot of a protein called casein. It takes a while for your body to digest casein, which is a good thing because it means amino acids in the blood rise in slow, controlled fashion. This is good if you’re doing intermittent fasting, wherein you go for long periods without eating anything. Cottage cheese also contains Vitamin B12 and calcium. Just choose the low-fat products.