As we age, there seems to be some neglect to realize the need to get stronger. This neglect might be due to many misconceptions of what “getting stronger” means.
The best reason to get stronger is to keep healthy and injury-free, as much as practically possible. You will also become more durable for activities and everyday life. The leading cause of injury is weakness. Weakness can be defined as an improperly conditioned muscle or a joint’s lack of integrity, (as we age, there are many reasons for this, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, previous breakage or injury to a joint or muscle etc). Any of these conditions can become much worse if the muscle or joint is put through a high number of repetitions or movements with a lack of focus of what is strengthening the area. When you exercise (swim, run, bike, weight train etc), you are repeatedly putting your joints through the same movements many times. It is therefore important to ensure the strength of the muscle or joint can sustain the repeated movement without injury.
So what does getting stronger really mean?
For your joints, it’s making sure that your muscles are properly balanced so that all of your joints are aligned as much as possible, in other words, being ergonomically correct. As an example, if you have strong pectoral muscles, but have neglected your back, you may have a rounded upper back and forward protruding shoulders. Your muscles aren’t balanced between your front and back. This can happen in the lower body as well when a person’s hips are too tight in the front, causing another imbalance.
A well-planned strength program will start out by getting you stronger in the areas where you are weak or imbalanced based on your posture and movement. Most people think that getting stronger means getting bigger. This is not always true. You can gain the much needed strength by training with light weight and higher repetition. By training this way you will gain strength and endurance at the same time.
To increase strength you need to have a resistance that is more than you are used to. For some that’s doing just five standing push-ups against a wall.
Here are some simple options:
– Using your own body weight to do squats, push-ups, lunges, etc. The TRX is also a great tool. It is a “portable gym in a bag” that allows users to use their own body weight to perform exercise that target all muscles groups, especially the core.
– Dumbbells: You don’t necessarily need an entire set like the gym but a few different pairs to target different groups of muscles. If you don’t know what sizes you need, Powerblock offers adjustable dumbbell sets, meaning you can have a complete weight set in the same space as one pair of dumbbells.
Don’t think about gaining strength as doing a particular exercise or routine—it’s much broader than that. To fully see the benefits of getting stronger, talk to a professional to help you assess your current ability and determine how to progress over time. Maybe you need to add weights or a treadmill to your regular routine. Others may want more cross training in their program. Each individual will have different abilities and goals. The main thing is we need to stay strong and active to live a long healthy life!