by Josh Hoodless
Most of our readers understand the benefits of being strong and how it carries us through all the phases of our lives.
From picking up heavy objects (or children) to picking ourselves up off the ground after a fall. From our performance in a labour intensive job to our performance in the sporting arena, strength is what makes life easier and a lot of the time – better.
As we age, we usually slow down and even stop a lot of weight bearing activity. Our muscles start shrinking and we get weaker.
Scientists originally thought that our nuclei were dying off in our muscle cells (largest cells in the body). But, here’s the good news! Nuclei gained during training stay even when our muscle cells shrink due to disuse or even start to break down. This means increases in the nuclei in muscle cells at a young age will help prevent becoming frail later.
What if we didn’t play sport or do strength training in our youth? It’s going to be ok. Multiple research over the years has shown that, through weight training, men and women in their 60s and above can grow muscle as big and strong as an average 40-year-old.
Great! The science is on our side and it’s never too early or late! But, how do we get stronger? What exercises do we do? How many reps do we do? Where do we start?
Let’s look at what the body does. What movement patterns do we want to be strong in? The human body has several major movement patterns: Squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, twist and locomotion (carry). These movements can be broken down smaller or be a combination of many. For now, let’s stick to the former and involve the latter for fun if we have more time or need to get specific.
Ok. Those are the movements but what are the exercises? Well, if a squat is the movement, then there are dozens of squat bases exercises ranging from sit to stand up to big barbell back squats. If push is the movement… push ups, barbell bench press, dumbbell shoulder presses, dips etc. are some of the exercises for that movement.
It really depends on what best suits your body, what your abilities/injuries are and also what your goals are. Don’t try to suit your body to the exercises, rather suit the exercises for your body. Not everyone can barbell front squat and not everyone really needs too. Why push weights above your head when you have slumped shoulders? There are many exercises for you so keep it simple and remember there is no one size fits all.
Seeking out an experienced strength coach to assess you and determine what’s right for you is a great first step. This also helps to prevent injury down the track.
Next, you’ve got the movements and the exercises sorted, now how many repetitions do you do? How much rest? How many times a week? How fast or slow do I move the weights or your body?
Without going into the science at all, here is a suggested formula for strength training:
• Train the the major movement patterns and major muscles 1-3 times per week – it’s about frequency not volume but make sure you recover in order for the body to adapt.
• Lift a heavy weight (your heavy) for 1-6 repetitions at a smooth lowering speed of 2-3 seconds and an explosive but controlled speed up, at a maximum of 1 second. These variables can be altered slightly to achieve results.
• 3-5 sets of each programmed exercise is optimal and take 90 secs to 5 minutes rest depending on the individual and the movement.
• Ensure that your program involves progressive overload so that your body can adapt and get stronger.
To simplify your journey of getting strong(er) just think to yourself… I want to move more weight, more times, each year. It’s never too late to increase your strength but don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to be brutally strong to have longevity (check out the Blue Zone study). We are living longer and
retired longer, if we can’t get out of a chair to enjoy life to the fullest, then what’s the point?
If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it… until you use it again.