Adding weight to your workout – Part 2 – The Squat

I am going to nominate the squat as one of the most important exercises you can do whether its the wall slide, body weight squat or squat with added weight. To prove how important it is one of the most oft used phrases when teaching the squat is “pretend you are sitting down in a chair”. Yes being able to squat means you will continue to be able to sit down and stand up safely without using your arms (or the chair arms) for assistance. Stronger legs means better balance, so less likely to fall. They also reduce your risk of lower back and knee pain, improve mobility  and of course who doesn’t want a bottom that fills out their trousers.

Beginner – Walls slide  (also good for those with arthritis in the knee)

  1. Stand against a wall with your back touching it. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
  2. Begin by slowly sliding down the wall, maintaining contact, until you are in seated position.  Your  hips and knees should both  be at 90-degrees, your back flat against the wall, your heels  on the ground and your knee joint should be directly above your ankle joint.

Do not worry if you can not get this far down to start with, just slide down the wall to a position comfortable for you.

3.  Slowly push with the legs, weight going thru the heels and slide up the wall to return to starting position.

Start by doing this 3 times a day, to increase the difficulty of this exercise then when you are in the seated position hold for 5 seconds before sliding back up the wall.

Intermediate – Body weight squat to chair

When you first try these place a chair behind you, it will help you visualise what you are suppose to be doing. If necessary actually sit in the chair when you lower yourself.

  1. Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder width apart with toes turned out at a slight angle.
  2. Push back your hips as if you were going to sit in the chair, think about reaching back with your bottom attempting to touch the chair . Whilst you are doing this you need to remember
  • Do not round your back
  • Keep chest up
  • Your knees should track over your toes i.e. you should be pushing your knees out, they shouldn’t be collapsing inwards.
  • Keep weight toward the heels, you should be able to wiggle your toes.
  • Eyes looking foward, your chin should be parallel with the floor

3.  The position you are going down to is just below parallel for your thighs, where your bottom drops below your knees BUT this is a position you are working towards, when you start just go down as far as it feels comfortable. At this point your form is more important than your range of movement.

4. Keeping the weight in your heels, slowly push your body back up.

5. Start with 3 repetitions and work up to 10.

So 2 exercises the press up and squat, both movements which use lots of muscles but no equipment! The next post will be covering a back exercise, as we age it’s actually important that we strengthen the back to help prevent the hunching that can occur as we age for now – as you are probably reading this on a PC or laptop –  I will just say sit up straight!

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb runs Whole Life Fitness which is a personal training company which specialises in the over 50s. For more information please visit Whole Life Fitness or call 01252313578.

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Adding weight to your workout – Part 1

I was asked the following question after my (slightly ranty) post about celebrity trainers and weight training.

“I’ve never thought about lifting weights. How does one get started, and how do you work into a cardiovascular work out?”

Some people are put off doing weights as they think it involves equipment they might not posess or because they don’t know how.

The poster makes this slightly easier for me as they already do a cardiovascular workout so the answer to how do you work it into a cardiovascular workout would be to put it after the main cardo session when your muscles are nice and warm before your stretching, or you could alternate cardio for 5 mins, weights for 5 mins. As long as you are warm when you start your resistance exercises it’s fine, so if you don’t already do cardio then I would recommend a 5-10minute warm up first, this could be marching on the spot or marching around the park.

If you already belong to a gym then ask one of the instructors to write you a programme, personally I would request it is based around free weights rather than resistance machines.

If you don’t belong to a gym then my next few posts are going to explore some bodyweight exercises you can do at home with no equipment. They will be multi joint exercises which means you get more bang for your buck. I will also in the near future be talking about some exercises you can do with equipment which requires very little financial outlay – resistances tubes (which are also very friendly for people who have arthritis).

The exercise I am going to talk about in this post is the push up. Now before you stop reading thinking there is no way I can do a push up there are lots of ways to do push ups and I promise there will be a modification to suit you.  The only people who may find push ups difficult are those with wrist problems such as arthritis. For those with arthritis please be very careful when trying this exercise, definitely start with beginners and stop if there is any pain.

The push up will primarily target the following muscles.

  • Pectoralis major (chest)
  • Triceps (back of arms)
  • Deltoids (shoulder)

However due to you needing to keep your body in a straight line there will be other muscles being utilised.

Beginner – Wall push up

  1. Stand facing a wall roughly arm length away. Place hands on the wall at chest height and shoulder width apart with fingers pointing to the ceiling, there should be a slight bend in the elbow. The closer you stand to the wall the easier the push-up will be.
  2. Bend your arms (whilst inhaling) and your body will lean towards the wall, you should be aiming to get a 90 degree bend at the elbow but don’t worry it you can’t do this at first just lower yourself as far as it feels comfortable.
  3. Push off the wall (whilst exhaling) until your arms are back in the starting position with elbows slightly bent.

Intermediate – Back of sofa/bench push up

Instead of using the wall your hands will rest on top of the back of the sofa (or bench).  Again the closer your feet to the sofa/bench the easier the exercise. Lower your chest to the top of the bench/sofa and push up again. Gradually try to lower your elevated hands (i.e. go from back of sofa to seat of sofa).

Advanced – Floor push up

  1. Lie face down on the floor, hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Push off the floor(whilst exhaling), keeping your body straight, until your arms are extended (but do not lock elbows out)
  3. Bend your arms (whilst inhaling) and lower your body to floor.

For all variations try and work up to 10 repetitions but do not work to failure, stop when you think you have one more with good form left in the tank.

Things you need to remember with all variations.

  • Keep back and body in straight line
  • Your elbows should not point out straight out to the side but slightly behind you
  • Dont lock your elbows out
  • Hold your stomach in

You may have seen a modification of the press up where the person is on their knees. Whilst a valid variation I prefer to do it with hands starting high and moving gradually lower, this is because the postion of the body mimics that of a full push up.

In the next post I will talk you thru how to do squats which will target the lower body muscles.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb runs Whole Life Fitness which is a personal training company which specialises in the over 50s. For more information please visit Whole Life Fitness or call 01252313578.

So Monday I am declaring Muscle Day!

Each Monday I am going to name, describe the function and then demonstrate an exercise for a muscle or muscle group.

Today we are going to do the biceps (biceps brachii).

The bicep lies in front of the upper arm. You know when men pose with their arm up at 90 degrees, they are (trying) to show off their biceps.

The bicep helps bend your elbow (when taking hand up to shoulder), so for example when you pick up your shopping and also when you turn the hand from palm facing down to palm facing up (such as turning cards on a table). Even more importantly it is used when opening a bottle with a corkscrew (us white wine drinkers are lucky we are more likely to have screw-caps!)

Today I am going to demonstrate a really simple exercise that can be done either sitting or standing. Bicep curls.

To start with try doing this exercise with no weight, but as you get used to the exercise please do add weight, to increase the strength in the muscle you need to challenge yourself. You can hold cans of food, pints of milk or use something like a dynaband which you can usually pick up quite cheaply in the larger supermarkets or sports shops.

Let me apologise for the quality of the video, the background choice of noise was either children playing inside or the wind outside. I chose the wind. I have included the instructions below the video so you can just watch the video for the demonstration of the exercise.

Bicep curls. Try and do 3 sets of 10. Rest 60 seconds between each set.

  • Sit or stand with cans held in hands, palms facing forwards arms by your sides. Shoulders nice and relaxed.
  • Curl your arms up so your hands meet your shoulders. Make sure you keep your elbows and upper arms by your side.
  • Lower your  hands back to your sides, palms still facing forward.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over 50s. This will open a new browser window.

By strengthening your ankles you can improve balance and reduce risk of injury.

In this blog I am going to concentrate on ankle exercises. Ankles provide the base for all movement therefore strong ankles can lead to better balance and reduce the likelihood of injuries and falls. Balance is the ability to maintain control on the base of support to avoid falling and this is important whether you just walk to the door or play tennis every day.

Seated alphabet ankle exercise

  1. Whilst sitting raise your right leg and using the ankle trace the letters of the alphabet from A-Z, imagining your big toe as a writing instrument.
  2. Change legs and repeat.

Seated ankle circles

  1. Slowly move your right foot in a circle moving clockwise. Repeat this movement six times.
  2. Then slowly move the same foot in a circle counter-clockwise. Repeat this movement six times.
  3. Repeat the entire exercise with the left foot.

Standing ankle exercise

  1. If needed use wall or chair for support, rise up onto the toes.
  2. Hold for 8 counts
  3. Lower heels to the floor in a controlled manner
  4. Repeat 4 times

Seated ankle exercise

  1. Sit back into the chair for support
  2. Sit tall with good posture, your thighs should be together and your knees bent with feet apart
  3. Keeping knees together, and with heels on the floor lift your toes towards the knees. This is the starting position
  4. Rotate both feet inwards, lifting toes towards the knees so toes point towards each other – hold for a few seconds
  5. Place feet on floor and gently slide feet along back to start position
  6. Build up repetitions as ankle strength increases.

Advanced ankle exercise

  1. Whilst balancing on one leg, using chair or wall for support if needed, rise up on toes
  2. Hold for 8 counts (work up to this if necessary)
  3. Lower heel to the floor in a controlled manner
  4. Repeat 4 times and then switch feet.

So 5 exercises that require no warm up and take 5 minutes of your day, you could do 3 of them whilst watching TV in the evening. By strengthening the muscles in the ankle you will have you a greater ability to maintain your balance and help avoid that trip to A&E discussed in the previous blog.

If  you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise and the over-50s please post a comment.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over-50s This will open a new browser window.

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