020417 Strengthening the deep lower back muscles

Strengthening the deep lower back muscles

Sports scientists and strength coaches are well aware of the importance of a strong back. One of the exercises that will contribute to strengthening this often times injured area is simple to do and can be done nearly anywhere.

Position yourself up against a wall so that your head, shoulders, upper back, buttocks and heels are all touching at the same time. Now while maintaining this contact, try to push the lumbar area of your spine against the wall. Keep the pressure evenly distributed throughout the lumbar area and hold it for four or five seconds at a time for five to six good repetitions.

If this seems too difficult then do it supine on the floor. Once you’ve figured this out on the floor then move back to the standing version.

300117 Starting a weight training program

Starting a weight training program.

Are you just beginning to lift weights? If so, then seeking out a knowledgeable coach to guide you along may be the first and most important thing you should consider doing. Check their credentials. Are they certified by a recognized organization such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)? Do they care about you or just your money and the gym membership? Ask them for references. After all, it truly is a buyer beware situation when you are trying to get stronger and are paying out good money for the results you desire.

Maximum lifts are to be avoided in any new weight training program. If this is the case then how are you expected to lift heavy if you don’t know how to lift in the first place? The answer is you can’t. So don’t be intimidated into adding more and more on the bar in your first sessions. Learn how to lift, build up a base and then gradually start adding the weight.

Excessive initial loads contribute little to becoming stronger but do expose you to an increased likelihood of injury. A new lifter will do quite well with a load varying in the range of 60-80% of a muscles force generating capability. You may be wondering how this is determined. One of the safer ways is to simply estimate a conservative load and try it out.

Another more frequently used method is to do a set amount of repetitions, i.e. ten, five or three, and then use commonly available charts to determine the percentage weight to use based on the outcome of the multi repetition test. Once the percentage has been figured out then the sets and reps will be a matter of professional knowledge and experience for your coach.

Using lighter weights for more repetitions is generally wiser for the inexperienced lifter. Selecting loads that allow ten to fifteen repetitions for two to four sets in each exercise helps build a strong base to continue future training. This repetition and set scheme will not place an excessive load on the bones, ligaments, muscles or tendons of the new lifter. More importantly it will not cause negative disruptions on the nervous system.

Certainly if the lifter is able to easily lift the selected percentage load for the chosen repetitions then more weight can be added the next session. A minimum of twelve repetitions is the determining factor in this decision to go to a higher load. This process will be trial and error for the first two to three sessions unless the coach is highly experienced.

Once the weight has been figured out then it’s time to set up the training load schedule in one of several ways: Progressive, over load, or step loading.

Progressive is effective for the new lifter for a short time then becomes less productive. The schedule will appear in this fashion. Three to four sets of various loads with a certain number of repetitions. For example, a warm up followed by one set of eight reps, then one set of six and finally one set of four. This schedule is followed for the rest of the training time.

The overload scheduling scheme leads to over training which in turn will lead to staleness, lack of interest and even injury. Many coaches like this as they believe the athlete benefits from the extra work. Not so. The athlete becomes disinterested and fatigued. In this system the load progressively increases every week or even every session. There is no rest built into this loading program and the constantly increasing intensity quickly leads to overtraining and its attendant problems.

The step load seems to be the best alternative for the new trainee in that one load is used throughout the entire sequence of one exercise. In the step load the warm up is completed and then one load is chosen which has been determined by the previous testing. This load then remains for three to five sets until it is no longer a challenge to the lifter. This is co-determined by both the lifter and the coach’s observations of the lifters speed and bar path.

An able coach will also start out the exercise session with a dynamic warm up such as riding a bike, skipping rope (my favorite warm up exercise) or some other active motion type of movement. If your coach starts out with static stretches then it’s time to find one more knowledgeable in the field.

Depending on the sessions some will begin with the larger muscle groups first and gradually work their way to the smaller ones such as the arms or calves. On other occasions the exercises will begin with the targeted muscle groups and work from this point onward.

One final note or two; keep a log of your progress in the weight room it will show you how well you’ve done…or not. If the or not is taking place it’s time to find another coach and begin to make some progress.

220413 Setting yourself up for success with your exercise plans

Setting yourself up for success with your exercise plans

A beginning exercise program should be fun and easy to follow. It should not be a complicated affair filled with complex and hard to follow directions or intricate movements. Just keep it simple, follow it each day, and have fun. The more complicated you make it the harder it will be to stay up with it.

Set your goals as precisely as possible. For example, telling yourself you want to be stronger may sound good, but it is too general. Do you want to be able to do one push up or one hundred? It makes a difference doesn’t it?

Be specific about each of your goals by knowing exactly where you want to go with your exercise dreams. Decide how you want to exercise, how much you want to exercise, how long you have to reach your goals (both immediate and long range), and how much time you will dedicate to each training session. Without knowing each of these and writing them down it is unlikely that you will actually get there.

Start out slowly and don’t overdo it the first time. It is easy to be over enthusiastic when beginning but this same enthusiasm can lead to being extremely sore the next day. This is something that catches unwary trainees by surprise. Good coaches nip this in the bud by not piling on exercises. Remember, if you are a coach, that it is easy to make someone sore.

You will have to decide whether you need a workout partner. Some people do well with one and others do well on their own. It all depends on your need to be with someone when you exercise.

If you find the right partner, each of you can exceed your expectations in the gym with the mutual support and encouragement you provide to one another. However, if you hook up with a lackard, one who does not show up on time, doesn’t push, or is too social then your training will suffer. You have to decide what is best for you.

Whatever you do, it has to be a fun experience otherwise, you won’t keep it up.

100313 Healthy movement

Healthy movement is beneficial to your body and at its lowest level, even some activity is better than doing nothing. If you are just starting out then gradually build up your endurance with 5 to 10 minute exercise breaks throughout the day. At the 10-minute level, your body begins to adapt and then noticeable changes become evident.

After you are able to exercise aerobically for at least 10 minutes, it is time to branch out by adding resistance exercises to the daily routine. One way to begin is by doing one 10-minute session of endurance work and then later on in the day doing 10-minutes of resistance training.

Alternate between aerobic and resistance training for at least thirty minutes for the day.

The aerobic exercises can be brisk walking, skipping rope, riding a bike or any other activity that is continuous and places a demand on your breathing and heart rate. After you are finished then cool down with static stretches, holding each one for fifteen to thirty seconds. Do this three to five times for each stretch.

For the resistance training start out with body weight calisthenics by doing 3-5 sets of fifteen to thirty bodyweight squats, push ups, calf raises, prone back extensions, curl ups, leg raises or others of your choosing. You can do these in a circuit or one exercise at a time. Stay with it for the full 10 minutes.

If you are over sixty-five, the health benefits of activity are just as important to you as they are to the younger people. Start slowly and build up your fitness levels over time. If you have chronic health problems, work around them and do what you can.

If you aren’t able to ride a bike or have access to a treadmill or other such equipment, then get one of the hand ergometers available at Costco for about $49.00 and exercise your upper body. Do counter top pushups by standing two or three feet away from a counter top and then doing pushups on it.

Do chair sits. Sit in and stand up from a chair without pushing on your legs with your hands as you stand up. Practice sitting down on a chair; standing up, walking away briskly for 10 feet, and then coming back and sitting in the chair again. Repeat this for a minute or more. This builds up leg strength and helps with your balance.

Practice your balance to help prevent falls by walking sideways, standing heel to toe; practicing the stork stand on one leg with the other bent ninety degrees at the hip and knee or any of the many other balancing exercises.

The benefits of strength training for older adults

The benefits of strength training for older adults

Lifting weights, using bands and other resistance training methods has a proven record of accomplishment of making life easier for an older adult. You will get stronger, regardless of your age, by making resistance training a part of your lifestyle. More so for an older person because these strength increases may mean the difference between living independently and having to have assistance to do daily activities.

Muscle strength diminishes as we age, everyone knows this, but not everyone does anything to slow this natural process from happening. Progressive resistance training uses various methods to increase strength including free weights, elastic materials and even machines.

The key strategy in getting stronger is to vary the load, repetitions and sets that you use while exercising.

One organization conducted 121 trials involving 6700 people over 67 years old who trained two to three times a week. Such training demonstrated large improvements in muscle strength for each person. The study showed moderate to large strength improvements in the participant’s ability to do simple daily activities like getting up out of a chair, climbing stairs or walking at a faster pace.

If you are older and hesitant to try lifting weights, check out one of the local gyms in your area and find a certified strength coach to get you started.

Perhaps you may decide to start out on your own with bodyweight exercises, if this is your choice then follow a few basic suggestions before doing so. Talk to your doctor and set up an exercise plan to follow such as the following seventeen to twenty one minute bodyweight schedule. Adjust the exercise times to fit your personal capabilities. Keep a log of what you do.

  • Walk for five minutes.
  • Do chair squats for one to three minutes.
  • Walk for five minutes.
  • Do wall or counter top pushups for one to two minutes.
  • Walk for five minutes at a slower pace to cool down.

Keep it up for a month to six weeks until exercise becomes a habit and you too will realize the benefits of strength training in your own life…regardless of your age.