Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Baby Boomer Field Guide to Fitness: Why do Boomers need to workout differently?

76 million Americans are in the Baby Boomer category with Dick Butkus and my own parents being right smack in the middle.  Their health and wellness is one of the single most important issues moving forward that we are going to face as a nation.  Weight training is the single best activity Baby Boomers can do to improve health, we know this already but as a Boomer, there are special considerations because your body just doesn't work the same way as it did.  Age, injuries, surgeries, aches and pains, joint replacement(s), posture issues, muscle loss, and functional capacity have to be considered in your workout program. The last thing you want is starting a workout plan when you are 60 yrs old and find out when your 70 yrs old that you could have been working out much more effectively, you can never get those 10 years back.

In fitness, every type of training works and everyone's body is different.  Modern and what I call the "infomercial workouts" that you see on Saturday morning don't apply to Boomers because they offer unrealistic results and outright dangerous exercises for the joints.  Some programs tout a 10 minute fitness routine, which can be done because everything works, but it takes some of us 10 minutes just to get the body moving and warmed up let alone get a whole workout done!

Some of you, my Dad being one of them, have never worked out a day in your life.  Some of you may have started and stopped a program countless times over the years and know that you need to do something now.  You may be a consistent trainee that has achieved great results but you want to dedicate your time doing something other than working out everyday. Good news is that I am going outline a training that works the fastest, safest, and most effective way to build strength to improve your life. I'll give you specific tools you need to workout at any gym or fitness facility and your home.  In the next series of entries I'm going to out line the Baby Boomer workout plan from exact exercises, sets and reps, to recover and workout programs to avoid. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Best back exercises Part One

Training your back muscles should be done right after training the legs.  This way you are working the largest muscles in the lower body followed by the largest muscles in the upper body which allows you to get your cardiovascular conditioning and strength training done in one workout. If you can knock out cardiovascular conditioning and strength training in the same workout, it make for a very efficient use of time.

Here are the best exercises for the back muscles, look for these free weight exercises or machines in your gym and apply the techniques.
Late model super pullover machine
Every back exercise has a weak link, the upper arms are involved.  No matter how strong your biceps are they'll never be as strong as the lats, which are some of the largest muscles in the body. The seated pullover machine can be considered the most productive upper body exercise known to man and it's one of the few back exercise machines that take out the weak link of the arm muscles because point of force is above the elbow.  Flexibility is also improved on the pullover machine because it takes you through 250 degrees of motion, no other machine can do that.

Choose a weight that you can do 2 sets of 15-20 reps with taking 1 second to pull the weight down, pause for 2 seconds in the bottom position, and take 4 seconds to lower the weight.  Make sure and go from a full stretch to a full contraction each rep.  If you have one of these in your gym, make a B-line for it ASAP as it's the best back exercises ever!
Early Nautilus pullover, none better!
Remember back in junior high when you couldn't muster up enough strength to do 3 pull ups.  Don't worry because most everyone hate pull ups, that's why it more important than ever to do them now!  There's not a gym in the country that doesn't have a pull up bar but I doubt there's many gym goers out there that know how to do them properly.  It may be a pull up station as shown, sometimes there's a pull up bar on the squat cage, or they'll usually be one on the cable cross overs.

Now should we do a palm up, parallel, or palms facing away grip on the bar. There's a simple and logical answer.  You should put your hands in the palms up or parallel position simply because that is where your bicep is biomechanically stronger.  Ask yourself, is a muscle about the size of a baseball/softball(bicep) going to be strong enough to keep up with the largest upper body muscle(lats)?  Noway no how!  Even with your biceps in the strongest position you still won't work the lat as hard as it's capable.  That's why you'll want to find/beg for a pullover machine which takes the weak bicep out of the exercise of working the lats.

Nevertheless, the pull up is an excellent upper body exercise and you should belt out as many as possible with good form.  Use a palm up grip starting in the "dead hang" position, smoothly pull yourself up taking about 1 second until your chin is above the bar, pause and hold at the top for 2 seconds, and slowly resist the negative taking 4 seconds to lower back to the dead hang position. Do as many as you can!
Pull up station

BTW, a pull down machine is not the same as pull ups!  You won't get stronger for pull ups by doing pull downs.  Pull down machines are a great exercise but you get better at doing pull ups, by doing pull ups!
This machine won't help you do pull ups!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Best leg exercises Part One

Squats are by far and away the most productive exercise not just for your legs but for the whole body.  Men will gain loads of muscle on the legs, back, chest, and arms by doing squats.  Women will get the best legs, buns, and thighs you've ever seen by doing them.  If aliens came down and ruled the earth and only allowed us to do one exercise, squats would be the one you'll want to do.  

Look for the squat rack as shown below, your gym will have a this exact one or a variation.  Choose a weight that you can do 2 sets of 20 reps at a smooth controlled pace with perfect form.  Begin the movement with the bar on your upper back, feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed straight ahead.  Squat down slowly until your upper leg is parallel to the ground, then smoothly push through the center of the foot returning to the start position, repeat. Squats are a great indicator of flexibility, if you start to see your toes point out as you squat down, limit your range of motion until you can squat all the way down without your toes moving outwards.  Use lighter weights to start in order to learn the right form and pretty soon you'll be squating heavier weights with perfect form before you know it!
Squat Rack
Leg Presses are a nice alternative to squats if you have an injury or may not have the flexibility to do squats properly.  There's usually 2 types of leg press machines, selectorized or plate loaded.   Your gym will absolutely have one or both of the machines pictured and either works pretty much the same.  The key is your feet placement on the platform which can be high, low, or in the middle depending on the muscle groups you want to emphasize or de-emphasize.  If your feet are high on the platform it will put more stress on your hips.  Feet low will put more stress on the muscles around your knees.  Feet in the middle will be a balanced stress between the knees and hips.  Putting stress more hips or knees can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what issues you have and areas you're trying to work.  Pick a weight you can do for 2 sets or 20 reps.  The tempo of your reps should be 2 seconds to press the weight and 4 seconds to lower the weight.

Plate loaded leg press machine
Selectorized Leg Press