Building a Balanced Bod
Is your body ready for summer fun? Some simple resistance training can increase your strength and improve your balance. And many of my male patients are pleased to hear me call resistance training “the fountain of youth.” Why? Because it’s been shown to increase blood testosterone levels in men of all ages. So get strong and feel your best!
Before starting any new exercise activity, you should always check in with your primary care provider. They may choose to screen you for cardiovascular, pulmonary or neurologic issues.
Resistance training is any form of exercise that forces the body to overcome an externally applied force. So you could try weight lifting, or exercising with elastic bands or even sand bags.
The benefits of resistance training include increased strength, power and bone density. Strength is the ability for a body to do work—like picking a sack of concrete up off the floor. Power is the rate of work—quickly throwing that sack of concrete up onto a shelf. Other benefits include better balance, improved metabolism and improved mental health.
Reps and Sets and More
If you choose to lift weights, you can use either free weights or machines. Be sure to work all your major muscle groups—chest, back, shoulders, arms, core, legs. Two exercises per group is ideal. And folks, don’t skip your legs! Legs connect you to the ground, which is what you push off of in order to generate force with your upper body. Work your lateral hip and your glutes (or gluteus maximus—the large muscle in your buttocks). Your back, knees and feet will thank you for it later.
For each exercise, I advise shooting for 1–3 sets of 10–15 repetitions. The resistance should be heavy enough that the last 2–3 reps are challenging.
Finally, it’s important to rest for 48 hours between workouts. A good plan is three resistance training sessions per week.
As you lift weights, stay focused and use your core to stabilize your body’s alignment. For standing exercises, you can add some simple devices to simultaneously improve your balance. For example, standing on a square of two-inch foam or an inflated rubber disc can make any exercise—even a shallow knee bend—into a balance practice! You can also simply lift one foot an inch off the ground during some exercises or bring your feet close together. Another fun challenge is to stand on one foot and lift weights with the opposite arm, like doing a right arm bicep curl while standing on your left foot. Be sure to do both sides.
Yoga, martial arts and Tai Chi are also excellent ways to combine strength, balance and flexibility. Pilates offers a good workout for your core muscles. If a patient were to ask me how to avoid injury and minimize the likelihood of having to come back to see me, I would tell them to sit with good posture, stretch their pecs and strengthen their core, glutes and lateral hip muscles. Also, losing a couple of pounds of belly fat never hurts—and all the above activity will help to achieve this goal, too.
Rob Jensen, DPT, is a physical therapist and practices at our Beacon Hill clinic. If you feel any strains or are working with an injury, the physical therapists at PacMed are available to work with you. To learn more or make an appointment, visit Rob's web page.