General Exercise & Weight Training Suggestions
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The best fitness advice we can offer to NPB candidates and achievers is to stay consistent with their workouts and to change the actual exercises they (you) do from time to time. Never get into an exercise “rut”! Exercise is beneficial and desirable for most of one’s lifetime. While we, of the NPB Society, encourage vacations for rest and recreation, that doesn’t necessarily mean taking a vacation from exercise! Having said that, we do recommend occasional intervals of rest from exercise.
Consult your doctor first before trying any of the following exercises!
For strength training and body-building:
Warm up first. Try to loosen your joints and loosen and warm up your muscles. We feel this is important and may help protect you from injury.
If you are doing, for example, back and triceps, you’ll want to start with your back, which has larger muscles, and then, after you have done all of your exercises for your back, work on your triceps, as they are smaller muscles.
Begin with single sets of 10 to 15 reps with weights that you can manage. You want to feel that you have worked that particular muscle(s) well, but you should not be straining terribly with it!
Now, increase the weight and decrease the reps. This time, try for 8-12 reps. Again, you want to feel strain, but you should not be overdoing it too much!
Maybe you are doing more of your body during your gym visits.
If you are doing legs and upper body, the following is a suggestion that might help you.
Again, exercise bigger muscles first and then smaller muscles. A close-chained leg exercise (that being where the hand or foot is fixed and cannot move) such as a squat or leg press is a good place to start. Leg extensions and leg curls should be next followed by some body-weight calf raises and toe raises (you don’t want to drag your feet as you age).
For the upper body begin with a pulling motion. The seated row is a good place to start. This is an exercise where you pull the weight towards you while your body stays stable and stationary. The most important part of this exercise is to squeeze your shoulder blades (scapulas) together in a retraction motion. Hold for two seconds and slowly release.
Shoulder injuries are treacherous, especially for senior citizens! Keep that posture correct! Keep those scapulas back! Get an expert to show you this so you may better protect yourself from injury!
After this exercise perform the opposite motion which is pushing away. This could be a push-up or a chest press. For shoulders start with external rotation first using a band attached to something while you use your outside arm. Your elbow is flexed at a 90-degree angle as you move the band away from the body.
Lastly, perform bridges (lie supine with knees bent and lift your bottom squeezing your glutes) and bird dogs (all fours lift opposite limbs and hold for 2 to 5 seconds). Remember when you are starting out don’t add a lot of weight. The first three months are acclimating the muscle for more intensity later.
At the end of your workout is the best time to improve your flexibility. Your muscles are warmed up and prepared for a nice stretch. Never hyperextend the joints when stretching or while performing any type of exercise. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds or five deep breaths. We recommend the breathing technique so your muscles relax for a better stretch.
Do your weight lifting and core exercises first. Mix the weight-lifting sets with core exercises in between. Push yourself but do NOT overdo it! Find balance. You can achieve your NPB without overdoing it!
As you progress you can slowly increase intensity for cardio and strength. There are a multitude of ways to accomplish this. Let’s start with cardio. Start with duration first. Keep adding a minute once a week when you find your body is adapting to the duration. When you reach 40 minutes start adjusting the intensity. You can do this in many different ways. Adding a level changes the intensity. Performing intervals via speed and or levels increases intensity. Adding a new form of cardio per week changes the intensity. Try doing one intense 30-minute cardio workout followed by two moderate 40-minute workouts. We could stay on this subject for a long time, but we think you get the picture.
We must, for emphasis, say it again! YOU MUST clear this with your doctor/cardiologist first.
Your body is your temple, remember?!
Strength training intensity has many variables as well. When it is easy to get to 15 reps you will need to add more weight. If you add weight and you can achieve only 10 reps, you are not ready yet. Try adding another set of 10 to 15 reps with a two-minute break between sets. Add more exercises. Ideally, you want to have two exercises per major muscle group. You could try high-intensity interval training (HIIT), super slow training, super and compounds sets, drop sets, and circuit training. Do not overdo anything here either, especially HIIT.
We recommend that you keep changing the weight lifting in each muscle group to the extent possible. Not necessarily every time, but often. We think it is a mistake to do the same routine, over and over. You should try to “fool” your body!
For weight loss and strength, we suggest doing cardio after weight training.
As a general rule, endeavor to not go more than three consecutive days without a cardio workout (but the occasional rest intervals we suggest apply here as well). Your heart is the most important (and amazing) muscle in your body. Normally a minimum of three days a week for thirty minutes of moderate intensity is a good goal. However, with your doctor/cardiologist being the lead consultant and always overruling us, we think that every four to six weeks, it is a good idea to take a four- or five-day break from exercise of all kinds. We believe that your body (your temple) needs to have good rest from time to time.
HERE AGAIN, YOU MUST CONSULT WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN FIRST BEFORE EXERCISING!
If you are planning on losing weight, you will need to increase your baseline cardio with a variety of durations and intensities but begin cardio training with a moderate amount of intensity. Over time, you can gradually increase your intensity as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. Maximum heart rate maxHR can be found here on the CDC’s website:
General guidelines for heart rate are to stay between 55% to 65% of your maximum heart rate (maxHR) for the first three months. You may work yourself up to 70% of your maxHR the first year. As your heart becomes conditioned you may push it up to 80% of maxHR as long as your cardiologist gives you permission to do so. I recommend taking a minimum of one day off per week of cardio for recovery.
As for strength training for people over age 60, we suggest starting out with a minimum of 2x per week for 30 minutes of cardio training. Consult your doctor first before trying any of the following exercises.
Between some sets in most muscle groups, try to work on your core. This includes, but is not limited to stomach “crunches” sit-ups (watch your back!), and exercises for your obliques.
Always challenge yourself but never overdo it. Always ask yourself if you are doing enough. You are the only person that can give you your Near Perfect Body (NPB) and you are the only person that can keep your NPB!
The most important advice we offer you about exercising is to listen to your body. Some burning and discomfort are normal and to be expected (and, in moderation, desirable) while lifting weights.
HOWEVER, if you feel any pain that does not feel normal when lifting weights, stop immediately! Rest the muscle, apply ice, compress, and elevate. Consult a physician. Strains do happen as you progress in your workouts but the key is a quick response time so you can get back to your program again.
When possible, hire a trainer to get you started if you need assistance, and good luck with your lifelong commitment to a happier, healthier lifestyle.
Remember, stay on THE RIGHT PATH!
NOTE: We know we have said many times to consult your doctor and cardiologist. We are not apologetic for this. We get ONE life and ONE body per person and we DO NOT want you to be at risk, EVER! NPB Society is not a medical professional and nothing herein constitutes medical advice.