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February 13, 2021 2 Comments
This article is primarily intended for seniors and people who are not experienced in resistance training but would like to commence doing so. Since I'll be turning 79 in a few weeks, my perspective is skewed more toward my near-contemporaries, but really fitness is for everybody--and much the same for everybody. If you are "senior" (and many firms start senior discounts at 55 or even 50, which doesn't strike me as very "senior" at this point in my life!), you many not have as much inherent strength or endurance as you did a few decades ago (I sure don't!), but the principles of fitness are very much the same whatever your age, and if you are a younger reader, I hope you will also find my counsels of some benefit.
I think every commentator on these topics invariably encourages prospective trainees to get a medical check-up before commencing a vigorous regimen of physical exercise. (If you are prudent enough to get checked routinely and it hasn't been long since your last check-up, you can probably forgo this.) Even if you are an active younger person, it's still a good idea. I can still recall with sadness a schoolmate of mine--a fine, strapping, highly athletic young fellow--who suddenly keeled over and died when he was about 20 because of an undetected heart condition. Be aware that many physicians, especially if they don't have a background in sports medicine, are still chary about resistance training. If so, reassure your physician that you will be starting with very light weights, as you very well should, no matter how highly you rate your strength and prowess. (More on this shortly.)
A medicine ball of moderate weight is a fun, inexpensive addition to your fitness arsenal that can do a lot to diversify your training.
Many people like the diversity of equipment and camaraderie of a commercial gym. If it's a good one, you should also have access to the services of knowledgeable, helpful trainers. Frankly, if you want to build a competition-quality physique or develop the immense strength needed for sports like weightlifting, powerlifting or strongman, you will be better off by joining a gym that caters to athletes wishing to excel in these fields. However, most of us who qualify as "seniors" are not going to be interested in such pursuits, and the same applies to younger people who don't have such lofty aspirations. To determine whether an at home or gym setting is better for you, follow the FITT principle guidelines as you put together your workout routine.
Moreover, at present, most gyms are still closed to the public, as the specter of covid continues to stalk the world, seemingly unabated. Forty-some years ago, I was a visitor at a number of the most famous gyms in the world--the original Gold's Gym, Joe Gold's World Gym, Bill Pearl's among others. In recent times, I have dropped in at some of the commercial "chain" gymnasia, and they were very different from the ones where serious people trained--mostly rows of treadmills where the clients trudged away like caged hamsters in their wheels! My own preference has always been for the convenience, economy and privacy of home training, and the rest of this article will be centered on those who wish to take that route.
Resistance bands like the SET FOR SET Power Bands are highly versatile pieces of equipment that can go anywhere and be kept anywhere.
This is mostly a matter of applied common sense. For instance, if you live in a small apartment, you may rightly be hesitant about acquiring a 7-foot Olympic barbell, a set of squat stands, and a sturdy bench. Fortunately, most "unconventional fitness" equipment takes up little space. For example, a full panoply of SET FOR SET macebells takes up merely a few feet wall space in my bedroom, and most of my kettlebells occupy a few square feet in our den. If space is really at a premium, as in a college dorm room (not a likely problem for most of us seniors), resistance bands are the answer. They are also the perfect fitness gear for the traveler. A lot of good training can be done in tiny spaces. I have mentioned elsewhere that I rebuilt my physique in tiny garret with nothing more than a pair of adjustable dumbbells. Many people have the notion that you need a lot of room to swing a macebell. Nothing could be further from the truth. Properly executed, the classic macebell swings should barely exceed the planes of your body. Nor is the common 8-foot ceiling a hindrance unless you are extremely tall. Nonetheless, some excellent equipment may be ruled out by your circumstances. For example, I have become quite a devotee of the slam ball of late. Clearly, using a slam ball will be precluded if you live in an upstairs apartment. However, many apartment buildings have courtyards and walkways where such exercises can be performed. A nearby park is a perfect spot as well. When it comes to fitness, "where there's a will, there's a way," as the saying goes.
A 12-kilogram/26-pound kettlebell is an ideal "starter" kettlebell for many people--both men and women.
When it comes to my assessments of workout gear for the home trainer, rather than repeat myself, I would refer the reader to my post entitled "How to Create Your Home Gym" that appeared on this blog November 26, 2020, in which I treat this topic in considerable detail. I could sum up my preferences as "Bells, Bands and Balls," meaning macebells, kettlebells and/or dumbbells, resistance bands and exercise balls, not that there aren't a number of other excellent types of fitness equipment available. Other contributions from me to this blog that may be relevant would include the following:
There are also many, many other useful articles on these topics from knowledgeable and competent people that have appeared in this blog that I would commend to your attention.
Even though he came to macebell training late in life, the macebell has become Jan's favorite fitness tool in recent years.
Be assured that you don't have to spend a small fortune to give yourself an excellently equipped home gym. Let's look at some examples from SET FOR SET's macebell lineup: The most commonly recommended starting macebell for women is a seven-pounder. This goes for $27.95. The 10-pound mace--the beginning weight recommended for men--is $39.95. A 15-pound mace is $54.95, and if you're strong and fit enough to commence macebell training with a 15-pound mace, you probably don't need any counsel from me! Anyone with a couple of maces and a kettlebell of sufficiently challenging weight is going to be well-equipped for home training. SET FOR SET's lineup of "starter weight" kettlebells include an 18-pounder (most women) for $39.99, 26 pounds (stronger women, untrained men) $49.99 and 35 pounds (more vigorous men), $69.99. Other useful options would include one or more of SET FOR SET's Power Bands that sell in the vicinity of $20. Really, just a single macebell and kettlebell are all you need for a lot of vigorous training. Throw in a 10-pound medicine ball (about $26), and you can diversify your workouts a lot more. In brief, you can equip yourself for some high-quality, heavy-duty exercising for considerably less than $150.
The ideal starting weights for macebell training are seven and 10 pounds.
...And if you can remember the beer commercials that line comes from, you definitely qualify as a "senior"! When it comes to resistance training, one point I always like to stress is, No one ever got injured by starting too light! If you are at all uncertain about whether to purchase a heavier or a lighter weight, opt for the lighter one. Remember, you're not in a weightlifting competition, you're trying to build up your body, not strain or damage it! If you find you need to acquire a heavier weight, hold onto the lighter one. You will probably discover some exercises for which it will be beneficial as you continue your training journey. By the same token, don't push yourself too hard. You should feel comfortably tired at the end of your workout, not wiped out. Overtraining can and will lead to burnout, illness and even long-term physical breakdowns. Consider yourself warned.
Related: Best Stretches for seniors
Even light kettlebells like the 12-kg can provide a tough workout if the repetitions are high enough.
You will enjoy training a lot more if you have a variety of exercises and gear to choose from each day: macebell swings one day, kettlebell work the next, tire slams with the macebell the following day, a kettlebell carry, then a light and fast medicine ball workout and so forth. You can also combine exercise modes and equipment: For example, I just finished a nice, light workout consisting of high-repetition swings and squats with a medium-weight (53-pound) kettlebell, interspersed with bouts of a hundred tire slams with the macebell. Varying your workouts will exercise your body in a variety of ways, keep up your enthusiasm and stave off boredom and burnout.
Ten- and 15-pound macebells coupled with a 40-pound kettlebell can provide a lot of tough, diverse exercises for most trainees.
The old-school method was to get in a lengthy, total body workout of an hour or two, usually with free weights, and then take a day or two of complete rest. A more modern approach is to get in a shorter workout, typically no more than 45 minutes every single day utilizing a variety of different training modes. It is in the nature of things that you will skip some days of training, whether because of illness, fatigue, employment or social obligations. Strive to achieve a daily workout, but don't feel too guilty if you do have to skip a day or two of training now and then.
Jan has found that the Power Bands enable him to do many exercises that would otherwise be abusive to his arthritic shoulder.
A commitment to fitness doesn't mean adopting a regimen of grim austerity. By now, most guidelines to healthy living are common knowledge: Shun cigarettes, keep consumption of alcoholic beverages to a sensible minimum (or cut them out altogether), strive for a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid sugar and processed foods, etc., but since you are interested enough in healthy living to be reading this blog, you know all this stuff already! However, some minor "vices" make life in general more bearable and easier to maintain a good overall regimen, I think: A bottle of beer, a slice of pie, a chocolate sundae are not going to negate all the good training you have done...if you don't overindulge.
Author: Jan Libourel
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