What’s one of the biggest things that I find makes a difference to peoples ability to deal with injury and move better and more comfortably?
Today I thought I’d have a brief look at:
Strength is HUGELY KEY TO OUR ABILITY TO MOVE – AND KEEP MOVING – in the ways that we want to. Alongside ‘flexibility’ and ‘movement control’ it is one of our three main abilities that allows us to move smoothly, easily and comfortably.
Being stronger can have surprising benefits. It can make any movement feel easier and more comfortable – stepping onto a high step, lifting something down from a high shelf, walking along an uneven path, getting up off the floor, sitting (yep!) and even your regular exercise routine. It can make you less likely to break something in a fall (thinking the older population and ALL of us in the upcoming, icy months) improve sleep, enables us ALL to do things that we couldn’t previously do (on a personal note, strength training has been absolutely key to getting me to my 10k run target) and often makes aches and pains that you wouldn’t think would fade, fade away.
Strength is easy to obtain but it does require effort! There is a little (effort) pain for the gain. It’s not enough to simply ‘stay active’ and ‘never stop’ and ‘walk a lot’ – getting stronger means working hard at doing specific moves or exercises, pushing your body (and mind) harder than you would normally or naturally and probably feeling a bit of a burn. And as this gentleman demonstrates, you’re never too old or unfit to start getting stronger 🙂
On the plus side, research suggests that you only need to strength train twice a week and it’s not something that you need to spend hours on – between 10 and 30 minutes will suffice – so time isn’t an excuse either! If you want to do more and – particularly as we all age – keep doing the things you do, strength is going to help you do this.
The following exercises are appropriate for any age and ability as they can all be made easier or harder to suit. If you’ve an ache or a pain that you’re worried about or you find that any of the following exercises bother a niggle then it might be worth getting yourself checked out by a Physiotherapist. If not, crack on!
Hard but totally worth it! Start with elbows right under shoulders, push though arms, suck and squeeze stomach muscles in to lift trunk and hips from floor and hold! For as long as you can!
Great for getting our lazy behinds working. Lie with knees hip width apart, squeeze your bottom and lift your hips towards the ceiling, pause then lower. Make harder by raising one foot from floor and still keeping pelvis level as you lift hips.
Great for your lower body and asks effort of your core too. Stand in a wide, stable stance (next to a wall if your balance requires assistance) and then bend at both hips and knees to lower your pelvis straight down towards the floor, keeping pelvis level and knees hip width apart. Lower just as far as you can keep your technique good then squeeze bottom and thighs to get you back to the start. There’s a great youtube video here with a physio demonstrating this one as it’s pretty important to do it right: feel the burn in your bum on the forward leg and thigh on the back leg.
A full body exercise but one that can be completely tailored to suit you. If you can’t manage the full on version then go from your knees (similar to ‘plank’ above) or push up against a wall. Keep your upper and lower body stable and plank-like – make those muscles work! – and raise and lower yourself using your arms and shoulders just as far as is comfortable.
Depending on preference and props, the pull down and pull up are similar in the muscles that they work. A stretchy band or something to haul yourself up on is required (and if you’re a gym user then make use of the machines available there). Most of our upper bodies could do with a strength boost. Again find the level that suits you. If you’re doing pull ups you can stand on a step instead of fiddling about with kneeling in a band as shown and “assist” with your legs as you build towards doing the unassisted version!
If you’re unsure about starting or how to start gaining strength then get some information. There’s a tonne of stuff online, though you do sometimes have to sort the wheat from the chaff. Your local gym can help and guide and I’m here if you have any queries about strength training, as it’s very much a part of what us physio’s do 🙂