Strength training is important at any age, but especially as we get older. It is essential that we continue to improve muscle tone to prevent age-related muscle atrophy. Strength training also improves bone density which also tends to decline with age. Strength training using resistance can not only prevent, but significantly improve muscle mass at any age and fitness level. The benefits of strength training do not end here. Strength training helps brain function. It also increases mitochondrial density (mitochondria are the organelles that produce energy in our bodies), metabolism, and longevity as explained at length in this blog post.
So, what is a safe and effective way to get strong? I am all about resistance bands. Resistance bands have been the cornerstone of my workouts for over 25 years! I use them in my personal fitness routines, with my private clients, as well as in studio classes. What I love about them is they are extremely versatile, I can control the intensity of a workout, and they produce great results. You can do a variety of movements at different speeds. I love how they are easy to use, safe, not expensive, easy to pack when traveling for work or pleasure, and can be used at any age or fitness level. Even my male clients over 200-pounds love using them and rave about how effective they are.Resistance bands are amazing for toning and strengthening the body without using heavy weights. You can do just about any type of strength-training exercises -- chest presses, rows, shoulder presses, triceps extensions, bicep curls, and even squats. You can exercise every muscle group from glutes to core muscles using resistance bands, and strengthen smaller muscle groups that support our joints. They create a lower-impact exercise, lending to more resistance than your body weight and less tension and risk from using heavy weights.
Because they are low risk, and effective, they are popular in a rehab setting post-injury or surgery. They are a perfect tool for impact strength training for seniors. No matter if you are a fitness buff, starting a workout program, or wanting to rebuild your body post-rehabilitation, they should be your go-to fitness tool!
Using resistance bands is usually referred to as Variable Resistance protocol. It has the effect of increasing resistance toward the end of the concentric phase (when the muscle is shortened of the lift), which allows extra resistance at the point where you are strongest. There is evidence that Variable Resistance is incredibly effective, more so than using dumbbells. One study showed that Variable Resistance produced a greater hormonal response in young men. The same hormones are in shorter supply as we age, so the finding is even more promising for older adults. Another study on sedentary, middle-aged women showed that elastic bands were as effective as using weight machines.
Resistance Bands are versatile, safe, and effective. No wonder physical therapists love them so much, top weightlifters use them, and even a famed athlete Tom Brady uses resistance bands in his TB12 training program. It’s a no-brainer!
A resistance band is any sort of band, whether closed loop or not, that is made out of elastic material. Some are thick and flat, while others are thin and tubular. Sometimes they come with padded handles or loops at the ends and are generally marked as light, medium, or heavy depending on the strength of the elasticity. They are easy to find online or at your local sporting goods store. The higher the quality, the longer they will last.Personally, I like using tubular resistance bands. They are stronger and more versatile than the flat kind, as they can be easily attached to a door and help work out the entire body. My favorite brand is Xertube Resistance Bands by SPRI (no affiliation with the vendor).Once again, here are the reasons we love them:
I will now share a few of my favorite exercises you can add to your fitness routine. These are from my Building Strength series in Wysefit App:
In this exercise, we focus on glutes, triceps, and biceps. While doing the squat, make sure to drive your hips back, keeping knees behind your toes. Keep your back straight, chest forward. Brace your abdominals (tighten core muscles). Avoid rounding your back. This one exercise works our entire body -- a lot of bang for your buck! It’s one of my favorites.
You can start this exercise with just the diagonal arm movement, no step. Keep shoulders down, the extended arm below the shoulder, elbow soft, the palm is up to get an external rotation. Once you are comfortable with the arm extension, add the diagonal lunge to make this exercise more dynamic. We are working our rotator cuff muscles and deltoids.
This is another exercise for your glutes. You will feel it in your gluteus medius, one of the three glute muscles that are key for running, gait, and helping to maintain knee stabilization. Keep your knees soft whole doing it.
This exercise is great for your glutes and back. Just like with Hitchhike, you can start this exercise in a stationary position, legs wide apart. Activate your glutes by driving your hip back on the lunge. Don’t forget to keep your chest forward; do not round your back. Once comfortable with the stationary version, make it more dynamic by stepping into a lunge. Push off the floor as if it’s a springboard.
I wanted to include at least one exercise using a door from my Instagram and Youtube collections. I love using resistance bands with a door! Obliques cross your body at a diagonal in the torso. They are key in stabilizing your spine and producing force in rotational movements, which we use in everyday activities. Start with your legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart, knees soft. Bring the tube handle across; then release, rotating the body. Keep your shoulders down!
If you like these exercises, try my Building Strength Series in Wysefit App!