Join the Resistance

The more I study and learn about TOJs and aging (50 years of age and up), the more I realize the importance of resistance exercise. While running, biking, walking, and all the other aerobic activities are good for your heart, nothing matches resistance for total body fitness. Period.

Resistance is the also the foundation for balance, agility and even flexibility. Resistance exercise gives you better body composition, i.e., more muscle, less fat, and raises your resting metabolic rate. And the research shows that it also has huge cardio benefits, especially when done at high intensity.

Resistance means just what it sounds like - working against the force of gravity, a material with resistive properties like rubber tubing, or even against something immovable like a brick wall. Resistance enlivens skeletal muscle.

There are three qualities you want to train into your muscles, all worthy of some of your time: strength, endurance and power. You should work on these 2-3 days per week. You can mix some of each into every workout or focus on one in each in three week cycles.

Strength is developed by doing exercises that require you lift, push or pull a resistance or weight you can only do 4-12 times. Do a couple sets of 8-10 exercises for both the upper and lower body. Pause 2-3 minutes between exercises to allow the energy system in the muscle cell to replenish.

Endurance is developed by almost identical exercises, but the resistance or weight is light enough that you can do 15-20 repetitions. Do a couple of sets of 8-10 exercises for the upper and lower body. Pause 1 minute between exercises.

Finally, power is developed by choosing a resistance or weight between the amount used for strength and endurance that you can do 10-15 times, only you will do the pushing/lifting movement very quickly, then slowly lower the load. Do a couple of sets of 8-10 exercises divided between the upper and lower body. Pause 30 seconds between exercises.

You can do resistance with body weight, bands, tubes, or weights on machines or dumbbells and barbells. I like all of them to keep workouts interesting and constantly challenging different muscles.

Each resistance device has some advantages. Bands are very effective strengthening smaller stabilizing muscles, like the rotator cuff and hip abductors. Machines are excellent, especially for TOJs who are not experienced with barbells, for serious strength training. Although machines limit the range of motion, they are safer for working with high weight loads. Both barbells and dumbbells allow much more dynamic, multi-planar movement and thus mobilize more muscles than any machine.

Most TOJs can develop all the strength they need by lifting their body weight with a full range of calisthenics, on TRX type strap devices, and doing pull ups on door or wall mounted bars. However, many TOJs like to push their limits, thus will find them faster by using weights in some form.

The strength you're looking for isn't in bulging pec muscles you see in the mirror. That's kid's stuff. It's about being able to effectively navigate and manipulate your environment. To move, lift, push or pull something without injury. To be able to move with speed, when needed. To keep the body lean and toned. To keep up with the requirements of daily life.

In your spare time, you can rest, work on balance and flexibility, for just go for walks and smell the roses.

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