In normal times, ‘dad strength’ (or mum strength) is one of the perks of ageing: strength takes a long time to build and almost as long to lose, meaning that a lifetime of moderately challenging physical tasks can see most people keep their strength well into middle age. These aren’t normal times, however, and midlife strength has suffered: the coronavirus has leeched activity out of everyday life, from carrying the shopping to the car to stowing your hand luggage in an overhead locker. According to new figures published by Sport England, over a third of over-55s have seen their strength decline since the start of the pandemic, while a further 37 per cent are doing less exercise – making them the age group most likely to have lost strength during the pandemic. This is a health risk, and not just because strength protects your body from age-related decline – resistance training also seems to be protective against Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions. Following Sport England’s findings, the Centre for Ageing Better issued a warning that over-50s need a ‘Joe Wicks-style’ exercise initiative, amid data that found a third have lost strength in the last year. Anna Dixon, chief executive for the charity, said: “We need to see urgent action taken to reverse this trend, or we risk seeing serious consequences for people’s long-term health in the years ahead. Good muscle strength is crucial to staying healthy and active, and preventing falls as we enter later life.” The good news? Strength training doesn’t need to be complex, difficult, or even sweaty: and it definitely doesn’t require a Lycra-clad coach yelling at you via a Zoom call. The keys to an effective strength training plan are rest and progression. The first one is good news: working out for strength means doing challenging movements with relatively long rests in between, allowing you to fully recover between efforts. It also means there’s no need to train every day. As for progression, this just means you need a way to make the exercises harder. For most movements, you’re still building strength when the most reps you can manage in a single set stays in the 3-12 range: much over that, and you’ve moved over to muscular endurance. Finally, you need to make sure you’re hitting every bit of your body if possible by making sure you push, pull, squat, and load-carry (carrying heavy shopping, for example). In an ideal world you’d also add a hip-hinge (the thing you do when you swing a kettlebell or deadlift anything off the ground), but that’s a bit more fraught, so focus on the basics to start with. With that in mind, here’s a plan to get your strength back on track over the next few weeks (or, if you like, longer). There are two workouts, A and B, which you should aim to alternate: either do both in the same week, or do ABA one week and BAB the next, taking at least one rest day between sessions. Start with the simplest variation of each movement that you can manage: once you can hit the top of the recommended rep range, switch to a more difficult one in your next workout. Workout A 1. Push (horizontal): 5-10 reps, 3 sets Easy: Wall press-up Medium: Incline press-up Hard: Press-up 2. Pull: 5-10 reps, 3 sets Bent-over row with weights, cans or 2-litre milk jugs. 3. Squat (two-legged): 8-12 reps, 4 sets Easy: Doorway squat Medium: Bodyweight squat Hard: Rucksack squat 4. Carry: 20 minutes, 2 sets Farmer’s walk Workout B 1. Push (vertical): 5-10 reps, 3 sets Easy: Wall angel Medium/Hard: Overhead press with cans, milk jugs, dumbbells or a rucksack 2. Curl: 5-10 reps, 3 sets Biceps curls with cans, bands or a rucksack. 3. One-legged squat variation: 8-12 reps, 4 sets Easy: Split squat Medium: Lunge Hard: Rucksack lunge 4. Carry: 10m each side, 2 sets Suitcase carry Don’t push any of this, and consult a professional in advance if you have any doubts about your ability to manage any of these movements. You should rest for 1-2 minutes after every set, and stop every set well short of ‘failure’ – if you find yourself grinding out slower and slower reps, stop rather than push through. Think of it like a virtual version of doing all the stuff you’d ordinarily have been doing over the last year: a few simple movements, every so often, that will keep you in shape for the second half of your life. How to eat your way to better strength
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.