Discover Your Biggest Ally in Living a Longer, Healthier Life

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Discover Your Biggest Ally in Living a Longer, Healthier Life

We’re shining a spotlight on an often-overlooked yet scientifically-proven key to enhancing both your longevity and your quality of life. 

By: Elazar Fleischmann, CPT
October 12, 2023

A couple enjoying longevity in life because they prioritize strength training

Are you someone who’s always researching ways to live a healthier life, exploring diets, supplements, superfoods, or the latest fitness trends…

Or, perhaps you grapple with the challenges of aging such as experiencing a decline in strength, dwindling bone density, and a slowing metabolism, all contributing to the specter of frailty and the risk of chronic diseases…

Then this is the article for you. We’re shining a spotlight on an often-overlooked yet scientifically-proven key to enhancing both your longevity and your quality of life. This isn't about quick fixes, fad diets, or elusive miracle drugs. It's about the power of strength training—a formidable, research-backed tool that might just be your closest ally in the quest for a longer, healthier future.

In this article we’ll discuss:

  • the influence of strength training on longevity and overall well-being
  • the aging process, exploring the links between muscle mass and lifespan
  • the role strength training plays in preserving strength and muscle mass as you age
  • scientifically-proven advantages of strength training, from enhancing bone density and boosting metabolic rates to improving insulin sensitivity and cognitive function

Whether you're already familiar with the significance of strength training in promoting longevity or just beginning to explore its potential, this article aims to illuminate the path toward a longer, healthier future. The fountain of youth… is here. 

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What Happens To Our Bodies as We Get Older

As we age, our bodies undergo natural changes and a decline in muscle mass, bone density and metabolism. This can later look like frailty in old age and heightens the risk of developing diseases such as; osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer's, cancer and heart disease. 

These diseases can all shorten our life span and reduce our quality of life. It may sound morbid, but these changes are natural to the human body. But just because they are natural, doesn’t mean we have to accept them. 

We can maintain and even improve our current state of health by utilizing tools like strength training.

The Link Between Muscle Mass and Longevity

Strength training is the most important intervention you can use to increase your body’s muscle mass. 

Research shows a significant correlation between muscle mass and one’s all-cause mortality. In other words, if we were to bet on who would live the longest out of a group of people, the best information we could use to predict the outcome would be the current muscle mass of each person. 

Low muscle mass also makes it increasingly difficult to perform daily tasks, and greatly increases the risk of falls and injuries. All of this contributes to muscle mass being one of the greatest predictors of lifespan.

One study, done on over 3,600 participants found that muscle mass was an even better predictor of longevity than Body Mass Index (BMI). Muscle mass can even predict your ability to fight cancer. 

A meta analysis on six studies found that cancer patients with greater skeletal muscle mass were twice as likely to go into remission. Those with low muscle mass were more likely to be hospitalized to begin with and twice as likely to be rehospitalized later on. 

Several large studies have concluded similar correlations with other diseases like type 2 diabetes. Older women with low overall muscle mass are far more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women with more muscle mass, even when the average body fat percentage is the same! 

Yet another study found that men and women with type 2 diabetes were able to maintain lower doses of insulin and stabilize blood sugars more quickly if they had a greater amount of skeletal muscle mass.

The importance of muscle mass doesn’t end here. Greater muscle mass has been shown to reduce the likelihood of a cardiac event, slow the onset of Alzheimer’s, and can even predict how likely someone is to maintain bone density and stave off diseases like osteoporosis!

Muscle mass prevents the development of diseases, helps you fight through any current conditions, and strongly correlates with your ability to recover from illness or injury. All of this contributes to your overall longevity and quality of life. 

Maintaining adequate muscle mass as you age will give you the physical strength to stay active, reduce the likelihood of falls and injuries, and give you balance, energy, and mobility.

A trainer directs a man on proper form on the lat pulldown machine

Could Strength Training Be The Key to Longer Living?

Thankfully, your muscle mass is not determined by your genetics, or your past. There is something we can do about it! The answer is strength training. 

Strength training, which involves using some form of resistance to challenge your muscles will simply make your muscles stronger and more powerful. This is how we increase muscle mass. 

By directly stimulating the muscles to contract by moving or resisting a load, you create a metabolic signal in your body to produce more muscle fibers (cells). In other words, you challenge your body and your body adapts. 

There are even more benefits to strength training than just increasing muscle mass! We will dive into those a little later.

First, let’s address why people don’t strength train. It often comes down to one of several reasons; not enough time, not having the proper support and knowledge, fear of injury, or it is just too inconvenient. Thankfully, there is a solution to this as well.

There is a way to strength train more efficiently, more effectively, and in a safer fashion. The answer – slow motion strength training. This involves loading the muscle with resistance and moving slowly through a safe range of motion. 

This means that your muscles are encountering resistance, not your joints. This allows your muscles to work to a state of deep fatigue. This is a good thing! The more deeply we can fatigue the muscles, the more efficiently we begin to experience muscle growth. 

Strength Training Does SO Much More Than Build Muscle

We know that strength training builds muscle, but we bet there is a benefit or two of strength training that you were not aware of. Let’s dive into some of the lesser-known benefits of strength training! 

Increased Bone Density

Strength training isn't just about muscles; it also strengthens your bones. By subjecting bones to resistance, you stimulate the production of bone-forming cells, increasing bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Faster Metabolism

A higher muscle-to-fat ratio resulting from strength training elevates your resting metabolic rate. This means you burn more calories at rest, making weight management and fat loss more achievable. Essentially, you become more efficient at utilizing the energy you put in your body.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Strength training improves insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It helps your body use insulin more effectively, keeping blood sugar levels stable.

Enhanced Cognitive Function

Strength training isn't limited to physical benefits; it also supports brain health. Studies have shown that it can improve cognitive function, memory, and even mood, contributing to a healthier, sharper mind. And again, slow the onset of diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Improved Energy Levels & Endurance

Strength training goes beyond the visible benefits. It plays a crucial role in cellular health by stimulating processes like mitochondrial biogenesis. This process boosts energy production within cells, keeping you feeling youthful and vibrant. Strength training also increases your VO2 Max, or the maximum amount of oxygen your muscles can utilize. This is not only a marker of endurance, but a very potent predictor of overall health and longevity.

A trainer at The Perfect Workout helping a woman strength train

Tips for Getting Started with Strength Training

Regardless of your current age or fitness level, you can strength train. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Start slow: Jumping into intense strength training too quickly can lead us to focus on the wrong things. Safety is important. We want to slowly increase the load on the muscles, give adequate time for recovery, and actually allow the body to build strength.

  2. Focus on proper form and technique: We are strength training to build our bodies, not break them. Learning and maintaining proper form will prevent injuries and keep you safe. 
     
  3. Consistency and commitment: If you do it once, it is unlikely to have any lasting effect. Staying consistent will maintain the muscle you have worked to build and allow you to gradually become stronger over time. Commitment is key for actually getting the long term results.

  4. Seek professional guidance: Working with a certified trainer will help you strength train in a safe fashion. If you're unsure where to begin, consult with a fitness professional who can design a personalized strength training program tailored to your needs. If you are a seasoned athlete, a professional trainer can take your fitness to the next level! 

Want to Live Longer? Strength Train.

What's the point of living a longer life, if it's not in good health? We all want to be around and actually enjoy the time we have. In this pursuit for a longer and healthier life, strength training is a formidable ally. It may even be our strongest. 

We know about the benefits of maintaining muscle mass. And strength training offers far more benefits than just that. By understanding the aging process and how this affects our bodies, we can leverage the tools we have to improve our bone density, better our cognitive function, stave off disease, and remain strong and active. 

We have the key to unlock the secret to a longer and better future.

This is where The Perfect Workout can help.

To speak with a Personal Trainer about exercise, nutrition or any help with lifestyle adjustments please call us at (888) 803-6813.

 

The Ultimate Fat-Loss Solution Isn’t What You Think It Is

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The Ultimate Fat-Loss Solution Isn’t What You Think It Is

Discover why strength training is crucial for fat loss. Build muscle, boost metabolism, and improve body composition for healthy and sustainable weight loss.

There are over 1,260,000,000 Google search results for “how to lose weight.”

Woah.

Weight loss is one of the most commonly-cited reasons for exercising.

While nutrition is the dominant factor for determining whether a person loses fat, strength training is an ideal complement to diet for achieving fat loss.

In this article, we look at why strength training is essential to losing weight and keeping the weight off. Also, we look at other habits that help burn fat and help with fat loss maintenance. If these topics appeal to you, keep reading!

Jump to Topic:
Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss
Strength Training Exercises for Fat Loss
Diet & Other Things That Help With Fat Loss

Main Image for why strength training is necessary for fat loss

Why IS Strength Training Necessary For Fat Loss?

You Lose Fat & Preserve Muscle

If weight loss is your goal, you don’t actually want to just lose weight… you want to lose fat and only fat.

A goal of “weight loss” doesn’t distinguish between what type of tissue the person loses. Weight loss can include losing both fat and muscle.

Diet changes are the key to losing fat, but when exercise is not included weight loss is the result. Weight loss from dieting alone includes about 20-30% of the lost weight being lean tissue, with most of that being muscle.

In fact, in some cases, lean tissue loss can make up over 35% of weight loss!

A quote on strength training for fat loss by Dr Sean Preuss

What we really want is fat loss. We want to lose fat while maintaining or building muscle, which will also protect us from a large decrease in metabolism and a likelihood of regaining the weight.

How do we avoid weight loss and achieve fat loss? Let’s keep going…

You Burn More Calories

Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. In other words, your body burns more calories to maintain muscle mass than it does to maintain fat mass.

When you engage in strength training, you are essentially tearing and damaging your muscle fibers. Your body then responds to this demand by rebuilding the muscle fibers, and in the process, increasing muscle mass.

So, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn, even at rest.

A quote on how strength training can increase metabolism by Dr. Sean Preuss

Improves Insulin Sensitivity.

Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. When you have poor insulin sensitivity, your body has a harder time regulating blood sugar, which can lead to weight gain and increased fat storage.

One way to improve insulin sensitivity is through strength training. Strength training helps build muscle mass, which is important for glucose uptake and utilization. Muscle tissue is more insulin-sensitive than fat tissue, meaning that it requires less insulin to transport glucose into muscle cells.

By increasing muscle mass through strength training, your body becomes more efficient at using insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

A trainer helps a man perform the mid row exercise

Strength Training Exercises For Fat Loss

A few studies with participants who were categorized (by body mass index) as “obese” illustrate this:

  • Study 1. Participants in this study performed 2-3 hours per week of walking or jogging. After eight months of consistent exercise, the most successful group lost two pounds!
  • Study 2. Women performed an average of nearly four hours of cycling, treadmill walking, and other activities per week. At the end of 12 months, the women lost only 4.5 pounds.

Dozens of hours of cardio over months led to small weight losses for obese individuals. Using cardio as a weight loss tool is similar to using a spoon to dig a large hole. There are better options.

When combining cardio with calorie restriction, more weight loss is achieved, but the problem becomes that what people achieve is weight loss. People lose fat and muscle.

For example, a half-year study of people who dieted and jogged three times per week led to a loss of 2-4 lbs. of lean body mass (Hunter et al., 2008).

Strength training provides a better alternative for a complement to diet for achieving weight loss. When strength training during calorie restriction, people can maintain or even gain muscle while losing fat.

Strength training is more effective for minimizing the decrease in metabolism that occurs during weight loss, which makes regaining fat less likely (Hunter et al., 2008).

Strength training also requires a much smaller time commitment, compared to the cardio routines discussed in the studies above.

A member of The Perfect Workout enjoying a one on one personal training session

Sample Workout Plan

The best exercises for fat loss are compound movements, which just means the use of multiple muscle groups and joints in a single movement or exercise.

We can’t help but state that, the best exercises should also be:

  • Safe: injury and pain-free
  • Efficient: can be achieved promptly, ideally 20 minutes, twice a week
  • Effective: achieve temporary muscle failure and produce measurable results
  • Sustainable: can be done for a lifetime

Several specific strength training exercises are beneficial for fat loss, but we suggest focusing on a push and pull exercise for both the lower and upper body.

For example:
Leg Press or Barbell Squat (lower body push)
Leg Curl or Deadlift (lower body pull)
Chest Press Machine or Barbell Chest Press (upper body push)
Lat Pulldown or Pull ups (upper body pull)

Jim Keen describes out to get your body to produce the adaptive response you're after
TIP: A key to using strength training for fat loss is the length of rest periods between exercises. When people move quickly between exercises, weight training produces a noticeable increase in metabolism for anywhere from 14 hours to three days after the workout. Specifically, resting 30 seconds or less between exercises is connected with short-term metabolic spikes and better overall fat loss outcomes.
A trainer at The Perfect Workout coaches a man through abduction exercises

Diet For Strength Training And Fat Loss (& Other Tools!)

Calorie restriction is the ultimate driver of fat loss. Strength training preserves muscle and metabolism while fat is lost. A few other approaches help complement these efforts, providing a better and more sustainable outcome:

High-Protein Diet

While losing fat, eating a high-protein diet maintains muscle mass. Recommendations vary, ranging from recommending around 0.7-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day during calorie restriction.

Reduce Sitting Time

Sitting for many hours leads to a reduction in activity of lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which helps with the metabolism of fat. While it’s not concretely proven at this time, sitting fewer hours, or having more interruptions to sitting marathons, is connected with better outcomes related to fat loss.

Supplements

Some supplements show a small weight loss benefit. Consuming at least 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids can enhance fat loss, specifically in the midsection. Adding fiber, anywhere from 5-25 grams per day, can lead to an additional 3-6 lbs. lost.

Increase Your NEAT

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which refers to the energy expenditure that occurs during non-exercise activities such as walking, standing, fidgeting, and other daily activities. NEAT can play a role in weight loss by increasing your overall energy expenditure and helping you create a calorie deficit, which is necessary for fat loss.

Incorporating more NEAT into your daily routine can be an effective way to increase your daily calorie burn without having to engage in structured exercise. This can be achieved by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from your destination and walking, standing while working, and other simple changes to increase your movement throughout the day.

A woman being coached on the leg press machine

Key Takeaways

While “weight loss” is the common verbiage, we actually want fat loss. Fat loss means we are losing what we don’t want (excess body fat) while keeping what we do want (muscle mass).
Restricting calories is the most effective method for achieving fat loss, but we shouldn’t rely on that alone.

When it comes to exercise, cardio is a very inefficient way to lose fat and doesn’t prevent the loss of muscle.

Strength training is a much more efficient complement and can help maintain or build muscle while fat is lost. The most important part of resistance training to lose fat might be to hustle between exercises, which aids the post-workout increase in metabolism.

A few other practices can help with maximizing fat loss while maintaining muscle: eating a high-protein diet, taking omega-3 and/or fiber supplements, reducing uninterrupted sitting time, and increasing your non-exercise related activities.

However, the key to effective fat loss is to restrict calories while regularly strength training.

To learn more about applying these strategies to your fitness goals, start by finding a studio near you today.

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The Timeless Training Protocol That Builds Maximum Strength & Muscle: Your Definitive Guide to High-Intensity Training!

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The Timeless Training Protocol That Builds Maximum Strength & Muscle: Your Definitive Guide to High-Intensity Training!

Enhance your lung health & V02 max with exercise. Learn how exercise boosts respiratory fitness & discover practical tips. Improve your lung health now!
A trainer showing a woman how to properly use the chest press machine

What is High-Intensity Training?

High-Intensity Training is doing one set of an intense strength training exercise to achieve a goal of momentary muscle failure- think max intensity. Each exercise is slow and controlled and the entire workout is brief, intense, and focused. You generally can't do more than 20-30 minutes during a HIT session.

HIT is an exercise approach that has existed for over 50 years and has helped people reach a wide range of goals.

In this article, we dive into what HIT is, how HIT works, the benefits it provides, and how it differs from other methods of exercise.

If you are new to The Perfect Workout or are looking to get a better understanding of the fundamental science behind our methodology, this article is for you.

How High-Intensity Training Began

Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus’ training machines, created HIT in the early 1970s (Baye, n.d.).

Jones noted that people often focus on the most exercise that our bodies can tolerate, but we should instead look at the minimal amount of exercise that we need for great results.

He concluded that we should “train harder” but for shorter and less frequent workouts (Baye, n.d.).

Our muscles benefit most by performing an “all-out” effort while also resting sufficiently between those intense workouts. Training intensely and frequently could lead to overtraining (Baye, n.d.).

Those concepts birthed HIT: training with a focus on quality over quantity.

Man training with dumbbells

Is Slow-Motion Strength Training High-Intensity?

At The Perfect Workout, we use brief, infrequent workouts to help you achieve incredible results.

To be effective and time-efficient, our workout method is “Slow-Motion Strength Training” (SMST), a style of High-Intensity Training (HIT).

Don’t let the name fool you. Just because our method of strength training is slow, doesn’t mean it’s not intense.

In fact, using slow lifting speeds, as opposed to lifting faster with excess force and momentum, we ask our muscles to do more work. Making the workouts very intense, highly effective, yet ultra safe.

Learn More about our methodology.

What Are the Benefits of HIT?

HIT is a unique approach but is not specialized for achieving one specific benefit.

In fact, this workout method leads to a range of fitness and health benefits.

Studies using a High-Intensity Training approach led to the following results:

  • muscle growth
  • added strength
  • enhanced confidence
  • an increase in metabolism
  • fat loss
  • a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol
  • regulated blood sugar levels
  • more endurance, stamina, and energy
  • improved cardiovascular fitness and health
  • stronger bones

(Cornelissen & Fagard, 2005; Davy et al., 2017; Pratley, Nicklas, & Rubin, 1994; Preuss, 2020; Waller, Miller, & Hannon, 2011; Westcott, Apovian, & Puhala, 2013).

Also, people are likely to become more active after starting HIT, which could be due to having more energy or better overall well-being after starting training (Preuss, 2020).

There’s one other noteworthy benefit of this workout method, and it’s unlike the benefits previously mentioned…

Time.

HIT provides all of these benefits in a fraction of the time of other workout programs.

The previously cited studies featured 2-3 HIT workouts per week averaging around 20 minutes per workout. (Preuss, 2020; Waller et al., 2011).

While many exercise programs recommend 1 hour a day, 4-5 days a week, high-intensity training requires significantly less real estate on the calendar.

A standard weekly time investment for a HIT program is about 40-60 minutes.

In total, HIT saves you about 2-4 hours per week when compared to many other exercise programs. Not to mention the hours of time spent recovering from injuries avoided by using this ultra-safe method, or thousands of dollars not spent on healthcare and medications by using HIT as preventative care.

man training with two dumbbells

How Does HIT Work?

HIT gets you great results while avoiding overtraining. This is due to training harder but less often, or a “quality over quantity” approach. This manifests in both the workout frequency and execution.

With high-intensity training, only one set is performed per exercise. Each repetition is executed with a high focus on form, moving the weight through a full-range of motion with a slow and controlled tempo (Baye, n.d.).

Each exercise is performed to “Muscle Success,” when the muscle reaches a point where it can no longer move the weight on the lifting phase of the repetition – aka. muscle failure.

Training to Muscle Success ensures that the maximum amount of muscle fibers are trained and stimulated. In other words, your muscles get the most benefit out of a single set.

Muscles continue to become stronger over time through progressive overload. This involves a perpetual increase in the demand placed on muscles during training. HIT achieves this through frequent weight increases, even if the weight increase is a small amount (e.g. 2 lbs.).

To keep the exercise effective and challenging enough to stimulate muscle growth, weights should be increased when the current weight being used no longer achieves muscle success within 1-2 minutes.

HIT workouts typically train all major muscle groups of the upper and lower body. The recommended frequency for HIT training is 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days.

High-Intensity Training Exercises

A typical high-intensity slow-motion strength training workout generally consists of 7-8 exercises per session. This may vary slightly depending on a number of factors: once or twice a week, injuries/limitations, and individual goals.

In theory, you can hit all major muscle groups with just 4 exercises:

  • Leg Press: Glutes, Quadriceps, Calves
  • Chest Press: Pectorals, Shoulders, Triceps
  • Lat Pulldown: Lats, Biceps, Abdominals
  • Leg Curl: Hamstrings

Depending on the individual, other HIT exercises can be incorporated to target specific muscle areas, including:

  • Leg Extension: Quadriceps
  • Bicep Curl: Biceps, Forearms
  • Tricep Extension: Triceps
  • Hip Abduction: Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minor, TFL
  • Hip Adduction: Inner Thighs
  • Compound Row: Trapezoids, Rhomboids, Biceps (often interchangeable for Lat Pulldown)
  • Abdominal Machine: Abdominals

If you look at the first list, you’ll notice the entire body can be targeted with just four exercises, making it relatively simple to get a full-body workout.

More exercises can be added if needed to fully fatigue the smaller muscles that may have not achieved muscle success on bigger-muscle machines.

For example, the biceps are the secondary muscles used on the Lat Pulldown. The Preacher Curl can be added to workouts to fully target them.

This does not mean it is necessary to do all 11 exercises in every workout.

In fact, having the ability to easily complete 11 slow-motion strength training exercises is a good indication that the intensity level is not high enough.

Think of your workouts as a short sprint, not a mile-long race. The reason there isn’t a mile dash in track & field is because nobody can sprint that far, or work that hard for that long. So, milers must pace their efforts rather than sprint the entire mile.

Since intense effort is what stimulates the best results from the muscles (and the body), demanding slow-motion strength training workouts have to be relatively brief.

If you feel like you can perform slow-motion strength training exercises for more than 20 minutes at a time, you can probably improve your results by increasing the intensity and learning how to work harder.

Female doing an exercise class vs a female doing high intensity training

HIT vs. HIIT?

High-Intensity Training started in the early 1970s, although another training with a similar name has achieved popularity around public gyms in the 2000s. HIT is often confused with HIIT, or high-intensity interval training.

The names sound alike, but the styles of training are very different. High-intensity training is a strength training approach that helps people gain strength, muscle, and improve their overall health.

High-intensity interval training is an approach to aerobic exercise that is also used to improve cardiovascular health and overall fitness, although it’s not an effective way to build strength and muscle.

HIIT is an aerobic workout that alternates intervals of all-out aerobic effort (e.g. running sprints) with low-intensity aerobic intervals (e.g. walking). The high-intensity intervals last around 30-60 seconds each, with 1-5 minutes of lower-intensity activity in between (Shirav & Barclay, 2021).

If you are going to do “cardio,” minute-for-minute, a HIIT workout is more effective than traditional approaches to aerobic exercise. (Shirav & Barclay, 2012). If you want the most efficient option, you can also improve your cardiovascular health through high-intensity training (without intervals) in just 20 minutes, twice a week.

Both involve a high degree of effort. Both are generally brief workouts. Both increase your heart rate significantly. However, one (HIT) is a style of strength training that improves muscular fitness, aerobic fitness, and health. The other (HIIT) is primarily aerobic training that improves aerobic fitness and health.

Trainer coaching a male on high intensity training

High-Intensity Strength Training is NOT Just Lifting Weights

Here’s an important question – “How is HIT any different than what most people do in the gym?”

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and general bodybuilding fitness approaches tend to be the standard for average gym-goers when it comes to strength training.

Their recommended method of training is we would refer to as “traditional weightlifting.”

Both the ACSM and bodybuilding leaders recommend and emphasize more work and less intense effort than HIT. For example, other workouts might call for twenty bicep curls with a light weight, performed twice, as opposed to HIT, which calls for less than half as many reps with weight two or three times as heavy, performed once.

ACSM advocates for more sets (2-3 sets of 20-30 reps per exercise), not pushing to “Muscle Success,” and a much faster repetition speed (Singh et al., 2019). Similar to HIT, they recommend a frequency of 2-3 days per week.

Female Trainer coaching a Female member on the Gravitron machine

You might see the word “bodybuilding” and immediately think ‘that is NOT me.’ But many weight lifting principles you might be familiar with stem from bodybuilding methodology. Keep reading to find out more…

Bodybuilding programs typically stress the quantity of work more than what’s featured in HIT-style training (Dickson, 2021). Bodybuilders train about 4-6 days per week, at least three sets per exercise, and workouts that focus on a limited number of muscle groups in each workout.

Sound familiar?

Overall, bodybuilding uses an approach that emphasizes quantity of work to build muscle strength and size. Bodybuilders usually don’t perform each exercise to “Muscle Success.”

Considering these workouts often take 45-90 minutes, it’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to spend around 4-8 hours per week in the gym.

Bodybuilding’s emphasis on a higher volume of weekly exercise is the recommended approach for those who want to maximize their muscle size (Dickson, 2021).

While some professional bodybuilders have used HIT-style training (i.e. Mike Mentzer, Casey Viator, Dorian Yates), the vast majority of professionals have used more traditional bodybuilding programs.

For those who are seeking general exercise benefits, a HIT-style approach makes more sense. The majority of strength training’s health and fitness benefits are achieved with 2-3 shorter workouts per week (Singh et al., 2019; Waller et al., 2002; Winett & Carpinelli, 2001). And for those pursuing bodybuilding, HIT still has a place in your workout toolbox.

Female Trainer coaching a female on the Abdominal machine

Who Should Perform HIT?

HIT can be used to reach virtually any goal a person desires from exercise. Read that again!

While it’s not specialized for professional athletes or fitness competitors, it has been proven to help people of the general population with a large range of goals.

For instance, a ballerina can’t perfect her ballet technique by doing only HIT and an ultra-marathoner can’t get good at marathons without running. Both of them can protect their joints, gain strength, and improve their health with HIT and might include that in their training regimen. But most of the general population aren’t ballerinas and ultra-marathoners.

If you’re seeking an improvement in common measures of health, more strength or muscle, greater aerobic fitness, more confidence, a more positive overall mood, or weight loss, HIT will help.

HIT’s unique approach to exercise, though, makes it especially useful for certain groups of people:

Beginners

HIT’s emphasis on quality over quantity is well-suited for people who are starting an exercise program (or are resuming after a long break). The emphasis on slow, controlled repetitions increases training safety, making it much less likely that a beginner would become injured while learning proper lifting techniques.

Also, anecdotally speaking, soreness seems to be caused by a large increase in the amount of training. We’ve noticed that debilitating levels of soreness occur when a person jumped from doing little or no exercise to three or more sets per exercise.

HIT’s approach of less being more, performing one set per exercise, is unlikely to cause anything more than a mild level of soreness after the first 1-3 sessions.

Member Testimonial about High Intensity Training

People with Injuries and/or Seeking Pain Relief

Exercise has the opportunity to help or hurt people with injuries. When properly executed, strength training reduces pain, improves strength around the joint, and enhances the overall function of the injured joint (Lange, Van Wanseele, & Singh, 2008).

Using a low amount of exercise (one set) on the injured joint, with a high emphasis on form, allows the joint to become stronger without putting an unnecessary amount of strain on the area.

Strength training just twice per week, with 15-20-minute workouts, is shown to help reduce joint pain in a number of areas (Winett & Carpinelli, 2001).

Time-Strapped People

Doesn’t this include everyone?! Yes, we believe so. But time is one of the most common reasons people don’t start or stick to an exercise routine.

Contrary to many popular exercise approaches, HIT requires a very feasible weekly time investment. The Perfect Workout’s approach, for example, generally requires a consistent commitment of 20 minutes, twice per week.

While many of us have a wealth of responsibilities, 40 minutes per week for exercise is very doable.

Summary

Overall, high-intensity training features a safe, effective time-efficient approach for improving your physical and mental health, physique, and functional abilities. Let’s recap:

  • HIT philosophy – “train harder” but for shorter and less frequent workouts. Perform an “all-out” effort at each workout while also resting sufficiently between those intense sessions.
  • The benefits of HIT are enormous, including muscle growth, added strength, enhanced confidence, an increase in metabolism, fat loss, a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol, regulated blood sugar levels, and time efficiency.
  • HIT workouts typically train all major muscle groups of the upper and lower body. The recommended frequency for HIT training is 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days.
  • HIT is not HIIT. Both are high-intensity and relatively short workouts. HIT is a strength training approach that helps people gain strength, muscle, and improve their overall health; whereas HIIT is an aerobic workout that alternates intervals of all-out aerobic effort with low-intensity aerobic intervals.
  • Anyone can do HIT but it is especially useful for beginners who are learning proper technique, people with injuries and limitations that require workout customizations, and those with busy schedules.

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and book a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Baye, D. (n.d.). What is high-intensity training (HIT)? Drew Baye’s high-intensity Training. Retrieved from https://baye.com/what-is-high-intensity-training/
  2. Cornelissen, V. A., & Fagard, R. H. (2005). Effect of resistance training on resting blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Hypertension, 23(2), 251-259.
  3. Davy, B. M., Winett, R. A., Savla, J., Marinik, E. L., Baugh, M. E., Flack, K. D., … & Boshra, S. (2017). Resist diabetes: A randomized clinical trial for resistance training maintenance in adults with prediabetes. PLoS One, 12(2), e0172610
  4. Dickson, J. (2021). The best bodybuilding programs for all experience levels. BarBend. Retrieved from https://barbend.com/bodybuilding-programs/
  5. Lange, A. K., Vanwanseele, B., & Fiatarone singh, M. A. (2008). Strength training for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a systematic review. Arthritis Care & Research: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology, 59(10), 1488-1494.
  6. Pratley, R., Nicklas, B., & Rubin, M. (1994). Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in health 50- to 65-year-old men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76(1), 133-137.
  7. Preuss, S.R. (2020). Work-It Circuit: improving health, fitness, and self-efficacy through a worksite exercise program. (Publication No. 27962132) [Doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
  8. Shiraev, T., & Barclay, G. (2012). Evidence based exercise: Clinical benefits of high-intensity interval training. Australian family physician, 41(12), 960-962.
  9. Singh, F.M., Hackett, D., Schoenfeld, B., Vincent, H.K., & Westcott, W. (2019). Resistance training for health. Retrieved from https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/resistance-training-for-health.pdf?sfvrsn=d2441c0_2
  10. Waller, M., Miller, J., & Hannon, J. (2011). Resistance circuit training: Its application for the adult population. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(1), 16-22.
  11. Westcott, W.L., Apovian, C.M., & Puhala, K. (2013). Nutrition programs enhance exercise effects on body composition and resting blood pressure. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 41(3), 85-91.
  12. Winett, R.A. & Caprinelli, R.N. (2001). Potential health-related benefits of resistance training. Preventative Medicine, 33(5), 503-513.

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Inflammation is a Silent Killer. Resistance Training Could Be your Saving Hero

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Real health and wellness wins
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Inflammation is a Silent Killer. Resistance Training Could Be your Saving Hero

woman with her hand on her knee hurting from inflammation

It’s the reason why omega-3 fatty acid supplements have become popular in recent years.

It’s one of the major reasons why we floss. It’s a big detriment of smoking.

It’s the target of medications taken for arthritis, headaches, and menstrual pain.

Inflammation is one of the major players in the development of heart disease (some medical professionals think it’s the primary cause).

It’s a sign of atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes developments.

The list goes on and on…

Related Post: Strength And Your Health

We use the term “inflammation” often, but what exactly is inflammation?

Inflammation is a sign that the body is trying to heal itself. When inflamed, our bodies are trying to remove or destroy an unwanted presence, such as foreign bacteria, or we are repairing damaged tissue.

Inflammation is good when the body attempts to heal itself and is successful…

However, it can become destructive when it’s not able to eliminate the cause of irritation and triggers disorders such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders or more serious illnesses like cancer.

Signs & Symptoms of Inflammation

Common signs of inflammation are swelling, redness, heat, and pain. But inflammation in the body can also show up in some unexpected ways. Below are some inflammatory responses to look out for:

Joint Pain

The most common symptom people experience is sore joints, particularly in the knees, shoulders, and elbows. One easy way to understand if pain you’re experiencing is inflammatory is if it's been diagnosed with anything that ends in “itis.” Such as bursitis, arthritis, tendinitis, etc.

Headaches

If you're somebody who experiences headaches or migraines on a chronic or regular basis, that could be a result of inflammation in your body.

Skin Breaking Out

Breaking out with pimples on your face, or experiencing itchiness, eczema, and rashes are signs of inflammation.

Weight Gain

Unexplained weight gain, puffiness or bloating can be responses, particularly to inflammatory foods.

Digestive Issues

Gastrointestinal complications and chronic tummy troubles are signs of an inflamed gut.

Allergy-Like Symptoms

Runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing may not be symptoms of an allergy, but inflammation.

Depression

Anxiety, mood disorders, and depression have been linked to chronic inflammation [2].

Fatigue

Feeling really tired or lethargic, experiencing insomnia, having trouble sleeping are common signs.

Frequent Infections

Experiencing frequent infections can be a result of long-term inflammation.

Acute vs Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation can be acute or chronic, and the difference is critical. Examples of acute scenarios are sore throats, cuts on our skin, or irritated gums (which is why we floss, to prevent irritants). Acute inflammation is immediate but lasts for a few days or weeks.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a major issue. This occurs when an acute situation lingers, an autoimmune problem exists, or when there is some other chronic irritant. Chronic is the type found with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Both acute and chronic can be localized in the body, but inflammation which affects the entire state of the body is known as systemic inflammation.

We measure inflammation by looking at cytokines.

What are cytokines?

Cytokines are proteins that influence the survival and proliferation of immune cells. They also have a key role in initiating the inflammatory response. Some cytokines are anti-inflammatory and some are pro-inflammatory.

Also, C-reactive protein (CRP) is another substance produced by the liver that indicates systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is considered as a sustained two-to-three fold increase in some cytokines and CRP.

Strength Training and Inflammation

Flossing, omega-3 fatty acid intake, and low-intensity physical activity help decrease systemic inflammation. However, strength training’s impact on inflammation isn’t as well known.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut recently analyzed the few studies that do exist on the relationship between the two [1].

Microscopic muscle damage occurs during strength training, especially during the lowering phase of a repetition. The researchers found a variety of results with strength training and inflammation….

Does Lifting Weights Cause Inflammation?

As a result of workout-induced muscle damage, inflammation rises in the short term, and the production of several cytokines increases (although not all are pro-inflammatory).

As a whole, the cytokines released right after strength training have two major responsibilities: repair the muscle damage and regulate new muscle growth. Both are positive responses.

Does Weight Training Reduce Inflammation?

Fortunately, strength training also actually improves chronic inflammation. A 12-month study using strength training with overweight women averaging 39 years old showed a decrease in CRP.

A nine-week study featuring young men and women training with heavier weight loads caused a decrease in one pro-inflammatory cytokine.

Strength training also improved CRP in a three-month study with old and young populations. These were just some of the positive results reported by the University of Connecticut researchers.

The researchers did note that intensity was a key factor. A seven-week study of young men showed that heavy resistance strength training improved two anti-inflammatory cytokines to a greater extent than lighter weight strength training. Another important factor was rest. According to one study, when adequate rest isn’t achieved, exercise can be pro-inflammatory.

What is the mechanism causing strength training to benefit chronic inflammation? The researchers stated that muscle gained from strength training increases the body’s daily energy expenditure (metabolism) and insulin sensitivity (a state key to preventing diabetes), and both of those results decrease the requirement for pro-inflammatory cytokines and CRP.

Should You Strength Train or Not With Inflammation?

Overall, strength training increases some acute inflammation markers by breaking down muscle tissue, but those markers lead to long term health benefits by rebuilding the muscle stronger.

Therefore, strength training’s positive effects on chronic inflammation levels are probably part of why it is shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

To maximize your health gains, eat well, train with a challenging strength training program (like slow-motion training!), and get adequate rest between your workouts.

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

  • Calle, M. C., & Fernandez, M. L. (2010). Effects of resistance training on the inflammatory response. Nutrition research and practice, 4(4), 259-269.
  • Lee, C. H., & Giuliani, F. (2019). The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue. Frontiers in immunology, 10, 1696. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01696

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Exercise For Women Over 60: Your Guide to Getting Lean, Strong and Fit, Safely & Effectively

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Real health and wellness wins
and how to achieve them yourself

Exercise For Women Over 60: Your Guide to Getting Lean, Strong and Fit, Safely & Effectively

A personal trainer helping a woman do bicep exercises

One of the most common questions we get from someone beginning an exercise routine is “What are the best exercises for me?” 

While there are tons of resources on the best exercises for losing weight or the best exercises for specific conditions, women in their 60s are in a unique time in their life. Not considered a young adult, but just barely considered a senior. Not to mention being post-menopausal and all the bodily changes that come with it. This requires specific guidance.

There are certain requirements for women over 60 to exercise effectively and lose weight. So what are they?  

There are many factors to consider while answering this question: cardio vs. weight training, what to do and what not to do, how often to exercise, how to lose weight and keep it off, and what’s worked for real-life people.

In this article, we’ll cover it all. 

If you’re a woman over 60 this is for you. If you’re not, well, stick around, you may be able to help someone who is.

weight loss woman over 60

How to Lose Weight in your 60s and Keep it Off

Losing weight in your 40s, 50s, and 60s can prove to be a much bigger challenge than it used to be. Why is that?

There are a few reasons why your post-menopausal body seems to be a bit more resistant to losing weight and keeping it off.

Sleep

Many women during and after menopause have trouble sleeping. Decreased sleep quality and duration can lead to unexpected weight gain.

Hormones

We don’t have to tell you that as a woman, your hormones are constantly going through a wild ride. From menstrual cycles to childbearing and menopause, it can feel like a rollercoaster. Estrogen in particular can be a cause of increased body fat when levels are very low or very high.

Age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia)

Muscle tissue changes from decade to decade, no matter who you are. Muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. Muscle loss can also contribute to limited physical ability, low energy, and decreased metabolism.

Insulin Resistance

Women naturally become more resistant to insulin as they get older, resulting in an increase in insulin and blood sugar levels. This can lead to additional weight gain.
Although these factors may feel like roadblocks to looking and feeling the way you want to, know we have some simple solutions to combat them. Making changes to your diet and nutrition is a necessary part of making any long-lasting changes to your body. This may take some experimentation and guidance from your Doctor or a Dietician to decipher what works best for you. As for the exercises, we’ve got you covered. Strength Training is hands-down the most effective way to combat sarcopenia (age-related- muscle loss). It helps maintain and increase lean muscle mass. With the addition of lean muscle mass, your body naturally burns more calories, which helps aid in fat loss and sustainable maintenance. Strength training is also a very effective sleep aid. In fact, just two slow-motion sessions a week can help you to sleep better and longer. AND if that’s not enough, improved sleep helps to steady blood sugar levels, which we know is one of those pesky side effects of getting older. So, prioritize strength training in order to maintain muscle mass, improve sleep, regulate blood sugar levels and make changes to your diet based on your nutritional needs. (We suggest starting with your protein intake!)
woman over 60 lifting weights with a personal trainer

Should Women Over 60 Lift Weights?

Yes, women in their 60s (and all ages, really) should lift weights. Muscles aren’t a young man’s game. Men and women can gain both strength and muscle at all stages of life.

A big reason why this is so important is muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. Muscle loss can also contribute to limited physical ability, low energy, and decreased metabolism.

Muscle Loss Over Time Infographic

Research shows there are enormous benefits of strength training for women 60 years or older such as:

  • stronger bones
  • improved balance
  • a lower fall risk
  • enhanced memory and focus
  • reduced blood pressure and blood glucose
  • increased protection against the development of many chronic diseases.

Should Women Over 60 Do Cardio?

The short answer – it depends on why you’re doing it. The long answer, we need to dive a little deeper…

Cardio is an aerobic activity that significantly increases the heart rate, thus conditioning the cardiovascular system. The most common cardio activities are walking, biking, running, and swimming.

Many people do cardio with the intent to achieve fat loss, which is not all that efficient. But many others do cardio to meet psychological and emotional needs.

Going for a walk or run can be a great way to decrease stress, clear your mind, enjoy nature and improve your overall feeling of well-being.

A potential problem is that cardio activities create more opportunities for getting injured. High-intensity cardio like running, sprinting, jumping, or anything that involves explosive movement involves high levels of force.

And we know that force is the leading cause of injury in exercise.

Force formula translated for exercise

Because women in their 60s are at higher risk of injury such as falling (WHO), some of these activities might want to be avoided.

Running, jumping or any high-impact activity can also be hard on the joints. Genetics and pre-existing conditions also play a part here. Some of us are blessed with knees that will never give out, making it possible to withstand activities like this, with little to no challenges.

While the rest of us experience joint issues, cartilage loss, or an injury that makes activities like this painful and unsustainable.

If you’re in the latter group, activities like walking and swimming might be ideal for you, especially in your 60s. Both create little to no impact on the joints – and they’re fun!

Slow-motion strength training (SMST) can produce cardiovascular conditioning, fat loss, and muscle strength gain. When doing SMST, there is no need to do cardio or aerobics. But if it's something you like to do, then choosing one that is most enjoyable and safest on the body is ideal.

To answer the question of whether or not women in their 60s should do cardio- here’s our answer:

  • If you’re doing it to lose weight, no. Focus on increasing lean muscle mass with effective strength training and nutrition. This is a much more efficient way to lose fat.
  • If you’re doing it to meet physiological or emotional needs and enjoy an activity that does not hurt or result in injury, then go for it!

As always, partner any aerobic activity with weight-bearing exercises to avoid accelerated muscle and bone loss.

Weekly exercise schedule Monday through Sunday

How Often Should a 60-Year Old Woman Exercise?

It is recommended for women over 60 to exercise twice a week.

When we say exercise, we specifically mean high-intensity strength training. Anything else is considered recreation… and it's important to have both. Read more about exercise vs. recreation to learn the distinction and why it's so important.

Because high-intensity exercise is so demanding on the body, it requires ample time to fully recover between training sessions. By taking more time than necessary to recover, you potentially miss out on time spent doing another results-producing training session!

Training once a week is a good option for some people. Compared to working out twice a week, once a week exercisers can expect to achieve approximately 70% of the results of those who train twice a week.

This may be ideal for someone who has extremely low energy levels, is battling multiple health issues, or has a budget best suited for once-a-week training.

Graph of the body's total recovery resources

On the days in between high-intensity workouts, it is okay to be active and move the body.

Remember when we talked about doing activities that meet psychological and emotional needs? Consider rest days a great opportunity to do those activities and avoid other high-intensity or strength training exercises.

In short, most women over 60 get the best results from working out twice a week, or once every 72-96 hours.

What Are The Best Exercises For Women Over 60?

The best exercises for women in their 60s are ones that are going to help build and maintain muscle mass. These exercises should also be safe on the joints and support bone strength.

Dr. Bocchicchio, a creator of slow resistance training, also states that exercise should be something we can retain throughout a lifetime.

The best exercises should be:

  • Safe: injury and pain-free
  • Efficient: can be achieved promptly, ideally 20 minutes, twice a week
  • Effective: achieve temporary muscle failure and produce measurable results
  • Sustainable: can be done for a lifetime

Several specific strength training exercises are beneficial for a 60-something woman, but we suggest focusing on these 5 impactful exercises: Leg Press, Chest Press, Lat Pulldown, Leg Curl & Abdominals.

Leg Press

The Leg Press Machine is an incredible piece of equipment because it allows you to fully target the biggest muscle groups in the body: the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at bone density changes in women between 65 and 75 years old following a year of strength training.

During the study, the trend of bone loss that comes with age not only stopped but also reversed.

The leg press was the only major lower body exercise performed. In addition, it was credited with helping the lower back, as no direct exercise was performed for the lower back muscles. By improving bone density, the leg press reduces the risk of fractures in high-risk populations… that’s women over 60.

The leg press provides as much or more bang-for-the-buck as any one exercise does.

Chest Press

The chest press is a highly effective way to strengthen the pectorals (chest muscles), triceps, and anterior deltoids. These muscles are critical in lifting movements. Your anterior deltoids are responsible for lifting your arms in front of you.

Holding groceries, blow-drying your hair, lifting a suitcase into an overhead bin, or pushing a heavy door open are examples of activities that can become easier with stronger deltoids.

Chest Press Machine and Anatomy Graphic of muscles

Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown could be considered the “leg press” of the upper body.
This exercise targets the Latissimus Dorsi (the “lats” or wings of the back), Trapezius (“traps” or upper back), Pectoralis Major (chest), Posterior Deltoids (shoulders), Biceps brachii (front of the upper arm)

Training the lats improves the shape of your back. As lean muscle tissue is added to the lats, it gives a ‘V’ shape to your back. Gaining muscle in your lats might help make the appearance of “love handles” become less noticeable.

The pulldown also helps improve aesthetics with your arms. The biceps and shoulders are key players in this exercise and will help make your upper arm muscles more defined.

Leg Curl

The hamstrings are large muscles that make up the back of your thighs and are the primary movers worked in the Leg Curl. In addition to the hamstrings, this power exercise also targets the calves.

These main muscles targeted by the Leg Curl are largely responsible for the appearance of your thighs and lower legs and train the muscles that are partly responsible for walking, squatting and bending the knee.

The hamstrings contract to provide knee flexion, which is the technical name for the movement
performed during the Leg Curl. Each hamstring is a group of four muscles that start on your pelvis (around the bottom of your buttocks), cover the backs of your thighs, and attach to the lower leg, just below your knee. The hamstrings have two major functions: to flex your knee and pull your thigh backward (hip extension).

This exercise is crucial in maintaining overall leg strength and function.

Leg Curl Machine and anatomical graphic of muscles

Abdominal Machine

The Abdominal Machine works – you guessed it – the abdominals, specifically the rectus abdominis. Believe it or not, the rectus abdominis does not exist only to make you look good in a bathing suit. It is also functionally significant. The abs are critical muscles for respiration.

In addition, they are major stabilization muscles. Strong abdominals help with balance and stability in everyday activities, sports (like golf and tennis) and can help to prevent falls.

By consistently doing these big five exercises, you strengthen all the major muscles in the body, creating and maintaining a strong foundation for future workouts and everyday activities.

Exercises Women Over 60 Should Avoid

Are there any exercises that women over 60 should not do? This is not an easy answer, and here’s why…

We know women in their sixties who are thriving, have more energy than ever and are just as strong as they were in their 30s. We also know women in their sixties with decades of injuries, are caretakers for others or are in a fragile state.

A quick Google search will tell you to avoid all heavy lifting or to walk and do water aerobics. We’re not going to do that.

It would be crazy to say that all women 60 to 69 should never do one type of exercise. But for some of the most common injuries or limitations we see in 60-year-old women, there are some exercises to be careful with.

Joint Issues

If you’re someone who experiences joint issues such as osteoarthritis or experiences chronic inflammation, high-impact movements like running, jumping, and burpees are probably not for you.

Shoulder Injury

Postural issues, limited range of motion, rotator cuff injuries – these should all be exercised with care and adjusted to account for the specific injury. Some exercises to avoid or alter are overhead press, skull crushers, full range of motion on chest exercises, pushups, lat pulldown, chest fly, and lateral raises.

We have worked with clients with ALL of these injuries. Most are capable of doing all exercises with alterations. If possible, avoid NOT doing these and work with someone who can help you safely accomplish a workout with a shoulder injury.

Knee Injuries

Injured knees are unfortunately very common in women over 60. However, this does not mean avoiding leg exercises. Finding a way to safely exercise the lower body is extremely important because working the biggest muscles in the body has the greatest overall effect on gaining muscle and bone density… and losing fat.

With that being said, it's vital to know how to do leg exercises with proper form to avoid further injury.

Exercises such as squats and lunges require very specific mechanics to be effective and safe. We recommend only doing those exercises if you’re very familiar with how to do them, or are working with a trained professional.

What about the exercises that are painful, no matter what? We’ve had clients over the years experience discomfort on the leg extension, despite alterations made to their range of motion, seat settings, and amount of resistance. So, we don’t do those!

Pain is a helpful indicator. Anything that hurts, besides the burning of muscles hitting temporary muscle failure, is your body’s way of saying, “Hey, something isn’t right.”

Listen to your body, and remember this rule of thumb: If the exercise isn't safe, it's not worth doing.

Woman over 60 recovering from exercise

The Perfect Workout Case Studies: Exercise Routines for Workouts for Women Age 60-69

Since 1999 we’ve helped more than 59,000 people improve their health and fitness – many being women in their 60s. Each person who works with us has a different body with limitations, a history of injuries, different wants, needs, and goals to achieve. This creates a need for customization.

Below are case studies of real clients and their ideal workouts based on their age, goals, limitations, and preferences. Identifying information has not been included to maintain client privacy.

Woman over 60 exercising with a personal trainer

Client A: Busy 64 Year Old Nurse With Multiple Injuries

64-year-old woman, from Orange County, CA
Works part-time-two 12 hours shifts as a nurse in addiction and psychiatric units. Also cares for her ill mother.

Goals:

  • Increase strength, lean muscle mass, endurance, flexibility, and improve posture
  • Strengthening of the upper body, lower body, strengthen around hips and knees.
  • Wants to be able to do everyday daily activities again without having to compensate for her injuries, ie. squat down, lift to a cabinet for a jar, reach under her sink.
  • Wants to be able to garden again.

Medical:

  • Arthritis/Joint Degeneration – neck, R-hip capsule
  • High Blood Pressure – well managed with medication
  • Joint injury – L-knee ligament, R-hip labrum tear
  • Spinal Injury – C-spine fused C3-6, surrounding discs herniated
  • Thyroid Condition – Hashimoto's thyroiditis
  • Surgeries – L-foot, hysterectomy
  • Low back pain

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Compound Row: Targets upper back muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 2 minutes. This allows her to focus on working the major muscles without straining the neck, a common side effect of this exercise.

Chest Press (vertical grip): Targets chest and back of arms. Avoided for a long time due to spinal injury (neck). Recently introduced with very lightweight to gradual work on range of motion and resistance increase.

Hip Abduction: Targets outer gluteal muscles. Client performs the exercise for approximately 2 minutes, at a slightly lower intensity level to account for labrum tear and arthritis. Back support is included to adjust for spinal injuries.

Hip Adduction: Targets the inner thigh muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 2 minutes. This allows her to maintain strength without moving the affected joint (hip)

Preacher Curl: Targets the upper arms and forearms. Client performs the exercise with a decreased range of motion (3-hole gap ~ 3-inch decrease).

Abdominal Machine: Targets abdominals. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the abdominals for approximately 1:30-2 minutes. This helps her to engage and fatigue the muscles without overextension or flexion of the spine.

Leg Extension: Targets quadriceps and muscles surround the knee. Client performs this exercise about every 4-8 workouts adjusting for left knee ligament injury.

Leg Curl: Targets hamstrings. Client performs this exercise about every 4-8 workouts adjusting for left knee ligament injury.

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Client performs the exercise with a limited range of motion (sitting further away from the footplate) to account for spinal injuries and knee injuries. Lumbar support is used.

Client B: Very Active Before Injuries

A 63-year-old woman from Chicago, IL
This client used to live a very active lifestyle: walked 20-25 miles a week, did yoga, weightlifting, and pilates.

Goals:

  • Reverse Osteoporosis
  • Be able to go on walks again
  • Build bone density and muscle in thighs and legs
  • Regain strength and fitness level she had before.
  • Improve muscle tone – shoulders, arms, thighs, calves. No timeline. Exercise pain-free!

Medical:

  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Osteoporosis/ Osteopenia
  • Tear in the labrum, where the biceps tendon connects. Doctor says to work on pulling motions*
    • the neck does not have complete ROM in her neck
    • pain when pressing or reaching right shoulder rotated forward

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Compound Row: Targets upper back muscles and arms and helps with *pulling motion. Client performs with palms facing toward each other to keep shoulder joints closed, decreased range of motion (5-hole gap ~ 5-inch decrease).

Hip Adduction: Targets the inner thigh muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 1-2 minutes. This allows her to maintain strength without moving the affected joint (hip).

Time Static Crunch: Targets abdominals. Client performs isometric bodyweight exercise alternative to the machine that requires overhead positioning of the arms (shoulder injury).

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Client performs exercise normally, along with lumbar support.

Client also does the following exercises with no major adjustments: Hip Abduction, Tricep Extension, Leg Extension, and Leg Curl.

Client C: New to Strength Training & Ready to Enjoy Retirement

A 63-year-old woman from Dallas, TX
Recently retired and wants to be able to enjoy vacationing and everyday activities without worrying about getting injured or not being able to “keep up.”

Goals:

  • Lose 50 pounds
  • Wants to be much healthier. Strengthen and tone all over. Get back into shape.
  • Be more active. Have the energy to do her daily activities without feeling winded or like she can't do it
  • She would love to enjoy an upcoming trip by walking everywhere (many steps)
  • Strengthening up legs, toning the upper and lower body
  • Wants to feel more confident and stronger to be able to enjoy life without worrying about hurting

Medical:

  • Two knee replacements
  • Scope on Left knee: scar tissue removed a bundle of nerve fibers located directly below patella
  • Occasional right shoulder pain

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Chest Press (Vertical Grip): Targets chest and back of arms. Client performs the exercise with a 4-hole gap, which decreases the range of motion and helps prevent additional shoulder pain. This exercise is performed each workout to help aid her goal of overall strengthening and fat loss.

Abdominal Machine: Targets abdominals. Client performs the exercise with legs out from behind the stabilizing pads and lifts knees slightly up toward the chest. This helps to prevent any additional strain on the knee and can help achieve better muscle-mind connection.

Leg Extension: Targets thighs and muscles surrounding the knee. Client performs exercise normally but does so with caution to avoid any knee pain. This exercise is particularly important to help strengthen her legs for walking and maintain strength around the knee.

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Feet are placed higher up on the footplate, creating a more open and easier angle on the knee joints. Client occasionally performs an isometric hold toward the lower turnaround of the exercise when experiencing pain or pulling sensations in the knee. This exercise is performed each workout to help aid her goal of overall strengthening and fat loss.

Tricep Rope Pulldown: Targets triceps. Client often performs this exercise instead of Tricep Extension due to shoulder pain in a raised position.

Client also does the following exercises with no major adjustments: Lat Pulldown, Leg Curl Hip Abduction, Hip Adduction, Preacher Curl, and Compound Row.

Summary

You might be thinking, all the roads we’ve taken in this article have led to slow-motion strength training. And while that might be mostly true, it's not the only thing a woman over 60 should ever do to move her body or achieve overall wellness.

Women over 60 can and should be exercising. For the purpose of exercise, high-intensity weight training is recommended. It's safe, effective, efficient, and sustainable for just about every age and injury.

Women over 60 should do cardio activities that bring them joy, stress relief, and socialization. These activities should be safe for the body and not interfere with the true purpose of exercise.

Exercising twice a week is recommended to get maximum strength training results. All other recreation should be done on a desired basis.

The best exercises for women over 60 are compound movements that target the biggest muscle groups in the body, such as leg press and lat pulldown. These help to build and maintain muscle mass, increase bone density, and help with fat loss.

Injuries and limitations should be considered when exercising. Working with a trained professional like a Certified Personal Trainer is ideal when working out around injuries. However, pain is a key indicator of when NOT to do a certain exercise or movement. So, use your best judgement.

The Perfect Workout team with in studio and virtual personal training

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

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Why Slow Motion Strength Training is The Perfect Workout (And The Evidence to Prove it)

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Real health and wellness wins
and how to achieve them yourself

Why Slow Motion Strength Training is The Perfect Workout (And The Evidence to Prove it)

the science behind slow motion strength training with a trainer

“For years I spent hours in the gym, 5 days a week, not getting the results I wanted. It felt like a waste of time.”

But what if there’s a way to workout more efficiently?

“I’ve been a runner, tried all the bootcamps, and even spent my precious Sunday mornings slowly dying alongside all the millennials in spin class. I’m no stronger, no thinner, and now my knees constantly ache. I don’t want to keep exercising if I just end up getting hurt.”

But what if those weren’t the right exercise methods?

“I invested time and money to work with a Personal Trainer and never saw any results. I felt like they didn’t understand my needs. Personal Training is NOT for me. “

Maybe your workouts just weren’t customized to your goals and abilities?

Sound familiar?

Well we’re excited to share with you that there IS a more effective approach to exercise!

The Solution is Slow-Motion Strength Training

It's the science-backed method The Perfect Workout has used since 1999 to help more than 59,000 people change their bodies and redefine the way they exercise.

In this article, we dive deep into the methodology used, why it's the safest, most effective and efficient way to exercise, and all the reasons you’d be crazy not to do it.

For years we’ve been handing our clients a little book called High Intensity Exercise by Dr. Philip Alexander and it might be one of the best tools that explains why we do what we do.

Dr. Alexander didn’t discover High Intensity Exercise but after doing slow-motion strength training for some time he condensed the concepts of the methodology for others to easily understand and implement in their own lives.

We had the chance to sit down with CEO of ARX Mark Alexander, Dr. Alexander’s son to discuss High Intensity Exercise. 

Mark Alexander Quote about Slow Motion High Intensity Strength Training

For the full discussion on High-Intensity Exercise, what it is and why everyone (and we mean everyone) should do it, watch the video below:

Play Video

We at The Perfect Workout, Mark, and his father Dr. Alexander are all passionate about the method we use and teach to others, and we want to give you the tools you need to really understand exercise and use it to your advantage.

Whether you’ve been a long-time client of ours, or are brand new to The Perfect Workout, this article will provide you with the main concepts of High-Intensity Exercise outlined in our interview with Mark Alexander and the book High-Intensity Exercise by Dr. Philip Alexander.

Dr Philip Alexander, Flexing his muscles from high intensity exercise
Dr. Philip Alexander

What is High Intensity Exercise?

The first thing to know about exercise is that it is not any type of movement or activity that increases your heart rate or makes you sweat. Exercise is a stimulus that causes a response from the body, and a certain amount of time and recovery is needed for the body to benefit from the stimulus.

High-intensity exercise in particular, is brief, focused, and intentional.

Over the years, we’ve discovered that short, brief and intense exercise actually has more power and more positive effects on the body than any kind of prolonged exercise does.

This often brings up the questions– when do you actually get stronger? Where do you grow muscle?

The assumed answer– during the workout.

When actually, it happens afterward. The time spent working out was just the time that you needed to trigger that stimulus. Your body also needs to eat, sleep and rest in order to recover. You actually get stronger during that recovery period.

So in short, high-intensity exercise (HIE) is short, brief & intense, requires ample recovery and has more positive effects on the body than prolonged or low-intensity exercises.

What is exercise and slow motion strength training

What is Exercise, and what isn’t:

“Brief, intense, effective stimulus done through resistance training is essentially one way to define exercise and then everything else that you do for fun or for socialization or for sport or for competition, you would call that recreation,” Mark explained.
Exercise Vs Recreation compared

Mark made an interesting analogy between exercise and brushing your teeth. “It's just something you do, maybe it's not super fun. But if you don't do it, eventually, things will rot and decay. It's the same thing with your body, if you're not paying attention to it and doing high-intensity exercise, your muscles will decay, your bones will decay, things start to happen and you start to fall apart quite literally, it's not fun.”

What we’d like to reiterate is that exercise is truly for the purpose of improving…

But that doesn’t mean stop doing the things that you love to do! Keep playing tennis if you love the sport. Head to the golf course if it's your Saturday ritual. The exercises that we're doing together are going to actually enhance the things that you love to do outside of the workouts. It's going to make you stronger, better, more athletic and help you move easier.

What is absolutely necessary for exercise to be effective?

How to make an already effective exercise even more effective:

  • Always have to have these three things: safety, effectiveness, efficiency. 
  • Never want to sacrifice either of those.

What you want to do is eliminate momentum, be slow and methodical. The movement of each exercise should be extremely slow- 10 seconds to move the resistance, and 10 seconds to resist it.

You want to avoid locking out your joints- keep them bent so the muscles stay loaded (working at all times). And you’re doing it in a manner to which your muscles will fatigue. That's the stimulus we talked about just a minute ago. Fatiguing the muscles is the ultimate goal of each exercise and really what you're after.

Some good rules of thumb:

  • Go slow
  • Avoid momentum
  • Avoid locking out joints
  • Avoid resting in between repetitions
  • Hit muscle fatigue.


Another factor you don't want to overlook is the length of time you exercise. You don’t want to go for too long or too short.

Performing any exercise for too long is likely more cardiometabolic and a whole lot less strength and power than you wanted from the set.

You also don't want to go too short because if you perform the exercise for too little time, it's possible you just never really activate some of those cardiometabolic effects.

The ideal length of time needed for each exercise is 60 seconds to 120 seconds (1-2 minutes), or somewhere in that range.

Play Video

The Purpose of Every Exercise: Muscle Success

Muscle success is our term for the point in each exercise when you can no longer move the resistance. Your muscles are momentarily exhausted and no longer strong enough to push even a fraction of an inch further. This is also commonly known as muscle failure.

Reaching muscle success provides a number of benefits, including stimulating stronger muscles, greater muscle tone, improvements in metabolism, increased cardiovascular health and an objective way to track your progress. 

In short, an exercise needs to be intense enough to achieve muscle success. And muscle success is the ultimate goal of each exercise and the solution to ensuring you’ve gotten the most out of your workout.

An Example of an EFFECTIVE Exercise

The most effective exercises are going to be compound exercises where you work larger muscle groups. You’re going to get the most bang for your effort. You can absolutely do more isolated movement-type exercises like bicep curls, and tricep extensions (they just get a more finite amount of muscle and fibers involved).

The Leg Press is a great example of an effective exercise (when done safely & effectively of course).

Leg Press Slow Motion Strength Training

What you’re doing on the Leg Press is activating the glutes, the quadriceps and the calves– incorporating the large muscle groups in the lower body to work methodically.

To accomplish an ideal and effective full-body workout, you’d want to go through a series of compound exercises like the leg press, chest press, compound row, lat pulldown or pullover, or overhead press. By doing those antagonist-type movements- a muscle whose action counteracts that of another specified muscle- you’re not neglecting any body parts.

As mentioned before, you can absolutely include isolated exercises that target specific smaller muscles like the biceps and triceps to completely target and fatigue all desired muscles.

Slow Motion Strength Training at home or on machines

This full-body high-intensity workout generally includes anywhere from four to eight exercises, taking approximately one to two minutes each.

20 minutes is usually about all that you really need.

An Example of INEFFECTIVE Exercise:

Use these three principles to guide or ideals of what is HIE and what is not: 

  • Safe
  • Effective
  • Efficient


So anything that's sacrificed in any one of those, would generally fall in line with what we would classify as 
ineffective.

But let’s talk about one of the most common activities people do and challenges this concept of exercise- running.

For the record, there is nothing inherently wrong with running. But it’s not effective exercise. However, many people will run because they believe it is the thing they should be doing to achieve their health and fitness goals.

Mark says, if the reason for running is for stress relief, “Well, why don't you just go on a walk with your dog? That's probably a better stress relief, and it won't be isn't harmful on your joints!”

The most common reason for running-  “Well, I want to run because I want to lose weight.”

Again, that's an ineffective way to lose weight, and Mark explained it beautifully, “All running does is expense calories, expense your energy stores and then it makes you hungry. So, then you want to go and you want to eat. And so, you've just eradicated your run by going to Krispy Kreme and getting a couple donuts, or whatever your body was craving that you really needed at that time. And it's because your energy stores are being used in inefficient manner when you're running. And again, if you're running for sport, and you're running for social and, again, I don't want to say never run but just understand what the benefits are and why you're doing it.”

From an exercise perspective, that approach is not effective for what people think they are getting from it.

Ultimately, an exercise, like low-intensity activities do not stimulate the body to grow, therefore making them not effective.

Avoiding TOO Much High Intensity Exercise- Overtraining

Can you overtrain?

The short answer is yes.

The long and more detailed answer is it depends on recovery. “What I've found in the high-intensity exercise world is that it's often less from the gym and more from outside stressors.”

Overtraining is when progress and getting results from your workouts stops, slows down, or even regresses because the body is not able to recover from exercise.

Factors that may contribute to the body’s inability to recover include: not sleeping well, eating a poor diet, going through a divorce, a big move, the loss of a loved one, sheltering at home amidst the coronavirus pandemic…

Any of those outside stressors will definitely impact the work that you are doing in your training sessions.

We tend to look at components of your lifestyle like recovery, sleep, diet and stress levels as being a deterrent of progress, more than overtraining.

According to Mark, about 80% of the time outside stressors are what contributes to overtraining. In addition, High-Intensity Exercise by Dr. Philip Alexander outlines a few other resources that affect the body’s ability to recover:

Recovery Ability Graph for Slow Motion Strength Training
“Yes, you can overtrain but I feel like most people in the way that they're thinking about it, it's being overly cautious on how much resistance training they're doing versus can you pay attention more to what life is doing outside of the weight room and can you mitigate stress, can you do things better in terms of what you're eating and managing relationships. Those things to me open up more doors to making overtraining not a thing.” – Mark

Avoiding TOO Little High-Intensity Exercise- Not training Enough.

Considering the mentality many of us have to overcome of “more is better” when it comes to exercise, I wouldn’t be too concerned with this.

However, it is possible to not train enough, or give enough effort.

Workouts must be brief if they are going to be effective. You can either work out hard or you can work out for a long period of time, but you cannot do both. We want just the right amount of exercise stress in a workout and no more. But that means making sure you give enough effort until the point of muscle success.

It's not easy to do, but we see many people giving up or quitting just before hitting muscle success. That’s like leaving all of your money on the table just before hitting the jackpot. You wouldn’t want to do that would you?

If exercise is not intense enough, and not performed to the point of muscle success, then it can be considered too little and possibly not high-intensity at all.

We have found that most people get best results from working out twice a week, or once every 72-96 hours. By taking more time than necessary to recover, you potentially miss out on time spent incorporating another growth-producing training session!

Not All Bodies Are Created Equal. What You Should Pay Attention to Maximize Your Recovery Process so You Get the Most Out of Your Training Sessions:

Self-awareness is key here. Look back on those outside stressors that we mentioned- Are your relationships suffering? Are you stress eating? Are you eating a lot of sugar? Are you battling a medical issue? What are those triggers that you see are happening or not?

Those are the things to start paying attention to to maximize your recovery period in between training sessions.

Sleep is another important factor (Read more about Sleep Deprivation and Exercise)

There’s power in knowing yourself, paying attention to your lifestyle and also not getting obsessed with diet and exercise.

The recovery period (time in between training sessions) allows you to take a holistic approach to your health, and exercise is just one piece of the pie. Everything else plays a really big part in it too. And doing it twice a week kind of prevents you from being obsessed about how much exercise you're doing.

It's definitely a paradigm shift that many of us have had to go through to accept the idea that more is not better. 

“It's Not How Much Exercise Your Body Can Withstand, It's How Little It Actually Requires.” 

Mark called this concept, “minimum effective dose,” and used drug companies as an example to explain it. “It's not like if there's an effective dose of 50 milligrams, it's not that taking 200 milligrams is necessarily better. It's the same with exercise. It needs to be the right dose, and there can be too much.”

Based on our earlier definition of exercise, too much activity, too much recreation, just too much of any movement can impact your body and its performance during your workouts.

You want to strive to give your body that minimum effective dose. “The more is better mentality is one we've been taught in terms of exercise. More is not better. Quality over quantity is really what I always try to push.”

Matt Hedman Founder and CEO of the Perfect Workout

It's Not the Calories Burned DURING Exercise, It's the Calories Burned AS A RESULT OF Exercise. 

Let's say you burn 600 calories while running because you think that’s what you need to do to lose weight. It’s ineffective because it's still relatively little compared to what you're in taking every day and you’re only burning calories in the moment, not after.

Instead of looking at calories lost, look at the amount of strength  and muscle mass gained. High-intensity exercise will help you gain muscle mass, and so that muscle mass is metabolic currency (as Mark calls it).

By simply adding another pound of muscle mass, your “fuel” required to simply maintain bodily functions is higher than before, and your fuel expenditure is higher, meaning you burn more calories.

Muscle mass works for you all the time. It's not just during exercise, it's all the other time that that muscle is now working for you.

In addition, activities like running where you are not building muscle mass, and even dieting with the absence of strength training leads to indiscriminate weight loss: fat, muscle, bone, water…it all goes.

What are Some of the Benefits of HIE?

HIE positively impacts our health in many ways. These are some of the common benefits our clients experience:
Common benefits of slow motion strength training
One of the intangible benefits is the time efficiency. By only needing 20 minutes, twice a week to reap the benefits above and work towards your fitness goals, you gain precious time to focus on things that you want to do!

There’s Something Else You Should Know About Exercise:

There's no magic pill, but HIE is close to it.

The Perfect Workout, Mark Alexander, and many in our community want you to start questioning traditional exercise. Ask yourself, “Well, if I don't have three hours to spend in the gym, what do I do?”

Look at the research, look at the data, and look at all the people whose lives and bodies have been changed by HIE and Slow-motion strength training.

High-intensity exercise method is a pretty straight shot. And yes, it might be a climb. We're not saying it's not, but it's worth the climb.” – Mark

When incorporating HIE into your life be sure to remember these important components:

  • Exercise must be brief, short and intense.
  • Never sacrifice safety, effectiveness or efficiency
  • Exercise should be intense enough to hit muscle success around 1-2 minutes
  • Go slow with no rest in between repetitions, approximately 20 seconds per rep
  • Recovery is an important part of achieving results
  • More is not better
  • 20 minutes, twice a week is all you need

The best way to ensure you are performing HIE correctly and reaping the benefits is to work with a Certified Personal Trainer. Each of our trainers is accredited in Slow-Motion Strength Training, and our certification is extensive, hands-on and specialized in safety and efficiency.

Already training with us? Share this article with someone who needs to know about slow-motion strength training!

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