Building lean muscle as we age

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Working out at home is one of those things you either love, or it never happens. Right now, many of you have used workout equipment sitting in your home. In the mix are treadmills and gear like dumbbells and kettle bells purchased with the best of intentions to get in great shape. I am guessing much of this gear is either a glorified clothing rack or wonderful dust collectors in the corner of a room.

If your gym membership has expired or you’re just saving money by not working out, it’s time to consider dusting off your dumbbells and kettle bells to develop an exercise program. Some of you have dumbbells and kettle bells, some do not. Either way it is also time to include into your workout schedule body weight training. By taking advantage of the equipment you already own or you are just building muscle through a body weight training program, you may be surprised at how little time it takes to get great results.

Numerous studies have shown building lean muscle mass has a profound and positive effect on your cardiovascular system, respiratory system, brain and even hormone production. Here is the best part: you don’t need to spend hours working out each week or join a gym to take advantage of the benefits.

As you get older, the loss of lean muscle mass increases at a pretty fast pace. This increase in muscle loss is even more rapid for sedentary people. Once you hit your 40s, age-related muscle loss starts and no, that is not too young to see your body composition change if you’re not physically active.

Now let’s take a look at what it takes to get a home grown program together using both the exercise equipment you may have and body weight training methods. First, if you have dumbbells or kettle bells laying around the house and a workout bench, you’re going to be ahead of the curve. If not, straight body weight training using steps, a chair or wall can get it done.

Four great examples of free weight exercises:

Dumbbells and kettle bells, even lightweight ones, can become great tools to incrementally start to develop leaner muscle mass. If you don’t have these weights lying around the house, don’t worry, I will get to other options later in the column.

1. Calf raises — Pick-up your dumbbells or kettle bells in each hand, stand up straight, feet almost together. Now start to lift your heels to get to the balls of your feet and then lower back to starting position. Frequency should be three days a week minimum, three to four sets of 10 repetitions each day. Build up and increase weight over time if you have them.

2. Stair climbs — Walk up and down your stairs if you have them while holding your dumbbells or kettle bells. Start with low weight walking three or four steps, increasing as you get stronger. If you’re already in great shape, walk the whole staircase. Three days a week three sets, be mindful of your posture and wear shoes to prevent slipping. Be careful and take your time. Building leg muscles is a great start toward lean muscle mass. Your legs and hip complex have the largest muscles in your body, which will supercharge your muscle mass.

3. Dumbbell or kettle bell dead lifts — Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Now hold a dumbbell or kettle bell in each hand. Keep your back straight, tighten your abs and start slowly lowering your weights toward the ground by bending from your knees. Squat down then back up, be mindful of your posture and start slow with low weights.

4. Two-arm dumbbell or kettle bell rows — Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees a slight amount. Holding the weights in each hand bend forward at your waist until almost parallel to the ground with your upper body. Keep your back straight, look ahead and let the weights hang in front of you. Now start to lift the weights slowly keeping your elbows close to your body. Now slowly drop and repeat three days a week for three sets each day. Use light weights to start and be mindful of your form and posture.

Four great examples of body weight exercises:

1. Prisoner Squats — Stand with hands behind your head and feet parallel, start to dip down by bending the hips and knees until the thighs are near parallel to the floor. Keep your heels tight to the floor. Push up off the heels to a standing position. Slowly increase the number reps and sets based on how quickly you fatigue.

2. Tricep Dips — Sit on the floor with knees slightly bent. Then grab the edge of a step or bench (with arms slightly behind you) and push up, straightening the arms. Bend them to a 90-degree angle, then push to straighten while your heels push toward the floor. Repeat until failure.

3. Plank to Push-Up — Start this exercise in a plank position on forearms and elbows, then place one hand at a time into a push-up position. Now with your back straight and the core engaged, do a push up. Then reverse, moving one arm at a time back into the plank position. Do this fairly quickly until failure. Repeat!

4. Wall Sit — Squat to a sitting position with your back against a wall. Now make sure your thighs are parallel to the ground. Your knees should be directly above the ankles, keeping your back straight. Hold until failure, then repeat and if you want an additional burn, hold your arms outward, straight in front of you at the same time.

Keeping your body’s muscle mass intact as we age is extremely important for our overall health. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more energy you will have. Along with better energy, you will have less stress, sleep better, increased insulin sensitivity and a much better resting metabolic rate. Do yourself a healthy favor and build a solid foundation of lean muscle as you age.

• • •

Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation in Coeur d’Alene.

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