Strength Training: Staying Fit and Fabulous

Strength Training: Staying Fit and Fabulous

by Cris Caivano


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486818887
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 01/16/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 664,092
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

D. Cristine Caivano is an exercise and movement therapist who founded her Ageless Exercise practice ( specifically to address the needs of people over 50. Her approach draws from a variety of modalities, including Qigong, yoga, Feldenkrais, Pilates, and meditation techniques as well as classic strengthening and flexibility practices.

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Why Strength Training is Important if You Are over 50

Scientists estimate that the average man will lose about 7 pounds (3.2 kg) of muscle each decade after age 25 if he doesn't do anything (such as strength training) to reverse this process, and the average woman will lose 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of muscle per decade after age 35. After menopause a woman's average muscle loss will occur at twice that rate, making her lose an average of a pound of muscle a year. That means a 60-year-old woman who doesn't do strengthening exercise will have lost over 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of muscle, even if her weight stays the same! This age-related loss of muscle is called "sarcopenia." Many of the characteristics we associate with aging — low energy weakness, achy joints, and loss of movement confidence — are actually the side effects of decreased muscle mass.

Another unwelcome side effect of age-related muscle loss is "middle age spread." Muscles require lots of energy (calories) in order to maintain themselves and perform their job of moving and stabilizing the bones. If by becoming sedentary over the years you allow that age-related loss of muscle to occur, and you do not lessen your caloric intake proportionately; then you will get fat. It's just simple arithmetic: calories in, energy out — or fat on!

Can this loss of muscle be reversed? Absolutely! By committing to a strength-training program and sticking to it, you will rebuild the muscles that have disappeared, no matter how old or out of shape you are. Strong evidence from recent studies has shown that along with increased lean body mass, improved metabolic rate, and better weight management, the benefits of strength training include improved balance and coordination. You will be less susceptible to falls and other injuries, whether playing touch football or walking down a steep flight of stairs.

Strength training also helps prevent heart disease and adult-onset diabetes, and builds bone density in postmenopausal women and older men. It has even proven effective against depression. This disease preventive aspect is one of strength training 's most underappreciated gifts.

But let's get to the fun stuff: Strength training will help you look and feel fabulous. Its effects are steady and cumulative; you will experience the immense pleasure of creating a new you, literally This is quite empowering for us over-50s. You will, through the techniques in this book, learn how to grow your own beautiful, strong muscles, thus slowing the apparent and biological age of your body As your muscles grow stronger you will notice a marked increase in your energy levels. Your self-confidence will increase and so will your independence.

Of course this is not the only thing you need to do to create such success; you must also be sure to eat properly; get enough rest, make cardiovascular training a daily occurrence (a 30-minute walk can get you started on that), and follow sensible rules of self-preservation, such as not smoking at all, or drinking too much. Strength training is a particularly good place to begin rebuilding your fitness, however, because it will make everything else you do so much easier!

Reassurance to the Out-of-Shape, Embarrassed, Intimidated, or Injured Exerciser

Did you know that encouraging research done in the past I0 years shows that even people in their 90s can increase their muscular strength in as few as eight weeks? Whatever your age, no matter how out of shape or inexperienced you are, you can markedly improve your strength. In fact, the more out of shape you are, the more dramatic your improvement will be.

This book will teach you what you need to pay attention to, in order to achieve results and avoid injury I have made a point to include only time-tested, safe, and simple exercises. Throughout you will be reminded to "feel" your way through an exercise, to listen to your body, and to remember that you are the expert ; if something doesn't feel right to you, don't do it. It's that simple. You are the boss and can choose how intensively to work. (Of course, the more consistent you are with your workouts, the faster you will achieve those satisfying results.) You will be surprised how quickly you begin to feel better once you start moving.

Women and Strength Building

Some women are concerned they will build unattractively bulky muscles from lifting weights. This won 't happen, because women don't have enough male hormones circulating in their bodies to allow for such muscular growth. Your muscles will become more defined and shapely, but not necessarily much larger. In fact, your newly strengthened muscles will take up less space than fat tissue, so you will probably look slimmer as you get stronger.

One interesting fact we have always heard is that men have more upper body strength. That's because their upper body muscles and bones are larger than most women's to begin with. However, there is not an appreciable difference in the overall strength-building potential for men and women, once you take into account that difference in size. Women may have smaller bone structure and therefore smaller arm, shoulder, chest, and upper back muscles, but, contrary to popular belief, those smaller muscles can be trained to achieve big strength.

The ideas offered in this book apply to anyone. Just remember that age is relative. The concepts, techniques, and exercises described here will help an out -of-shape 25-year-old as much as a person three times that age.

How to Use this Book

This book will teach you how to create your own strength-building workout. Only the essentials have been included. Before getting to the exercises, please read The Basics of Building Strength (pages 16-2 1). This section includes interesting, even surprising, information based on recent research, explaining how to accommodate the needs and quirks of your over-50-year-old body in order to get the best results from your workout. For instance, you will learn how correct alignment, coupled with strong core support, will enable you to do exercises that you may previously have found too difficult.

Two Foundational Exercises, the Squat (pages 37-41) and the Push-Up (pages 45-47), serve as an excellent starting point for your strength training. Both exercises work several different muscles at once; this allows you to make good use of your workout time as you strengthen and prepare your body for more focused exercises in Part 2: Getting More Specific.

The Props You Need

For some of these exercises, you will need two sets of weights. The smaller set will allow you to begin strengthening your muscles without working them to exhaustion, giving you the chance to learn correct form while also building stamina. The heavier set will provide a greater challenge once you are ready for it. In general, women who are healthy but unused to strength training might consider beginning with one pair of 3-pound (1.5 kg) weights and one pair of 5-pound (2.5 kg) weights. Men in the same situation should use a pair of 5-pound (2.5 kg) and a pair of 8-pound (4 kg) weights. Again, this is an estimate. If you are very elderly, out of condition, or recovering from illness or injury, consider doing the exercises without using any weights at all until you feel stronger and more confident. At that point, begin with as heavy a weight as you can lift 10 times without fatigue (see also overload principle and repetitions, page 16).

Some exercises require a stability ball. It's important that the ball you use is the right size to provide adequate support and stability To select the correct size, check that when seated on the ball, your knees are at about hip height, or slightly higher.

You may also want to work on an exercise mat. This keeps your feet from slipping and adds some cushioning for the lying-down positions and for bare feet. You can choose from special exercise mats or the thinner ones designed for yoga.

One more note: It's wise to wear sneakers when lifting weights. They help protect your feet and steady your balance.

Variations and Stretches

Many of the exercises include several variations so that you can work at your own pace. The Beginning Level exercises teach basic form and technique; do them first, for as long as you need, and return to them whenever you'd like to check up on your form. Be sure to follow your body's signals when deciding whether or not to try the more advanced variations. There's no rush' Whatever exercise is appropriately challenging to you is the one that will bring the best results.

Nearly every exercise is followed by a suggested stretch. That's because once you have worked a muscle enough to strengthen it, it will be warmed up and thus well prepared to stretch. By taking the time to stretch you also give your muscles a chance to rest before tackling the next strengthening exercise.

Planning a Personalized Workout

The structure of this book is, roughly, the outline of a good workout. Keep this in mind when you put together your own program. Try to work on your strength and flexibility at least twice, preferably three times a week, and allow one day's rest between all workouts. You may also want to look at the Programs (pages 138-151) for suggestions as to how you can organize the exercises to accomplish specific goals.

Here are some general rules to help you organize your workout plan:

* Always warm up first.

* Work from larger muscles to smaller ones.

* Work the muscles on the front of the body followed by the muscles on the opposite side.

* Alternate between upper and lower body exercises.

* Always work your abdominal muscles.

* Don't neglect strengthening your back.

* Stretch often and carefully

* Finish with a cool-down.

And just one last point to note: Our photographs don't lie. They show Tiffany and Greg, aged 56, and Tessa, aged 67.

The Main Muscles of the Body

You will find it easier to strengthen your muscles if you take a moment to study their shape, location, and relative size. By learning to visualize your muscles as you move, you will greatly increase the effectiveness of the exercises. Visualizing the muscles allows you to "tune in" with accuracy to what you are doing, enabling you to direct your efforts to where they will do the most good.

Look, for example, at the trapezius muscles. One of these muscles' "jobs" is to pull the shoulders down and back, thus contributing to good postural alignment. By knowing — and visualizing — their shape you will find it easier to enlist their help in exercises like the Scapular Squeeze on page 31.

At the beginning of each exercise section in this book, you will see a drawing of the muscles you will be using, highlighted in a box at the top of the page. This will help you understand where, exactly, you should be "feeling it" as you do the exercises that follow.

The Basics of Building Strength

Strength Training

To strengthen a muscle you need to push it slightly beyond its usual capacity; gradually increasing the intensity of this effort over time. This is what is known as the "overload principle."

When a muscle is challenged, by lifting a weight over and over again, for example, changes occur deep in its tissues. This sometimes leads to some soreness the next day No studies have yet proven exactly why this happens. Some scientists believe that tiny, microscopic tears cause this minor soreness; others think it is a chemical response of some sort. Whatever its source, when you rest, your muscles repair themselves, healing in the form of stronger, more resilient muscle. That is why it is recommended that you do not work on strengthening the same muscle two days in a row Generally, one day's rest between workouts is enough to allow that strengthening repair to occur. (You can strength-train daily: just alternate muscle groups from day to day.)

Your task, as an over-50 exerciser, is to challenge your muscles enough to get the benefits of the overload principle, but not so much that the normative, constructive stress turns into injury.

To apply the overload principle, use weights heavy enough that the muscle you are using becomes fatigued after about 10-15 repetitions, or "reps." If you can easily lift the weight for many more reps than that, then you need to increase the weight a bit at a time until you reach that 10-15 times limit. This applies no matter how much weight you are lifting.

If you are using a heavy enough weight, you will receive benefits from just one set. Are you feeling strong and motivated? Then by all means, go for that second or third set. Your results will be even more impressive. Just be sure to rest between sets, either by doing a different exercise for one set, or by stretching.

In the beginning you may not be sure how hard to push yourself. This is when you should trust your perception. Your goal is to tire out the muscle, to use it more than it is accustomed to being used, in order to stimulate its growth. This will cause some mild discomfort, but should never cause any pain, especially not a jabbing or burning pain. Err on the conservative side, especially at the start. You may want to begin by doing the exercise without holding any weights at all if you are very out of shape.

If you cannot maintain correct alignment or form-for instance, if your back always arches up off the floor during an abdominal exercise-then leave that exercise for a while and return to one that you know you do correctly but that still offers a constructive challenge.

You should also monitor your breathing. Take a break, or slow down if you find yourself struggling for breath. You will always make better progress by working with your body, not against it.

And last but by no means least, don't be deceived into thinking that only painful, sweaty exercise will improve your strength. Of course there is always discomfort involved when we push ourselves beyond our current limits, but forget "going for the burn." You'll just get hurt. Indeed, the "no pain, no gain" slogan has been totally discredited by all sensible and well-trained exercise professionals.


Flexibility refers to the range of motion of the joints and limbs. If your muscles have grown stiff from lack of exercise, you won't be able to move freely. Adult muscles have lost about 15 percent of their moisture content, becoming stiff and unyielding. Stretching stimulates the production of muscle tissue lubricants, thus slowing down this gradual drying-out process.

As you stretch your muscles you will be surprised how quickly you start to feel better. Stretching helps to increase the circulation of oxygenated blood throughout your body. You will feel relaxed, revived, and may even be able to think a bit more clearly, as that oxygen reaches your brain.

As an over-50-year old, how you go about stretching is of great importance. Here are the facts to keep in mind.

(1) Warm Up: You should warm up for at least 10 minutes before stretching. Cold muscles will not stretch safely or well. Warming up will increase your circulation and also speed the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscles, preparing them to stretch and helping you avoid injury.

(2) The Stretch Reflex: The stretch reflex is like a conversation between the muscle that is stretching and the brain. If we didn't have this proprioceptive, protective mechanism, we would fling our limbs around beyond what is safe and cause extensive muscle damage. When the stretch begins, a signal travels from the muscle to the brain, saying something like "Whoa' We haven't done this in a while." The brain sends back an instantaneous command: "Don't move! Hold tight' Something unusual is going on down there and it might not be pretty'" The muscle does as it is told by the brain; it stays contracted, perhaps even tightens further, to prevent this unfamiliar stretch from going too far and damaging the muscle fibers. It's kind of like playing tug-of-war with a strong puppy. The harder you tug, the more tightly the dog grabs the rope with its teeth.

After a few moments — generally speaking, at least 20 or 30 seconds — the brain recognizes that the muscle isn't in danger and gives the green light. The stretch reflex goes away and the muscle is free to begin to lengthen. (The moment is easy to identify, once you know to look for it.) To make a long story short — and a short muscle long — you cannot rush a stretch.


Alignment refers to how your bones are stacked up in relationship to gravity, the force that draws our weight downward, toward the center of the earth. When your bones are properly aligned, they can support the weight of your muscles and internal organs. Your movements will be efficient and stress-free. Out of alignment? You are inviting trouble, especially when exercising, where poor alignment might lead to injury.


Excerpted from "Strength Training"
by .
Copyright © 2005 D. Cristine Caivano.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Big Picture
Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Getting More Specific
Part 3: Special Concerns
Part 4: The Programs
Part 5: Appendix

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Strength Training: Staying Fit and Fabulous 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
I'm not quite 50, but I found this book to be informative. A lot of time is spent on stretching exercises, but there is plenty of exercises to get the beginner started. A great book to get you started or back into weight lifting.