This quick guide to strength training will help you keep and tone your muscles.
This is not an attempt to turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger or train you to compete in an Olympic weight-lifting event.
This story is for real people who lead real lives. People who want to stand a little taller, carry luggage with ease, and look good in a sleeveless shirt.
The fact is, if you are over 45 and are not in some kind of training program, you are losing an average of 5 to 7 pounds of muscle per decade. This loss of muscle can make such daily activities as walking the dog or gardening more of a rigorous chore.
But there is a way to make life a little easier. Studies show that through a simple weight-training program, much of your muscle strength can be maintained and even increased. And, believe it or not, you are never too old to see results.
A. Let your hands fall naturally to your sides with your palms forward, a weight in each hand.
B. Keeping your back flat, lower your back end as if you were going to sit on an imaginary chair, and then return to the start position. Make sure your knees are not blocking the view of your toes -- if they are, you need to shift your weight back some. Repeat 8-12 times.
Caution: Go down only until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Beginners and individuals with knee problems should first do this exercise without any weights.
It is not how much weight you lift, but how you lift. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you return to the starting position. You want to control the weight, not the other way around.
When shopping for dumbbells, try exercises with varied weights. The perfect weight is when you can complete 8, but no more than 12, repetitions in good form. It is important to use a weight that is heavy enough to exhaust your muscle. Many women start with 3- to 8-pound weights, and men usually start with 15- to 20-pound weights. A full-length mirror can help you see if you are doing the exercises right. Other tips:
Warm up. To prepare your body for the workload ahead, go for a 10- or 15-minute walk. This can help you avoid injury. Also, begin your workout with the large muscle groups, such as the chest and back. This allows smaller muscle groups -- the biceps, triceps, and shoulders -- to warm up while you are working the larger muscle groups.
Give it a rest. After completing a set, or a group of consecutive repetitions, wait one minute before you do the next set. Take several deep breaths between sets. When you schedule workouts, be sure to alternate days. Give your muscles between 24 and 48 hours to recover before the next workout begins.
Stretch. When you lift weights, you are literally breaking down muscle. Then your body rebuilds that muscle, making the resulting muscle stronger -- and sometimes tight and sore. Stretch until you feel some resistance from the muscle you are stretching and hold for 10 to 30 seconds (don't bounce).