As we get older we tend to lose strength and mobility. From the time we are born and until some time in your early thirties, our muscles tend to grow bigger and stronger. After your early thirties, you start to lose muscle mass. This effect is called sarcopenia, which is essentially muscle loss. Once you reach age 75, sarcopenia tends to increase rapidly, but this can vary to as early as 65 or as late as 80. This acceleration in sarcopenia is a major cause of frailty and fractures late in age.
Exercise, specifically heavy resistance training, is the major antidote to sarcopenia. We want to do this heavy resistance training to increase bone density, boost growth hormone, while also maximizing mobility. I’ll introduce some of my favorite experts on this topic.
Let’s start off with mobility…
Kelly Starrett – the Mobility Expert
Kelly has a background in physical therapy and stood up San Francisco CrossFit back in 2005, which was one of the first 30 CrossFit gyms at the time. He eventually created MobilityWOD – which is “the world’s most comprehensive database of guided movement, mechanics, and mobility instructional videos.”
One of Kelly’s tests is called the “Campfire Squat Test”, where you squat all the way down with your knees and feet together, and heels on the ground. If you’re missing hip range of motion or ankle range of motion, you will not be able to do this properly. Not having this range of motion is the main mechanism for hip impingement, plantar fascitis, bunions, torn achilles, and many other problems. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU LOOK AT HIP AND ANKLE RANGE OF MOTION. It is key to overall health, posture, and progression into resistance training. You need to obsess about this.
Next, let’s prioritize your spine. The spine has major potential to decrease your force production and is a critical factor in your posture.
You need to minimize movement in the spine and follow Kelly’s One Joint Rule as much as possible – movement should be in the shoulders or hip as much as possible when performing our normal movements (as well as movements under load).
Jerzy Gregorak – the 62 year old four time world champion olympic lifter
I referred to Jerzy in my post about his podcast on the Tim Ferriss show. He started the Happy Body program, and has a wealth of information about fitness, mobility, nutrition, and overall wellness. He is also 62 and you can tell from his body that you can prevent or reduce the effects of sarcopenia at any age.
In this video he talks about the Olympic Squat – which is a key exercise for strength training. The most important aspect, however, is his discussion around posture and flexibility, which has applications across all types of squats.
It’s important that you lift carefully. Notice how he describes:
- Keep the chest up. Don’t think about the knees. Don’t round the lower back. Having your chest up is everything.
- Form is first. Form is the most important. Form, form, form, form. Do I need to say it again?
You need to have flexible hamstrings in the squat position and you should be able to be comfortable in that position. This is similar to what Kelly described in his video. The lack of flexibility is the cause of so many injuries. FLEXIBILITY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR.
Simple and Sinister program from Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline was a Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor and is now training US military and law enforcement. He is best known for introducing the Russian kettlebell to the West and is one of the main reasons kettlebells are now in so many gyms. He firmly believes that kettlebell training is a key to functional strength training. If you ask Pavel for the most effective exercises to do with kettlebells, it would be:
- One arm swing
- The get-up (aka the Turkish get up)
- The goblet squat
If you do these three every day, you will get a huge return on your investment. Please be safe. Remember mobility and flexibility is key. As you perform resistance training, you will find yourself getting stronger, gain the ability to retain muscle mass, and prevent sarcopenia, while improving your overall posture.