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MASTER CLASS: With age, minor tweaks can prevent major creaks

by Matt Parrott | March 8, 2021 at 2:06 a.m.
Josh Holt, fitness director at Little Rock Racquet Club, does the Archer Bodyweight Skull Crusher without slipping and crushing his skull. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

With each year that passes, my exercise routine becomes a little more cardiovascular and a little less strength based.

When this transition began, it almost seemed accidental. I would walk into the fitness center with one idea, and my body would somehow gravitate toward the cardiovascular section. My outlook was slowly changing.

Twenty years ago, I could eat a slab of ribs and immediately hit the gym for an hour of weightlifting, then follow that up with two hours of sand volleyball. I had endless energy, an ironclad stomach and a lot of free time. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Although it has been a slow evolution, I now find myself feeling stuffed by a big salad and needing at least an hour before any exercise can commence. When it does, it's usually on a spin bike or I'm doing some bodyweight strength exercises. My body has aged, and the changes have required minor adjustments to my personal fitness routine each year.

And it's wonderful.

These days, I no longer dread the joint pain that follows an intense weight-training session. My hands aren't torn up from the chalk and iron bars. I don't need to see a chiropractor regularly, and I feel no pressure to chug protein shakes.

Instead, I use exercise for stress relief and better cognitive functioning. I find that cardiovascular exercise (and some lightweight training) clears my mind in a way that heavy weight training never could. I am excited to schedule my workouts because I know that I'll feel great after each session.

It's a freedom that I did not know in my 20s, when I was too focused on achieving the next milestone.

I guess the takeaway message is that change is necessary. Our bodies change, our schedules change, and our lives change. As these variables adjust, we must also be comfortable adjusting our exercise routine to match our (new) needs.

This week's exercise is a great example of a movement that I would not likely perform 20 years ago, but now enjoy. The Archer Bodyweight Skull Crusher (say that 5 times fast) requires no equipment, and there are plenty of ways to modify it for different fitness levels.

1. Get into the "up" phase of a pushup on the floor.

2. Place the left forearm on the floor and extend the right arm horizontally away from the body until it's fully extended.

3. Use your left hand to press your body up from the floor. You will also use your right hand for support.

4. Slowly bend the left elbow to lower back down and repeat for two sets of 12 on each side.

The steps above describe the full-blown version of this exercise, which can be fairly intense. For most exercisers, I'd recommend starting the movement in a kneeling position. This reduces the amount of resistance and allows one to ease into the exercise a bit. Sometimes, I'll start a set in a kneeling position and then perform a few repetitions on my toes. This hybrid approach is great for those who like to challenge themselves but also know their limitations. And come to think of it, that's exactly who I've become. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Print Headline: Minor tweaks to fitness routine needed as we age


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