Aging affects the body's physical capacity in many ways. Muscular weakness, reduced oxygen uptake and joint stiffness are a few of the more common symptoms.
Muscular weakness may be the most preventable of the group, as studies have shown it's possible to retain significant muscular strength well into one's 60s and 70s.
Retaining strength after retirement can be tricky. That joint pain, the reduced aerobic capacity and other factors discourage older people from sticking with a consistent strength training regimen. To overcome this obstacle, the first thing we can do is eliminate the "no pain, no gain" philosophy that many have carried with them throughout life. Stop believing in that. It's false.
Strength training does not have to hurt to be effective, and there are many ways to challenge the muscles without adding fuel to a fire.
First, conduct a fair evaluation of injuries and discomforts. Are your hips sore? Skip the lunges and do leg extensions instead. Knee pain can also be a tricky problem. If you have sore knees, skip the leg extensions and perform step-ups instead.
There are hundreds of exercise alternatives available if a certain movement creates discomfort, so why subject oneself to pain?
If pain avoidance is goal No. 1, then injury avoidance should be a close second. Remember your limitations in terms of range of motion, overall strength and general capabilities.
For some reason, many new (or returning) exercisers of all ages believe that running is the best way to achieve their fitness goals. An otherwise sedentary individual laces up their sneakers for a run, and they are injured within the first 20 minutes. Why? Their bodies were not prepared for that level of intensity. Running is not right for everybody. Plan a program that respects who you are.
For older adults, I recommend a higher repetition range with slightly lower resistance levels — even if strength retention is the primary goal. Keep the repetitions high, between 12 and 15, and keep the intensity levels at 65% to 75% of your one repetition maximum. Most people will not know what their one repetition maximum is, so just make sure that the last few repetitions of every set are difficult to complete.
Remember, there is pain without gain and there is gain without pain, but without struggle there is no progress (Frederick Douglass).
This week's exercise is, of course, an ideal option for those looking to maintain muscular strength later in life. The shoulder muscles are notorious for weakening quickly, as daily tasks can be performed with little effort from the larger deltoid group.
The Med Ball Combo Raise is appropriate for all fitness levels, and can be done with little to no equipment. The number of repetitions relates to the weight of the medicine ball, so select a relatively lightweight ball.
1. Stand while holding a medicine ball with arms extended out in front of your chest.
2. Raise the ball straight up until it's directly over your head.
3. As you reach this position, bend both elbows so the medicine ball moves down and behind your head.
4. Once you're fully flexed with the elbows, extend them straight so the medicine ball is overhead again.
5. Slowly lower the ball back to the starting position — extended out in front of the chest.
6. Continue repeating this slow, controlled movement for 15 repetitions. Do two or three sets.
The Med Ball Combo Raise is an effective way to retain and improve shoulder strength without risk for injury. The movement is performed methodically, with attention to detail during both phases.
It's also a great option for those patio workout sessions that have become so popular over the past year. Enjoy!
Matt Parrott is glad to hear from readers. Send him questions or share a story about your pandemic workouts at