Easy Senior Strength Exercises?
Many years ago, research done at the Max Planck Institute, demonstrated that muscle strength could be increased optimally by following a certain method using isometric exercises.
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Isometric Exercises - Easy Senior Strength Exercises?
by Donovan Baldwin
I am 75 years old and do isometric exercises almost every day. But, you are asking, what are isometric exercises?
Unlike many other exercises with which you may be familiar, isometric exercises are done, instead of by moving things around, such as lifting weights or pulling against resistance, or even by body weight exercises, such as push ups, by trying instead to move things...that don't move.
In fact, that's what the word 'isometric' means essentially..."not moving".
Years ago, a man named Angelo Siciliano, created an exercise program which was built around these kind of static, or isometric, exercises. He called his isometric exercise based program "Dynamic Tension". If you have heard of him, you probably remember him by his professional name, Charles Atlas, which he legally changed his name to in 1922. Millions of people from around the world have participated in his physical development program over several decades, and many of his pupils have sworn as to their efficacy.
However, even more important, is that many years ago, major research performed at the Max Planck Institute, showed that muscle strength could be increased optimally by following a certain method using isometric exercises.
Research showed that, if a muscle fiber is stressed (tensed) to three-quarters of its optimum ability daily for seven seconds, it would grow at an optimum rate. Different studies have introduced other figures, including one that "muscle strength could be increased as much as 300% in only 30 days", but they all agree that isometric exercises can result in rapid muscle strength and growth.
While my personal experiences, strengthened by what I have read and studied over the last few decades convinces me that isometric exercises can be of particular value to the senior exerciser, I honestly don't really believe that you are going to increase your strength by 300% in 30 days, no matter how hard you train with ANY exercise method.
THE FACTS ABOUT ISOMETRIC EXERCISE
I believe I can honestly say that they do work, but, not to the degree that many, most of whom are trying to sell some product or course would have you believe. Remember that part above about "...if a muscle fiber..."? Well, a muscle, such as the bicep, the pectoral muscle, or the quadriceps, is made up of "bundles" of muscle fibers. When you exercise a muscle, while the fibers ARE participating, you are probably NOT working all to the same degree at the same time!
Additionally, many "muscles" are actually made up of two, or more, muscle groups tasked with performing specific actions. For example, if you do a bicep curl with your palm up, you are exercising a specific portion of the "biceps muscle". If, however, you do the same exercise with your palm down, you will find that you are not able to move as much weight, and a different portion of the bicep muscle group will be doing the work.
Add to this the fact that, as your biceps muscle moves through the curl, different bundles of muscle fibers will be stressed.
One of the more popular of the better known isometric exercises, done to develop the upper arm, biceps and triceps, involves holding your hands in front of your body and trying to curl one arm up (biceps - front of arm) while the other trys to keep it from moving (triceps - back of arm). To effectively exercise all the muscle fibers involved in actually moving either arm, you would have to perform the exercise with the hands at different positions throughout the possible arc of the curl...
...and then switch the positions of your hands and do it again.
The good news is that you only have to hold each resisting movement (or non-movement, I guess) for seven seconds. This is what many use to sell their exercise program.
The bad news is that, in order to get a full body workout, you will have to repeat this for the entire body, and, to tell the truth, I would rather dig out my dumbbells and resistance bands, do a few pushups and crunches, take a walk, and call it a day.
You must keep in mind that isometric exercises primarily DO WORK TO DEVELOP MUSCLE STRENGTH. You can use them to help you get started with an exercise program, fill in spots in a exercise program where you have few other options, or as a means of getting certain aspects of exercise in situations where you might not normally have the opportunity to do a formal exerise program.
After all, NASA has taught astronauts how to use isometric exercises to help maintain muscle tone and bone density while in a zero gravity environment. Disciplines such as yoga and Pilates make use of isometrics as a part of their conditioning process.
It's just that relying on them for all your exercise needs is not too realistic.
DRAWBACKS TO ISOMETRIC EXERCISES
You mean those weren't the drawbacks?
To be healthy and physically fit, you do need three different kinds of exercise... flexibility exercises, strength building exercises, and endurance, or good cardio exercises. Unfortunately, isometric exercises tend to only build strength, without much effect on the other areas. So, if you are serious about weight loss, for example, or simply want to be healthier, you still need to do the other types of exercise anyway.
In fact, it IS possible to try so hard to move an immovable object that you could injure yourself badly.
There's a lot more you could say about isometrics, both positive and negative, but I'm going to stop here.
MY THOUGHTS ON ISOMETRIC EXERCISE
Personally, I do isometric exercises in one form or another, including yoga, almost every day. However, I have found that I get the most benefits of isometric exercises by making them a part of my overall exercise program. I have also found that I seem to get results without having to "go to the max" every time. Simply putting the muscle into a stressed situation, contracted against resistance, for seven to ten seconds seems to work just fine, at least for me. My workouts may never get me to the Olympics, but it does help to keep me, age 75, in pretty good physical condition.
USING ISOMETRICS TO START A SENIOR EXERCISE PROGRAM
This is why I say that they may be excellent exercises for the senior exerciser, particularly if he or she has not been exercising regularly recently.
P.S. Recent research has indicated that isometric exercises, especially of the forearms, can help lower blood pressure!
P. S. If you want to learn more about why Diets Don't Work, please click here.
If you want to learn how to burn fat, a great program is the Burn the Fat Body Transformation Program by Tom Venuto, author of "Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle".