Think about an average day and all the ways we move throughout the day. Possibly there are some movements we feel weakness in, such as putting something heavy or awkwardly shaped up on a high shelf, or sliding the couch over to vacuum under it, or pulling weeds in our garden, or squatting down to pick up the grandkids. And maybe our endurance level is on the low side, and we tire easily. As we age strength and stamina decrease unless we challenge our muscles and cardiovascular system through exercise.
There are many exercises we can do to improve our overall self, but I’m going to focus on three kettlebell movements, the kettlebell deadlift, goblet squat, and suitcase carry. These three exercises also encourage grip and forearm strength which is important to maintain as we age.
One of the fundamental movements in kettlebell training is the kettlebell deadlift. This one exercise strengthens the entire posterior chain, the forearms, grip, and core.
How to do it
Stand with the kettlebell directly underneath you between your feet with the feet about shoulder width apart, a little more, or a little less depending on you, and angle the toes ever so slightly out, about 10 degrees. The kettlebell should be centered directly beneath you and lined up with your ankles.
Push the hips back while keeping the spine long (hip hinge), give a slight bend to the knees, keep the shins vertical and hook the kettlebell handle with the fingers. Be sure the hips are not above the shoulders while in this position. Keep the upper body engaged, shoulders down and back, and spine straight, chest and eyes forward, and push through the heels to stand up while squeezing the armpits and glutes on the way up. Stay braced in this tall position as if getting ready for a punch and do a quick exhale.
Reverse the movement to lower the kettlebell to the starting position, push the hips back, give a slight bend to the knees, spine long, chest and eyes forward aiming the kettlebell towards the ankles keeping the armpits squeezed and shoulders down (do not shrug). Don’t allow the shoulder blades to separate by rounding the upper back on the way down, keep the armpits tight and chest forward. Repeat for desired number of reps, about ten to fifteen, letting the kettlebell touch the floor each time.
Goblet squats are a great way to build leg strength while also strengthening the upper body, grip, and core.
How to do it
Stand tall and hold the kettlebell with the handle facing up in front of the chest keeping the arms and kettlebell close to the body. Feet are about shoulder width apart, find a stance that feels best for you as you squat down. Lower the body as far down as is comfortable while maintaining proper form which is to keep the spine straight and chest forward. Pause at the bottom, lengthen the collar bone by pushing the shoulders back and down, keeping the chest forward. The spine stays long from neck to tail bone, do not round the back, don’t tuck the tail bone, or stick it out, find your neutral spot. Pause a second or two in this position then stand up and do a quick exhale. Repeat for desired number of reps, about ten or twelve.
The suitcase carry is a moving exercise which builds strength with anti-rotation, while strengthening the core, forearm, and grip.
How to do it
Grab a kettlebell with one hand and stand tall while walking forward for 20 to 30 seconds. Stay tall throughout the movement keeping the shoulders back and chest forward. Do not let the weight of the kettlebell round the back or bend upper body to one side, the key is to stay tall and resist the pull of the kettlebell to get the full benefit of the movement. Breath normally and complete two or three times with each hand.
Now that you know how to do these simple and effective exercises aim for three to five sets a few times a week. Or perhaps put 30 minutes on the clock and do what you can within those 30 minutes.
We know it is not only difficult to find time for exercise but often we lack the energy to get it done, especially if we work a full-time job outside the home and have a family to take care of.
But over time the absence of a consistent exercise routine will lead to muscle loss and decreased mobility which leads to an unfavorable quality of life.
But we can stop this from happening or slow it down drastically by adhering to a basic strength training and cardio fitness program.
Below are five easy exercises to improve overall strength and body awareness which can be done in a short amount of time and when energy may be lacking. Include some cardio such as walking or hiking, or any activity you enjoy that will raise your heart rate a little higher than it normally is, it doesn’t take much effort to improve your fitness level and strengthen your body, the secret is consistency.
Do each exercise for 30 seconds resting for 15 to 30 seconds between exercises. Complete two to four rounds and aim for three to four times a week.
Box Squats – Sit down on a chair and stand back up again, keep the chest forward and push through feet to stand up.
Push Ups – On your knees or hands on a counter, or a full push up from the floor. Keep hands under shoulders and keep elbows at about a 45-degree angle.
Reverse Fly Squeeze – Stand tall with arms out in front of body shoulder height and palms facing up. Keeping arms straight move arms back and actively squeeze the shoulder blades together. Don’t let shoulders shrug during movement.
Plank Knee Taps – Get into a plank position on forearms, legs straight, keeping body straight bend knees and lightly tap knees to floor then straighten legs.
Four Point Arm and Leg Extension – Four-point position with hands and knees on floor and back flat. Extend right arm forward as you extend the left leg back pushing through the heel of the foot. Keep hips pointed towards the floor during the movement, alternate right, and left side.
Useful practical information and a workout or two...