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Improving Your Strength

Exercise for Seniors

Even very small changes in muscle size can make a big difference in strength, especially in people who already have lost a lot of muscle. An increase in muscle that's not even visible to the eye can be all it takes to improve your ability to do things like get up from a chair or climb stairs.

Sleeping Your muscles are active even when you are sleeping. Their cells are still doing the routine activities they need to do to stay alive. This work is called metabolism, and it uses up calories. That can help keep your weight in check, even when you are asleep!

About Strength Exercises

Using Dumbbells To do most of the strength exercises we'll be sharing, you need to lift or push weights, and gradually you need to increase the amount of weight you use. You can use the hand and ankle weights sold in sporting goods stores, or you can use things like emptied milk jugs filled with sand or water, or socks filled with beans and tied shut at the ends.

There are many alternatives to the exercises shown here. For example, you can buy a resistance band, also known as therabands (it looks like a giant rubber band, and stretching it helps build muscle) at a sporting goods store to do other types of strength exercises. Or you can use the special strength training equipment at a fitness center.

How Muscles Work

Making a Muscle Larger What makes your muscles look bigger when you flex them - when you "make a muscle" with your biceps, for example?

Muscle cells contain long strands of protein lying next to each other. When you want your muscles to move, your brain signals your nerves to stimulate them. A chemical reaction in your muscles follows, causing the long strands of protein to slide toward and over each other, shortening the length of your muscle cells. When you "make a muscle" and you see your muscle bunch up and bulge, you are actually watching it shorten as the protein strands slide over each other.

When you do challenging muscle building exercises on a regular basis, the bundles of protein strands inside your muscle cells grow bigger.

How Much, How Often

Do strength exercises for all of your major muscle groups at least twice a week. Don't do strength exercises of the same muscle group on any 2 days in a row.

Depending on your condition, you might need to start out using as little as 1 or 2 pounds of weight, or no weight at all. The tissues that bind the structures of your body together need to adapt to strength exercises.

Use a minimum of weight the first week, then gradually add weight. Starting out with weights that are too heavy can cause injuries.

Gradually add a challenging amount of weight in order to benefit from strength exercises. If you don't challenge your muscles, you won't benefit from strength exercises.

When doing a strength exercise, do 8 to 15 repetitions in a row. Wait a minute, then do another set of 8 to 15 repetitions in a row of the same exercise. (Tip: While you are waiting, you might want to stretch the muscle you just worked or do a different strength exercise that uses a different set of muscles).

Take 3 seconds to lift or push a weight into place; hold the position for 1 second, and take another 3 seconds to lower the weight. Don't let the weight drop; lowering it slowly is very important.

It should feel somewhere between hard and very hard (15 to 17 on the Borg scale) for you to lift or push the weight. It should not feel very, very hard. If you can't lift or push a weight 8 times in a row, it's too heavy for you. Reduce the amount of weight. If you can lift a weight more than 15 times in a row, it's too light for you. Increase the amount of weight.

Stretch after strength exercises, when your muscles are warmed up. If you stretch before strength exercises, be sure to warm up your muscles first (through light walking and arm pumping, for example).

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Disclaimer: The material on this Web site is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or fitness professional. Please consult with your physician before beginning any fitness program or fat or weight reduction program. FitnessandFreebies.com takes no responsibility for individual results, or any claim made by a third party.