Remaining athletic, highly capable and active as life progresses is essential to reducing the risk of injury and preserving health. Below are 10 ways to ensure that your workouts are helping you to remain athletic, highly capable and healthy for as long as possible.
1. Stay consistent with your soft tissue work, warm up and mobility drills.
The most common reason people do not feel athletic and / or decrease their activity level is that they are not able to get into the positions/postures necessary to meet the demands of their life. It is much easier to do a little work to preserve mobility than it is to lose it, and have to work to get it back. Foam rolling and 20 minutes of mobility work per day goes a long way in keeping you moving well.
2. Do a small amount basic plyometrics
It is important to preserve the tolerance of your soft tissues, and the ability to effectively use the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). The stretch-shortening cycle is the elastic springy quality of the body’s soft tissues that is critical to power development. Maintaining the ability to be powerful is important to reduce the risk of injury for everyone. The appropriate exercise selection and dose of low-level plyometric work: side shuffles, skipping, carioca, and backpedaling, power output and an active life. The best bet is to include these drills right after the warm-up and prior to starting resistance training.
3. Emphasize full-body exercises that teach / encourage transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body.
Deadlifts, squats, and cable chop and lift variations accomplish this task, but push presses, landmine presses, and rotational rows are also great options. The key is to select an exercise that matches your current capabilities and progress to more advanced choices as your capabilities improve.
4. Emphasize ground-to-standing transitions.
Turkish Get-ups are the most well-known example of this challenge, but additional movement options certainly exist.
5. Get strong in single-leg stance.
The two-legged version of squats and deadlifts will get you strong, but don’t forget that a big portion of athletics at all levels and life’s daily activities require the ability to maintain a single-leg stance and balance. Lunges, single leg RDLs, step-ups, and split squats all deserve a place in just about everyone’s training programs.
6. Use core exercises that force you to resist low back extension, flexion and rotation.
Efficient movement is all about moving in the right places, and resisting movement in the right places. The lower back is not the place to move. Prioritize creating movement at the hips and upper back. With that in mind, your core work should be focused on resisting extension (too much lower back arching), resisting flexion (too much flattening or rounding) and resisting rotation (twisting at the low back).
7. Train in multiple planes of motion
It’s important to master the sagittal (straight ahead) plane first with your training programs, but once you get proficient there, it is extremely beneficial to progress to strength work in the frontal (left to right) and transverse (rotational) planes.
8. Throw medicine balls!
Once you have established sufficient mobility, stability, movement quality, and strength, medicine ball work can be highly effective. During a correctly executed rotational med ball throw, the power should come predominantly from the legs and hips – which means that it should be transmitted through a stable core, so that the energy will be appropriately transmitted the upper body to drive rotational force to the chest and shoulders to the arms and the ball. This sequencing is no different than lifting a bag of groceries, swinging a golf club, or going up on your tip-toes to grab something on the top shelf. If you move in the wrong areas (low back), you’ll eventually wind up with back pain – but if you’ve handled the rotational challenges of medicine ball workouts with perfect technique, you will be prepared for daily activities.
9. Be fast on your concentric.
If you want to stay fast, you need to keep a fast element in your strength training program. Taking it a step further, you can always make a dedicated effort to always accelerate and initiate movement with good speed on the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement. Proper technique must be maintained at any speed.
The old adage, “Variety is the spice of life” applies to fitness and athleticism, too. Don’t be afraid to have some fun. The longer you have been training, the more you realize that your strength and conditioning programs have to be versatile enough to preserve your athleticism and functional capacity while still keeping training fun.
It is imperative to understand and respect your current capabilities and only implement training components and exercises that your body can safely handle. Applying appropriate progressions at the right time are key to safely make progress.
Would you like to learn more about how to keep yourself moving well and moving often in every stage of life? Email me. Being aware of the joint by joint approach, and giving the body the mobility and stability, it requires at the appropriate joints enhances your performance and reduces your risk of injury while meeting the demands of life and sport.