Strengthen Your Legs Without Weights
By: Dr. Beth Templin
As you age, you can lose 3-5% of your muscle strength each year. That may not seem like much, but when you think about 10 years, that's a 30% loss. Losing your muscle strength is part of the normal aging process, but how quickly it happens is directly related to how active you are.
In order to keep as much of your muscle strength as possible, it's important to make sure you are participating in strength training 2-3 times a week.
The good news is you don't have to have any fancy gym equipment in order to accomplish this. You can perform what is known as bodyweight strengthening activities. These exercises focus on using your own body weight as the main resistance to build muscle strength and endurance.
Similar to any strength program, you want to make sure you have a rest day planned in between your workout days. To achieve improved strength, you need to work hard enough during your training session to put the muscle under stress. During your rest days, your body will repair the muscle tissue, which makes the muscle stronger in the process.
Weights vs Bodyweight Training
With traditional strengthening, the target is to perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions. Once that weight feels easy, the next step would be increasing the free weight or the weight on the machine in order to make progress.
With body weight training, the way you continue to build strength is different. Instead of increasing the weight, you can increase the number of repetitions from 10 to 20, or you can increase the sets from 2 to 3. Another option is to train to failure, meaning performing the exercise until you cannot do another repetition. The overall goal is to increase repetitions of the same movement.
Benefits of body weight training over using weights include improving your muscle control and coordination more than you would when using machines. This has added benefits, particularly when looking at other areas of fitness such as flexibility and balance.
Another benefit of body weight training is you are not placing additional pressure on your joints. When you use the leg press machine to strengthen your thighs and butt, you add more pressure on your hips, knees and back every time you increase the weight.
With a body weight training exercise, like a sit to stand, you simply increase the reps. This better protects the joints from additional stress, allowing you to strengthen your muscles without flaring up any aches or pains in the joints.
Bodyweight Options For The Legs
The most common exercises for leg strengthening are squats, sit-to-stands, lunges and step-ups. While these are all great options, I want to focus this month on one that is very practical for aging adults - kneeling.
We find that many people struggle more with getting up and down from the floor as they age. They also have difficulty moving around while on the floor, which can be limiting.
The ability to kneel opens up a whole new world of activities that you may be completely ruling out in your life; such as gardening or playing with grandkids. Just imagine what it would be like to do these things with increased confidence. It can add a new feeling of joy that you didn’t realize you were missing out on. If you're ready to take on our body weight kneeling strengthening activity, check out Dr. Kim's exercise of the month by clicking HERE.
❤ Dr. Beth
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Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.