People are creatures of habit, even when they exercise. Once they find a workout they enjoy, they tend to stick with it. However, if an exercise does not challenge you, it will not change you. To improve, you need to explore new workouts. Look for exercises you can use to create a total body strength protocol – a set of exercises that pushes your limits and builds muscle throughout the body.
Developing a Total Body Strength Protocol
When it comes to fitness, muscles and endurance are fundamental. In additional to making you look and feel better, strength training improves almost every aspect of your health.
- Muscle Mass. Lifting weights increases muscle mass. Muscles gradually shrink after middle age, but weight lifting can halt or even reverse this trend.
- Bone Strength. Strength training increase bone density, which consequently helps prevent osteoporosis and reduces risk of fractures.
- Flexibility. Stronger muscles allows a fuller range of motion. Building muscles also takes pressure off your joints, which helps reduce arthritis symptoms.
- Weight. Muscle boosts metabolism and burns more calories, so it is easier to keep your weight under control.
- Balance. Strengthening your legs and core improves balance, as well as reducing risk of falls.
- Outlook. People with a total body strength protocol also report better mental health, including more confidence, better self esteem, and greater optimism.
Strength training allows seniors to remain active and independent. However, to be effective, a total body strength protocol needs to include exercises that improve:
- Muscular Strength
- Cardiovascular Strength
- Core Stability Strength
So, let’s get explore ways to implement body strength into our workout routine.
1. Muscular Strength – Time Under Tension Method
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “muscle mass, strength, and metabolic function is not only necessary for exercise, but also for the activities of everyday life.”
Because COVID-19 has restricted access to gyms, many of us do not have the equipment necessary to engage in progressive overload, the traditional method of strength training. Time under tension is an alternative way to build muscle. Rather than increasing the amount of weight you lift, time under tension increases the amount of time your muscle spend lifting.
By slowing down the the eccentric (stretch), isometric (pause) and concentric (flex or squeeze) phases, you create more micro tears in the muscle. The longer the muscle has to work, the more muscle fibers are used, and the more muscle mass you build. As shown above, the goal is to squeeze and hold the weight with every rep.
So long as you are increasing the amount of time the muscle has to work, time under tension can be used with any exercise – for example, squats.
Take 3 seconds to drop down to your desired depth (glutes below the knees) and pause for 2 seconds before coming back up. You can make them more challenging by counting to three as you’re coming up, so that your legs work longer before returning to starting position.
With this method, the time it takes for 1 rep (8 seconds) is about the time it takes for a person to finish a set of 10 traditional squats. The added time breaks the muscle down further and is a great alternative when heavy weighs are unavailable.
Moral of the story: slow down, pause, and squeeze!
2. Cardiovascular Strength – Interval Training
Cardiovascular strength is the second component of total body strength. The cardiovascular or circulatory system is made up of the heart and blood vessels. Its primary function is to deliver oxygen and nutrients, remove waste products, and maintain fluid balance.
A strong cardiovascular system:
- Makes the heart more efficient
- Decreases risk of heart disease
- Strengthens the immune system
- Improves cholesterol levels
- Lowers blood pressure
COVID-19 has limited access to common cardiovascular equipment – treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, etc. However, too many people forget they don’t need equipment for cardio exercise. Any activity that gets your heart rate up will work.
One great way to strengthen your cardiovascular system without cardio machines is interval training.
Interval Training Explained
Interval training alternates between high bursts of energy and short periods of rest. Research shows that 20-minutes of interval training increases fitness and burns more calories than 20-minutes of steady-state cardio like walking. Furthermore, this type of training challenges both your anaerobic and aerobic systems, which improves power and endurance.
How to Interval Train
Creating a 15-30-minute interval training workout is easy. Each interval consists of 30 second to 2 minutes of high intensity movement followed by a 30 to 60 second rest period. The length of each interval depends on your fitness level. Try to keep them consistent across your entire workout.
Here’s an example of a 15-minute interval training workout:
- Warm-Up (5 Minutes)
- Jumping Jacks (90 Seconds ⇒ 30 second Rest)
- Running in Place (90 Seconds ⇒ 30 second Rest)
- Jump Squats (90 Seconds ⇒ 30 second Rest)
- Burpees (90 Seconds ⇒ 30 second Rest)
- Mountain climbers (90 Seconds ⇒ 30 second Rest)
Repeat x2 for a 30-minute cardio crushing workout!
3. Core Stabilization Training – Restore and Recover
Core stability is the third component of total body strength. A strong core allows you to control body movements, transfer force, minimize strain, and allows the lower back, abdomen, hips, and pelvis to work together effectively.
As a results of COVID-19, many people have become more sedentary now that gyms are closed and they are working from home. This inactive lifestyle is detrimental to their health. It can cause stiff joints, muscle deterioration, bad posture, osteoporosis, and increases risk of chronic illnesses.
Further, a weak core can lead to:
- Difficulty Moving
- Lower Back Pain
- Decreased Endurance
- Poor Balance
- Structural Imbalances
Ultimately, strong core muscles decreases your risk of injury and makes daily activities easier and more comfortable.
How To Strengthen Your Core
The best exercises for core strength are:
- Dead Bug
- Leg Raises
- Hip Dips
- Bicycle Crunches
- Bird Dogs
Another way to build core strength is through yoga and Pilates.
Many assume that yoga and Pilates are basically identical. However, even though they are similar in some ways – they both activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system) – they promote different types of fitness. For example, yoga is slower-paced and focuses on flexibility whereas Pilates is faster and focuses on core strength.
There are several types of yoga and Pilates.
- Vinyasa. The most athletic style. Coordinates movements with breath to flow smoothly from one pose to the next.
- Yin. Slow-paced, with seated postures held for long periods.
- Hatha. Less intense than other styles and therefore one of the best for beginners.
- Iyengar. Focuses on precise, detailed movements. Particularly good for people recovering from injuries.
- Restorative. Aims to clear mind and body, so one of the most relaxing.
- Classical. Incorporates mats and equipment to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body.
- Mat. Performed only on mats. Surprisingly good for back pain.
- Reformer. Uses a machine called a reformer, as well as straps, springs, and rope for additional resistance.
- Contemporary. Has modified the classical exercises and added new ones, so it offers more variety.
- Scott. Different from other types because it includes stability balls, foam rollers, and inflatable pods to improve balance.
Try a few different types before settling on one. You may even find it helpful to switch between different types as your needs change.
Total Body Strength Protocol: The Takeaway
There is no one superior form of physical activity. Nevertheless, developing a total body strength protocol is essential for fitness, health, and independence. Regardless of what you choose, make sure it includes all three components:
- Muscular Strength
- Cardiovascular Strength
- Core Stability Strength
Remember: If it does not challenge you, it will not change you!
For more tips on leading a health, independent life, visit the Parentis Health & Wellness page.
Jasmine El Nabli MS RDN is a Registered Dietitian who empowers and educates individuals through her scientific, holistic approach to health and happiness. With the right tools, skills, and knowledge, she shows people how to create healthy and sustainable eating habits through small changes to daily life.