Men Over 50 Can Improve Their Physique with Muscle Balance and Flexibility!
Senior athletes enjoy favorite sports more when fit
To be sure, senior bone health is critically important, and an added benefit to resistance training is increased bone density, but our skeletons, and thus our bodies, are nothing without a very strong, flexible muscle base.
Yoga instructors often talk about not “settling into your joints” meaning that our muscles should carry our weight, not our joints. This is really a key concept in understanding the importance of a strong muscle base for those seeking to become masters athletes. For most of us, our joints have several decades of use on them, and if our muscle base is allowed to decline then the joints must bear more weight, stress, and wear.
Conversely, when our muscles are strong they act to “lift” our body weight off of the joints and we in fact become more fluid, graceful, and physically capable of doing whatever we want to do for many, many years – and we also then put less wear and tear on our joints.
Try it, stand up right now with your normal posture. Now act as if you have a string attached to the top of your head and someone is pulling up on it, lifting the weight off of your feet. Do you feel it? It’s awesome, you can literally feel the weight coming off of your joints and your posture aligning more straightly, it feels like the force of gravity is reduced.
Now imagine if all your muscles were twice as strong as they are now what it would feel like. Imagine how much less wear and tear you’d have on your spine and on all of your weight-bearing joints. It should make you feel like you want to get in the gym and start working.
It’s important to think of our bodies as one complete, holistic muscle system. For example, when we walk or run, think of how the leg moves us forward. It’s really not separate leg muscles acting independently, it’s a beautiful, incredibly complex combination beginning with the glutes connecting to your lower back and your upper thigh, your hamstring running down below your knee, your calve running from above your knee to the back of your foot, and your foot muscles running from your heel up to the ball of your foot.
Get up right now and walk around. Feel that you have many muscles combining as one complete system from your lower back to the ball of your foot that all work together as one. Now think of your entire body as one system. When we strengthen all parts of the system, the entire body moves better, this is key to understanding the importance of muscle strength.
And so like any system, balance and harmony is critical, and your muscle strength and flexibility must be balanced to work at its best. That’s because for every muscle we have an opposite muscle or muscle group to balance it out. A muscle can contract by shortening, or it can slow the speed of movement by elongating at a controlled rate. So if a muscle wants to contract but its opposite muscle is shorter or weaker, things can get screwed up. Other muscles may have to get involved, extra stress may be placed on the joints. When you apply that to, say, your shoulders or your lower back, it becomes very important to incorporate a) stretching and flexibility, and b) balanced strength and muscle development.
Most of the joints in our bodies are stabilized and controlled by groups of muscles, often referred to as muscle complexes. They all work together, sometimes firing together, sometimes firing in synchronized ways where they hand off stress and load in wonderfully coordinated ways. And like any system or chain, muscle complexes are only as strong as their weakest link, and very often injuries causing inflammation or outright muscle or tendon tears comes from these imbalances, where a stronger muscle overpowers a weaker or a less flexible muscle, or the stress “ hand off” from a strong muscle overpowers a weaker muscle.
So the key message here is balance and flexibility – make sure your muscle development incorporates all aspects of movement range so that all parts of your body are strong, not just the showy stuff like biceps and chest, but also key areas like the rear deltoids (back shoulder) and core stabilizers, and that stretching and flexibility not only hit obvious areas like calves and hamstrings, but also includes less obvious areas like hip flexors and pectorals.
This takes practice! Do some homework here and/or do some yoga classes because an entire book could be written on this subject -I’m only trying to make you aware of its importance.
Neglect muscle balance and flexibility and you not only risk injury, more importantly you won’t get the most out of your incredibly beautiful muscular system – it’s one of life’s great gifts!
For more information on weight loss and fitness for men over 50, check out our groundbreaking work in BestFit50.