In today's Nov. 1, 2010 newsletter . . .

  • What Constitutes a Balanced Workout?

  • A Prescription for Achy Shoulders

What Constitutes a Balanced Workout?

I was interviewed not long ago by Amelia Burton, a well known Sydney, Australia health club owner and popular media personality down under. One of her questions to me was a common one fitness followers everywhere wrestle with. It is the subject of today’s newsletter.

Amelia: "People refer to three main types of exercise, strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility. Do you suggest over 50’s focus on one of the above, or all, and in what ratio?"

Logan: "I believe all three are important. Generally, I suggest more emphasis on strength training because it is the withering away of muscle that is the most debilitating as we age. The medical people refer to it as "sarcopenia." There are exceptions, of course. Some people may be particularly weak or at risk in some way that indicates the emphasis should be on cardiovascular exercise, for example. Usually, though, I’d prioritize it this way: 1) strength; 2) cardio; and 3) flexibility. But there would be some portion of each one."

I stand by my answer to Amelia's question. However, there is one other factor I failed to mention, and that is the particular goal of the individual. Here is what I mean. Each of us may get special pleasure from a particular form of exercise or recreation; while at the same time we may not be attracted at all to other kinds. I have known runners, for example, who live for long runs in the woods, but cringe at the thought of a mere five minutes of post-workout stretching.

And of course gym members have known or heard about power lifters who would rather have their teeth drilled without Novocain than jog. If you happen to enjoy strength training and cardiovascular work and stretching, you are truly blessed. You may also be an anomaly.

So there is nothing unusual or wrong with enjoying one particular form of exercise and also having distaste for certain others. Yet balanced fitness requires some measure all three components – strength, cardio and flexibility - to be valid. The distance runner may never embrace piling 45 pound plates on the Olympic bar for dead lifts. But to be truly fit, he or she must practice some form of strength training at least two days per week. And the power lifter should be revving up his heart rate with some form of training with three-days-per-week regularity. Both should also work in some flexibility movements.

There are many ways to achieve balance. The sports specialist, generally a disciplined athlete anyway, with the help of a trainer or coach, will program in the less desirable aspects of training in his or her workouts. It will get done. And with a degree creativity it can become, if not exciting, at least palatable.

For the fitness generalist, the assignment is really easy. One way, as an example, is through workouts that incorporate strength, cardio and stretching in a circuit. That is, organizing a group of resistance exercises along with some stretching movements and then moving from one station to the next with little or no rest between them.

Whatever arrangements you make to achieve balance, don’t lose sight of the fact that as we age it is most often the loss of strength and muscle that steals away functionality and eventually one’s independence. So never neglect resistance training. Lift weights or use resistance bands and/or do bodyweight calisthenics. Your main objective as you age is to minimize sarcopenia. Resistance training is the key to doing it.

A Prescription for Achy Shoulders

I gave up bench pressing years ago and never looked back. Like most people who train, the bench press had been a staple in my routines. When my shoulders started giving me problems, I thought too much overhead pressing might be the reason. I was wrong. Through workout trial and error I learned it was the bench press.

But I didn’t quit bench pressing cold turkey. First, I tried switching from barbells to dumbbells (it did help some) and then going from flat to slightly inclined benches. But soreness never went away completely. Finally, I said enough is enough and I switched to doing push-ups. Please don’t ask me to explain the physiological reason why push-ups did not have the same effect on me as bench presses. After all, push-ups seem like the same movement except that you are face-down instead of face-up. Regardless, my shoulder soreness went away and has not returned.

For variety, I do all kinds of push-ups besides the standard military style (I could almost hear my drill instructor from a half-century ago shouting, "Give me 20, boy!"). I also do them with weights on my back. I do them alligator style. I do them with resistance bands across my back. And one that I especially like is the Dive Bomber variety. It really works everything from your hips to the top of your head. Does it bother my shoulders? Not one bit. Take a look at Dive Bombers here. You may discover an exercise you’ll want to include in your own training, achy shoulders or not. It's a good one.

You've probably heard about the tremendous benefits of weight training and how you can retain -- or even reclaim -- the attributes of youth . . . Discover the way with . . .

Gray Iron: A Fitness Guide for Senior Men and Women

Newsletter Policy

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.

Like newspapers, magazines and television, the newsletter and web site contain advertising and marketing links. I receive payment for ads or commissions when people buy advertised products or services.

The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you. Your comments and questions are always appreciated.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter