It is generally well known that we lose bone mass as we age; a phenomenon that affects women more than men and that far too often results in bones that are weak and prone to break, especially in the hips, wrists and shoulders.
Although in many cases surgical procedures now produce excellent results (we have a number of clients that have returned to running after hip replacements), unfortunately too many people don´t fully recover from the stress of the operation and never regain the quality of life that they previously enjoyed. In the worst cases, this leads to a sometimes rapid decline in general health and an untimely death.
It is widely accepted that weight-bearing exercise helps to slow bone loss and may even in some cases be able to reverse it, which is why “cardio” exercise such as walking and running (in moderation) can be very beneficial. However, when it comes to targeting the bones of the shoulders and arms, strength training is essential. Such exercises can also enhance the benefits of the weight-bearing cardio activity on other joints, probably because the effect of the tendons pulling on the bones stimulates bone repair or growth.
Equipment such as free weights, machines, resistance bands and medicine balls can all play a part in making strength training fun (or at least more fun!); however, you don´t have to invest in equipment or join a gym to do strength training. Body weight can also provide an effective training medium. If dedicating time to strength training really doesn´t appeal, adding a few press-ups to your daily routine is a great place to start.
When that becomes a habit, you can look at adding more exercises and developing your programme.
But, how do you start doing press-ups when you can´t even do one?!
Simple, do five!
I recommend not doing press-ups on your knees, as very few people ever progress from there to the full exercise and therefore never reap all of the benefits of this “whole body” exercise. Instead, try this:
Adopt the standard press up position – lie with the body raised off the floor, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, arms extended and body straight.
Keeping the body straight, bend the elbows and lower the shoulders and hips towards the floor – But, only go as low as you can to be sure that you are going to be able to do five repetitions. If that means that you only flex the elbows one inch, great! Do five “1-inch press-ups” every time you get the chance.
With this approach, you will find that you quickly progress to making the last of your five press-ups two inches, then three, then four and so on until you can do five full ones.
After that, keep adding repetitions until you can do twenty. You will be surprised how quickly you will progress with just a little bit of effort.
A few words on correct form:
Before starting the exercises, “activate the core” by lifting the chest, drawing in the stomach slightly and tightening the muscles of the butt (the “glutes”).
When the arms are in the fully extended position, the shoulder blades should be “open”. As you lower the body towards the ground, you should feel the shoulder blades move together.
Hold the head level. Fix the gaze slightly forward and actively engage the neck muscles to keep the head from dropping.
Breathe in on the way down and out on the way up.