Fitness Changes: By Age

Fitness Changes: By Age

Our bodies manage a lot. They bear a lifetime of stress, fall into and recover from illness, battle chronic ailments, take bruises, breaks, falls, and burns, and power through long workdays on 2 hours of sleep. Our bodies take it all, and eventually, our system tells us it’s time to take it easy.  

When does the body really start to experience physical limitations, and how does our age affect our fitness endeavors? Let’s find out and talk about some ways to keep your body going strong. 

In Your 30’s

By age 30, and despite the fact that we just barely made it out of our 20’s, many of us get a head start on the “I’m getting old” complaints. Perhaps jokingly and perhaps not. According to a study on aerobic capacity in aging adults, fitness levels begin to decline 3% to 6% every decade starting around age 20.1 So, by age 30, you may technically have experienced a mild age-related change in your physical fitness, but not enough to make a noticeable difference.  

However, age is not the only factor. Our reduced physical fitness often has to do with changes to our lifestyle habits or diseases.2 As we age, we encounter life changes and assume responsibilities we never had, which can potentially lead to a lot more sedentary time. Naturally, the less active you are, the more difficult many physical activities will feel.  

That being said, Tip #1 is to take a moment to recognize any decrease in physical activity and to commit to reintroducing some of it into your life.  

From Age 40 to 69

Here, we embark on that part of our lifetime we know as “middle age.” Commonly associated with mid-life crises, hair loss, and a slowing metabolism, it’s not typically a very welcome stage. Allow us to assuage your fears.  

This study examined the performance of marathon runners ranging from the ages of 20 to 79. The results show that “no significant age-related decline in performance appears before age 55.”2 This is about halfway through your period of middle age.  

Once you hit 55, you don’t suddenly begin to struggle. The same study reveals that only a moderate decline is observable in their runners after this age. In fact, “25% of the 65- to 69-year-old runners were faster than 50% of the 20- to 54-year-old runners.”2 Even more impressive is the fact that the same percentage of 65- to 69-year-old runners began marathon training within the previous 5 years.2 This should prove that their success was not a result of a lifetime of conditioning. Despite starting their training around age 60 or later, their bodies were capable of outperforming younger runners.  

Tip #2: It’s never too late to start, so start! Need more incentive? Another study found that even untrained individuals, who had never taken up sports until after reaching the age of 50, “were able to halve their mortality risk compared with their non-active peers.”2 

Age 70 and Up

Now we enter older adulthood where our aerobic capacity declines more quickly. Most older adults will see a decline of about 20% every 10 years starting around age 70.1 Fear not, however. Even if your maximal oxygen uptake is reduced, you are still capable of improving your aerobic fitness and of improving your muscle strength, balance, and flexibility.  

For example, this study on balance training in older adults found that regular balance and strength training was capable of restoring performance to a level like that of someone 3 to 10 years younger.3  

Not to mention, the power of exercise remains highly beneficial for the body and is often prescribed to older adults. In fact, this study found that “the life expectancy of active seniors was 3.8 years longer than that of their non-active peers.2 

Tip #3: Don’t allow yourself to believe that your age means you cannot be physically active. Many of our older members are living proof that age is just a number. Check out #3 of our Workout Excuses article to see exactly what we mean. Additionally, many workouts are tailored specifically to older adults who need a safe and gradual starting point. A doctor can help you make the right activity choices if you’re looking to take up exercise but have felt unable to do so. 

For more articles like this one, click to subscribe to our newsletter and receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

Sources

  1. Fleg, Jerome L., et al. “Accelerated Longitudinal Decline of Aerobic Capacity in Healthy Older Adults.” Circulation, 25 July 2005, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.105.545459 
  2. Leyk, Dieter, et al. “Physical Performance in Middle Age and Old Age: Good News for Our Sedentary and Aging Society.” Deutsches Arzteblatt International, Deutscher Arzte Verlag, Nov. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2999945/. 
  3. Wolfson, Leslie, et al. “Balance and Strength Training in Older Adults: Intervention Gains and Tai Chi Maintenance – Wolfson – 1996 – Journal of the American Geriatrics Society – Wiley Online Library.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), 27 Apr. 2015, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1532-5415.1996.tb01433.x 
How to Transition from Machines to Free Weights

How to Transition from Machines to Free Weights

Machines vs Free Weights 

Machines

Machines and free weights each have their advantages. Machines are great for people who need a bit more guidance. They support your body, usually have a seat and backrest, and they guide your movement which helps you learn how a specific exercise is supposed to feel. They’re great for people who are just starting out and need the direction a machine can provide.  

Both a benefit and a drawback of machines is that, often, they will isolate a single muscle. This can be great if you’re looking for a more targeted workout, but you’ll have to do a lot more exercises on a bunch of different machines to work more than one muscle group. The strength you gain from machines is also not very functional, but this may not be a concern if your focus is on aesthetics. 

Free Weights

Free weights are great for people who are looking to exercise multiple muscle groups at once. Because different muscles come into play to stabilize the weight as you move it, you get a more complete workout from one exercise. A drawback is that you are sometimes limited by what you can lift off the rack or by your grip strength. Your legs may be ready to squat more weight, for example, but your arms may not be ready to carry those couple extra pounds.  

The strength you gain from free weights is highly functional because your muscles are allowed to move naturally. You have the benefit of engaging parts of a muscle you normally wouldn’t engage on a machine, even though you’re doing a similar exercise. 

If you’re looking to transition from machines to free weights, we’re about to tell you how. There are some important precautions and considerations that can help make the transition easier and safer. 

Free Weights Don’t Weigh the Same

This sounds a bit ridiculous. How is squatting 250-pounds on a Smith machine (assisted squat machine) not the same as squatting a 250-pound barbell? Well, the answer is in the mechanics of the machine. Machines guide your muscles through a very linear motion. Your body doesn’t have to work to stabilize the weight (to keep it from tipping more one way than the other, etc.). Because of that, you don’t need to put as much effort into moving the weight that’s connected to a machine. 

>> When you transition from machines to free weights, you need to start significantly lighter and build your way up to find your working weight.  

Master Your Form First

The thing about machines is they stick you into a certain form. It’s great if you’ve never done a particular exercise and you need to know what it should look and feel like. However, once you step away from the machine, it’s all different. Your body will want to move differently to compensate for the position of your hands and feet and where the dumbbells or barbell happen to be resting. You may also notice that you have one arm or leg that is stronger than the other and that it is doing more of the work. This can also set the weight into a different balance that your stabilizing muscles will have to make up for. 

>> When you decide to take an exercise off the machine and onto the floor, you may notice weaknesses you hadn’t noticed before. Master your form first and then gradually incorporate weights. 

Don’t Push Your Muscles to Failure

It was easier to do this with machines because the equipment was relieving you of the weight once you had done your last rep. With free weights, pushing until your muscles can do no more can be dangerous, especially if your form is compromised. It’s important to leave your body a little breathing room and to have a spotter when you plan to challenge yourself in the weight room.  

>> Pushing your muscles to failure when using free weights can be dangerous. Always give yourself enough energy to complete your last rep with perfect form. 

For more workout tips, read up on what happens when you exercise on an empty stomach. Or, find out what you should know before you work out in cold weather. To stay up to date with our content, click to subscribe to our newsletter and receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

Body Composition and How to Track it

Body Composition and How to Track it

Have you ever compared your body to your best friend’s body? You may wonder how your best friend is tall and thin and you are short and round, but you weigh the exact same. How can that be? How can two people, same gender, look completely different but weigh the same? That’s because humans all have different body compositions.  

What is Body Composition?

It’s best described as what bodies are made of. Human bodies are made up of varying percentages of water, fat, bone and muscle. Don’t let body composition be confused with body mass index (BMI). Body mass index is a measurement of weight-for-height.   

When you step on a scale, the number tells you how much you weigh, but it doesn’t tell you what your body is made up of. Body composition refers to everything in your body and how much you have of each component. For example, a person’s body could be composed of 36% muscle, 12% essential fat, 15% non-essential fat, 12% bone and 25% other (organs, etc.) Let’s take this breakdown and work our way up to make it easier to understand, taking the five example percentages and putting them into two groups; fat mass and fat-free mass1 

>> Fat mass refers to fat tissue in your body and fat-free mass includes everything else (like muscle, bone, fluid and organs) 

What the Scale Really Tells You

Stepping on the scale will show you one number, your weight. What you don’t see are the other numbers in your body and how they affect your body composition.  

For example, if you start an exercise program you may gain one pound of muscle and lose one pound of fat. Since your fat mass decreased and your fat-free mass increased at the same time, your body weight won’t change. See how frustrating this can be for someone who thinks they are putting in a lot of effort at the gym and eating healthy but not seeing the weight change on the scale? This is why the scale is misleading and that’s why knowing your body composition is much more useful than knowing your body weight.

How to Measure Body Composition

Track with a Tape Measure

So, what can you use to measure your body composition? The first way would be to track and measure different body parts2. Purchase a flexible tape measure and track the circumference of your waist, hips, arms, legs and chest.

If you track your measurements for a period of six months, for example, and your waist circumference decreases, it’s a sign that you are probably losing belly fat. Here’s another example: if your exercise program involves weights and your arm circumference is increasing, it’s a sign that you are probably gaining muscle in your arms. The second way to track your body composition would be to take pictures.  

Track with Images

Progress pictures are a very popular way to physically see the changes in your body over time. These pictures are typically known as ‘transformation pictures’ and can be very helpful when looking at your body composition. We often do not notice changes in our body from day to day, but we do notice changes in our body when looking at progress pictures.

There are devices that measure body composition, like a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). BIA sends small electrical currents through your body to see how much the body resists the current. This information is used to predict your body fat percentage3 but these devices are not always accurate.  

If you’re interested in knowing your body fat mass percentage, have an LA Fitness ProResults® Trainer help you. A ProResults® trainer can help you with basic principles of physical activity and nutrition to help you improve your body composition.  

A Quick Recap

It’s nothing new; exercise and good nutrition are critical for improving body composition. Exercise and weight training help with fat loss and increased muscle mass. Stepping on the scale will only tell you how much you weigh but there are other factors that need to be considered, like age and genetics. Before you start an exercise and nutrition program, please consult your doctor.  

What’s the bottom line? We are all different. No two people are the same, therefore, we all lose and gain (fat, muscle or both) differently. Don’t just step on the scale. The best ways to track body composition is by measuring the circumference of different body parts and taking progress pictures. Grab a notebook and write down your measurements and take your pictures at regular intervals. Give yourself patience and time to see changes.  

If you would like to learn more about Body Mass Index (BMI) and the difference between BMI and Body Composition, you can read about it here 

Sources

  1. PubMed Central. National Institutes of Health. Application of standards and models in body composition analysis. November 2015 
  2. PubMed Central. National Institutes of Health. Reference values for body composition and anthropometric measurements in athletes. May 2014
  3. PubMed Central. National Institutes of Health. Bioelectrical impedance analysis–part I: review of principles and methods. October 2004 

Body Types: The Ectomorph, Endomorph, and Mesomorph

Body Types: The Ectomorph, Endomorph, and Mesomorph

In 1954, William H. Sheldon published the book The Atlas of Men. It was a guide for classifying the human body based on its structural features. Today, we still use his classification system to draw a distinction between body types. According to Sheldon, there are 3: The Ectomorph, Endomorph, and Mesomorph. 

The idea behind the different classifications is that they can help you understand if your body is genetically predisposed to excel in some areas of fitness and engineered to do poorly in others. Understanding your body type means you can take advantage of what your body may naturally be good at and learn what you need to avoid or do more of in order to maintain good health.

The Ectomorph

The Ectomorphic body type is characterized by: 

  • Small bones 
  • Long, slim muscles  
  • Long arms and legs 
  • Low, narrow shoulders 

Source:  Seyhan, 2019 

Individuals with this body type tend to have low fat storage and find it difficult to gain muscle. These are the people who seem to eat and eat and gain no weight. While this sounds amazing, they also have a hard time putting on muscle. To effectively bulk up, Ectomorphs have to follow a calorie-dense nutrition plan and adhere to plenty of strength training. Cardio may actually make it harder to build muscle if you have the Ectomorph body type. 

Sports and Activities Best Suited for Ectomorphs: 

  • Marathons 
  • Triathlons 
  • Cross-country skiing 
  • Tennis 
  • Cycling 
  • Circuit Training 

Source:  Ruiz, 2017 

The Mesomorph

The Mesomorphic body type is characterized by: 

  • Noticeable muscularity 
  • Large and thick muscles 
  • Wide shoulders
  • Thick forearms 
  • Large hands, wrists and fingers 

Source:  Seyhan, 2019 

The Mesomorph tends to have lower body fat and is able to gain muscle easily. For this body type, it is easier to bulk up with strength training while cardio exists in the workout regimen mostly to maintain a lean look.  

Sports and Activities Best Suited for Mesomorphs: 

  • Weightlifting 
  • Bodybuilding 
  • Soccer 
  • Hockey 
  • Rugby 

Source:  Ruiz, 2017 

The Endomorph

The Endomorphic body type is characterized by: 

  • A round and soft body 
  • Short neck 
  • High square shoulders  
  • A sagging abdomen 

Source:  Seyhan, 2019 

Individuals with this body type will tend towards having higher body fat and lower muscle mass. Because of this, bulking requires attentiveness to calorie intake, so you don’t consume more than you burn. A combination of cardio and strength training can help you keep calories under control while also working on muscle gain. Cardio is more important for people in this group than it is for others. 

Sports and Activities Best Suited for Endomorphs: 

  • American football 
  • Long-distance swimming 
  • Rowing 
  • Cross-country skiing 
  • Snowshoeing 

Source:  Ruiz, 2017 

Combination Body Types

It’s possible that you may have a combination body type if you identify with elements from multiple categories. Some online calculators claim they can estimate your body type after you’ve answered a series of questions. However, Sheldon’s original method required a lot of measuring and some long equations. So, while they may give you a vague idea, we’re hesitant to believe in the accuracy of questionnaires that don’t consider detailed body measurements.   

If you do learn your unique body type, you’ll better understand your body’s exercise needs and potential physical advantages. That’s not to say, however, that you should consider yourself limited in what you can do. Many Ectomorphs and Endomorphs train their way to a lean, muscular, v-shaped or hourglass build. It’s not impossible, only easier or more difficult based on your individual body type.  

To learn how you can sculpt a v-shaped physique, check out our article on How to Build the Illusion of Broad Shoulders. To learn how to train your way to an hourglass body shape, read our article on How to Create the Hourglass Illusion. For more interesting reads, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

Sources

  1. Seyhan, Sinan. “Examination of Physical Fitness and Somatotype Features of Parkour Practitioners (Traceur) and Gymnasts in University Education.” Journal of Education and Learning, 8 Mar. 2019, www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jel/article/view/0/38799. 
  2. Ruiz, Fernando Pages. “Just Your Type.” Experience Life, 9 June 2017, experiencelife.com/article/just-your-type/. 

How to Create the Hourglass Illusion

How to Create the Hourglass Illusion

Strong legs and glutes shape your entire figure. This is partly because your lower body is made up of the largest muscle groups, which means you’ll burn more calories and sweat more quickly when you exercise your lower body. In addition to that, you can build a more proportional figure when you build muscle in your butt and hips! 

The hourglass shape coveted by many women comes from the ratio of the bust, waist, and hips. With this body shape, the bust and hips will typically be the same size, or within a few inches of the same size, while the waist is about 25% smaller than the bust and hips.   

Now, obviously we can’t change the bone structure we’re born with, but we can trick the eye into seeing the hourglass shape. As we mentioned in our post on How to Build the Illusion of Broad Shoulders, we believe healthy bodies are the best bodies! However, many women strive to achieve the hourglass ratio. If this is your goal, we’re sharing how you can create the illusion of curvy hips even if you weren’t born with them. 

Workouts That Sculpt Some Serious Curves

If you read our Broad Shoulders article, you will have learned that building specific upper body muscles will help give the illusion of a larger frame. The opposite is true for a woman’s body; accentuating the hips is the primary target! Building strong glutes gives you a natural butt lift and the toned curves can make your waist look smaller. Not to mention, all the new muscle is certainly no illusion, which means you’ll also be training for strength with these exercises. 

Our Pro Results® Trainer, Kayla V., specifies these 5 exercises for stronger hips and glutes:

Hip Thrusters/Bridges

The hip bridge activates your glutes and is one of the easiest moves to start with. You start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Without letting your hips rock or sway with the movement, raise your hips up and lower them back down. Squeeze your glutes at the top of each move. When you’re ready, you can add weights by holding dumbbells or a barbell across your hips.

Abductor and Adductor Workout

Abductor muscles are the ones that help you push outwards while the adductors help you pull inwards. When using a machine that targets your inner thighs, you’re using an adductor machine. A machine that works the outside of the thighs and hips is an abductor machine. 

The equipment itself is pretty simple. You just sit down, position your legs on the inside or the outside of the pads (depending on which muscle group you want to work on) and slowly open and close your knees.

Kettle Bell Swings

Despite how it may look, this one is not an arm workout. The movement of the weight comes from the power in your hips. Always start with a light weight when trying out new exercises until you get the hang of it.  

Hold the kettle bell while standing tall and with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your knees will naturally bend as you prepare to swing the weight upwards, but you’ll also want to intentionally squat to aid your momentum. Keep your body weight over your heels and use your hips to send the weight swinging upwards to eye level. Allow the kettlebell to come back down to the starting position between your legs. 

Weighted Squats

Weighted squats can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or an assisted squat machine. You can also choose to carry a medicine ball or kettle bell. Before doing a weighted squat, make sure you can execute bodyweight squats with perfect form.  

Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight squat, you’ll be able to tell if you are compromising your form while carrying weights. Noticing poor form should tell you that you may need to decrease the amount of weight you’re holding.  

A good squat should look like you’re sitting in an imaginary chair. Your back should remain straight, and your knees should never come forward past your toes. 

Deadlifts

If you’re not ready to lift larger amounts of weight, dumbbell deadlifts are a great way to progress into heavier weightlifting.  

To do a deadlift with a barbell, stand behind a barbell you’ve placed on the ground. Keep a straight back as you bend to grip the barbell. Push your hips forward to come to a standing position and keep the barbell at arm’s length. Return the bar to the ground by squatting, but make sure you keep your back straight for the whole movement. 

Closing Thoughts

To create the hourglass physique, you must also build strength. Gone are the days when women feared strength training because they were afraid to get bulky. We’ve crushed those myths and now know that You Won’t Get Bulky Unless You Want To. For more information, listen to more strength training tips and QA’s on Episode 19 of our Podcast: Give Me Strength Training. 

As always, pay attention to pain or discomfort when working out, and use your best judgment when moving weights. 

To stay up to date with our content, click to subscribe to our newsletter and receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

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