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No excuses. Lift weights at any age! Advice from a 65 year old.

No excuses. Lift weights at any age! Advice from a 65 year old.

A post by Abby Halpin, DPT

 Yes, we are physical therapists, but we don’t just help people get back to where they were before an injury. We also help people level up after rehab.  As experts of the human movement system, we pay attention to what is good for it, and we teach it.  Muscle loss as we age is a huge problem. It affects our mobility, confidence, puts us at risk for falls, and decreases our longevity.  I recently came across this article in the New York Times, and thought, why not have a client tell her story.

Kristin, a participant in Movement Systems fitness programming, was interviewed to share her experience with weight training as a 65 year old. 

(Abby) What is your favorite strength training exercise and why?
(Kristin) “Deadlifting is my favorite.  That’s been a vast surprise to me since I never thought I’d do free weights, let alone deadlift. Being the age I am (65), I grew up thinking  deadlifting was for hunky guys in sweaty, competitive gyms. So wrong! I’ve found that I love how deadlifting makes me concentrate totally, both physically and mentally. It is thrilling to feel myself getting stronger, and to measure my progress by the increasing weight I can lift.” 
 
What led you to begin your strength training program?
“I was in a serious car accident and started physiotherapy with Abby in early 2017.  I’ve always been physically active, but I lost a lot of strength during my recovery so when physiotherapy ended I started doing physical training with her. I also needed to do more weight-bearing exercise to prevent bone loss as I age. Training one-on-one with Abby,  who knows my body quirks and can cheerfully push and encourage me,  has been immensely helpful. I started my physiotherapy with two-pound weights.  Now I can deadlift 145 pounds!” 
 
Have you noticed a change in how you move about your day since beginning your weightlifting routine?
“I love feeling stronger. And lifting things in everyday life  – from heavy shopping bags to suitcases and boxes of books – is much easier. I’m more conscious about my overall posture/alignment and it has improved.  And I’m less afraid of injuring myself.” 
 
What has surprised you the most about strength training?
“What has surprised me most about deadlifting in particular is how almost meditative it can be since it needs such  physical and mental focus. As I lift heavier weights, I’m working on and appreciating the mental/emotional side of it,  how it fosters the need to be positive and believe you can do it. It’s wonderful to talk positively to one’s self.” 
 
Is there anything else about your lifting life you’d like to share?
“It’s a cliche, but you truly are never too old to start.  Your body and brain will thank you.”
If you are interested in learning how you can safely and confidently begin strength training, consult a physical therapist. We are equipped to perform health screening prior to beginning a program, and we are experts in exercise prescription for the human movement system.

Why you should be deadlifting

Why You Should Be Deadlifting

By Corley McBeth, DPT

 

There seems to be no exercise more effective than the deadlift in instilling fear in the hearts of patients. I cannot tell you the number of excuses, hesitations, and outright refusals I have heard regarding its performance. It would seem that we still mistakenly believe that the squat is the safest and most optimal way of lifting and moving load (thanks WebMD), but I am here to tell you that just is not the case. Mechanically speaking, the deadlift, when performed correctly, is the proper way to lift – whether it be a case of wine, a heavy moving box, or a piece of furniture. It is the ultimate functional movement.

So why are we so terrified of it? Usually it’s something along the lines of “my back is weak/sore/painful” or “that’s how I hurt myself” or “but I might hurt my back”. However none of those are a good reason to avoid it – in fact, those are all reasons you should be doing it! There are many contributing causes to back pain. Back pain can stem from weak glutes and hamstrings making it difficult to effectively move the load you required of the task. It can also come from weak spinal erectors and/or weak abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. A properly performed deadlift challenges your body to maintain a specific spinal position thereby training it to remain stable when exposed to high shear forces. You will get more benefit from a properly performed deadlift than you will from hundreds of crunches or a 3-minute plank hold.

This is because deadlifts are a total body exercise. Not only does the deadlift help facilitate strong and powerful glute and hamstring muscles and effectively challenge your core, it also places greater demand on the upper body than a squat. Squats don’t have the same effect on your scapula and rotator cuff in terms of stability, nor do they require the same muscle activity from your biceps and latissimus dorsi muscles. Deadlifts are also one of the safest weight lifting exercises to perform – you aren’t going to get pinned under weight or risk getting pulled over backward. They don’t require a spotter, you simply drop the weight if you get into trouble.

That being said, deadlifts, when performed correctly, are not bad for your back. Poorly performed deadlifts, regardless of weight, can place you at risk of injury. One must first have the required mobility as well as the appropriate stability, in order to perform a deadlift with proper form. And no, it’s not just for powerlifters. Deadlifts can be and should be performed by just about everybody.  Sure, you may need instruction and supervision during the learning process. There are many variations and modifications to allow for a safe and appropriate progression to lifting and moving heavy loads with the deadlift. Your physical therapist or other trained fitness professional can help to properly assess and instruct you in the correct performance of this movement (see video below for an example, but please use feedback for practice). Keep doing your squats, but don’t neglect the deadlift – your glutes, hamstrings and core will thank you.