Build Balance and Strength By Strengthening the Big Muscle Groups

Since you are now adept at breathing and noticing we’ll move on to two exercises to improve balance and strength in the big muscle groups – upper and lower groups. Among the advantages of having strong muscles is that when we use them they pull on their attachments to bones, and that makes more and stronger bone.

There is no need to do a whole lot of different muscle building exercises (unless you want to).

We can do two exercises that can work the big muscle groups overall. I suggest some form of pushup for the big muscle groups of the upper body, and squats for the big muscle groups of the lower body.

Before you panic, there is a plethora of variety in how these movements can be performed. Of course, we’ll start with the simplest (read easier) and progress so you can choose your own comfort level.

Pushups for the Big Muscle Groups of the Upper Body

For maintaining balance and strength it is important to keep the chest, shoulders, back and arms strong as we get older. (Actually it was always important, we just have to work harder now.) Pushups do this well, and they help strengthen our midsections too.

1- Wall pushups:

wall pushups

  • Choose a wall that is free from obstacles and place your hands comfortably on the wall.

  • Walk your feet back so you are leaning on your arms.

  • Keeping your body straight, bend your elbows and bring your chest and face toward the wall.

  • Straighten your arms so you’re back where you started.

  • You’ve been noticing and breathing, right?

2- More advanced pushups:

  • As you improve your balance and strength you can move to doing this same movement on a counter edge, a chair or coffee table, on the floor from your knees, and finally to full pushups if desired. Just be sure any furniture is against a wall or otherwise stabilized.chair-pushup

Considerations:

  • If you have shoulder problems you can just do a plank against the wall or other positions.

    A plank is where you hold the top of the pushup movement with your arms staying straight.

    On the floor a plank can be done on the forearms with elbows bent.

  • If you have a shoulder range of motion problem you can place your hands lower, towards your waist, and do smaller movements.

  • If your hands or wrists give you problems, try this on your knuckles.

  • Make sure you’re engaging your abdominal muscles and not just swaying your hips back and forth.

  • Just do a few, or a couple, or one at a time. It’s important to be deliberate and to train your big muscle groups to move together. That’s where breathing and noticing come in.

Squats for the Big Muscle Groups of the Lower Body

When we fall it’s usually our feet that go from under us, so it follows that keeping our legs and buttocks strong can help prevent this. The best all-round lower body balance and strength builder is squats.

It is also true that many of us have troubles with our hips and/or knees.

So, just like the upper body pushups, there are variations we can use to make accommodations.

3– Chair Squats: chair-squat chair-squat-1

  • Place a chair against the wall. Step about your foot’s length away from the chair. Open your legs to a comfortable width (anywhere from hip width to just more than shoulder width).

  • Reach your arms forward, stick out your butt and slowly lower your butt until it touches the chair, then straighten upright again.

  • Keep your knees behind your toes at all times.

  • Eventually bring your arms in and cross them at your chest.

  • Always try to keep your stomach long and tight, and your chest open.

Considerations:

  • If you don’t feel secure going down to the chair seat, turn it around and squat until you contact the back of the chair. You can use a stool for this as well. As you become more confident you can try going lower.
  • Keep your knees open. Don’t let them roll in.
  • Don’t roll your knees outside the width of your feet.
  • If you feel pain, notice if it is in your muscles or in a joint. Working muscles with new actions will often make them sore during and after the activity. Be patient with yourself.
  • Remember to Breathe and notice for all of these. Only do as many as you can with good form. Don’t rush – ever. If you feel pain, notice if you’re anticipating, or if it is truly present. Before giving up, try changing the position of your arms or legs slightly.

Have a wonderful holiday season, be playful with your body and your loved ones and, with both of them, breathe and notice.

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