Ask Scott: Post-op exercise, the new Jason Robinson and you're never too old to build muscle
Top fitness coach Scott Pearson answers your health and fitness questions.
I have been laid up for six months now, after a couple of operations and and to do something about my increase in weight of two stone. I am a 66 year old active male still in full time employment.
If you have been 'laid up' for any length of time, I would recommend beginning any exercise programme slowly at first. It may be a good idea to have a chat with your doctor before you start (I have no idea what your operations have been for and this could radically influence what kind of exercise you can do).
I would imagine that while you have been out of action you haven't changed any of your eating habits, so that you have been consuming the same amount of calories without using them and this has been the cause of your increased weight, see some of my previous articles on healthy nutrition for some advice. If this is the cause of your weight increase then any kind of physical activity should help shed some fat.
If you are keen to do more and once you have consulted your doctor begin by doing exercises that are non weight-bearing such as swimming. Other activities such as walking or cycling will also be good for you.
Remember to start easy and progress from there.
I am 15 and I play rugby on the wing and have a really similar build to Jason Robinson (at 5'6" and 64kg). I follow a weight training regime for 4 days a week in order to build strength and lean mass, I need a few power moves to make me more explosive. Any suggestions?
That's a big statement! If you play anything like Jason Robinson I'll be seeing you playing for the British Lions pretty soon.
There are loads and loads of power exercises; put simply power = strength x speed, so if you can move a weight quickly (with perfect form) then by definition you will develop power. Below I will list three exercises that are inherently powerful:
The burpee is one of my favourite exercises as it is a dynamic exercise that uses most of the muscles in the body; there are many variations that can target different areas and to increase difficulty (wearing a weighted vest is possible the easiest way to do this).
For this exercise begin by standing upright; from here lower down and place your hands on the floor about shoulder width apart, at the same time jump your legs back together so that your body is straight from your ankles to your shoulders (the press ups starting position) but immediately bring them back in and jump up into the air. Repeat. To see a video click here.
This is definitely my kind of exercise as it incorporates most of the muscles of the body. This exercise sounds and looks simple but it is actually quite tough to coordinate the body correctly; take time to practice to avoid injury.
Begin by holding one dumbbell in the middle with both hands, as if you were holding an axe or something similar. When standing upright the dumbbell will be in front of your waist. From here take a few swings to give the dumbbell some momentum. After a couple of light swings you should start the exercise.
As the dumbbell is lowered bend your legs, making sure you keep your back straight and chest up (as if you were squatting), your arms should be between your legs and the dumbbell should be between knee and ankle height. Vigorously stand up, while at the same time driving your hips and arms forward (don't bend your elbows); this should cause the dumbbell to swing up and away from your body. Pull with your shoulders to continue the movement until the dumbbell is overhead (your biceps should be touching your ears). From here allow the dumbbell to fall back down (remember not to bend your elbows) until it reaches roughly shoulder height. Move with the dumbbell and bend your legs (keeping your back straight, etc as before). Repeat.
SAFETY NOTE: As the dumbbell is lowering, NEVER keep your legs straight — always bend them and use the dumbbell's momentum to aid your exercise. If you keep your back straight you will pivot from your hips placing large stresses on your lower back! To see a video click here.
As with most power exercises time must be taken to perfect your technique as you will be lifting (relatively) heavy weights, through a large range of movement, with speed!
Because the clean involves several separate movements combined together to perform one seamless exercise I will break it down in to its component parts.
Clean Pull — The clean pull is the first part of the lift and potentially the most dangerous. Approach the bar and stand in the 'get set' position. Your feet should be placed slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Place your hands on the bar in a comfortable position, so that your elbows sit outside your knees; your hips should be higher than your knees and your shoulders should be higher than your hips, with your back tight and flat. Look forward and slightly down.
As you begin to lift the weight off the floor make sure that you contract your core so that your hips raise at the same speed as your shoulders (do not let your hips raise up too fast) don't try to lift the bar off the floor too quickly, accelerate throughout the movement. Your weight should be placed on your toes as you start, but as the weight rises it should transfer to your toes.
Second Pull — As the weight raises over your knees make a conscious effort to drive aggressively upwards into 'triple extension' extend your hips, knees and ankles, also shrug your shoulders making sure that you keep the bar close to your body. This is a vital part of the lift as this is where you give the bar momentum.
The Drop — By the end of the second pull the bar should finish at around belly button height. From here pull your body down hard and pull your elbows through so that you catch the bar on your collar bones with your elbows pointing forwards; you don't have to grasp the bar at this point, you may find it easier to open your palms out. As you land your weight should have transferred back to your heels.
Front Squat — The final part of the movement is standing up from the catch position with the bar. Make sure you keep your elbows ups and as you stand (like on the clean pull) don't let your hips raise faster than your shoulders. Keep your weight through your heels as you lift.
Hi Scott. I'm 28 is it too late to build muscle? I have lost weight as a result of better eating and the gym; but how can I be sure that when I do put some weight on it's not fat?
It is never too late to build muscle, I have had several personal training clients in their 70's and 80's who have changed shape and built muscle within 12 weeks of beginning a training programme. As I've mentioned in several of my previous answers and articles the important thing to do is to start slowly and gradually build up.
If you have changed your diet for the better as you say you have and if you start training sensibly then any weight increase you make is going to be lean mass rather than fat.
Page created on June 1st, 2009
Page updated on January 20th, 2010