Author, fitness model, and trainer Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
If you’re over 40, chances are you’re sitting down way too much at work. You may have gotten away with it in your twenties and thirties, but now you’re noticing back pain that was not a concern years ago. We all agree that strengthening your abs is the right thing to do, but every time you do an ab exercise your back feels worse and your hip flexors get sore.
As we age, the disks between the vertebrae wear away and shrink, the bones start rubbing against each other and the space around the spinal cord narrows. Add onto that excessive sitting and your hip flexors shorten and tighten, which exacerbates your back condition. It’s no wonder why 80 percent of adults over 40 experience back pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
One exercise to target your abs while not contracting your hip flexors is the Pallof press. You’ll use your hip flexors for core stabilization rather than being the primary mover in an ab exercise like leg raises. I’ve had clients with back injuries who have fallen in love with this exercise. All you need is a cable machine—or better yet, a resistance band—and you’re ready to go.
For this exercise you want perfect form. Start by anchoring your resistance band slightly below shoulder height. Grab the other end of the resistance band with both hands, at chest height, while standing sideways to the anchor (your right shoulder should be near the anchor). Laterally step to your left until you the resistance band is taut and you feel some resistance. Extend your elbows and push your hands away from your body. At this point your arms should be at a 90-degree angle from the resistance band. Stand with your feet locked into the ground, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Your glutes and abs should be flexed and locked in throughout the whole exercise.
From this position, pull your hands in toward your chest, then hold for two seconds. Then push your hands away from your chest and hold for two seconds. In each position only your arms should be moving, not your torso. You will feel your core totally engaged as the exercise band is pulling you to the right—but don’t let it pull your body out of position. Your core must remain stable. Repeat the above instructions for your left side. If you need more resistance, take another step away from the anchor. Also, bringing your feet closer together or doing the exercise from a tall kneeling position are great progressions.
Try this exercise in two ways. First, as an isometric hold, with your hands away from your body and your elbows extended. Four sets of 20 seconds each should be sufficient. Then try 10 to 12 repetitions pressing out and back. Again, four sets should be sufficient.
The Pallof press is a powerful exercise to work your core, strengthen your abs and protect those precious vertebrae in your lower back. Don’t be surprised if the move becomes one of your favorites.
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