I train my students with these three principles in mind: Strength, Balance, and Flexibility.
- Corinne Brown
Three Keys to Longevity
1. Muscular Strength
I train my students with these three core principles in mind, starting with physical strength, which is an individual’s ability to exert force on physical objects.
I teach my students to challenge themselves with heavier weights as I see them increase in strength. I emphasize increasing in small increments. For context, a typical class incorporates dumbbells from 2-30 lbs. or weight plates in sizes of 10-35 lbs. So, for example, if someone is using 12 lb weights in my class, I would suggest they increase, when ready, to the next highest weight – 15 lbs.
One strength activity that I find to be indicative of a person’s overall strength is the Farmers Carry, where the students carry one plate in each hand held to the sides of the body. They walk around the aerobic room, holding the weights with good posture, abs held firm, with an emphasis on tilting the pelvic area. Keeping the proper pelvic tilt engages the transverse abdominals while strengthening the lower back. I also emphasize keeping the upper back strongly engaged while walking in a brisk heel-to-toe motion for approximately 1 to 2 minutes. (The duration depends on the fitness level of the individual and the group.)
An alternative to the Farmer’s Carry is to remain stationary with a plate held overhead for at least one minute. This movement starts by grasping the weight plate on the sides. Lift it slowly overhead, making sure to exhale while lifting; keep your biceps held close to the ears and elbows looking as if they were locked, but not quite. Then hold the plate in this position above your head for at least 1-2 minutes. (You may need to build up to this length of time). This movement is very effective at building core strength and stability.
I regularly put my students through several balance moves. Let’s go over a couple of them.
Stand on one foot. Lift the other leg until the thigh is parallel to the ceiling and your toes to the planted leg knee. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds with eyes opened, followed by 10-15 seconds of the same stance, but with eyes closed. It’s harder than it sounds! Repeat with the other leg.
Another balance move, and a true sign of balance and age, is getting up off the floor from a crossed-leg position to standing without leaning forward or using your hands. Try it! Most students start not being able to do this, but with consistency and dedication, it is achievable.
There are hundreds of exercises you can do to achieve flexibility; let me give you a few to get you started.
Sitting with both glutes flat on the floor and an open seat, sit erect and pretend your torso is suspended from the ceiling; engage your abdominal muscles and back and contract the pelvic area. You should feel as though your navel is trying to glue to the spine. Contract your back to the spine, and sit like this for at least one minute.
Here’s a great follow-up to the last stretch (see above). Sit with your shins under your thighs, lower abdominals contracted. Then fold forward into a chest-down position, keeping your shins against the floor, and spine elongated to stretch the spine and lower back. Stretch your arms out long in front of you while extending your fingers, trying your best not to allow your elbows to hit the floor. Keep your abdominals and pelvic area contracted while lengthening your entire spine, thus creating a decompression.
Remember, everyone’s level of flexibility is so different, so take baby steps, especially those of you suffering from injuries or surgeries. Start slowly and allow your body to adapt.
Focus on these three key areas, along with proper nutrition (that’s a whole separate article!), to improve your chances of enjoying a long, healthy lifespan.
Please email me at email@example.com to share your thoughts or ask questions.
About the Author
Corinne Brown is a fitness professional with over 40 years of experience. She is the Founder and Owner of Fitness Incentive.