In the last post we started talking about how to quickly see a positive improvement with knee and leg issues in senior citizens. The answer, in a word, is squats. If that sounds strange to you, please see the previous post for a full review of why squats are a super-exercise.

Let’s look at four easy steps on how to get started with squats, no matter your age.

1. Squats: Where to Start?

Let’s start with a very basic question: are you healthy enough to squat?

There are two questions to ask to know if you’re healthy enough to start squatting:

1. Can you walk without pain?
2. Can you sit in a chair without pain?

If you have either of these issues, consult a doctor or physical therapist before proceeding. But if you’re able to walk across the room without pain and can sit down in a chair without pain, we can talk about the best place for you to start.

If you are 65 or older and don’t have a background in going to the gym, or have a regular exercise routine, you’ll want to start by doing chair squats.

What’s a chair squat?

A chair squat is simply standing up from, or sitting down to a chair with proper squat form.

We know that how easy it is to get out of a chair is a good indicator of a person’s 5-year mortality rate. Once the ability is gone, the clock starts ticking. It makes sense to train the behavior. It also provides a way for somebody to get started without having to consider weights, a gym, or anything scary. All we’re talking about is sitting down on a chair with proper squat form.

Here is a video that demonstrates the movement.

This is a good place to start if squats are a completely foreign concept. But, keep in mind that this is just the starting point. The true secrets to squats come in the next step.

2. Each time you squat you’re going to add a little bit more weight

The concept of lifting a little more weight each time you squat is called “linear progression”. There’s an old story about Milo of Croton in ancient Greece. He was a wrestler and to get strong he carried his cow every day, starting when it was a baby. As the calf grew, Milo was able to keep up with the ever heavier weight. Why? It’s because the body wants to adapt to stress. If we can produce enough of a stress response in your body, it will adapt to handle that stress.

Practically, that means that if you start with a chair squat, soon you’ll progress to a body squat without a chair, and from there to weighted body squats.

This is the magic behind getting stronger and rehabilitating parts of the body that have gotten weak. The same way “letting go” is training your body to get weak and loose, adding a little weight each time you workout trains your body to adapt and grow.

This is why it matters less where you start and only that you start, and stick with it.

This is ultimately why so many other programs fail. Without being able to cause adaptive stress — which is unlikely in any weekly class, or doing any weight program that doesn’t include adding weight over time, there’s a limit to the progress one is likely to have.

3. You have to eat right

It takes protein to build muscle. When working on any kind of training program, even if it starts with chair squats, it means you need to eat more protein. The conventional wisdom is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you’re 150 lbs, then you’d want to get 150 grams of protein per day.

There’s a lot more that can be said about diet and nutrition when on a strength program. Especially if you want to combine it with a weight-loss program. YouTube is a good resource for information about this topic.

The important key point to remember is, more protein is better. If you’re concerned about calories, choose a lean meat like pork tenderloin, turkey, or chicken breast. A 5 oz. portion of white meat chicken breast is roughly 50 grams of protein. That will give you an idea of the quantity of food we’re talking about.

If you are experiencing digestive issues, or feel that 1 gram per pound isn’t right for you, work on increasing protein in your diet to where you feel comfortable. As long as you have a sufficient protein intake, you’ll continue to get stronger for several months in a row.

4. You have to get enough sleep

Muscles aren’t built at the gym (or at the chair). Muscle is built while you’re sleeping. Good sleep means good muscle recovery. And recovery is what it’s all about. Each time you work out, and then recover, while on a linear progression program and eating enough protein, you get a little stronger.

If your sleep is continually interrupted, it will limit your body’s ability to recover and will result in taking longer to get strong. Fortunately, one of the side effects of a good strength workout is better sleep. Take advantage!

If you’re in the Wilmington, NC area and are having issues with your hips, legs, knees, or ankles and want genuine, no-nonsense relief, schedule an appointment with us, where squats (and other compound barbell movements) are taught and used for rehabilitative and strength purposes. Call (910) 777-7228 to book your first appointment today!

Disclaimer: When starting any strength program it’s important to use good judgement as to your current abilities. When in doubt, do an easier version of what you’re doing, or be sure to have somebody there to help you. Also, consult your doctor or somebody you trust before starting any exercise program. This is general information and what works for most people, may, or may not be appropriate for you in particular.