Finding stability in the body is the most crucial aspect to building a strong foundation in your bones, joints and muscles when it comes to both healthy aging and optimal performance. Not only do you reduce your risk of falls, but you also strengthen the fascia that surrounds the ligaments and joints. According to South Orange County, California-based age management specialist Dr. Colin Jairam, M.D., "Building a strong core is essential to avoiding injury in any strength training program." The trick is to take your time doing the stability exercises and focus on aligning your joints properly so that you can fire up the correct muscles when performing the exercises.
In this program, every muscle group will be addressed, in compound form, which means training multiple muscles in one movement. You will first begin with a stability exercise moving slowly through the repetitions and follow the exercise with a strength exercise, in a super set fashion. The same muscles will be worked throughout the super set. Listen to your body and focus on a tempo of four counts on the lengthening phase, one-count pause at the bottom of the exercise, and a two-count movement pattern for the shortening phase. Perform every exercise for a total of 10 reps, with two sets each. Take a 30-second recovery in between every set.
1) Single leg squat touch down:
First stabilize on a single leg with the opposite leg up. Once you find stability, then bend through your standing leg and with the opposite hand, reach for your squatting knee, while sitting your hips back. Make sure you track your standing knee in alignment with your ankle. If you do not see your toes, then you need sit back more into your hips. Do not round the spine. Keep your back neutral. If you are flexible enough, reach for your toes. Lower through the squat for four counts, pause at the bottom and then stand up on the single leg in two counts. Perform 10 repetitions before switching to the other leg. For an added challenge, hold onto a dumbbell in the hand that is reaching across to the opposite foot/knee.
1b) Sumo squat with a bicep curl press:
Holding moderate resistance dumbbells, stand with your legs wider than hip distance, toes facing out. As you descend to the ground in the squat, make sure your knees point in the same direction as your toes. Keep your chest in alignment with your hips and avoid bowing forward with your upper body. Allow your hands to face in and fall in between your legs on the lowering phase. Once you come up out of the squat, curl your arms and keeping your palms facing in towards each other, and then press your arms overhead. Slowly return your arms down to your side and repeat 10 times.
2) Plank to punch:
Starting in a plank position either on your hands or forearms with your feet hip distance apart, situate yourself where your hips are squared to the ground. Keeping your hips squared, lift one arm up and punch slowly. The goal is to avoid hip mobility. Alternate between sides for a total of 20 reps.
2b) Plank to row:
Starting in a plank position on your hands with your hands shoulder distance apart, place two dumbbells into both hands. Once you are stable, slowly row your arm close to your side, while following the rules of the plank above. The only joints moving in this exercise are your shoulder, elbow and wrist joints. Everything else remains tight and static. Exhale on the row, inhale as you return your arm back to the ground. Alternate between sides for a total of 20 reps.
3) Single leg SFS:
Standing on a single leg, take a light set of dumbbells, such as 3-5 pounds, and first stabilize through your standing leg. Once you are stable, lift your arms out to the side with your palms facing down. Then rotate the arms to face the palms inward as you bring your arms together in front of you. Last, separate your arms out to the side with your palms facing down, like a "T" formation, and return your arms down to your side. Repeat five times, then switch your standing leg to finish the set on the other leg.
3b) Upright row:
Using moderate resistance dumbbells, stand with your feet hip distance apart. Upright rows are done with your arms close to your body, palm facing down. Lead with your elbows coming up to right below your shoulder height, and your hands on either side of your sternum. Hold for a count, and return your arms down for four counts. Repeat for a steady tempo of 10 reps, exhaling on the upright row, and inhaling as you lower your arms down.
Starting in a plank position on your forearms, and following the rules of a proper plank as noted in number two, push up to your hands and hold for a moment before returning back to your forearms. Be sure to keep your core in tight so you avoid hip rotation and upper body instability. Every muscle in the body should keep your body squared to the floor while mobilizing the upper body between hands and forearms.
4b) Staggered stance tricep kickbacks:
Use moderate resistance. Place one foot forward and the other foot back. Remaining on the back toes, form a 90-degree angle in your front knee. Once you feel stable in your legs, bend your arms to remain tight into the body, palms facing in toward your body. From there, extend your elbow behind you so that your arms straighten out, hitting the triceps in both arms. Remain in your lunge and squeeze your core so tight so that you can stabilize the muscles of your lower back. The only joints moving should be your elbows. Keep your shoulders stable along with your wrist and perform 10 reps.
Sitting on your sit bones, not your lower back, with a slight lean back in your upper body, bring your legs up towards the sky and reach your hands towards your feet. Keeping your chest lifted and belly tight while you hold this posture for a 30-second count. If you feel anything in your lower back, simply drop your feet to the ground for a couple of seconds and then return them back up to the sky if you can.
5b) Dumbbell Toe Touch:
Start on your back with your hands on the weighted portion of each side of the dumbbell, and your legs lifted to the sky. Draw your shoulders off the ground as you contract your core tight, pushing your navel into your spine and reach your hands toward your toes with the dumbbell. If your neck bothers you, hold the dumbbell on the handle and do five reps with each hand while the opposite hand supports your neck as you crunch.
Photo credits: Mr. Smith