Many prospective clients tell me that their body seems to be getting achier for no apparent reason.  They weren’t in any accident.  They don’t have any surgeries to speak of.  In fact, they have been relatively healthy their entire lives and cannot pinpoint a single injury or trauma.  Yet, it seems that their bodies continue to get achier with each passing year.  Activities they once loved to do now take a toll on them.  Playing with grandkids, chores around the house, and exercising as they once did leave them feeling beat up.  And the number one scapegoat seems to be the aging process.

As a certified personal trainer and Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist in Schaumburg, I run across these scenarios a lot with prospective clients.  After they have been cleared by their medical professional for regular exercise, there are seven tips I suggest they incorporate into their exercise plans.

1. Begin a resistance training program

First, begin a regular resistance training program.  Many times, your body may start to feel achier if your muscles are slowly getting weaker.  By beginning a regular resistance training program, you can start to build back some of the strength that may have been lost with time and inactivity.

Action Tip:  Incorporating exercises that target different areas of your body–lower body, upper body, and trunk/core–can help to ensure that you are not overdoing it in some areas while neglecting others.

2. Incorporate isometrics

Second, incorporate some exercises where you are focusing on holding specific positions and not moving.  A lot of times, when we think of exercise, we think of moving.  “Get up and move!”  “Get outside and move around!” “Gotta get the blood moving!”  These thoughts are fine and well, but they are not complete.  Some of the most popular exercises are ones in which we don’t move at all (such as planks).  This concept can be applied to any resistance exercise you do.

Action Tip:  The next time you perform a resistance exercise, try holding a specific position for 40 to 60 seconds instead of moving.  An example would be performing a seated row by pulling your hands towards yourself and then just holding that position for a predetermined amount of time.  You will want to reduce the weight you are using with these exercises when you first start so you can get a feel for how they are done.

3. Focus on squeezing your muscles

Similar to how exercise is often portrayed as moving, the goal of exercising is often portrayed as moving something outside of your body.  “Lift more weight.”  “Do more reps.”  “Push this object down there.”  This type of thinking is called an external focus of attention.  In other words, your focus while you are exercising is on something outside of your body.  Compare that to an internal focus of attention whereby you are focusing completely on what is happening within your body, namely squeezing your muscles.  Having an internal focus of attention while you are exercising is important because it will help you monitor when an exercise is too much or doesn’t feel great.  It will also help to speed up the results you will get.  That’s right.  Having an internal focus of attention while exercising has been shown to increase the amount of signal traveling from your spinal chord to your muscles, which will help to speed your results.

Action Tip:  When you are performing resistance training activities, utilize an internal focus of attention by focusing on squeezing your muscles during the exercise instead of moving the weight.  This can be easier to learn how to do if you first try it while doing isometric exercises (see Tip #2).

4. Don’t overdo it – no soreness

“No pain, no gain!”  Ah, the mantra of the masses when it comes to exercising.  But is there any validity to this thinking?  Here’s the thing, you are not exercising for the Olympics.  You are exercising so your body can be healthier.  And just as too much sun exposure leading to a nice sunburn does not create healthy skin, too much exercise leading to muscle soreness does not necessarily create healthy muscles.  The clients at Muscle Activation Schaumburg are often shocked by how well their strength and fitness progress while experiencing minimal soreness.  This progress may be, in part, contributed to the fact that our clients’ bodies are not trying to desperately recover from their last exercise session the next time they come in.  Because of this, they are able to exercise at a higher level each time they are with us.  Remember, if the goal is to help your body become less achy, exercising to the point of soreness is not trending in that direction.

Action Tip:  Start at 50%.  Use 50% of the weight you think you should.  Do 50% of the volume (reps and sets) that you think you could handle.  Use 50% of the motion that your body allows for.  If you can wake up the next day without any soreness, then consider increasing one aspect (weight, volume or motion) by 5% the next time you do those exercises.  Continue to slowly build your base over time until you can do your 100% and still wake up the next day (or next two days) without any soreness.  If you do experience soreness, consider decreasing the variables (weight, volume, and motion) by 10%.

5. 2x/week minimum

In order to progress or maintain the strength and function of your muscular system, consider performing resistance training exercises at least twice per week.  Once you establish a level of exercising where you can wake up the next two days without soreness, try to maintain a frequency of at least twice per week.  In the beginning, you may need to change the frequency as you change the other variables discussed in Tip #4.  However, being able to resistance train at least twice per week will help you to maintain and progress the strength and function of your muscles.

Action Tip:  Start slowly.  See how well your body recovers after Day 1.  If you are sore, wait until you no longer are to do your next day of exercises.  Adjust the intensity of your exercise so you can recover well enough to perform at least two days of strength training each week.

6. Work on your weaknesses

Often times, when we exercise, we default to doing the exercises we enjoy or feel competent with.  However, this approach may leave some muscles not stimulated enough while others continue to take the brunt of the workload.  Instead, make it a point to incorporate exercises for some of your weaker areas.  For example, both rows and pullups can challenge the muscles of your back and shoulders.  However, each exercise will put different stresses on your joints.  In order to minimize the stress to your joints over time and to make sure your muscles are being worked evenly, consider incorporating both rows and pullups.  If you feel comfortable performing rows but are unable to do pullups, challenge the motion of a pullup using a pulldown machine with which you can vary the weight you are using.

Action Tip:  If you find yourself doing the same exercises over and over again, look to incorporate new ones.  You don’t need to do a completely different workout every time, but make sure to change things up every six to eight weeks.

7. Find a Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist in your area

Building on the idea of working on your weaknesses (Tip #6), a Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT™) specialist will be able to identify exactly where those weaknesses are and how to improve them through exercise.  By assessing how well your muscular system functions and where your muscle imbalances are, the MAT™ specialist will be able to determine which exercises are appropriate for your body and can help you progress them in a safe manner.  Additionally, the MAT™ specialist will be able to keep your body “tuned up” as you continue to exercise, helping you to recover better and progress faster.

Action Tip:  Check out this link to find a Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist in your area!

If your body has been getting achier for no apparent reason, it would be wise to check in with your medical professional.  If they clear you to begin a regular exercise program, these seven exercise tips can help you feel healthier and continue doing to the things you love to do.

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Charlie Cates

Char­lie Cates, M.S. is a Muscle Activation Techniques® Master Specialist (MATm), an MATRx® Full Body Specialist, a mastery level Resistance Training Specialist® (RTSm), and a Cer­ti­fied Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Charlie attained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Williams College in 2010, where he played varsity basketball for four years. In 2016 he graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Master of Science degree in exercise science. A type-1 diabetic, he is the owner of Muscle Activation Schaumburg in Schaumburg, IL. He is an instructor for the Muscle Activation Techniques® program, introducing students of all different backgrounds to the MAT® process. Charlie specializes in managing and improving the function of his clients’ muscular system through the MAT® process and utilizing RTS® principles. He can be reached via e-mail at charlie@matschaumburg.com. Fol­low him on Instagram at @CharlieCates!

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