Exercise works for all ages

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What exercises should you be doing at what age, we asked Title fitness editor Grant Hyde.

When I was a kid, movie theatres were heaving with images of action heroes Arnie Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Looking at their bulging muscles and ripped physiques, I longed to one day have a body like them.

But venturing into a gym at 13, I was devastated to be told that I was too young to do any form of weight training. If only I were growing up today! Now the current thinking is that light weights and lifting exercises are great for children as young as seven and eight.

If strict form and proper technique is followed, it won’t affect their growth but will build a solid strength base for the years to come. Push-ups, reverse dip, planks, crunches, up-right row, chin-ups, body weight squats and dumb bell curls are quite safe for youngsters, and two sets of 15-20 repetitions, or reps, are plenty for young bodies.

On reaching the early teens, more sport-specific exercises such as bench-presses, cleans, barbell squats and dead lifts can be included. The weight should be manageable for four sets with 12-15 reps. This sort of training can then continue right through the 20s and 30s.

To build thick, hulking muscle (like Arnie’s) the reps are dropped to between four and eight, with the weight increasing to 80-90% of the maximum lift. To become more  ripped and lean, that age group should stick with a 20-15-12-ten-eight rep program, concentrating on one or two body parts per session.

Many young women worry that weight-training and these kind of gym exercises will make them bulk up, but they needn’t fear. That’s simply not in their genes, nor their hormone levels. The one thing that does give women (or anyone for that matter) true bulk, is excess body fat.

Strength-training will do the reverse; it will make them stronger, fitter, leaner and give them self-confidence and higher levels of self-esteem.

For myself, having now reached my 40s, I’ve found that the heavier weights and power exercises started causing injuries. As a result, I’ve gone back to the workouts of my early teens, focusing more on lighter weights, my core and diet.

This sort of program can then continue right into your 80s – with the importance of doing light weights increasing with age to maintain bone strength. And, if you are genetically blessed, it can help you to live forever!

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