Strong is the new strong. Okay, that doesn’t actually mean anything, but increasing your strength and muscle tone has benefits in any stage of your life that extend beyond just having a rockin’ beach bod.
The importance of toned abs, pecs, butts, arms, and thighs are overhyped and overemphasized in the media; however, the strength that is often associated with them is not. Strength and muscle tone is critical for both men and women in all stages of life, but today, we’re focusing on exercises for men.
“I’m not going to be wrestling alligators or hunting prey on the open plains … why do I need to look like a ‘beast’?” True—we likely won’t have to perform either of these tasks. However, if we as a species did have to do these things for survival, we wouldn’t have many of the societal health issues that we face today (although admittedly, alligator wrestling provides its own sort of health risks).
Hypertension, cardiovascular events, and diabetes are all associated with high-fat, low-muscle physiques. Studies show that inactive adults experience a 3 to 8 percent loss of muscle mass per decade, accompanied by resting metabolic rate reduction and fat accumulation. This is especially concerning because greater muscle mass is also associated with an enhanced ability to burn potentially problematic fat stores.
Here are three great exercises for men—one for each stage of their life.
Full of spit and vinegar
(ages 12 to 21)
Hormones play a big role in physical development. And this can be an ideal time in a person’s life to introduce fitness and the associated beneficial habits, with proper supervision and care.
In fact, this may be the most critical time to introduce muscle and strength developing practices. A 2012 Swedish study showed a correlation between low muscular strength in male adolescents and premature death over a 24-year period. Because of this great propensity for physical development, but tendency toward risk-taking behaviour, bodyweight exercises can prove extremely beneficial, while possibly lowering the risk of injury. Try this one.
Burpee Pullups (3 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions)
Target: Quite literally every single muscle you have, plus your cardiovascular system
What you need: Your body and an apparatus to do pull-ups on
- Begin standing directly beneath the pull-up bar.
- Place your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart, just in front of your feet.
- Hop your feet back as far as possible, landing on your toes, and in a full push-up position.
- Once in position, complete a push-up.
- After you have completed the push-up, jump both feet back in as close to your hands as possible.
- Once your feet are planted firmly on the ground, pick up your hands, start to stand up, and reach up toward the pull-up bar.
- If you can reach the bar, grasp it with both hands facing forward, at shoulder width, and jump as you pull yourself up, as high as possible. If the bar is higher than you can reach, jump, then grasp the bar and use your upward momentum to complete the pull-up.
- Lower yourself to the ground and release the bar. That’s one.
Resistance is (not) futile (ages 22 to 59)
According to society you’re a “man” now (although, at times, that’s debatable). Your hormones have settled, hopefully your common sense has developed, and your physical foundation has been established.
Now is the time to get strong and stay strong. Testosterone in males reaches a peak at around 30 years of age, and gradually declines at a rate of about 1 to 2 percent per year. Low levels of testosterone are associated with serious health conditions, such as coronary artery disease. Depressed yet? Don’t be. You can actually combat this phenomenon by adding resistance training to your exercise regimen!
One of the staples of building strength and muscle in resistance training is the Barbell Deadlift.
Barbell Deadlift (3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions)
Target: Hamstrings, glutes, lower back, core, grip
What you need: Barbell and plates
Here’s how: You’re literally just picking something up and putting it down, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes under bar.
- Grip the bar with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing you.
- Sit your hips down so they are below the level of your shoulders, and back, so your weight is in your heels.
- Finally, stick out your bum and your chest while keeping your chin neutral (slightly down).
- Maintaining relaxed arms and neck muscles, and a slightly downward chin position, gradually lift the barbell off the ground by pushing your hips forward to stand.
- Once the slack has been taken out of your arms, your speed should increase until you are standing as tall as possible, pressing your hips forward (though not leaning back or arching your back).
- Pause for a moment, and then slowly put the weight down with exactly the same motion.
Don’t lose your groove (ages 60 to 1 million)
Fitness, strength, and muscle tone are critical throughout our lives, but magnified even more so as we move into our golden years. Falling is one of the main issues that seniors face, which holds a strong correlation to advancement toward mortality.
One of the main culprits identified in falling is a lack of mobility. Entrenched firmly within that scope is muscular strength within a range of motion (ROM), otherwise known as flexibility. Functional flexibility can be maintained or improved safely with bodyweight exercises. Critical to many daily movement patterns, and the foundation of any workout program, is the squat.
Bodyweight Dowel Squat (3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions)
Target: Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, core
What you need: Your body, a dowel (a long stick)
- Feet should be shoulder-width apart with toes slightly turned out.
- Hold dowel overhead, with hands wider than shoulder width and elbows locked out.
- Keeping your weight in your heels, slowly lower your backside toward the ground, ensuring your knees track over your toes.
- Go as low as you can, keeping your arms and chest up, before you feel you are going to fall backward.
- Take a moment to pause in this position, making sure the dowel is still straight overhead.
- As you stand, actively push your hips forward to completion.
Supplements to grab ‘n’ grow!
- protein powder—for muscle repair
- branched chain amino acids (BCAA)—for muscle support and possible reduced soreness
- multivitamin—micronutrient insurance for recovery