Take, for example, as basic an exercise as the squat. On the surface, it seems like a fairly straightforward exercise to perform: You place a bar across your shoulders and squat up and down. Easy enough.
The fact of the matter, however, is that there's much more to performing the squat correctly. You need a straight back and your eyes facing forward. You want to make sure that your knees are aligned with your feet and that you don't lean forward too much. Your knees shouldn't travel over your toes as you lower yourself, and you should never, ever bounce at the bottom of the movement. Once you've mastered all of these individual elements, you are ready to squat like a pro.
So, pay attention to detail in everything you do in the gym. Your body will thank you for your cooperation.
Q: I am your age, Joe. I am an 84-year-old woman, and I think I'm doing pretty well, all things considered. I walk almost every day for 20 minutes and do my stretching exercises each morning. I would like to know if you think I could begin lifting light weights. I don't want to become Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course, but I would like to see some new muscles on my arms.
Joe: Well, good for you, my dear! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading your letter. I have to say, though, that at 88 I still have a few years on you. But since I was once your age, I think I'm qualified to answer your question.
As I do with everyone, both young and old, I would first recommend that you receive clearance from your physician to lift weights. You didn't mention any underlying medical conditions you may have, but assuming you get a clean bill of health I see no reason why you couldn't begin lifting a pair of light dumbbells.
If you want to build up your arms, I would recommend performing three sets of 10 reps of seated dumbbell curls, possibly while seated on an armless chair or bench. To work your triceps along with your shoulders, you can do seated dumbbell presses, again for three sets of 10 reps. Follow this combination twice per week starting with a pair of 2 pound dumbbells and working your way up should they become too easy for you.
Again, I applaud you, madam, on your initiative. I look forward to hearing from you again once you've begun to see the fruits of your labor.
Q: I've always heard the phrase "no pain, no gain." While working out, I feel the pain. A few hours after, my muscles feel tired. The next day, I feel nothing. Should I increase my weights or my reps, or is this normal?
Joe: The phrase "no pain, no gain" has been around for many years, and what it means is if you don't feel muscle soreness (not joint pain or the pain of a muscle tear) in the days following a workout, then you didn't do enough to stimulate muscle growth.
While there is a degree of validity to this statement, you shouldn't take it as gospel. There are a number of factors involved that can affect the level of pain you experience in your muscles or whether you have any at all.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) can last anywhere from 24 to 72 hours and is most likely the result of microscopic damage incurred by the muscles being trained. It stimulates a response from the body to repair the injury, hopefully bigger and stronger than before.
But don't expect soreness after every single workout. Our bodies are highly adaptable, and so it tends to be that more experienced trainers feel DOMS less frequently than newcomers. Also, it's been found that eccentric (negative) movements tend to bring on greater DOMS than concentric (positive) ones do. So, know that DOMS means a job well done in the gym, but also that not experiencing DOMS doesn't mean that your workout was less productive.
Joe Weider is acclaimed as "the father of modern bodybuilding" and the founder of the world's leading fitness magazines, including Shape, Muscle and Fitness, Men's Fitness, Fit Pregnancy, Hers, Golf for Seniors and others published worldwide in over 20 languages.