The Wisdom of Frank Part II
“Keep Your Legs In The Game”
I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym. Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition. He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher. Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance. He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties. Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.
Frank would work through some stretches, warm up and start in on the jump rope. He was amazing with the rope. Frank said an athlete was “nothing without his legs”. “Power comes from the ground” and strong arms were useless without legs that could react. He told me that keeping the “pop in your hop” was critical to successful aging.
Recent research on lower extremity power production and aging has proven Frank correct. As we age, we lose lower extremity power nearly twice as fast as we lose strength. Power production is what keeps us competitive on the field of play and safe during our daily tasks. The current area of interest in exercise science has been the “discovery” of the benefits of lower extremity power training with older clients. One of the best books on this subject is Bending the Aging Curve, by Dr. Joseph Signorile. I read this book in 2011 and thought to myself, I heard all of this from Frank in 1979.
Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
For injury prevention, athletic performance, and general health, a regular program of lower extremity power training is beneficial. Traditional exercises that improve explosive leg power—jumps, hops, bounds, and skips—are too challenging for many fitness clients. Limited leg strength, poor balance, joint problems, and a high body mass index all make traditional plyometric training problematic. The assistance of a suspension trainer creates an environment that permits everyone to succeed in exercises that improve leg power.
Older fitness clients may not possess the balance to perform traditional plyometric power production exercises. The stability assist from the TRX is the balance “training wheels” necessary for beneficial jump, split jump, jump squat, and lunge exercises. The suspension trainer unloads an exercise and allows the client the opportunity to practice explosive movements with less joint stress. TRX power exercises require no set up time, and a full complement of explosive enhancing drills can be completed in five minutes.
Older fitness clients are in special need of training to improve leg power. Between the ages of 65 and 89 lower limb power (the ability to move the legs explosively) declines at a rate of 3.5% per year. Strength declines at a slower 1-2% per year rate in this same group. Power is the ability to create force in a short period of time and is different than raw strength. Lower extremity power capacity keeps us safe. It is the component of fitness that enables you to react and save yourself from a fall or sudden disturbance in balance. As leg power falters, injuries increase. As injuries increase, pain, mobility and independent living decreases.
Exercise is like medicine, administer the correct prescription at the proper dose and the patient thrives. The “exercise medicine” that is missing in many training programs is a consistent dose of power training. Watch the video for some examples of simple power production exercises you can add to your program.
-Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
To view a video demonstration of multiple exercises completed with TRX, click on the link below: