The longer you're on the planet, the more wear and tear you're bound to accrue. It's like compound interest, just the opposite. Years of heavy barbell work, sports, and being behind the desk can lead to spines like railroad spikes, and shoulders and hips that could use a generous dose of WD40.
While you should be addressing all of those issues with sound mobility work and whatnot, it doesn't mean that you can't be improving your strength and athleticism while building muscle at the same time.
Here are the five best exercises to hammer into your program:
1 – Push-Up Variations
There are a million options and they all have value. But to keep your joints happy, use push-up handles, parallette bars, or better yet, gymnastics rings, to keep the shoulders and wrists in the best positions. You want to hammer muscles, not further beat up your joints.
2 – Ring L-Sit Chin-Up
Heavy chin-ups are great, but if you've got some shoulders that are less than optimal, using gymnastics rings to let the shoulders rotate more naturally is a must.
Add in an L-sit and you've got a governor switch to keep the reps perfect and controlled, without needing much, if any, additional load. If you want to overload the upper body further, throw on a weighted vest, or stick a medicine ball between your feet if you're looking for an extra core challenge.
3 – Sandbag-Shouldered Deficit Reverse Lunge
Everyone could probably use more single-leg work in their programs. With these, you get:
- Half the loading of bilateral exercises, which saves your spine
- To work on balancing out any asymmetries
- A more posterior dominant exercise than forward lunges, making them easier on the knees
- An increased range of motion
- An uneven loading tool that adds a serious core challenge
4 – Box Jump
It's all fine and well to get brutally strong lifting, but being athletic requires more. Since we lose power at twice the rate of strength as we age, training that quality would be wise. Box jumps are a great power exercise that doesn't have as heavy of an eccentric component as other jumping options like burpees or jump squats, so they won't beat up your body or nervous system.
The caveat is to not do them with the intention of garnering as many Youtube likes as possible and jumping on boxes so high that you have to tuck your knees into your chest to clear them. These are about a soft landing in the same position that you start your jump from, ensuring you get maximal power production and quality work on your landing mechanics.
Gyms have 50 treadmills, 30 stationary bikes, and maybe 1-2 VersaClimbers, at best. The reason? They're really hard, but brutally effective. The VersaClimber is a beast but it's especially smooth on the joints and allows you to really go hard without the pounding of a traditional sprint.
Shoot for 100 ft on the VersaClimber in under 40 seconds, let your heart rate come back down to 70% or so, then repeat 3-5 times. No heart rate monitor? Rest twice as long as you worked, unless your performance plummets and you need more.