How do over-40 hotties like Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Halle Berry stay so young-looking? Sure, celebrities have access to all the beauty boosters that money can buy, but they also have another secret: strength training.
Strength training is the key to fighting aging at the gym, says personal trainer and over-40 (heck, over-50!) hardbody Kathy Smith, whose brand-new DVD, Ageless with Kathy Smith: Staying Strong, is now available.
“As you age, you start to lose muscle mass every year after 30 — it’s imperceptible at first, but things gradually start getting soft and saggy, and beyond just cosmetic reasons, not interfering with that process means you’re setting yourself up for possible injury,” Smith says.
“Maintaining that muscle mass is really the secret to having a youthful body, both in the way you look and the way your body functions. And people who are obsessed with spending hours on the treadmill are missing the point — a big part of weight loss is increasing muscle mass.”
We asked Smith for her top three age-busting moves:
1. Try for triceps.
It’s no secret that jiggly triceps are a sure sign of an aging woman. But Smith says women don’t realize that triceps need to be targeted from several different angles (the “tri” in triceps is there because the muscle has three sections that connect at the elbow). So keep doing your kickbacks, but try adding an overhead triceps extension, or this simple move:
Get into a push-up position with your arms close to your body, like you would for Chaturanga in yoga. If you’re starting out, get on your knees, and if you’re more advanced, get on your toes. Then simply do push-ups — start at three sets of five and work your way up to 12-15. Make sure to pull your shoulder blades down for maximum impact.
Age-Fighting Bonus: Push-ups are great for ab toning, but to enhance the core-strengthening kick, add a pause at the end of each set and remain in a plank. Start at 15 seconds and work your way up to a minute. If that’s already old hat, take it to the next level by adding small hip-pulses: In plank, lift your hips up a couple of inches and then bring them back down, 10 times.
2. No ifs, ands, or…
“Your butt really starts to go, so it’s important to target it from a strength standpoint,” Smith says. The most important thing to keep in mind for lower-body exercises is your form (otherwise you may only be working your quads), so forget everything you know about squats and try Smith’s form-focusing method:
Stand six inches in front of a chair, and then — keeping your back straight and your core engaged — simply sit down and stand back up. Make sure you’re keeping your weight shifted to the back of your body and centered in your heels. Do 10 reps. When you’ve got the hang of it, do the same thing but only let your rear graze the seat — don’t put your weight on it. Work your way up to eventually taking the chair away and adding some weight, but don’t forget that form.
3. Stand up straight!
We’ve all seen a sweet little old lady at the grocery store, hunched over her cart, and crossed our fingers that we’ll never end up looking like that. Bad posture, droopy shoulders and a hunched back all give away your age like it’s tattooed on your forehead. Try Smith’s favorite move for keeping your back and shoulders strong — and upright:
Sit on a chair and lean forward so your abs are close to your upper thighs (but not resting on them) and your chest is up. Extend your arms out and forward in a V shape, and with your thumbs pointing toward the ceiling, lift and pulse your arms up and down, keeping your shoulders down and feeling the muscles between your shoulder blades contract. Do a set of 10 pulses, then drop the hands down and relax. Do three sets.
Age-Fighting Bonus: Throughout the day, take 10 seconds to pinch your shoulder blades together, pretending that you’re squeezing a pencil between them. This opens and stretches your chest muscles, which get very tight if your shoulders are drooping forward (also leaving your back weak). Smith recommends setting an internal cue for yourself: Do this each time the phone rings, every time you send an email, etc. Fight aging all day long! —Anna Maltby for Self.com
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