The holidays are over, and now you may be feeling the after-effects– including the distressing awareness that you need to get back in shape.
Not to worry. Today we're going to explore three exercises that are perfect for when you've spent time being a couch potato: they can literally be done on the couch.
These exercises work your lower body (legs, hips, glutes), and are a bone-building trifecta:, the Functionality Enhancer, the Glute Strengthener And Hip Stabilizer, and the Single Leg Bridge.
The Wisdom of Julius Wolff
Julius Wolff, the German surgeon who pioneered “the law of the transformation of bone” at the end of the 19th century, demonstrated that weight-bearing exercise is one of the key elements in regaining bone strength and developing fracture resistance.
Wolff's law states that bone is living tissue, and, therefore, it is created and changed as a reaction to the muscle tension and pressure of gravity imposed upon it. Strengthening your muscles helps bone growth in two ways: stronger muscles cause bone to develop to support this increase in stress, and the added muscle weight on bone builds bone mass.
You can learn more about Wolff's law of bone formation in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
German surgeon Julius Wolff pioneered the now-proven concept of building bone through weight-bearing exercise. Strengthening your muscles helps build bone in two important ways: stronger muscles cause bone to develop to support the increase in muscle mass, and the added weight of muscle on bone builds bone mass.
The Functionality Enhancer
One of the more difficult moves to perform as we grow older is squatting, which depends on strong thighs and hips. If your legs have grown weaker, you can rectify this with half squats.
Hamstrings, the main muscle group in the back of the thighs, control knee and hip movement. The biceps femoris, which is the principal muscle in the hamstrings (not to be confused with the biceps brachii, in your upper arm), extends your hip when you start to walk. It also flexes and rotates your knee. When we sit for extended periods, which most of us do these days, our hip flexors tighten up. Strong hamstrings help alleviate this issue.
We use our hamstrings when squatting, and a half squat actually activates the bicep femoris, as well as the gluteus maximus (described in the previous section) better than a full squat, according to muscle activation studies.2
You're no doubt familiar with the quadriceps, the muscles located at the front of your thigh, which flex the hip and extend the knee joint. Again, half squats place the proper amount of force on the quad muscles relative to the hamstrings, helping to maintain muscle balance and not overstress one muscle group.
Half squats are also more senior-friendly because they are more accessible for people with orthopedic or mobility issues to perform than a full squat. Fitness professionals maintain that squatting exercises belong in every workout routine, as they work so many muscles that improve lower body strength and functionality.
- Stand with your back to your couch, toes forward. Grip your arms in front of you and squat down, as though you are going to sit on the couch.
- Push your buttocks out, be aware of your core, touch your buttocks to the couch and rise back up.
- Squeeze your buttocks right at the top, before each half-squat.
- If you do half-squats for just 45 seconds each time, it will give your hamstrings and quadriceps an excellent workout.
Squatting can become more challenging with age because it requires strong thigh and hip muscles. Half squats are a good way for Savers to develop their hamstrings and quadriceps in a balanced fashion. Additionally, this exercise is easier to do for people with physical limitations than full squats.
The Glute Strengthener And Hip Stabilizer
This exercise strengthens your gluteus medius, the abductor muscle that forms the outside edge of your buttocks and side of your hip. The gluteus medius is critical, especially as we age, because it helps strengthen and stabilize the hip and improve balance. Savers are well aware that hip fractures are devastating, which is why exercise that helps build and strengthen the hip bones and femoral head is essential.1
Strong medial glutes also help protect your knees and lower back from excessive strain. Many people who complain of lower back pain actually need to strengthen their gluteus medius.
In addition to the gluteus medius, this exercise targets the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your body, which helps you squat and improve overall functionality. The gluteus maximus is considered a core muscle, with an invaluable role in posture, balance, and core strengthening. For those who want toned glutes, this exercise is a great way to achieve that goal.
- Lean on your elbow on one side of your body, with your knees bent at approximately 45 degrees, one leg atop the other.
- Raise the top leg up, squeezing your medial glutes as you do so. Slowly lower your top leg to the starting position.
- Do 20 repetitions (or as many as you can). Do you feel the pleasant “burn” in the abductor muscle? This is the signal you are performing the exercise correctly.
Good job! Now flip your body to the other side, and repeat the exercise with the other leg. Your glutes may be a bit sore, but know that you are strengthening and toning crucial muscles that will support your bones well as you age.
This exercise, which can be done while lying on your couch, is an excellent lower body workout. The gluteus medius is a crucial muscle for stabilizing your hip, improving balance and strength, and protecting your knees and lower back. The gluteus maximus, the muscle responsible for shapely buttocks, is a prime mover in hip extension — and the largest muscle in your body. Performing the Glute Strengthener And Hip Stabilizer will increase your muscle definition, strengthen your hips, improve balance, and decrease the risk of injury.
The Single Leg Bridge
Have you built bridges in your life, perhaps between squabbling relatives, or among team members at work? This exercise focuses on building a bridge with your body, and it’s particularly important for those who sit for long periods of time because insufficient muscle use leads to weak muscles. Excessive sitting time also creates postural and lower back problems.
The Single Leg Bridge solves these issues by working all three gluteal muscles: maximus (the longest muscle in your body), medius, and minimus. Along with developing strong glutes and hamstrings, the Single Leg Bridge also improves hip mobility and strengthens your lower back, making it a comprehensive lower body workout that benefits anyone.
- Lie on your back on your couch, lift your left leg high in the air, point your toes, and raise and lower your buttocks for 30 seconds.
- Reverse sides, raise your right leg, point your toes, and raise and lower your buttocks for 30 seconds.
- Do as many repetitions as you can.
The Single Leg Bridge is a quick and easy way to work all your lower leg muscles, which will build bone. It's an excellent exercise for anyone who sits for long periods, which is most of us. The Single Leg Bridge works all three gluteal muscles, develops strong hamstrings, improves hip mobility, and strengthens the lower back.
Committing To An Exercise Routine Offers Many Health Perks!
Today’s exercises tone your legs, hips, and gluteal muscles. Strengthening these muscles increases bone density because of the need to support this increased muscular tension — and the added muscle weight builds bone mass.
As Savers know, the value of fitness for bone and overall health can't be overstated. All you need to stay in shape no matter what the season — and keep your bones strong, is your willingness to devote a small amount of time to practice the right exercises on a regular basis.
Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!
Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
1 Mayhew, Paul M., et al. “Relation between age, femoral neck cortical stability, and hip fracture risk.” The Lancet. Vol. 366, No. 9480, pp 129-135. 9 July 2005. Web. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673605668705/abstract/
2 Da Silva, J.J., Schoenfeld, B.J., Marchetti, P.N., Pecoraro, S.L., Greve, J.M., & Marchetti, P.H. (2017). “Muscle activation differs between partial and full back squat exercise with external load equated.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(6), 1688-1693. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28538321/
Comments on this article are closed.
Vivienne, would these exercises help with getting up off the floor, or beach? I am surprised to find myself struggling to get up lately.
Re: our general recommendation for calcium supplements is that they must be derived from organic calcium sourced from algae.
Are there any over-the-counter calcium supplements available that are derived from organic calcium source from algae, or would these be more available at an organic grocery store? I’ve heard some ladies say they take powdered calcium at night. Is that a good plan as well?
Thanks Vivian, I’ve been a ‘saver’ for many years – recently celebrated my 87th birthday – still walking without aid and can still get down on the floor and get up unaided. Thanks for your great advice over the years – these exercises are great!! Kelsey (Australia).
Very interesting exercise suggestions – thank you. I am caught between a rock and a hard place. Have LEMS, a form of Myasthenia Gravis so exercising is difficult, as I can’t sit/stand without using my arms and my legs can’t be relied on not to crumble (so squats are a no-no. In fact I broke my leg 3 yrs ago doing gentle exercises). Now have osteoporosis in both hips as a result of short-term intense steroid treatment for LEMS. Very angry about this. So doc talked me into a yearly Aclasta infusion (this was when I didn’t know anything about osteo) and now insistent I have Prolia injections for the rest of my life. I have just turned 67 and WON’T be having Prolia even tho the docs predict doom and gloom. I have always been healthy and very active and have no other problems, apart from LEMS. But this calcium thing confuses me because most supplements do not absorb and does the test at the doc’s REALLY show what’s happening? I’m not convinced. But I WILL do these exercises – thank you for your help.
Sorry for a typo, meant Osteowonder
Hello and Happy New Year to all your staff!
I am 68 and have severe osteoporosis especially in my spine. I am not suffering from it because I have no deformity in my bones. My hip bone t-score actually improved from prior reading of 2.5 years ago, but my spine t-score got worse. It is interesting because in my exercises I focused more on the lower body and less on the lower back. Now I know how important the exercise is where to apply it more.
I have never taken any drugs but used a lot of supplements like MK-7 packets from Xymogen and A product called TRF-350. I am thinking about trying for few months OsteoKing and OsteoWobder. I wonder whether your institute has any data or has done any research on these supplements.
Any advise would be much appreciated.
These 3 exercises look great. I think I can also do them from my bed!
Many thanks for all of the valuable information found on your site. I will be 90 in May, but have kept myself in shape in all of those years in sports, working out, distance running and, over the last dozen years, distance cycling. However, I surprised myself recently by pulling out all the stops on a fairly long hill ending, up with a very sore back for over three weeks. Extensive tests ordered by W.I. Clinic doctors showed multilevel disc and facet disease in the spine,12mm of anterolisthesis of L5 on S1 and some T12 and L1compression fractures (just thought you might like to read a little of your own lanquage!). I look forward to any recommendations for recovery that you may have.
Thank you, Ita.
Oops! The correct spelling is EZorb
Thank you for your hard work and effort
educating so many people.
I take True Osteo supplements. Have you
heard of a supplement called EZ Zorb?
It sounds very good and they claim that it is the best absorbed calcium to strengthen bones. I would love to know your thoughts. Thank you!
Hello…I really like the exercises but wonder if ENOUGH for me and my bones. I am scarred and have a fear of bone drugs. Three (3) doctors in the past 1 1/2 years have recommended I take Prolia for my bones because of my bone density test results… osteoporosis. I took Aldrendolate for 3 years and stopped the drug in 2014 (age 64). I am in excellent health, physically fit, have a good diet, and take no prescriptions. I had a house garage door closed on me and fell very hard on my buttocks and lower back a month ago, first vetebrae compression fracture in my life. My orthopedic surgeon stated to both my boyfriend and I that I could die from a hip fall fracture in the future and to take Prolia, bone marker tests were done. My boyfriend says: “fix your bones,” he doesn’t understand bone drugs and is not educated about osteoporosis. My bone density treatment dilemna: If I don’t take Prolia, will the right bone building exercises and the right bone building diet be ENOUGH treatment to increase my bone density?? Have an appointment in April with a recommended Rheumatologist who I hope will endorse and be an advocate of a bone treatment plan to increase bone density without drugs. Does any one have a great recommendation for an experienced doctor who can help manage my osteoporosis with me in the South Florida area? Thank you for reading my blog. Mary Kay 🙂
Happy new year and thank you for the exercises.
Please could you help: During the past two months, my back has become more painful; sometimes so sore that I can’t sleep, can’t get out of bed, and am too tired to cook – an activity that I used to love!
I went to my doctor’s surgery, and he suggested morphine. I’m reluctant to take that because of side effects. I’m going to see my acupuncturist on Thursday, and shall ask her what she thinks.
What do you think? Should I take it for a short time, until I gain more strength and put on some weight?
Do a computer search for “The Founder” back exercise (Dr. Eric Goodman). It’s a simple exercise but does wonders for back pain.
Same comment/enquiry as above
Thanks so much for these three exercises! They are simple, yet so doable during the long cold winter when it is often difficult to get outside to walk and exercise. I appreciate your helping us save our bones and general health with these email tips.
I am surprised that these exercises are being done on a sofa rather than on the floor. Why is this? I have always found it near impossible to do exercises on a soft surface such as a mattress or sofa.
Because, the first exercise is not actually on the couch. The next one can be done in bed even. The last is actually too hard for a beginner and some people can’t get off the floor.
Thank you Vivian, These exercised will help alot. Thanks for sharing.
I have followed your program for about 8 years now and at 70 years my doctor tells me to keep doing what I am doing because my bone density has definitely gotten better.