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!
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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. http://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/