Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Ethan Barrett

Recent Posts by Ethan Barrett:

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 4)

In my first, second, and third blogs of the series, I went over five of my guidelines to being successful in senior fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises
  3. Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements
  4. Grip Exercises
  5. Mobility Work
In this fourth and final blog of the series, I discuss one more guideline:

Don't Change Exercises; Change the Intangibles and Variables of the Exercise

ThinkstockPhotos-95247776.jpgCertain exercises, such as the sit-to-stand and the seated row, should always be performed in one's routine. Certain experts recommend that one would eventually replace these exercises with a new one. The reasoning behind this is that it is believed that over time the muscles will grow accustomed to certain exercises and the effect will be lost. While this is slightly true, it's not true because of the exercise itself, but rather the variables of the exercise, such as the sets, reps, rest periods, tempo, etc.

By changing these variables, the CCRC resdient client will always have results and will continue to perform exercises that work the entire body in unison, such as the exercises in the preceding blogs. As a result, they will increase their performance in the daily activities of life.

After all, the more something is changed, the less that person will be good at it. If you want to get good at throwing a ball, you spend your time throwing a ball and not catching a ball. Well, the concept is the same with exercise. Constantly changing the exercises on someone will possibly give them results, but the question isn’t, "Is this person getting results?" Rather, the question is, "Is this the best way to do it?"

So, constantly changing the exercises may elicit a result, but we are looking for the best results; therefore, mastering and being consistent with basic, compound, multi-joint, closed-chain movements will help gain strength, increase lean muscle weight, increase mobility, work the body in unison, increase neurological activation, and lead to greater overall success.

Subscribe to our blog

Topics: CCRC balance senior fitness change mobility exercises grip

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 3)

In my first and second blogs of the series, I went over four of my guidelines to being successful in fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises
  3. Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements
  4. Grip Exercises

In this third blog, I discuss another guideline.  

Guideline 5: Mobility WorkThinkstockPhotos-474645128.jpg

Mobility is the ability to move freely, pain free, and without issue throughout the range of motion of a particular joint. For instance, a client may have an issue getting into the position to do an exercise such as the sit-to-stand. One of the issues I see is related to tight ankles, which is a very common problem. With tight ankles, if the chair is in a low position, the client won't be able to keep their heels on the ground and will shift their weight to the front of the foot, opening the door to a fall or knee injury. To fix this area, I focus on three spots: range-of-motion exercises, stretching exercises (whether it is static or dynamic), and myofascial release exercises.

While stretching is important, too much of it may lead to joint laxity, which could lead to injury. Range-of-motion exercises, such as pointing and flexing with the foot, rolling the ankle around in full circles, and even calf raises will move the joint in its full range of motion and warm up the joints and muscles, which will allow for better stretching and injury prevention. Lastly, myofascial release will help loosen up that gristly tissue, which will lead to more mobility, therefore leading to increased performance, less injury, and better results.

Obviously, many CCRC residents won't be able to do foam rolling by using a foam roller on the floor, and I certainly don’t recommend that. Therefore, I recommend two tools: a mobility stick, which allows the resident to access problem spots on their own from a comfortable position, and a tennis ball, which is small enough to target certain spots, but not so hard that it may hurt too much, as myofascial release is always a bit uncomfortable. The tennis ball can be used while lying on an elevated mat or exercise table, or even used as a tool to loosen up the upper body by placing the ball on a wall and gently pressing the ball into the problem spot, such as the chest or mid back.

While mobility is an issue that affects many areas of the body, lack of ankle mobility is a common problem that I've seen, and you can apply the same mobility principles to many different areas other than the ankles.


In my next blog, I give you my sixth and final guideline: Changing exercise variables.

Subscribe to our blog

Topics: CCRC senior fitness stretching injury prevention mobility myofascial release foam rolling

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 2)

In my first blog, I discussed two of my guidelines for senior fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises

In this second blog, i will discuss different movements and grip exercises.

Guideline 3: Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements

Exercises like sit-to-stands, which are modified squats; and a vertical and horizontal pressing and pulling movement, such as seated rows and wall pushups, just to name a few, give you more bang for your buck. Movements like this burn more calories and fat, lead to greater strength and lean muscle gains, and most importantly, they work the body in unison.

These exercises work multiple muscle groups through the range of motion of multiple joints. For instance, a sit-to-stand works the quads, hamstrings, hips, calves, and even the upper back due to maintaining a neutral, upright spine. Also, this exercise uses these particular muscles through the range of motion of the hip joint, knees, ankles, and more. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, only work one muscle through the range of motion of one joint. For instance, a leg extension works the quads through the range of motion of the knee joint.

When CCRC residents, or anyone for that matter, perform daily activities such as standing up after ThinkstockPhotos-145159937.jpglunch, walking down the hallway, or picking up groceries, multiple muscles are being used through the range of motion of multiple joints. That’s why the compound, multi-joint, closed-chain movements are so much more effective than isolation, single-joint, open-chain movements.

These exercises also increase neurological activation. Compound exercises allow the individual to lift heavier loads, as opposed to isolation movements. Lifting heavier loads demands an involvement of larger muscles, which places more demand on the central nervous system to activate more motor units and fire them off at a faster and higher rate.

These exercises are great for balance, as well. Strength-training exercises are extremely effective for increasing balance. One question I always like to ask residents is, “Would you say that your balance is worse than it was ten years ago?” The answer is usually a resounding yes. Then I ask, “Why do you think that is? Ten years ago, did you regularly perform balance exercises?” The answer to this question is usually a resounding no. What this tells me is that as the resident got older, they lost muscle. As the muscle atrophied, they lost the strength to appropriately balance themselves. Furthermore, if they had a fall, they'd be even more reluctant to do anything. This fear would lead to even more inactivity and muscle atrophy, leading to a steady decline in balance. My suggestion? Center most of the training on the main compound movements and add isolation exercises in for lagging, injured, or imbalanced muscle groups.

Guideline 4: Grip Exercises

Most residents have arthritis in their hands; therefore, they have poor range of motion with them. Hand strength is vital for many reasons. From being able to grab their eating utensil to being able to grab the railing when they walk the halls, grip strength is vital. Doing crushing-grip exercises, like using a hand gripper from a sports store; or rubber band forearm extensor exercises, which are vital to avoid an imbalance from the crushing-grip work; and pinching grip exercises with a dumbbell allows clients to strengthen their hands, reduce, pain and increase range of motion.


Watch for my next blog when I introduce a fifth guideline for senior fitness—mobility work.

Interested in doing more for your residents and how you can create a culture of wellness?  Click below to see how you can do just that! 

Whitepaper+Wellness Culture


Topics: CCRC NIFS balance senior fitness muscles exercises

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Fitness

fitness_levels.jpgExercise, as we know, is an essential part of living a healthy life—not only for the elderly, but for everyone. One common question I get is, “What exercises should I do?” Now, this is a loaded question. That’s going to depend on things like goal, fitness level, capability, and injury. But for the most part, I recommend that everyone follow basic guidelines for success when it comes to their fitness. Over the course of this blog, I discuss two of my guidelines for fitness. Not everyone is the same; therefore, one size doesn't fit all. But we are all humans, so one size does fit most.

When asked about what style of fighting he instructs and follows, Bruce Lee, my hero and inspiration, responded: “I don't believe in different ways of fighting now. I mean, unless human beings have three arms and three legs, then we will have a different way of fighting. But basically we all have two arms and two legs, so that is why I believe there should be only one way of fighting and that is no way.” Essentially, he was saying what I said before, which is that even though we are all different and everything doesn't apply to everyone, we are all more similar than we are different; therefore, the same basic rules will apply to everyone, whether it's with martial arts or exercise.

Guideline 1: Muscle-Activation Exercises

Muscle activation is when someone gains mastery over his or her body. A good example would be a bodybuilder. A bodybuilder will get on stage and brace their muscles as a means of showing their physique, but tensing that muscle tissue allows them to make that “mind-muscle connection,” which will allow them to concentrate on that particular muscle while doing an exercise. Essentially, they have an uber-awareness of their bodies.

Simple exercises isolating each muscle group through bracing can be a huge help in achieving this awareness. Also, certain exercise tips can increase this. For example, when performing a seated row, you want the client to concentrate on rowing with the upper back and not the arms; therefore, you can give them a simple cue such as pretending to squeeze an imaginary tennis ball together with their shoulder blades. This cue will allow them to take tension off certain areas, such as the arms, and put more tension on those larger, postural muscles like the lats, rhomboids, and traps.

Guideline 2: Simplistic Exercises

Simplicity with exercise is an important key to success. The more complex and drawn out the exercise becomes, the less the client will think about muscle activation and the more they will think about how confused they are. When describing his art, Jeet Kune Do, Bruce lee stated, “Simplicity is the key to brilliance. In building a statue, a sculptor doesn't keep adding clay to his subject. Actually, he keeps chiseling away at the inessentials until the truth of its creation is revealed without obstructions. Thus, contrary to other styles, being wise in Jeet Kune Do doesn't mean adding more; it means to minimize, in other words to hack away the unessential.”

Subscribe to our blog by clicking below to receive new blog posts directly to your inbox.

Subscribe to our blog


Topics: exercise fitness muscles