Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
We all need recovery days and cross training in our workouts, especially if we want to maintain physical fitness as we get older. Every year, I’ve found these balance days become more important. Now, yoga is an important part of my regimen to decompress and reset my body from the rigors of cardio and resistance training. One of my favorite yoga movements, the chair pose, has become so valuable to me because it challenges my whole body and gives me benchmarks to shoot for regarding mobility and strength.
To get started, stand up straight and tall with your feet close together. Raise your arms straight up toward the ceiling with your palms facing each other. Sit back and lower your butt down as if you were sitting in a chair low as you can (stop once your quads are parallel with the floor if your mobility allows). Importantly, this isn’t the same thing as an air squat; keep your elbows extended and your arms straight above your head. You should look like you’re sitting down in an invisible chair—but you should be working hard to maintain your depth and posture. Make sure to keep a neutral spine instead of looking up, keeping your gaze ahead of you.
The beauty of the chair pose is that it challenges multiple joints in your body to maintain good form. To lower yourself down, your ankles must flex, which determines how deep you may be able to descend. If you have any knee problems or tight hips, that will also play a part in your depth. Finally, you’ll need to maintain core tension to prevent your back from rounding or your posture to flag.
Aside from joint mobility, it also takes strength to execute the chair pose properly and hold it isometrically for longer periods of time. The higher you raise your arms the more you may feel like your belly is poking forward. To counter that, brace your abs as tight as you can and squeeze your shoulder blades.
The chair pose will help you strengthen your glutes and quads because you’re holding the position for an extended period of time, while your upper back and shoulders work hard to maintain solid posture. You might be surprised at how much the position exposes the lack of flexibility in your lats to keep your arms in line with your spine. Overall, the chair pose is one of the best isometric holding positions you can do to test muscle groups all over your body.
Too often men only focus on heavy resistance training to get in shape, which may limit flexibility and mobility when we don’t cross train. Introducing practices like the chair pose will help to counter that tendency. Make this a challenge during a mobility-focused session or as a cool down—and I’m telling you, it’s tougher than it looks. I suggest starting with 20 second holds, then progressing from there. As you get more accustomed to the movement, work to perfect your posture, then hold for longer periods of time.
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