Make Your Bones “Buff”: Easy Resistance Exercises to Maximize Bone Density Benefits
By: Karl Zarse, MD
If we are going to AGE WITH POWER, then we have to make resistance exercise a staple in our daily routine for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately many people have chronic injuries that give them the impression they should avoid these activities altogether. This is a huge mistake. The unwanted side effect is thinning bone density over time, from mild to severe, depending on a variety of factors.
Science has proven that only resistance exercise can load the bones in a way that forces the body to make bones stronger and denser. But this is critical: you must load them in a way that minimizes excessive strain and wear on the joints.
It’s actually extremely simple and anyone can apply these principles. Resistance exercise is using weights, bands, or cables to apply resistance throughout the movement. There are three phases to a repetition. Let’s use a bicep curl as an example. You contract the weight towards you, which is the concentric part of the exercise. There is the hold at the top, or isometric phase. And then you slowly lower the weight back to position, which is the eccentric part of the movement.
Instead of piling on weight and putting your joints under strain, really exaggerate the contraction of the muscle and the strain on the bones by highlighting each phase of the contraction. Lift the weight half way up, hold it for a second in isometric contraction, raise it all the way at max contraction, and then lower it down slowly for three seconds.
You can just do straight isometric exercises as well. Wall sits are a great example of this. You can also hold a push up position against the wall if a traditional position is too hard.
Resistance training is the most neglected form of exercise in my patients over 50 years old. I have multiple patients that have slipped on their sides and shattered their humerus, the upper part of the arm that forms the shoulder. They will never use that arm again as it was meant to be, and I don’t see these injuries in patients that are dedicated to an ongoing resistance exercise program.
Break your routine into upper body one day, lower body the next. Now pick a single exercise for each part that you specifically know won’t jar your joints. Do four sets of 8-12 repetitions and make it interesting by breaking up each movement into extra concentric, eccentric, and isometric movements .
This is super simple and will have a huge impact on your bone density over time. I guarantee that if you do this 4 times a week, and are dedicated to supplementing your nutrition, you will dramatically increase your bone density and significantly reduce the chance of obtaining one of these devastating injuries.