Sparta Seniors: Synchronicity of Science, Perception of Limitations & Movement
“Our perception of our own limitations.” is a phrase that can be meaningful to all of us. This phenomenon centers in the mind however it shows through our actions or inactions.
By Julio A. Salado, NSCA-RCPT*D
In many cases, whether one is a professional athlete or a senior, they will have something in common-fear of doing a movement or activity due to their perception of limitation but in reality they are not physically limited.
The idea or fear may have developed after a past accident and that simulated that movement is associated with pain. This will naturally lead a person to be cautious but what happens when we become overly cautious?
Caution is the main factor inciting fear of continuing past activities (will not take stairs, fear of falling). Discouragement leads to inactivity. Physical consequences e.g. muscle atrophy, Mental health including depression, anxiety and decreased self esteem are common.
Their daily activities may revolve around this perception and even their social life can be affected.
How do we build upon the consensus that physical activity has many benefits for the senior population sixty five year plus? The simple answer is we train smarter.
The method I developed is based on my years of training with seniors also known as special populations from ages sixty up to ninety three years. I call them “mature exercisers” they seem more receptive this title than being called seniors.
Upon reading Ken Germano’s doctoral thesis “Fear of Falling” I was inspired to expand on his original topic of falling to include my experience with training seniors. Source (Walden University https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/dissertations/6898/ )
Working with seniors has always been a privilege. Our duration of training ranged from a few months to over a decade. We also developed long lasting friendships.
Unexpected gifts I received in exchange for providing a service were daily reminders to live life in the present and to be grateful.
The common desire they all shared regardless of their gender, age or pre-conditions was to maintain or improve their quality of their life as they age. Their perceptions of their own limitations and the aging process varied.
I witness their successful results in improvements in mobility, balance, functional strength and a decrease in their perceptions that were affecting their daily activities.
My definition of successful results is relative to the feedback I received from my client, their family and friends.
Small victories such as being able to stand in the shower without fear, being able to walk the dog for longer periods without knee pain, sit up from a chair with less struggle, motivation in the morning to do their prescribed workouts and even the ability to put their pants on one leg at a time. These are tangible and measurable results and priceless to the individuals. For there was a time they thought they were unable to do these tasks.
What fields and sources inspired my method?
After years of training individuals of various ages, fitness levels, backgrounds and goals, I pursued studies, research and completed certification in different fields to optimize their program design. To name a few certifications/courses . . . Olympic Weight lifting, assisted stretching, strength and conditioning, martial arts, post rehabilitation training and Multiple sclerosis wellness course.
With each specialty there was a review of human movement, biomechanics and physiological principles along with accessory exercises for the specialty. Regardless of the course or exercise modality, the objective was always improved performance and injury prevention.
Other related fields are neurodynamics, agility training and tactile training.
With a little bit of open mindness, creativity, perseverance and intuition I was able to identify accessory exercises that can be used with my seniors. I did this by following leaders in their respective fields.
I usually have to modify the exercise and that’s where the creativity comes into play. With that being said, I want to share insights into the methods and exercises I used that gave such wonderful tangible results.
By no means am I an expert in one field. I am experienced in successfully training with seniors who showed measurable results both physical, mental and improvement in the perception of their own limitations.
A few years ago I attended a symposium at a local university. One of the presenters was the head of physical therapy for a Major League Baseball team. After observing some of the exercises I thought to myself “if the exercises are good enough to protect the golden shoulder of a pro baseball player then it’s good enough for us!” . I then began to apply modified versions to my senior clients.
I propose a system that will utilize the body’s innate ability to relearn movement in all anatomical planes. This is accomplished through progressive challenges to the individual’s cognitive and physical fitness. The program combines hand eye coordination drills, change of direction, ankle mobility, grip strength, power exercises, perturbation and memory recall drills among others.
The system is called S.P.A.R.T.A:
SPARTA senior training is a synchronicity of western exercise science and eastern holistic arts to help overcome the perception of limitations & movement, promote acuity and develop self-confidence. They are steps to empowerment of seniors.
The S.P.A.R.T.A method originates from the S.M.A.R.T goal setting for program design . . .
The S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) and S.A.I.D ( Specific adaptation to imposed demands) principles are the fundamentals with the understanding that goals may change as they age. Their expectations may shift to managing and preserving current fitness.
The evolution to S.P.A.R.T.A accommodate the physical and/or cognitive effects of the aging process for the individual and increased demand of awareness from the trainer..
Specificity- Exercises are small steps towards goal(s). Draw inspiration from other fields
Perception – Respect and work with clients perception of limitations – build trust, slow progress. Use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)
Accessibility: Exercises are modified, safe and challenging to promote physiological adaptation.
Rewarding- Program improves self confidence, fun, empowerment with partner activities.
Timetable: Program evolves with aging process.
Awareness – Fitness professional listens intently to feedback and identify patterns that may indicate medical concern.
The majority of the exercises in this article are designed to challenge their COG (center of gravity), develop power and teach COD (change of direction) skills. Beyond building physical wellness, we want to enhance their ability for retention and comprehension of exercises ( promote brain activity).
It’s a series of non-traditional exercises to develop movement patterns in all anatomical planes of motion within their physical limitations while including their fears.
They can be used as “exercise fillers” to your current program and not replace your workout. But rather compliment the exercise selection.
Behind every champion is a series of small victories that lead them to that single, memorable event. For senior fitness we strive for small victories that are conducive to their goals..
To me they are true champions for doing the work, persevering and for being an inspiration to others to stay active.
I hope my method will encourage research and study into the areas I discussed earlier. Together we can continue to develop guidelines and standards that will allow our seniors to live longer with a higher quality of life.
Access Julio’s YouTube videos on these following workouts on his account
C.O.G (Center Of Gravity) Variations
Change C.O.G. to challenge 89 year old Brian. Strength training to fight Alzheimers with Deadlift variations.
WIDE & Narrow stance, Hands Behind Ears (change of lever) and Dumbbell.
Improves Balance| Posterior Chain| Fall prevention | Mobility| Independence
Progressive Overload: S.A.I.D Principle in Action
Progressive overload day with support. He normally just does body weight from various heights. He likes weight so I accommodate with functional strength with some fun. We are always striving to improve exercise technique and never train with discomfort or pain.
C.O.D. (Change Of Direction)
We focus on deceleration . This is an accessory exercise for his C.O.D. (Change of Direction) workouts and balance.
Fa Jin/Power Training with 65Lbs Heavy Bag
In Tai Chi Chuan we call it Fa Jin. In essence it’s generating, guiding power throughout the body. Develops core stability, mind body, reaction time & fall prevention.
Thank you for reading!
I am currently working on a book of the same title.
Article originally published in PT Today Magazine in the UK.