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YOUR SECRET weapon against time’s assault on your speed, strength, balance, and mobility: these four deceptively challenging fitness tests. Each highlights a basic function you’ll want to maintain—and can still make gains on.
THE 8-FOOT UP-AND-GO TEST
As you age, you can lose quad, ham- string, and glute strength. To test how well you’re staying nimble, set up a chair and place a cone or other marker 8 feet from it. Sit down. Have somebody time you as you stand, walk (don’t run) to the cone and around it, then return to your chair and sit down. Your goal: finish in less than 5.6 seconds, which most healthy men over 60 can pull off.
FIX IT: If you took longer, try these 2 exercises to improve.
LEG STRENGTH: Work on the tempo bodyweight squat, taking 3 seconds on every rep to lower your thighs until they’re parallel to the floor. Pause, then stand. Do 3 sets of 10 reps 4 times weekly.
FOOT STRENGTH: Your smallest foot muscles may also need some TLC: Walk on your tiptoes for three 45-second sets. Repeat 4 times weekly
THE SHOCK CHALLENGE
The older you get, the more your ability to maintain your balance tends to decline. But don’t get tripped up. You can gain more stability by master- ing this simple test: Stand on your right foot with a sock nearby. Without grasping anything for balance or letting your left foot touch the floor, pick up the sock and put it on your left foot. Repeat the test on the other side, trying to be as smooth as possible.
FIX IT: If you lurch or tip over, it’s time to do some work.
MUSCLE STABILITY: The small muscles in your feet, knees, hips, and abs are likely struggling to work together. To correct that, stand barefoot on a pillow with your right foot and lift your left foot off the floor, knee high in the air. Close your eyes. Hold this position for 45 seconds. Do 3 sets per side daily. Too easy? Swing your arms back and forth, as if running.
THE SHOE GETUP TEST
Muscle imbalances can limit your reach and ability to rotate. Test pliancy by lying on the floor, right hand directly over your right shoulder in a fist. Have a friend place one of your shoes atop your knuckles. Lean up and over on your left forearm, then prop up on your left hand. Lift your hips, thread your left leg backward so your left shin is on the floor, and stand. Reverse the moves to lie back down. Repeat on the other side.
FIX IT: If the shoe falls, try these exercises.
HIP MOBILITY: Sit on the floor, with 90 degree angles at both knees and a 90 degree angle at your hips, abs tight. Shift your hips from side to side for 45 seconds. Do 3 sets daily.
SHOULDER MOBILITY: Hold a kettlebell or loaded backpack overhead in your right hand. Place your left hand on your rib cage and tighten your abs. Walk 20 steps. Repeat on the other side. Do 3 sets 3 times a week.
THE DEAD-HANG SHOWDOWN
After middle age, your grip strength steadily erodes each year, and that can gradually hurt your ability to do basic things. Assess that strength (and your full-body strength, too) with the dead hang. Find a pullup bar of some sort. Grasp it with an overhand grip, tighten your shoulder blades and your abs, and hang for as long as possible. Your goal: hang for at least 90 seconds.
FIX IT: Let go early? Master these moves.
BACK STRENGTH: Do Superman holds on your belly, arms and legs outstretched. Lift your thighs off the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades as you lift your arms. Pause 2 seconds. Do 30 reps daily.
GRIP STRENGTH: Wrap a towel around a dumbbell or loaded book bag for towel curls. Bend only your elbows and keep your palms facing each other. Do 3 sets of 10 reps 4 times weekly.
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