Michelle MacDonald helped her mother, Joan MacDonald, lose 40 pounds and discover a new, stronger side of herself at 71. We guess you could say fitness runs in this family.
My mother’s transformation journey has been one of the most astounding stories I’ve witnessed as a coach. To see the principles of body composition that I teach work so effectively on a woman in her age bracket has opened my eyes to the possibility of change in any woman, regardless of her original state, background experience, or hormonal profile.
Joan is challenged by some of the “techie” aspects of my programming, so our focus wasn’t getting everything perfect but rather on being consistent and building up her fitness foundation slowly over time. Lucky for both of us, her perseverance and positive attitude won out in the end!
WHY: Side planks engage the obliques, the primary muscles that transfer force from the legs to the upper body.
WHAT: Hold for 30 seconds per side.
HOW: Lie on your side with your legs extended and together, resting your body on the outside of your lower foot and corresponding elbow. Using your core muscles, lift your hips up to bring your body into a straight line from head to heels, keeping the belly flat. Stretch your upper arm overhead, reaching for the far wall to increase the difficulty.
Mini-Band Gluteal Bridge to Clam
WHY: This floor exercise uses body weight and light resistance via a band to strengthen the glutes and open the groin.
WHAT: Do two sets of 15 reps.
HOW: [A] Wrap a mini-band just above your knees. Lie face-up on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Your heels should be close to your hips, your knees in line with your toes, and your arms outstretched by your sides on the floor. [B] Engage the glutes as you push your hips up to the ceiling until fully extended. Hold this position as you flare your knees out to the sides, then bring them back together before returning the hips to the floor.
WHY: This squat variation is one of the best exercises to teach proper squat mechanics.
WHAT: Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
HOW: Begin by standing with your feet a little wider than your hips, toes pointed out slightly, and a weight plate held at chest level. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and squat down while extending the plate away from you as far as possible. Push your feet into the floor to stand back up, bringing the plate back to your chest as you rise.
WHY: This is a fantastic exercise for every level to help build up to a full Goblet squat. Simply adjust the seat height to suit the individual, and each week try to progress a little bit deeper.
WHAT: Do three sets of 10 reps.
HOW: [A] Hold a kettlebell in front of your chest, elbows pointing forward and down, and stand a few inches in front of a stack of plates or a bench. [B] Take a deep breath as you squat down until your hips rest lightly on the plates. Keep the knees pushed out over the toes and maintain an upright chest. Use your glutes and quads to extend back up to the start.
WHY: Finishing up the leg exercises with a plank variation will help build more core strength – and this time there’s the addition of weight.
WHAT: Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
HOW: Assume a plank position with legs outstretched behind you and elbows below your shoulders. Lift your hips a little higher than your chest, and remain balanced on both forearms. Have someone carefully place a weight plate on the middle of your back. Hold this position for the allotted time. Each week, try to slightly increase the weight or the duration to build up strength.
WHY: A final exercise to improve posture, face pulls are very effective at working the external rotators of the shoulders – if done correctly. The key is to concentrate on keeping your shoulder blades flat to the rib cage throughout the exercise to strengthen the external rotator muscles.
WHAT: Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
HOW: Attach a medium resistance band to a post. Grasp one end in each hand and take a few steps back, keeping some slack in the bands. Stand up tall, keeping your hands at eye level and elbows higher than the shoulders. Pull the band toward your eyes while simultaneously pulling the band apart. (Think of doing a double biceps pose.) Return your arms to the outstretched position to complete one rep. As you progress, use a heavier resistance band or progress to a cable machine.