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Society says that as you age both you and your training should slow down. Precisely the opposite is true and necessary – training fast (relatively) and for power become ever more important with age. It’s also vital for a firm, toned body.

Why: In order to avoid a fall you need to be able to recover your balance fast. Recovering your balance slowly often means a trip to the floor and possibly hospital. (Did you know that 25% of hospital admissions are from falling account? That 40% of nursing home admissions are from falls?) We all know that muscle mass and strength decline with age, but more importantly power declines exponentially faster with age.

Moving something fast is also vital for looking your best (less fat and/or more muscle) and performing your best. When it comes to performance this should be pretty obvious – in any sport if you can get faster or at least avoid getting slower with time, you will have a competitive edge. When it comes to looking your best, its not quite as obvious, but here’s why: Not all muscle fibers are created equal – the small, slow-twitch fibers that you use for slow or easier activities like walking, jogging, etc don’t seem to do as much for boosting your metabolism as your bigger, more powerful fast-twitch fibers do.

In order to conserve energy your body uses the least amount of muscle fibers that it can use to do whatever it is that you have it do. To stand in line, walk, or jog you do not need to recruit all (or near all) of your available muscle fibers. However to sprint, jump high or throw something heavy you need to produce lots of force – exponentially more. (Physics refresher: force is mass multiplied by velocity squared. So to move the same object with the same mass – your body, very fast requires exponentially more force.)

To get access to your “power muscle fibers” that have the greatest capacity to get you lean and athletic looking, you need to move something heavy and/or fast. If everything you do is relatively easy and slow (like jogging) you actually condition your body to bypass the “power muscle fibers” and go straight to the slow ones which will make getting a nice butt pretty hard.
 
To recap, explosive (even violent) exercise is one the few things that pretty much everyone should do regardless of their goals or age.

So if your goal is – — >

Fat-loss:  If you want to lose fat, then explosive exercise will help you tap into your super important “high-threshold” muscle fibers that can have the biggest impact on your metabolism.  These muscle fibers need you to do something very fast or very heavy to wake up, otherwise they’re dormant.

Aging gracefully: If you want to age more gracefully, it’s important to remember that no one falls down slow.  Falling is fast, and if you can react and regain your balance quickly, then you’re much more likely to stay on your feet or fall well.  The older you get the more likely it is that a fall will land you in the hospital or worse.

Athletic performance: There’s no such thing as an athlete who is too explosive or too powerful. Even if you are an endurance athlete the goal is to cross the finish line in less time, and that is about being stronger and more powerful.

Medicine balls are one of the best tools to begin your power training with because they are very easy to learn how to use (throw this ball as hard as you can at the floor) and they are very, very safe when compared to other options such as Olympic weight lifting.

What’s special about medicine balls?  Besides the power you need to generate to throw the ball, your hips and core must also act as the brakes.  When you throw the ball it throws you just as hard, and for you to maintain your balance your body must reflexively counter that backwards force.  That reflex is balance, and is the reflex that keeps you from falling and breaking things.  Amazing!

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