The question regularly arises as to the applicability of a regimen like CrossFit to older and deconditioned or detrained populations.
The needs of an Olympic athlete and our grandparents differ by degree not kind. One is looking for functional dominance the other for functional competence. Competence and dominance manifest through identical physiological mechanisms.
Our kids, adults and our seniors squat, deadlift, push-press, push-jerk, clean and jerk, snatch, pull-up, dip, push-up, bench press, back/hip extend, sit-up, and rope climb. The workout that challenges a prizefighter will have a toned down equivalent for anyone else. Less weight, fewer reps, more rest, whatever is required to allow exposure to the movements at a challenging but tolerable and intensity is all that is needed to accommodate most special needs. We eventually put old ladies up the rope and max deadlift test them. They get stronger, their bones become more dense, their postures improve, and their attitudes brighten.
Three movements, the squat, deadlift, and push-press, are our starting point with nearly everyone. In the case of the elderly, these movements have functional analogs necessary for independent living. The marginal capacity to stand is another way to look at the squat. At any age it can be moved away from incapacity and towards greater function. There is nothing at our disposal with greater positive impact on the elderly than effective strength training.
Women with osteoporosis can start their weight lifting careers with a broomstick. We work with a woman who came to us originally with reduced bone mass and an inability to lift her 14-pound granddaughter from the floor. She also couldn’t stand from seated without clawing for furniture to assist with her arms. She now – two years later – has a seventy-pound deadlift, but just as important, she also has better than normal bone density. She can also stand (squat) from a ten-inch box without hesitancy or cheating. Her results are not unusual.
We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.
You don’t need to be in shape to get started. You just need to be breathing.
Physical, Mental and Spiritual.