The human body is intricate and complex, and it ticks by a simple use/disuse formula. The muscles, for instance, require attention and a regular dose of workout for the good side of the body’s ‘use it or lose it’ model. Building muscle is not easy, and muscle maintenance comes with a lot of planning, and exacts its fair share of sweat.
Muscle maintenance, in essence, is preserving the muscle mass and strength that one worked hard to build. Maintaining a good diet is a prerequisite. And it must go hand in hand with a good exercise plan.
“I would say 80 per cent depends on diet and 20 per cent on the workout we do. So, the focus is always on the diet, and we need a lot of good fats and good carbs [to fuel the muscles],” says Harsh Purohit, a professional boxer and fitness instructor.
As far as specific exercises are concerned, there is no major departure when it comes to muscle maintenance. Compound movements which engage multiple muscles and force them to work together are at the foundation of a good exercise plan. Of course, warming up to activate the muscles before the workout is important along with a cooldown routine.
Five muscle-maintenance gym exercises
- Deadlift: It works the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, core and abdominal muscles, calves, forearms, deltoids and more. The deadlift, which activates all the muscles in the body, improves functional fitness as well (for everyday movement). It is one of the best exercises for muscle maintenance.
- Bench press: One of the key upper-body exercises for building strength and muscle, it helps maintain the chest muscles, shoulders and triceps.
- Squat: The squat works all the muscles of the lower body. Added benefits include improved posture, speed and blood circulation.
- Overhead press (OHP): The OHP works the muscles of the shoulders, triceps, back and chest. It enables the body to maintain optimal balance, which leads to improvements in other activities or sports.
- Romanian deadlift (RDL): The RDL is a compound movement, usually done with barbells, which works the posterior chain of the body — the calves, hamstrings, glutes and spinal erectors. It is both a fun and challenging exercise to preserve the muscles as well as improve posture, explosive strength and agility.
Five exercises to maintain muscles at home
Time constraints may prevent many from hitting the gym, but home workouts are equally effective.
“For beginners, bodyweight workouts are quite good,” says Purohit. “So, I use my machinery and dumbbells to work out once a week, otherwise I go for a long cross-country run, firing or skill drills on different days. That is how I plan my workouts.”
Calisthenics, or bodyweight workouts, can be scaled up to make them more difficult — or scaled down to the level of a beginner. Increasing or decreasing the rep range, tempo, duration and range of motion can help meet one’s level of fitness.
- Free squats: Like weighted squats, free squats can help maintain muscle. You can enhance its effectiveness by varying the tempo and rep range.
- Planks/leg raises: Planks increase core stability and test the mental fortitude of the best of people. Adding in leg raises will help balance out your core and prevent lopsided muscle development.
- Push-ups: Push-ups, one of the most versatile exercises, works the chest, shoulders, triceps, forearms, abs and much more. It has many variations, which are easy to scale based on the level of the trainee. It is a formidable tool in muscle maintenance.
- Supine push press/superman: The supine push press targets the muscles in the back. It works by creating adequate stimulus to most of the back muscles and helps keep them active. Add in a set or two of superman to balance out the activation.
- Glute bridges/ glute kickbacks: The glutes are the largest muscles of the human body and require attention as they are prone to get weak fast. The glute bridge works the glutes, hamstrings, abs and lower back muscles, providing an overall stimulus. Add in glute kickbacks to fully activate the group of muscles in the region.
- A good diet goes hand in hand with a good workout plan.
- Compound movements engage multiple muscles and are useful for maintaining strength.
- Ten to 15 minutes of exercise will be sufficient for muscle maintenance, and calisthenics are an excellent option for this.