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Stephen Baker’s 2023 Year in Review

Photo: Squats! 2023

Another Year, a New Commitment to Fitness

At the end of 2022, I started weightlifting for the first time in 15 years. I’ve kept it simple: squat, bench press, Romanian deadlift, and deadlift. I kept it simple to start: high reps, slow progression to a working weight ~75% of my expected 1RM (one repetition maximum). Over the year I’ve progressed to a working weight at 85-92% of my tested 1RM and I’ve seen my max increase for the core three disciplines of squat, bench press and deadlift. I’ve used Romanian deadlifts to maintain flexibility and as a warm-up before deadlifts.

The progress hasn’t been without challenges. I’ve had mid back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain and ankle pain as my body has adapted to the load and effort. None of these pains have resulted in injury, but they all had the potential to become one. When talking with my clients who have experience lifting in the gym, a common theme has arisen. Most of them are afraid of experiencing a low back injury while deadlifting. I can see the risk and understand their fear. I strongly believe I’ve avoided injury to date because I’m willing to progress the weight slowly, focus on form, and walk away mid set if it doesn’t feel right or I’m more fatigued than I expect.

From months 6 to 9 I plateaued, making no increase in squat or bench press maximums. After reviewing my volume and realizing it was too high and limiting my ability to lift closer to 90% of my max weight, I cut the volume, increased the weight modestly and have been making steady improvements in strength since.

Why am I sharing this? I’ve encouraged many clients to start into a weight lifting program to maintain strength so they maintain function as they age. Research suggests muscle mass decreases by 3-8% per decade after age 30, and faster after age 60.(cite doi: 10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2) Without strength training, people are left unable to get up from the ground if they’ve fallen, unable to carry laundry or groceries up and down the stairs and unable to do the activities they love.

I’ve counselled many clients on the topic of strength training and encouraged them to embark upon balance, strength and cardio based exercises. The process is never without its challenges, but the results have been incredible. People who couldn’t stand up without pulling on furniture were rapidly able to do so and many reported moments where they had tripped and managed to stay on their feet when they normally would have fallen. This kind of improvement in function is possible for everyone! All it takes is a couple exercises each day of the week and hardly more than 15 minutes a day.

Exercise should be tailored to your current abilities. An individualized approach, balancing work and recovery is the start of change. The larger determinant of success is consistency. Reduce the barriers to exercise and make it a habit that’s fun. I’ve continued walking to and from the clinic on virtually all my working days in 2023. The 30 minute walk allows me to clear my mind, think creatively, and stay present in my life. The exercise is not difficult, but the health benefit is enormous.

If you’re wondering how to maintain strength and physical ability, please reach out! I enjoy chatting with people about their goals and setting them up for success with an individually tailored exercise program. No matter your goals, current age or level of physical fitness, come on in!

I’d like to thank all of my clients over the past year. You have been fantastic to work with. You have risen to the challenge of your injuries and conquered your goals. I hope you all continue to have success in 2024!

Lastly, thank you to all those at Royal City Physio. It has been another year of learning and personal growth and I’m happy to have had all of you supporting me! I wish you all the best in 2024, whether you’re with us at the clinic or moving on to new adventures!

Stephen Baker graduated from Western University with a Masters of Physical Therapy. He has a passion for helping people who have sustained a fracture or had surgery regain full function and return to their daily adventures. Book with Stephen today.


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