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Strength Training for those 60+

September 27, 2017

Do you find yourself struggling to get out of your chair? Are you finding that you aren't as strong as you once were?



This is a normal part of aging called muscle atrophy however, it can (and should) be delayed for as long as possible. 


Here's why you should focus on keeping strong healthy muscles.


Keeping a strong body helps with balance (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), improves cognitive performance (6, 7), and the stronger you are the lower your mortality risk is (8,9). 


Resistance training has also shown significant decreases in fat mass and fat percentage as well as increased muscle percentage (10). Body composition changes appear greater in older individuals with low volume higher effort interventions compared with higher volume lower effort approaches (11, 12) meaning if you put in enough effort you don't have to work as long!


Another reason to strength train is to reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis. Studies have shown that decreased thigh muscle strength increases risk for knee pain in those with osteoarthritis (13).


But I'm too old to lift heavy weights!?!?

The good news is you don't have to lift heavy weights to build strength and muscle size, also known as muscle hypertrophy.


A recent study in BioMed Research International revealed that those 60+ can get positive changes in strength, body composition, function, and well being when performing high effort resistance training after a 6 month program.


I've already lost too much strength. Why should I start training now?

Hurley and Roth (14) noted that “~2 decades of age-associated strength loss can be regained in ~2 months of resistance exercise” and resistance training can even enhance cardio-respiratory fitness in older adults (1516).


That's so promising! 2 decades of strength loss can be regained in 2 months. Talk about a great return on investment!


(Need even more motivation on why you should start? Watch this.)


How can I get started?

We will get into the specifics of a training program below but first we need to establish a few key points.


Intensity of Effort: This is one of the most important components in determining the effectiveness of resistance training in older adults. In order to reap the benefits of light to moderately heavy loads, you need to consider going to the point of muscle failure during each exercise. If the intensity isn't demanding enough, your body will not be stressed enough to promote muscle growth.


Repetition Duration: The amount of time it takes to complete each phase of the movement. The tempo the study used was 2 seconds for concentric, 1 second pause at the top of the range of motion, and 2 seconds eccentric. (Concentric is the muscle shortening, eccentric is the muscle lengthening.)


Load Progression: Load was progressed for each group by 2–10% in the next session if participants could achieve greater than 12 repetitions.


Specifics of the Program:

The training program was supervised and conducted 2x/week (at least 48 hours between sessions) for 6 months (25 weeks). Rest between exercises lasted for 2–4 minutes. The exercises consisted of compound movements such as the leg press, chest press, back extension, and leg extension exercises. 

Weeks 1-2:

- familiarization phase: participants trained using a single set of each exercise using a moderate load and performing 15-18 repetitions. This allowed the participants to learn the movements at lower weights.


Weeks 3-5:

- perform each exercise to a set end point of self-determined repetition maximum, meaning you keep going until you feel the next repetition you attempt couldn't occur due to fatigue. 


Weeks 6-18:

- participants progressed to perform each exercise to a set end point of muscle failure (they attempted another repetition but couldn't due to fatigue) and continued training in this manner until week 18.


Weeks 19-25:

- For the final 6 weeks of the intervention participants progressed to perform each exercise to set end point of muscle failure followed by a drop set whereby the load was reduced by ~5 kg and an additional set continued to the point of muscle failure was performed immediately upon completion of the first.


As you can see, it's never too late to start resistance training. Your health depends on how much effort you put into it. Feeling good as you age is completely up to how much you're willing to invest in modifiable factors of health.


If you would like to know more about strength training as you age, be sure to ask your doctor if you're ready for resistance training.


If they would like you to start a resistance program like the one listed above, our therapists at Haven are the experts on getting you stronger. 











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