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Thsi is for the older guys

emeric delczeg

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The Importance of
Strength Training
for Seniors
Bruce W. Craig, PhD
This paper was presented as part of the NSCA Hot Topic Series.
All information contained herein is copyright© of the NSCA.
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
Hot Topics: The Importance of Strength Training For Seniors 2
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
Aging Muscle
The common perception of the elderly is that they become weak and fragile due to
an age induced muscle wasting. The clinical term for this condition is sarcopenia, and it has
been shown to contribute to the reduction in muscle mass and strength associated with
aging. However, studies involving injury and disuse have clearly demonstrated that inactivity
can also induce muscle wasting, and is a major factor in the loss of muscle mass (3,5,& 6).
Several investigators have addressed this issue by either factoring out training effects or using
age groups with the same training level. Frontera et al. (1) compared whole muscle strength
of young (36.5 + 3 males) and older subjects (74.4 + 6 males and 72.1 + 4 females) and
found that age was not a factor when strength was expressed as force over cross sectional
area (CSA) of the subject's muscle. In another study Kent-Braum et al. (5,6) examined
inactive young (32 + 1 yrs of age) and older (72 + 1 yrs of age) male subjects, and found no
significant difference in force production with a single muscle contraction. However, they
did show a loss in the older subject's ability to perform rapid repetitive movements. The
older subjects were unable to maintain the same rate of foot tapping as the young, which
suggests that their ability to recruit fast muscle fibers was diminished. Hakkinen et al. (4)
measured the response of middle-aged and elderly subjects to a resistance training program
that included some explosive conditioning. They found that muscle strength increased
regardless of age but that the older subjects were more dependent on neural recruitment in
the early stages of training than their younger counterparts. Neuronal conduction speed (the
time it takes to respond) does decrease with age (8) and these results suggest that it may
have a greater effect on the ability to use fast twitch muscle fibers rather than slow ones.
A common characteristic of muscle from sedentary elderly subjects is a phenomenon
called fiber type grouping (2,3). Muscles of young and middle-aged subjects contain a mix of
fibers types, and therefore have a checkerboard appearance. In untrained elderly subjects
clumps of muscle fibers have been observed and consist of predominantly slow twitch or type
I fibers. This type of muscle fiber distribution has also been shown in patients with certain
neural diseases (7) and it has been suggested that re-innervation is responsible for the effect
(2,3,7). The basic theory states that fast twitch motor neurons, which are connected to type
IIa muscle fibers, atrophy and die by a process called apoptosis when they are not recruited
over long periods of time. Therefore, extended periods of inactivity and a decrease in the
recruitment of fast muscle fibers in the elderly may contribute to the apoptosis (programmed
Hot Topics: The Importance of Strength Training For Seniors 3
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
cell death) of fast twitch motor neurons. With the loss of their motor neurons type IIa
muscles fibers must be re-innervated to survive. Adjacent slow twitch perform this task by
forming new synapses with the type IIa fibers. This changes the fibers' stimulation pattern
from high intensity, low frequency to low intensity, high frequency. This alteration in
stimulation pattern changes the chemical make up of the fiber (2,3,7), and converts these
fast twitch fibers to slow twitch. The evidence for this theory is found in both animal (2) and
human models (3).
Training Effects
It has been shown that resistance training can enhance muscle mass and function
even in 90 year old subjects (1,7), and is the most effective way to maintain the quality of life
as we age. Much of the research in this area has examined whole muscle changes, and
therefore has not been able to identify the structural alterations that resistance training
induces. The technical ability to measure both functional and molecular characteristics of
single human muscle fibers has been established and is used to study the effects of disuse on
skeletal muscle in the elderly (9-11). The functional data of single muscle fibers in older
male subjects performing 12 weeks of progressive resistance training was reported and
demonstrates that both type I and type II fibers increased in size, produced a greater
contraction velocity, and were more powerful following training. The effects were more
predominant in the type I fibers than type II. In short this research has shown that
resistance training can alter muscle growth, and may have an effect on the type of muscle
fiber present.
Practical Applications
Anyone who has reviewed the literature on aging and exercise realizes that a
tremendous amount of research has been conducted in this area and has shown that
resistance training can be safely performed by the elderly if done correctly. What the
research literature does not give is an exact training program for this population. However,
we do know that the basic guidelines for resistance training in younger individuals can be
used if certain precautions are taken. The first of these is make sure you pre-test and/or
screen your subjects prior to starting their training. Anyone over the age of 40 should go
through a health screening before they initiate any exercise program to insure their safety and
to identify any possible limitations (risks) they may have to exercise. Depending on the
Hot Topics: The Importance of Strength Training For Seniors 4
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
initial fitness level of your subjects I advise a slow approach in dealing with them, especially
if you are working with older females who may have little or no lifting experience. Always
start with familiarization sessions that stress proper form and technique, the concept of
breathing properly, and why they should avoid locking out their joints at the end of specific
lifts. In my opinion free weights produce better results than machines but I would start
older subjects with machines because it reduces their learning curve and is not as
intimidating. Free weights can be introduced once they establish a strength base (6-8
weeks), and can be mixed with the machines.
Training Program
I do not believe there is a typical training program for older subjects because there is no such
thing as a typical older adult. Their level of aerobic training, age, and what they want out of
this type of training varies and each influence how they should train. Given those
reservations I would suggest the following.
Warm-up and Cool-down
Inflexibility is a major problem with older subjects and I would recommend that they warmup
on a stationary bicycle set at 30-50 watts for 5 minutes prior to lifting, and undergo 10
minutes of stretching.
Workload, sets and Reps
They should use a 3 set, 10 repetition progressive program they can perform 3 days per
week. The first set should be at 50%, of a calculated 1 RM (obtained from a 3RM
determined at each station), with the second and third sets being 65%, and 80% of the
calculated 1 RM.
Lifting Stations, Lifting Circuit, and Rest Periods
Use a full body routine that exercises all the major muscles and alternates between the upper
and lower body. The lifting stations and sequence of lifts is given below. Use 2 minutes of
rest between stations.
1. Bench Press, 90 seconds between sets
2. Leg Extension, 90 seconds between sets
3. Lat Pulldown (front), 90 seconds between sets
Hot Topics: The Importance of Strength Training For Seniors 5
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
4. Hamstrings, 90 seconds between sets
5. Shoulder press, 90 seconds between sets.
6. Leg press, 90 seconds between sets
Periodization Plan
The above routine is a starter program that is designed to build-up basic strength. After 3
months I would introduce biceps curls and triceps pushdowns or other lifts into the routine,
and start modifying the workload and exercise intensity. It will reduce boredom and keep
them interested in lifting. The bottom line is that they are training for life and will need to
continue this training for as long as they are able. Adding changes will help them maintain
their enthusiasm, and keep them active.
Hot Topics: The Importance of Strength Training For Seniors 6
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
References Cited
1. Frontera, W.R., D. Suh, L.S. Krivickas, V.A. Hughes, R. Goldstein, and R.
Roubenoff. Skeletal muscle fiber quality in older men and women. Am. Jour.
Physiol.279 ( Cell Physiol.):C611-C618, 2000.
2. Gordon, T., C.K. Thomas, R.B. Stein, and S. Erdebil. Comparison of physiological
and histochemical properties of motor units after cross-reinnervation of antagonistic
muscles in the cat hindlimb. Jour. Neurophysiol. 60:365-378, 1988.
3. Haggman, T., E. Eriksson, and E. Jansson. Muscle fiber type changes in human
skeletal muscle after injuries and immobilization. Orthropaedics 9:181-185. 1986.
4. Hakkinen, K., M. Kallinen, M. Izquierdo, K. Jokelainen, H. Lassila, E. Malkia, W.J.
Kraemer, R.U. Newton, and M. Alen. Changes in agonist-antagonist EMG, muscle
CSA, and force during strength training in middle-aged and older people. Jour. Appl.
Physiol. (4): 1341-1349, 1998.
5. Kent-Braun, J.A., Specific strength and voluntary muscle activation in young and
elderly women and men. Jour. Appl. Physiol. 87(1):22-29, 1999.
6. Kent-Braun, J.A., A. V. Ng, and K. Young. Skeletal muscle contractile and
noncontractile components in young and older women and men. Jour. Appl. Physiol.
88(2): 662-668, 2000.
7. McComas, A.J. Skeletal muscle: Form and function. 2nd Edition. Champaign, IL:
Human Kinetics. 2005
8. Shepard, R.J. Aging, physical activity, and health. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
1997.
9. Trappe, S.W., D. Williamson, M. Godard, D Porter, G. Rowden, and D.L. Costill.
Effect of resistance training on single muscle fiber contractile function in older men.
Jour. Appl. Physiol. 89:143-152, 2000.
10. Trappe, S.W., D. Williamson, and M. Godard. Maintenance of whole muscle
strength and size following resistance training in older men. Jour. of Gerontology:
Biological Sciences. 27A(4):B138-B143, 2002.
11. Williamson, D.L., M.P. Godard, D.A. Porter, D.L. Costill, and S.W. Trappe.
Progressive resistance training reduces myosin heavy chain co-expression in single
muscle fibers from older men. Jour. Appl. Physiol. 88:627-633,
 

ojs

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Emeric,
I'm pretty happy just getting my senior discount at the movies and at Coco's Restaurant. Now you're saying I have to do all this too??

1. Bench Press, 90 seconds between sets
2. Leg Extension, 90 seconds between sets
3. Lat Pulldown (front), 90 seconds between sets
4. Hamstrings, 90 seconds between sets
5. Shoulder press, 90 seconds between sets.
6. Leg press, 90 seconds between sets

That seems like a lot of work!!!!
 
Last edited:

ojs

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How come I can't delete this double post?
 
Last edited:

JETHRO TULL

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Good read, Emeric!

That is great information. Thanks.
 

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