Most people live in Tahoe to enjoy an active lifestyle, and many want to continue that. Although after the age of 50, muscle mass is lost at a rate of 1 – 2 percent per year. This decline in muscle mass (called sarcopenia) is partly due to reduced activity and decreases in hormones. With the loss of muscle mass, there is also a loss of strength and power. To delay, stop and possibly reverse this it is important to train for both strength and power; because if you don’t use it you will lose it.
First, train fast to keep power. Power training is defined as the speed at which you can do a particular task. In contrast, strength is the amount of force you can generate, and power is how fast you can generate that force. A heavy deadlift is an example of max strength — a heavy weight moving slowly. Throwing a baseball is more of a power exercise or jumping over a puddle — moving something relative light very fast. Both are important. But why train for power if you plan to throw any baseballs? Because everyone still needs to move quickly to resist falling and many activities require speed and agility.
According to a recent study, “Is power training or conventional resistance training better for function in elderly persons?” published in the Journal of Age and Ageing, “power training is feasible for elderly persons and has a small advantage over strength training for functional outcomes.” And although baby boomers are far from seniors, the same principles still apply.
Some examples of power exercises include throwing medicine balls, hops, Olympic weightlifting and plyometrics. While tossing a small medicine ball or using a ladder to get the feet moving may be OK for many older trainees; jumping, Olympic weightlifting and explosive push-ups should be used with caution.
A simple and easy way for seniors and deconditioned beginners to train for power is to lift a weight as fast possible and keep everything else the same. Even if the weight does not move fast, just trying to move the weight quickly will increase power. The majority of the studies that tested for power used machines, two to three sets for major muscle groups for two to three days per week.
There are safety considerations anytime anyone is training, particularly when dealing with beginners and high-speed training. Deconditioned people should start with lower loads and at 50 percent effort.
Seconded add weight for strength, this is called Progressive resistance and it is arguably the most important principal in a weight-training program. In order for the body to respond and adapt, an adequate stress must be applied. If an individual does not continue to challenge the body, the body has no reason to get stronger, build lean muscle or increase performance simply because the body was accustom to the stress. Although older people and those that have taken an extended “brake” from exercise for a while may need less stress, they still need to be challenged.
An easy way to start a progressive resistance program is to determine how much weight you can lift 10-12 times. This should be your starting rep range for most exercises. The last couple of repetitions should be challenging, but you should be able to complete them. Do not train to failure. After a couple of weeks, and once you feel like the last few reps on the last set were easy, add more weight, but first build a base and learn the movements.
The key thing here is to be safe and have fun, train smart and you will continue to keep doing the things that brought you here in the first place. As always consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program, and if you are unsure how to properly perform any exercise seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.
Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach who trains at Sierra Athletic Club and a training center instructor at Barton Memorial Hospital. Kyler specializes in helping people look and feel awesome even after injury. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.