How To Keep Aging Muscles Strong

This whole thing might sound a bit scary, but as you age; you will start to lose muscles, strength, and the ability to rapidly develop power. As a result, simple tasks such as getting up from a chair or crossing the street quickly enough suddenly becomes challenging.

Luckily, there is a way that you can decrease and counterwork these age-related effects:

Strength-training.
If your first reaction to this is “I don’t like working out” – that’s natural.
Most people don’t.

It’s sweaty; it’s heavy – not to mention how much time it takes up. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Not anymore. With the right structure, strength-training can be made both simple, fast, and fun. Above all, it can empower you and give you more freedom. Because let’s face it; none of us want to grow old and become isolated due to feeling weak or fragile.

After reading this article, you will know how to maintain and increase your muscles – even after your 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

What happens with the Aging Muscle?

Senior Couple Exercising In Park

The reason you lose strength and power as you age is mainly due to two reasons:

  • Declining muscle mass
  • A change of muscle fiber type composition

You have two main groups of muscle fibers: (1) slow and durable type-1 fibers and (2), fast and explosive type-2 fibers.
As you grow older, the number of type-2 fibers decreases, which happens because the nerve cells in the nervous system (that connects the fibers) dies.

These are then replaced by a greater proportion of type-1 fibers, giving you more endurance but also making you slower.
In this case, it’s a negative trade since you need both endurance and strength to be able to handle daily demands.
Basically: if endurance is what keeps you going further, strength and power is what helps you to get up in the first place.

It’s never too late to Start Exercising

You might think that it’s too late to start improving these skills at a late stage of your life; it’s not.
Even if you become older, your ability to respond to exercise does not change.
It doesn’t matter if you are 80; you can still become as strong as someone that’s in their 40’s and untrained.
In fact, if you’ve never exercised before, you will progress and notice changes in your physique even faster.

What type of exercise should you do?

There’s two categories of strength-training: traditional strength-training and power strength-training.
Both are very positive for your health.
Apart from making you stronger, strength-training gives you more muscle mass and thus; makes you more resistant.
This is a great protection against fall damage, which is a common injury-risk among elderly [1].
However, traditional strength-training alone is not very effective when it comes to improving your muscles ability to develop rapid power.
That’s where the benefits of power strength-training kicks in.
Although the exercises in these two categories can be very similar, there’s a significant difference in how they should be performed:

Traditional Biceps Curl                Power Biceps Curl

Concentric phase (up): 4 secs                Concentric phase (up): 1 sec

Eccentric phase (back): 4 secs                Eccentric phase (back): 4 secs

As you can see, the traditional biceps curl is performed with equal speed during both the concentric (muscle contraction) and eccentric phase.
The power biceps curl, on the other hand, should be performed much faster during the concentric phase (1 sec) – yet with full control on the way back (4 secs).
It’s this rapid movement during the concentric phase that helps you to develop muscles type-2 fibers, and thus; increase your power.

How to Begin

Aging Muscle

Power strength-training is both effective and safe, even for individuals who are over 80 years old.
However, before you attempt this method, it’s still important that you know the basics of strength-training:

1.  Week 1

The first step I would recommend is that you contact a professional (personal trainer/gym staff) who can create an individualized training program for you.
Follow it for 8-12 weeks and learn how to perform all exercises with proper technique. This might sound like a slow process but it’s necessary for several reasons:

  • Preventing injuries
  • Giving you more confidence in your body’s capacity
  • Boosting your long-term development

2. Week 1-12

After building up your basic strength for 8-12 weeks, start by adding one or two power exercises into your regular workout routine. These should be performed with heavier loads, about 75-80% of your 1RM (the maximum weight you can lift for one repetition).

  • If your 1RM is 100 kg, 80% means that you should lift 80 kg

Since the weights will be heavier, you will do fewer repetitions than you would on a lighter weight.

3. Week 15

By now, you should have sufficient experience in traditional strength-training and started to get a feel for power training.
The next step is to expand and go from one-two power exercises to making it a regular part of your training program.
The good thing is that power can be applied to nearly any exercise.

What’s the Best Power Exercise?

This question depends on a lot of factors, such as your goals and what type of exercising that you find enjoyable.
However, if you want to active several large muscle-groups at once and build both strength and muscle mass, one of the absolute best exercises is the back squat:

Strength of body and mind
The weights don’t have to be as heavy as this guy’s!

Here is how the back squat should be performed:

1. Position yourself in front of the barbell (which should be in the same height as your chest/sternum)
2. Grab the barbell so that your hands are just outside your shoulders
3. Place the barbell so that it rests on your upper back, keep your feet in line with the barbell
4. Take a deep breath, tighten your body, and lift of the barbell
5. Take one step back with your first foot, then let the other one follow – make sure that both your feet are in line with each other
6. Squat down as far as you can go while maintain a straight back
7.Straighten yourself back up again, so that both your hip and shoulders rise simultaneously

When you have mastered a good technique in your squats, try to add the power element by: performing step 6) going down slow for 4 seconds, then step 7) back up rapidly, 1-2 second.

Summary

We all age and grow older, this is something that’s inevitable.
However, you always have a choice, and that’s how you decide to age.
Strength-training combined with power training is a method that provides you with several health benefits, including:

  • Preventing age-related muscle decline [2]
  • Increases cognitive function [3]
  • Increases power and reduces the difficulty of performing daily tasks [4]

As with everything, it might be challenging when you first begin strength training – but once you get past that first barrier, you will start to feel both stronger and happier.

Don’t Miss: How To Exercise For Effective Fat Burn

References

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002243750800073X
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20487503
[3] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003999304003971
[4] https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200434050-00005

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