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Strength Training For Aging Individuals

Written by: Kosta Telegadas, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Kosta Telegadas

When I was early on in my career, I was tasked with taking the lead on developing a strength and conditioning program for the older population in Detroit, MI. The majority of individuals in this population were anywhere from 35-65 years of age. Initially, my background was predominately in sports performance strength and conditioning for middle to high-level collegiate athletes. I quickly realized that it was not so different from athletics as I would have initially thought and after some research, I found that as long as the training program was flexible and modified; our program could still assist in the physical development of this population.

Young and Old face of a woman

Physical developments as individuals age


As we age, our bodies go through several changes that can impact our overall health and well-being. One of the most significant changes is a gradual loss of muscle mass and strength, which can lead to several health problems, including increased risk of falls and fractures from osteoporosis, decreased mobility, sarcopenia, and reduced ability to perform activities of daily living. Fortunately, strength training can help counteract these negative effects of aging, and there are many ways to modify strength training programs to make them safe and effective for older populations.

A man in the gym

What benefits can strength training provide?


The benefits of strength training for aging adults are numerous. Studies have shown that regular strength training can increase muscle mass, improve muscle strength and endurance, and enhance overall physical function. In addition, strength training can also improve bone density, which is particularly important for older adults who are at increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Other benefits have also been shown to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls, which is a major concern for older adults. All of the above results in stronger muscles, increased stability of joints, increases in healthier connective tissue, & overall more physically developed adult.

young man lifting weights at the gym

Program design


However, when it comes to designing strength training programs for older populations, several important considerations must be taken into account. For example, older adults may have pre-existing medical conditions that need to be considered when designing a workout program. The majority of the clientele that I have programmed for was overweight, diabetic, history of surgeries, etc. Finally, it is also important to consider the individual's fitness level and any limitations they may have in terms of mobility. With this information came a need to adjust the programming at hand. As a coach, I have found having a list of “go-to” regressions & progressions can allow the coach to easily modify the training sessions in person. This is extremely helpful due to the uncontrollable variables during and after the training sessions. See the example for the rowing movement category:

  1. Seated Banded Row (lowest progression)

  2. Seated Cable Row

  3. Dumbbell Row

  4. Barbell Row (highest progression)

happy woman lifting barbell

To modify strength training programs for older populations, several key strategies can be employed. One approach is to focus on low-impact exercises that are easy on the joints, such as bodyweight exercises or exercises with resistance bands. These types of exercises can help build strength and muscle mass without putting undue stress on the joints. One proper form has been demonstrated with the above basic training considerations; progress to kettlebell & dumbbell-loaded movements. Once more progressions are made, consider programming and select barbell movements in the program if the clientele can handle the stress-induced through the movement patterns selected.


Other considerations


Another important consideration is to incorporate exercises that focus on balance and coordination, which can help reduce the risk of falls. This might include exercises such as single-leg balance drills such as the single-leg Romanian deadlift or yoga movements such as the Warrior 1, child’s pose, down dog, etc. In addition to these modifications, some specific exercises may be particularly beneficial for older populations. For example, exercises that target the core muscles, such as planks or bridges, can help improve posture and stability. Similarly, exercises that target the upper back muscles, such as rows or lat pulldowns, can help improve posture and reduce the risk of shoulder injuries.

Hand holding drawing virtual lightbulb with brain on bokeh background for creative and smart thinking idea concept.

Finally, it is important to gradually progress the intensity and volume of the workouts over time. This can be achieved by increasing the resistance, the number of repetitions, or the number of sets performed. It is also important to allow adequate rest and recovery time between workouts to prevent injury and optimize recovery.

happy middle age woman indoor exercising

Conclusion


In summary, strength training is a powerful tool for improving the health and well-being of aging adults. By modifying workout programs to make them safe and effective for older populations, it is possible to help older adults maintain their muscle mass and strength, improve their physical function, and reduce the risk of falls and fractures. Whether you are an aging adult yourself or a fitness professional working with older clients, incorporating strength training into your workout routine can have a profound impact on your overall health and quality of life.


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Kosta Telegadas Brainz Magazine
 

Kosta Telegadas, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kosta Telegadas is a leader in the strength and conditioning for tactical athletes and martial artists all over the world. He found physical training as a necessity to grow up playing sports, help prevent injury & give back to the country that gave his family so much over the generations. Coach Telegadas has a Master's Degree from the University of Miami (FL) and over 7 years of coaching experience with both professional, college, high school & tactical athletes. He is currently the Head Coach/CEO of Telegadas Performance Training and dedicates his time to make physical training programs & remote coaching accessible to all. His mission: If you stay ready, you never have to get ready!

 

References:

  • Bocalini DS, Lima LS, de Andrade S, et al. Effects of resistance training on the physical capacity of frail older adults: a randomized controlled trial. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1334-40.

  • Fiatarone MA, Marks EC, Ryan ND, et al. High-intensity strength training in nonagenarians. Effects on skeletal muscle. JAMA. 1990 Jun 13;263(22):3029-34.

  • Liu CJ, Latham NK. Progressive resistance strength training for improving physical function in older adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Jul 8;(3):CD002759.

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