This title may look familiar since I just recently wrote about how resistance training is the fountain of youth. Although I certainly am not here to discredit my recent blog, I am certainly here to elaborate on it a bit further based on a recent study:
Explosive heavy-resistance training in old and very old adults: changes in rapid muscle force, strength and power.
Age-related decline in muscle power predicts falls, motor impairments and disability. Recent guidelines suggested that training programs should be tailored to maximize muscle power. This study investigated the effects of 12 weeks of explosive-type heavy-resistance training (75-80% of 1 repetition maximum) in old (60-65 years, TG60) and very old (80-89 years, TG80) community-dwelling women. Training was performed with maximal intentional acceleration of the training load during the concentric movement phase. Maximal isometric voluntary muscle strength (MVC), rapid force capacity, assessed as rate of force development (RFD), and impulse, maximal muscle power during a countermovement jump (CMJ) and during unilateral leg extension task (LEP) were evaluated. RFD, impulse and MVC increased by 51%, 42% and 28% in TG80, and by 21%, 18% and 18% in TG60, respectively. CMJ jump height increased by 18% and 10% in TG80 and TG60, respectively, while jump peak power increased in TG60 (5%). Finally, LEP increased 28% in TG80 and 12% in TG60. These findings demonstrate that explosive-type heavy-resistance training seems to be safe and well tolerated in healthy women even in the eighth decade of life and elicits adaptive neuromuscular changes in selected physiological variables that are commonly associated with the risk of falls and disability in aged individuals.
When you hear about "explosive training," your mind probably leans towards young athletes and how fast and powerful they seem. You almost certainly never think about grandma and her slower pace. Well, according to the above study, explosive training is not only tolerated by individuals well into their 80's, but is highly recommended for healthy aging as well.
Resistance (strength) training is still extremely important. Using maximal, or even sub maximal loads to increase the strength and durability of muscles, bones, connective tissues, etc. is regarded as one of the most effective ways of aging gracefully.
Explosive or power training involves moving less weight, but moving said weight fast. A really simple example would be either pushing or throwing a ball. Pushing a ball from point A to point B gets the ball there, however, throwing is an explosive action and gets the ball there faster. The above study found that training older individuals with explosive actions helped to improve their reflexive actions.
Strength training involves learning how to activate more muscle in order to move a desired load. Your muscles are made up of many muscle fibers. Although all muscle fibers shorten at once when a muscle contracts, only a certain percentage of them does the work at any given time. Strength training can then be considered a skill by learning how to activate more muscle fibers and therefore generate more force.
Power or explosive training is all about increasing the reaction time between your brain and muscles. The faster your brain can not only get a signal to the muscle fibers, but to also have them contract at a faster rate, the more explosive they can be.
As the study points out, many age-related problems occur due to the risk of falling. Falling happens for a number of reasons, but most often occur due to a slow reaction time. Your brain is usually pretty efficient and effective at recognizing the signs that balance is off, but the time it takes to react to being off balance and therefore correcting the balance can deteriorate over time. Explosive training helps to keep that quickness needed.
This doesn't necessarily mean that grandma needs to do plyometrics, but instead, learn to safely and effectively lift lighter weights safely and quickly.
Tyler Robbins B.Sc. CSCS
Director of Fitness
Head of CrossFit