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Thread: Age and Exercise Intensity

  1. #1

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Originally a post on my blog.

    "It's better to burn out than grow old"

    I wonder how if Neil Young feels differently now?

    Age, obesity, and attitude are inextricably linked in America, and in most of our minds. Having grown up being fascinated with stories of old martial artists performing incredible feats of strength I never bought into it. It's my opinion that most people take the easy route and give up instead of finding out what they are capable of.

    Having grown up in a small town in the midwest it was all too common for people to kick back once they hit 30 and have a big gut and the accompanying back pain by the time they are 40. Thankfully my family and friends provided better examples.

    One of my brothers is in his 50's and still kicks my butt cycling!

    And when I moved to other areas of the country and world I encountered more examples of healthy people kicking ass into their 60's and beyond. My calligraphy teacher in Japan was arond 80 at the time and liked nothing better to challenge me to arm wrestling - he was pretty damn strong too. He rode his bike for miles a day, and had dumbbells lying around the house he would use. But most of all he had an attitude that one should never stop learning and progressing.

    In fact, one of the traditional sayings he had me practice and write on a scroll was "manabu mono ga yama noboru" (The higher you climb the more you realize there is to learn).

    I still have that scroll hanging on my wall.

    However, working with many clients over 50 in recent years I've noticed a connection between attitude and results when it comes to training. Those who hit 50, or even 40(!) and consistently remark about how they can't do what they used to and so on usually progress just as quickly as anyone else.

    The secret? I train them essentially the same way I would a 25 year old. Maybe with a bit more attention to recovery, mobility, and flexibility, but the exercises are just as challenging.

    That brings us to some interesting research out of the Laboratory of Kinesiology at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil (J. of Strength and Conditioning 24(11/2010)).

    Researchers took two groups of women, 17 women who's average age is 29, and 16 women who's average age is 64. Both groups were relatively untrained. They put both groups through 13 weeks of training consisting of cardio, weightlifting, and stretching.

    The purpose was to determine if age affects strength gains.

    Both groups performed an inital assessment and 1RM strength tests for a variety of upper and lower body movements (1RM= maximum weight that can be lifted 1 time).

    Intensity was slowly increased over the 13 weeks, from 60% of 1RM to 75%, using 8-12 reps.

    Note - They used relatively heavy weights with the both populations with NO injury occurring. More proof that in lifting with greater intensity is not only safe, but is the only way to increase strength. Light weights/high reps doesn't do it.

    The results?

    Strength increases were between 16% and 36%, depending on the movement, for BOTH groups. In fact the older women made better strength gains than the younger group on bench press, leg press, leg curl, and the triceps.

    So there you have it. More proof that not only is strength training safe for older populations, but at least as effective in improving strength.

    There are now officially no excuses for you all to not progress and get stronger.

  2. #2

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Good stuff. I used to tiptoe around training older clients but I later realized that they needed the intensity more than youngsters because they literally had less time to get results. Having an on-ramp is necessary of course but using gradually increasing intensity gives seniors what they need.

    One caveat though, the entire world feels exactly the opposite about this. If you try to get seniors to exercise vigorously then expect a lot of resistance. I've had people walk out the door at the mere thought of it. In fact, i rarely do senior fitness any more because of it. But if you can get a senior to stick with the intensity, they will usually make rapid gains.

  3. #3
    Senior Member LisaS's Avatar
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    Age and Exercise Intensity

    What's your definition of "a senior"? Seriously - in your mind, what age falls in this category?

  4. #4

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Do you think an older persons recovery time is a little longer than someone under 40?

  5. #5

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    3sweeties beat me to it... most people I know who've been lifting weights for a long period of time will all say that while their strength doesn't diminish much and still goes up, recovery will take more time.
    Also there's more wear & tear to our system and injuries seem to happen more frequently.

  6. #6

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    I can tell you from experience and statistics that injuries are not more frequent. But of course increased recovery time is something we all have to factor in as we age, both chronologically and in training years, and most importantly lifestyle.

    One other caveat is that a 60 year old training newbie may have more structural or general health issues to consider than a typical 30 year old. But it really depends on lifestyle.

    Case in point I just started training a 62 year old woman that has never been in a gym in her life but moves much better than nearly ALL of the 30 year old professionals I see. And that is because she hasn't been sitting behind a desk or on the couch watching football all weekend.

    I will have to write another article on lifestyle, because I have 30 year olds in the gym that because of their lifestyle don't recover as well, nor make as good progress as some older clients because they still insist on being able to sit around and watch sports, drink, and eat crap.

  7. #7

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    Age and Exercise Intensity

    At almost 71 I need more time off than I did at 65. And I have decided to drop my maximum weights.

  8. #8

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Rob, generally the longer we train and older we are the less volume we need. But we also need to consider hypertrophy as the rate of muscle loss and bone density issues become critical.

    Maybe try a lower volume protocol and see if you recover quicker? Something like 2x8 or 3x5. That will decrease stress on your joints and connective tissue yet you'll still reap the benefits.

  9. #9

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    I was talking to a 71 year old at the gym yesterday. He was still killing it. He certainly didn't look or move like he was 71. I watched him workout some and he was still doing great weight. I hope in ~40 years I'm still hitting the gym all the time.

  10. #10

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    Age and Exercise Intensity

    By dropping maximum weights I meant going from about 150% of lean body mass to 100%. An odd thing, I went back to work for a month, about half time, and it takes a lot more of my energy that I thought it would.

  11. #11
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    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Good stuff. I've been fortunate in that I don't moan about not being able to do what I used to. I am now doing much more than I used to when I was younger. Yes, there are aches and pains and the occasional injury, but we all know people my age that have the same or more aches and pains and do nothing but watch TV. I grunt less pulling a heavy deadlift than they do getting up off the sofa.

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    Administrator Roland Denzel's Avatar
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    Age and Exercise Intensity

    That's a very good point, John. I was fairly sedentary (and overweight) most of my life, and despite the "limitations" of age, I feel better now than ever before.

  13. #13

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Were the participants (the old and the young) in that study matched for initial strength? If not, the old getting better effects could be because they were less trained to begin with.

  14. #14

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Good point, but yes, participants in both groups were untrained.

  15. #15
    Administrator Jean-Paul's Avatar
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    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Most of my clients are in their 50's and 60's right now. I agree that they can progress very rapidly, but my approach is very "non-gym" oriented.

    The thing that I observe most people have lost is speed (strength on display), balance, and posture. I rarely push a client to do some sort of maximal life with barbells. I use body weight exercises if they can, but find that even that can be too much for their shoulders/neck complex, or for their hips/back. I primarily use bands and kettlebells and find that it really quickly gets them results in performance (like a golf or tennis swing), and reduces body aches, especially in the hips.

    My general format is push, pull, rotate, locomotion, level change and bridge. The areas where I would need to do "isolation" (yes, it is sometimes necessary) are glutes and/or hamstrings. If body weight glute bridging is not sufficient I will have them do it with a band across their hips to add extra resistance, especially at the top. Since I don't use a gym and don't have access to a leg curl machine (the only one I would use to bring up a weak hammie), I use something even better... Manual resistance unilateral leg curls! Try it some time.

    Band-resisted lateral hip locomotion drills are a must for just about everyone! It might be a traditional shuffle, or a karioka style shuffle, or side lunge (toward anchor). I have even convinced a few of my clients to buy ultra-slide boards for their homes (out with the treadmill! I have most of them convinced by now that they can do that and/or KB swings for cardio, and they LOVE IT. If the client has an injury or is particularly decrepit I will have them just do side steps with a really weak band.

    Just about everyone I see out there these days has some variation of "upper-crossed syndrome," so we do the corrective exercises for their "push-pull" exercises, and it seems to be effective while not exposing them to dangerous exercises that they are clearly not bio-mechanically qualified to do.

    I don't take people to the point of collapse, except for maybe the locomotion stuff. They still get an ass-kicking workout, they have a little fuel left in the tank, and when we're done I spend about 20-30 minutes stretching them. I have a treatment table that I haul around everywhere I go to I don't have to get down on the floor and hurt my knees (yes, I'm getting too old for that).

    End result? My clients are very successful in pursuing their goals, and they pay more than 5 times the local standard for my services month after month after month. It's a good demographic too, because they can generally better afford services like this.

    Thanks for the article Chris.

  16. #16

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Hey, guys!

    I haven't visited here in literally years (don't know how many) but this is a topic near and dear to me. Chris has heard my questions over the time that I haven't been posting and I am hugely appreciative of his time and advice!!! I'm not 71, "just 56", but I've certainly had to change up my approach many times over the past few years particularly. I don't do anything that creates compression on my spine. My hips are particularly a problem and hurt most mornings when I wake up although just a few deep squats works great. As Dan John says, that's a movement we all need to do everyday.

    I still play around with my relatively light bumper weight set-up and do clean and presses. Also do these with DB's. For my upper body pull, chins/pulls are still my favorite but I have to be careful because the connective tissue in my arms can get injured with too much. Legs, mostly body weight stuff.

    I need to increase my cardio for blood pressure control and drop a few lbs, especially this time of year. I was swimming quite a bit but am now trying to split time between the pool and the gym.

    Brad

  17. #17

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    Age and Exercise Intensity

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/ma...pagewanted=all

    Great article on someone in their 90s. Also a fair amount of what seems to be solid science.

  18. #18

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    Great article Rob, Thanks!

    Keep up the training Brad. Progress means mitigating stress on the body. We all receive those wake-up calls when we do too much, but hopefully we get better at listening to them .

  19. #19

    Age and Exercise Intensity

    That's actually INSPIRING! Thanks, Rob!

  20. #20
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    Age and Exercise Intensity

    In truth, there is no type. Though when you hear the stories of older senior athletes, a common thread does emerge. While most younger masters athletes were jocks in college if not before, many competitors in the higher brackets — say, older than age 70 — have come to the game late. They weren’t athletes earlier in life because of the demands of career and their own growing families. Only after their duties cleared could they tend that other fire.
    I found this to be interesting. I only started lifting at 52 and find that my strenght and stamina have only begun to peak.

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