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.
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.