STRENGTH TRAINING FACT: Veteran athletes lose strength as they age. Humans start losing muscle mass after the age of 38.
Research suggests that this age-related loss of muscle strength impacts negatively on both speed and endurance performance in Masters Athletes, as they age. The loss in strength is due primarily to the fact that muscle mass declines with age, even in masters athletes who train rigorously in endurance. Research has also shown that resistance training is particularly important for older athletes. Literature states that older athletes should train hypertrophy (muscle building), strength and power in the gym to offset these losses. Training sequentially in this form has shown, and can lead to significant speed and endurance performance gains in veteran athletes.
Given that resistance training significantly improves master’s athlete’s performance, it is surprising to see that the majority of them do very little if no resistance training at all. As mentioned previously, not only is resistance training beneficial for all round performance, there are also great health benefits for older populations who undertake in weight training. Such benefits include, but are not limited to: lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, improving bone mineral density and decreasing body fat.
The first muscles that begin to decrease in size with age are the strongest and most powerful fast twitch fibres. Recent research surveyed 208 veteran cyclists (181 males, 27 females) whose average age was 49.2±12.4 years (males) and 43.3±17.9 (females) and found that less than half of both male and female veteran cyclists were undertaking in any type of strength training off the bike. Albeit high numbers of cyclists surveyed were doing hill-climbs to develop strength, all-important strength training in the gym, which research has shown is critical, was not occurring. Of even greater concern was that less than 10% of both male and female veteran cyclists were undertaking in any type of power (fast strength) training in the gym, with female veterans less likely than males to be participating at all.
Masters athletes of both genders need to be hitting the gym and getting stronger and more powerful. Ideally the program should be phased by firstly focussing on hypertrophy, then moving into strength and finally into power. The length of time to spend in each phase will vary depending on goals and exercise history.
The table below is a guide to the different sets, reps, speed of movement, intensities and rest used in these phases. It should be treated as a continuum.
|% of 1RM
You’ll be amazed with how much regular resistance training will improve your performance, and health!
If you found this article interesting you may also enjoy reading Darn Well Jogging Around, Programming for Sport Specific Training, or The Effects of Resistance Training on Bone Mineral Density.