I attended a lecture yesterday in Denver titled, Resistance Training for Different Populations: An Evidence-Based Approach. It was quite informative. The speaker was an incredibly well-researched PhD who was addressing the senior or elderly population. The emphasis of his lecture was on exercise programming and how to best benefit the senior demographic. As it turns out, this gentleman has an extensive background in training athletes, military personnel, firefighters, etc. so I felt he was a credible source for that reason alone. What he provided though blew me away. There are piles upon piles of data and research, more current than you'd think (2012), that support the idea that heavier weight while resistance training gives seniors that power that they so desperately need as they age. Seems logical enough, right? If we were talking about a college age athlete, we'd never hesitate to think, more weight while lifting gets this athlete more strength and power. Particularly as it pertains to his/her specific sport. Somehow the notion of adding load or making resistance training for seniors more challenging, seems to automatically make us hesitate.
Believe me, I understand it completely. It just doesn't seem right to think that your Grandma should be in the weight room crushing it. Let me quickly point out, that is absolutely NOT what I'm suggesting. The parameters I follow before increasing load in anyone's program are vast. I'm not talking about just being able to demonstrate a proficiency for the movement they're performing. I need to ensure that a client has a working bio-mechanical knowledge of the pitfalls associated with performing any exercise improperly. I must also be sure that the client in question also has an efficient and diligent recovery plan following each resistance workout. For instance, are they consuming enough quality, repair based protein in their diets post-workout? Are they adequately hydrated following energy expenditure? Are they getting the required number of hours of sleep necessary to effectively repair from additional damage done to the tissue from weight lifting? If all of these contingencies check out, then I look to increase load.
Now as it relates to seniors, should load increase, research suggests that shorter repetition range and a "single set" format can produce the desired power results without putting the client in a compromised situation. Think about it. If we're trying to get someone strong, an elderly client, a high school athlete, a middle aged housewife, etc, we must usually follow a framework for repetitions somewhere in the neighborhood of ten to twenty. The completion of one set could take someone into an elevated heart rate zone that is potentially dangerous due to the time under tension principle. If we account for a post-set increase in heart rate from a heavy lift, I could still keep someone's heart rate lower by performing a single set of say five or six repetitions followed by extended recovery of two to five minutes.
Now here is where the beauty lies. Many people I'm sure would still be hesitant or down right afraid to challenge an elderly client within this format. Not me. And the main reason why is because the system that I teach, Fitness Longevity, takes the majority of the danger out of it. By being deliberately focused on everything from impeccable exercise technique, to proper joint alignment, to normal joint range of motion, to proper agonist/antagonist stabilization, Fitness Longevity ensures that the client can safely increase their total load by a substantial amount while still avoiding the potential risk associated with many exercises. There must still be a reasonable measure of caution and logic applied by the trainer/strength coach as it relates to each individual with each exercise performed. That last sentence is probably the most important. Read it again.
I just believe that in the face of current, substantiated data and new research, we shouldn't be nervous or afraid to make shifts in our client's programs if we know they can benefit from those shifts. Once again, I have nothing but the maximum amount of gratitude to Sam Iannetta and his system of Fitness Longevity for equipping me with the tools to help every population move better and be stronger for a lifetime. If it weren't for Sam's system, I'd probably be teaching Crossfit to someone who has no business doing anything like Crossfit. For the last 10 years, I've had the honor of learning and performing in a system that ensures every participant receives the education, functional strength, and mind-body awareness to move intelligently, efficiently and injury free through life. Regardless of how long we're around, Functional Fitness in Boulder, Colorado guarantees that everyone who receives our work, receives what they individually need as it relates to the correction of faulty or dysfunctional movement patterns. When their movement patterns are cleaned up and they're now strong in the new, correct pattern, anyone can do anything. I'm at least not hesitant to increase the load on a client that I'm confident won't come apart while performing that exercise. My clients will always benefit from any new knowledge, research that I come across because when I implement that data into their program, it is done within the system that covers the most bases when it comes to safe exercise. If you're interested in more information on Fitness Longevity, check out www.functionalfitnessusa.com. For more information on smart exercise, follow @Rich1ill. Thank you.