Strength & Power for Aging Adults
Here's an important topic to address for anyone who continues to have a birthday year after year...
Being "old" is not an excuse to neglect strength and power. In fact, it is the exact reason why you should take it more seriously. Hear me out....
Power training is basically overcoming resistance as quickly as possible. As a humans we have two types of muscle fibers, type 1 and type 2 (clever names, huh?) Type 1 muscle fibers are our slower contracting muscle fibers. They produce low power contractions over long periods and are slow to fatigue. Type 2 muscle fibers are quicker to fatigue, but produce stronger and faster bursts of power. We use our “fast-twitch" muscle fibers, during short, explosive periods of physical activity. Type 2 muscles fibers decline rapidly when they are not trained! Let's talk about why that matters and how we train that at Get Fit NH.
Why do we need to train our "fast twitch" muscle fibers? You might be thinking.
- I'm not an athlete nor plan to take up sports in my aging life
- I am too old to be jumping and running around
- I just want to get stronger, I don't care about being fast
- I just want to lose a few pounds
All that is fine, BUT what if I told you that failure to train POWER (fast twitch muscle fibers) would dramatically increase your risk of falling and failing to recover fully from that fall?
"Meagan, what do you mean?"
Oh, I am so glad you asked! When you train your body you are very much training your brain too. Let's take a look..
- Plyometrics challenges your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for explosive movements, by forcing them to stretch and contract quickly. All sorts of explosive jumps, hops, and quick agility moves that involve fast feet or changes in direction. Think skaters, ladders, TRX squat jumps, box jumps. Now let's imagine you miss a step or roll off the curb...your brain and your body are WAY more likely to work together and be able to work fast enough to catch you before you go down. You don't need to be able to actually jump to reap the benefits here. Be intentional in skaters and ladders will decrease your risk just as well.
- Trajectory or ballistic work the focus is on your ability to move or even launch an object (like a medicine ball) as hard or far as possible. Think medball slams, deadball slams and wall ball work. Coordination matters and again, training your body and your brain together transfers into the real world on so many levels. Reaction time is everything.
So where does strength training fall?
The more muscle you have, the more fibers your brain can signal to jump, sprint, or pivot when you train explosively. Think of it as having more horsepower to work with. Though the concepts seem similar, they’re actually quite different. Speed is top priority in anything power-focused, it’s not a factor at all in strength training. Strength training is about how much total force you can exert, not how quickly you can exert it.
So there you have it, team. Strength training is important to maintain and build muscle as your age. Having the strength to get up and down off the floor. Put your own luggage into the overhead compartment. Lift grandchildren and play with them. Power training is important to age with grace and live far more independent than the average American. The risk of falling increases as we age. Training decreases with your risk of falling and dramatically increases your risk of recovery if you do fall. There is so much more to training than just throwing together a few exercises that make you breathe heavy and sweat buckets and there is so much more to health and fitness than weight loss and changing the shape of your body.
Make the time, not the excuses.