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Strength Training provides larger, more sustainable gains in seniors

by A. Manolova | 16 March 2018

senior, strength training, sport, force, performance, life, quality, mobility, detraining, intensity, sarcopenia, muscle, loss
Aging is accompanied by a loss of muscle mass.

Figure 1. Aging is accompanied by a loss of muscle mass.

Aging is usually accompanied by loss of mobility, loss of strength and loss of muscle power. All these phenomena are consequences of the loss of muscle mass, also known as sarcopenia. For the elderly, this represents an increased difficulty with everyday tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, carrying small loads, and so on.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that strength training can counteract the effects of aging, or at least mitigate them. In addition, this type of training provides real benefits for daily activities. Nevertheless, the modalities and intensity of the optimal training have yet to be defined, as studies have shown significant gains with training based on muscular power (moderate resistance and high speed) and training based on strength (high resistance high and low speed).

Finally, the regular training of a senior could very well be interrupted because of life hazards or for health reasons. In this case, it would be interesting to know the evolution of strength and mobility in older people after the cessation of training.

Strength training helps to fight against muscle loss due to aging.

Figure 2. Strength training helps to fight against muscle loss due to aging.

The Study

To answer this question, a team of Greek researchers from the University of Thrace have studied the effect of the intensity level during a 24-week weight-training program on the strength, power and mobility in senior. Then they observed these same parameters after the end of training and after 48 weeks.

For this, 52 men totally inactive and without medical problems, with an average age of 70, participated in this study. These participants were divided into 3 groups :

  • Control Group (C) : 14 participants (who did nothing during the whole protocol)
  • Training Group Moderate Intensity (MI) (50-55% of 1RM) : 18 participants
  • Training Group High Intensity (HI) (80-85% of 1RM) : 20 participants

Before the start of the 24 weeks of training, each participant assessed:

  • The maximal strength level (i.e., 1RM) at the upper and lower limbs
  • Anaerobic power in a Wingate test : 30s sprint on a cyclo ergometer.
  • Mobility during standard timed tests (walking, climbing steps, etc.)
  • Body fat

These tests were repeated after the 24 weeks of training and at 16, 32 and 48 weeks after the end of training. At the end of the 24 weeks of the protocol, participants had to resume their normal lives without doing any exercises.

Results & Analyzes

The statistical tests showed that there was no difference between the 3 groups before the beginning of the protocol, for all the parameters measured.

The main findings of this study show that the MI and HI groups reduce body mass and body fat, increase their maximal upper and lower body strength, increase their maximal power during the Wingate test, and improve their mobility performance over time. mobility tests. However, the gains of the HI group were significantly higher than those of the MI group.

Regarding the detraining period after the 24 weeks of training, the results show that moderate and high intensity strength training can reduce muscle loss and mobility loss in older men. In fact, the gains are maintained at least 32 weeks after the complete shutdown, even if they decrease gradually. However, HI group earnings remained above the preliminary level until 48 weeks after the full stop. In addition, even 1 year after the end of the protocol, the levels of the different tests were higher compared to the preliminary tests.

Practical Applications

Strength training allows for many gains for the elderly people : strength, power and mobility. It appears that these gains are sustainable even after the total cessation of training. Nevertheless, this study seems to show that training with a higher intensity allows higher gains that last longer.

The prescription of this type of training seems to be positive to improve the everyday life of the senior. However, it is necessary to remember that sedentary people must learn the perfect execution of exercises and be brought gradually to high intensities. Guided load machines can, in this case, be a good alternative to free loads since they would allow a better security in the execution of the different movements.


  1. Fatouros IG, Kambas A, Katrabasas I, Nikolaidis K, Chatzinikolaou A, Leontsini D and Taxildaris K. Strength training and detraining effects on muscular strength, anaerobic power, and mobility of inactive older men are intensity dependent. Br J Sports Med 39 : 776-780, 2005.

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