elderly man trying to open a jar
Posted on June 25, 2017

The 80s started the cult-like workout revolution we now know, with everyone picking up running and walking as well as other aerobic exercises. The heart is an important muscle to exercise because it essentially dictates the overall health of the body. However, the body's other muscles deserve regular exercise as well to keep the entire body functioning at an optimal rate.

Strength training offers that comprehensive solution to workout several sets of muscles at an instance and to tone and shape the body as well.

The Effects Of Age And Muscle Mass Loss

Aging is an inevitable process, and it often isn't a kind process to the body. However, it is possible to help turn back the hands of time and prevent aging from literally beating down your body with the right amount of strength training.

Wayne Westcott, an exercise physiologist, explains that anyone who focuses on aerobic workouts primarily will still suffer from muscle mass loss brought about by aging. Wescott, who is also the South Shore YMCA fitness director, adds that after 20, most adults will lose a pound of muscle after every two years.

A sedentary 40-year old who doesn't seem to have packed on the pounds since college may just have swapped out ten pounds of their muscle mass for ten pounds of fat. The scale may show the same number but body composition changes with age. It isn't enough to get off the couch and get moving anymore; it is crucial to include lifting weights, calisthenics and strength building machine workouts to the equation.

The Benefits Of Muscling Up

Building muscles is still a concept that scares off most women, but a number are embracing it after recognizing its benefits.

Let's start by dispelling the misconceptions and myths; lifting weights and building muscle will not make any woman bulk up to look like the Hulk. Even men, with all the testosterone stores in the world, needed to bulk up, have to work considerably hard to gain the large bulked-up muscles. Therefore, it is nearly impossible for a woman to bulk up just by occasionally lifting weights and toning up of the body is what happens when women lift weights.

With that out of the way, let's explore some of the benefits that come with muscling up:

  • Lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Decreases joint injury risk
  • Sets you up to comfortably perform daily tasks that are physically demanding
  • Improves sports performance for athletes and particularly has a hand in increasing speed
  • Tones up your body and gives you that coveted great-looking body
  • Reversing Time With Strength Training

The National Institutes of Health-sponsored studies had older adults in their 80s and 90 lifting weights. The results were astonishing because the group of participants was able to reclaim and strengthen their weak muscles.

Weight lifting also has a hand in helping older adults to manage back and eliminate back pain.

In 1978, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommended performing aerobic workout sessions exercises at least three to five times weekly. However, they recently revised this guideline and now recommend adding in at least two strength training workout sessions weekly.

Michael L.Pollock, the ACSM Committee chair, explained that aerobics training does not give your muscle fitness and that is why they decided to recommend adding strength training for a well-rounded fitness program.

Building Muscle Strength With Maximum Effectiveness

Strength training, just like any other fitness regime, requires the right amount of intensity and resistance for maximum effect.

When it comes to building up your muscle strength, you will have to work against resistance. The resistance in this sense can be your body weight, strength training equipment like the Nautilus, or free weights such as dumbbells or barbells.

Other fitness equipment that provides the necessary resistance needed to build muscle strength includes strap-on ankle and wrist weights, heavier elastic tubing, and weighted balls.

Golden, Colo Fitness Success Communications director, and owner Robert Mulligan explains that technique matters with strength training and if you don't do it right you could get injured.

It is also imperative to work with fitness instructors with professional certifications, and an added advantage is to get an instructor who holds National Strength and Conditioning Association, IDEA: The Association of Fitness Professionals, or ACSM certifications.

When Can You Start Strength Training?

iron plates and kettle bells

You can start strength training at virtually any time in life. Before starting on any form of weight training workout your instructor needs to assess your health history as well as overall fitness level to structure your specific target fitness goals.

It is very critical to talk with your physician before starting any type of strength training workout particularly if you are over 40. Anyone with risk factors such as heart disease, diabetes, bone or joint problems, or if you are overweight should not start any form of workout routines without seeking a doctor's advice.

Hypertensive individuals will need close medical monitoring because heavy weight lifting often results in increased blood pressure.

However, this is not to say that anyone in a weakened physical state cannot strength train and benefit significantly from it. With the help of a qualified weight training professional and close medical monitoring, people of poor health can weight train.

The Human Nutrition Research Center and Harvard Medical School's geriatrics physician, Maria Fiatarone explains that the seniors who took part in the study were suffering from four to six illnesses in average. She added that the participants of the studies were not chosen based on their health status but rather because of their physically weak condition.

Fiatarone’s study is ongoing research focuses on nursing-home residents who are between the ages of 85 to 100. The results so far show that weight training at 80% maximum efficiency helps to improve muscle gait, strength, speed, functioning, and mental status in older adults. Fiatarone explained that the study participants had shown marked improvements in their balance and they exhibit increased confidence in general.

Fiatarone added that older people die increasingly of osteoporosis-related illnesses, immobility, and hip fractures. All these conditions can get managed or prevent their occurrence with strength training.

Get Rid Of The Age-Induced Middle Spread

The effects of aerobic workouts in prolonging life by reducing heart disease risk and other threatening illnesses. However, strength training improves the quality of life and makes it easier to perform physically laborious tasks as well as slowing or reversing the dreaded epidemic which is obesity.

The middle bulge comes as a result of the high rate of sedentary lifestyles people lead as they age. Add in eating the same amount as you did when you were younger and active; the result is an accumulation of fat in the body and loss of muscle mass.

The scale doesn't work as a good indicator of fitness because as explained sometimes you lose muscle mass in exchange of fat and your weight remains the same. Try on an outfit you haven't worn in 10 or 20 years, and you will realize that your body shape has changed. A pound of muscle takes up considerably less space within the body compared to a pound of fat.

To reshape your body after suffering from the age-induced middle spread is to pick up strength training. However, for maximum effectiveness strength training should be combined with aerobics and a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet to help battle fat and reshape the body.

Westcott explains that weight loss is only achievable by burning off more calories than you take in and aerobics work as an excellent calorie burner. Strength training boosts weight loss because with increased muscle mass your metabolism also increases. Muscles mainly function as the body's engine, and they tend to be significantly metabolically active compared to fat.

For every pound of muscle lost your metabolic rate decreases by an estimated 50 calories daily. Inversely, for every pound of muscle gained your metabolic rate increases by an estimated 50 calories daily. Wescott further adds that basal metabolic rates slow down by three to five percent every decade, and it is related to muscular conditioning more than age factors.

People who lead busy lifestyles can put in 30-minute workouts combining aerobics and strength training for maximum efficiency. Alternatively, add a 15-minute strength session after a 30-minute aerobic session. Perform the circuit training routine for at least three days weekly helps to develop as well as maintain a balanced and high fitness level.

Wescott further adds that his studies revealed that people who combined strength training and aerobics and still maintained their diets were able to gain more muscle. The strength training group lost 10 pounds in average while the aerobics only group lost 3.2 pounds in average.

Start Slow And Work Your Way Up

Start at a slow to moderate pace with strength training and then build up to higher intensities when you get stronger.

Steve Fleck, a physiologist with the Colorado-based United States Olympics Training Center, recommends starting with weights, rather than beginning with calisthenics, for maximum efficiency. He explains that weights are more versatile while with calisthenics you are limited to using your body weight.

Fleck adds that strength training exercise machines are safer and easier to use, but it is a personal choice whether to go for free weights of the machines. He also explains that there isn't any difference in building muscle using weights or machines and the result is always the same.

A beginner's strength training program should comprise of eight to ten exercises to work out the body's major groups of muscles. The main groups of muscles include the arms, chest, buttocks, shoulders, calves, back, abdomen, and thighs. Work with a weight training professional to make sure that you are correctly performing the techniques with the proper form to avoid injury and for maximum effectiveness.

Rolling Meadows, Ill Women's Club's general manager, and exercise physiologist Sue B. Thompson suggests starting without weights entirely. She explains that getting the technique down makes movements easier and then you can incorporate weights.

Thompson further adds that when you do include weights to your strength training workouts, you should go for weights that you can comfortably lift eight to twelve times. She further adds that you should get a sense of "satisfied muscle relief" once you complete the rep rather than feel pain.

She then suggests adding on sets with one-minute rests in between and when you can comfortably perform three sets of 12 reps each per exercise, move on to heavier weights. The weights you progress to should fall under a two and a half to five percent weight increase.

When working with machines, don't go right into raising the weights to the next level because of some increase by 20-pounds for every increment. Get smaller add-ons to stick to the maximum five percent weight increase.

When performing strength training exercises, do not hold your breath. Instead, practice exhaling when you lift and inhaling when you release. Warm up before strength training sessions, just like you would with any other workout routine, with five minutes of light exercises. Also, stretch lightly before the workout and vigorously after the strength training session.

Take a full day rest between strength training sessions to give your muscles enough time to recover. Bodybuilders sometimes choose to split sets in a way where they work out one muscle group, say legs, on one day and another muscle group, say arms, the next and so on. However, Thompson says that split sets do not come recommended for the average person.

Thompson suggests switching up exercises when you hit a plateau. She says it is important to vary routines to challenge the muscles as well as to avoid boredom. She also advises pushing yourself to improve, but it shouldn't mean pushing yourself to pain. In the event of pain, stop the workout routine and seek help from your physician.

Typically, you will develop delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMs) the morning after a strength training workout. DOMs develop 12 to 72 hours following starting any new exercise routine, after increasing the intensity of a workout or performing a workout differently.

The Atlanta-based Sports Medicine Foundation of America's athletic trainer Gary Shankman explains that it just means that "your muscles are waking up." He adds that the soreness eventually gets replaced with new found strength.
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Further your study of the wonderful world of strength training. Strength training is vital for adults of all ages; male and female.