Can Seniors Get Stronger?

A new study suggests that seniors can indeed get stronger if they follow a weight training program. Get-Fit Guy explains how this finding bucks a common belief among exercise enthusiasts. 

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

Can Seniors Get Stronger?It’s a common belief among exercise enthusiasts that at around 50-60 years old, people simply lose the ability to get stronger. I’m partially to blame for that, I suppose, because back in episode 67, Fitness Tips for Seniors, I wrote:

“Your muscle strength peaks around 25 years old, plateaus through 35 or 40 years old, and then begins to decline quickly, with 25% loss of peak strength by the time you’re 65. This is due to a loss in the number of muscle fibers.”

Well, prepare for an addendum and forward this to the grandparent, senior, or older individual in your life. While I was correct in saying that you lose muscle as you age (a process called sarcopenia), I neglected to inform you that you can stave off this decline--and quite significantly, according to a new study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The study found that compared to their 34-year-old counterparts, a group of 65-year-old men was indeed able to significantly increase strength in response to a weight training program.  In this case, for ten weeks, two times per week, the seniors used two to five sets of eight to 14 repetitions with one to two minutes of rest. Their leg strength and leg lean muscle mass were measured before and after the training period. While the seniors didn’t actually gain any leg muscle (which their younger counterparts did when following an identical program) the training led to significant increases in one repetition maximum (1RM) leg press performance in both training groups.

So if you’re over 60, don’t worry about losing the ability to get stronger. Instead, start a full-body weight training routine a couple times a week, and don’t mess around with light weight and high repetitions. Just do less than 15 reps and stick with it for a couple months – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

If you have more questions about whether seniors can get stronger, join the conversation over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

Happy senior couple image courtesy of Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.