The Sport of Aging

Why do aging adults end up in assisted-living facilities? It’s right there in the title: they are unable to function / live without assistance. If I learned anything during my physical therapy rotations spent in SNFs (skilled nursing facilities), it’s that getting off the toile when you’re 75+ is the real flex.

More broadly, the reason aging adults go to assisted-living facilities is loss of independence. As adults age, basic movement becomes much more difficult. Gravity seems to get harder to overcome. More accurately, muscles atrophy when they’re not being used. It’s common when people retire, to be less active, engage in fewer social events, and sit for large portions of their day.

Train for Strength!

It is important to stay active as we age. We need to find or stick to an exercise routine to preserve our independence for as long as possible. This requires one to train specifically for strength. How do we do that? We use basic human movement patterns like the squat, hinge, push, and pull. We load these movements with the ideal implement… the barbell because a barbell can be loaded with as little or as much weight as the person needs. We train 2-3x per week and we aim to add a little weight to each session over time.

Strength training is also critical for aging adults because it helps prevent and reverse osteoporosis (brittle bones). Minor slips and falls often result in broken bones in aging men and women with low bone density. Lifting heavy objects increases that bone density and reduces risk of injury / limitation.

It’s important to understand that training for strength should increase your… strength! Training for strength isn’t about how high your heart rate was during the workout (that is called conditioning). Training for strength isn’t about how sweaty you got during the workout (again, that’s probably conditioning). Training for strength isn’t about how sore the workout made you (that’s probably CrossFit or OTF).

Training for strength is getting stronger, and that means lifting heavier weights over time. Period.

Effective Coaching & Programming Is Required

The exercise needs of the aging population vary by degree, not kind. What is standing up from the toilet? A barbell box squat. What happens when someone falls and gets back up? A bench press. How do groceries get unloaded from the car? With a farmers carry. How do you pick up a grandchild? Get your deadlift up.

A good coach will know how to guide a masters athlete. Intensity and volume are relative for every athlete in the gym, along with range of motion and training frequency. At Brentwood Barbell, our athletes all get their own program. Written for them, based on their goals and abilities. Each athlete is taught how to train. How much weight to load on the bar, when to increase / decrease it, and how to work around nagging aches / pains.

The best thing about training for strength is that it works! Everyone can get stronger.

Talk soon!