It might surprise many that the focus of weight training for seniors has relevance to all of us. Among the primary goals of weight training for seniors is to improve relative strength (RS). RS is how strong one is relative to what she/he weighs and has implications for everyone’s fitness ( Siemenda et al. 1998; De Lateur et al. 2006; Zoico et al: 2004; Janssen et al. 2002 Di Francesco et al 2005). As such, knowing how to train for RS benefits everyone.
Implications of Relative Strength
RS isn't just the focus of weight training for seniors as it positively influences function and health for everyone. In fact, research shows that having a healthy level of strength relative to bodyweight improves the ease with which many activities are performed (Siemenda et al. 1998; De Lateur et al. 2006). In addition, the inclination to be active is also improved with increased relative strength (Di Francesco et al 2005; Lebrun et al. 2006). This means increased RS makes people move more because they want to; which moving more might addresses overall fitnesss without even thingiking about it!
Aside from strength, the other components of fitness include flexibility, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and body composition. Moving more supports flexibility by preventing tissues from being still long enough to become tight. Muscular endurance is improved by more movement because more movement demands continued muscular work which is what muscular endurance is. Cardiovascular health is complimented by greater activity because the heart and vessels deliver the substrate necessary to fuel activity. As for body composition, more movement means more energy expenditure which helps offset the overconsumption of food that plagues most of us!
As can be seen, increased RS like that in weight training for seniors can benefit everyone, especially seniors. RS facilitates these benefits by making movement more desirable and, therefore, more abundant. More abundant movement is conducive to the support of every component of fitness. It’s, therefore, important to know how to optimize training for RS.
Training Conducive to Relative Strength
High force training is necessary to facilitate the increase in relative strength sought by weight training for seniors. Literature on training in strength athletes illustrates the efficiency with which high force training yields relative strength improvements. High force training
One-year of high force training was found by Hakkinen and colleagues (1987b) to produce improvements in weightlifting performance in spite of a slight reduction in bodyweight in elite weightlifters. Busso and colleagues in 1990 found increases in snatch, and clean and jerk strength of nearly twice the magnitude of bodyweight increase in elite weightlifters trained at 1-3RM intensities. Stone (2000) observed greater strength gain relative to body mass gain in subjects utilizing the highest torque contractions. It is also the recommendation of Schmidtbleicher (1985) that 85-90% loads for 1-4 repetitions should be utilized if strength with minimal hypertrophy is the objective.
Significant increases in relative strength appear to be fostered by high force training; which is why relatively high force outputs characterize weight training for seniors. The magnitude of relative strength possible with high force training is evidenced in strength training literature. The higher force training encouraged by force feedback can positively influence the high force training conducive to relative strength acquisition.
Gain in relative strength (RS) sought via weight training for seniors is a focus we all should considers. The implications of relative strength encompass improved health. Improved function and inclination to be active is also implied to be impacted by relative strength (Siemenda et al. 1998; De Lateur et al. 2006; Zoico et al: 2004; Janssen et al. 2002 Di Francesco et al 2005). Relative strength is best enhanced by high-force training (Hakkinen et al. 1987b; Busso et al. 1990; Stone 2000; Schmidtbleicher 1983).
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Busso, T., Hakkinen, K., Pakarinen, A., Kauhanen, H., Komi, P. V., Lacour, J. R., (1992). Hormonal adaptations and modelled responses in elite weight-lifters during 6 weeks of training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 64: 381-386
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Hakkinen, K., Pakarinen, A., Alen, M., Kauhanen, H., Komi, P. V., (1987a). Relationships between training volume, physical performance capacity, and serum hormone concentrations during prolonged training in elite weight lifters. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 8: 61-65
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Zoico, E., Di Francesco, Guralnik, J. M., Mazzeli, G., Bortolani, A., Guariento, S., Sergi, S., Bosello, O., Zamboni, M., (2004). Physical disability and muscular strength in relation to obesity and different body composition indexes in a sample of healthy elderly women. International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, 28: