Training As You Age: Maintaining Muscle

Training As You Age: Maintaining Muslce

I was having lunch with a friend the other day and she mentioned that her doctor had talked about weight training to avoid loss of muscle as she ages.  Then in typical fashion the subject came up again a few more times in the following days.  As you age how do you lessen the affect on strength and force capability?

First, the commonly accepted belief is that in order to avoid strength loss as you age you have to engage in weight lifting or strength training.  I'm here to tell you a different story. 

Strength training has a role in anyone's physical training program, but it is far less important than what is commonly believed and accepted. And to understand that I want to talk about joint gaps.

"4. How does dysfunction occur?

Dysfunction of a a system of the body occurs when a stimulu applied to the body (e.g. training) and the adaptaion or response to that stimulus degrades the function of any system of the body"
- Ian King, Ian King's Guide to Strengh Training: How to Transfer Strength Training

"...,I refer to my joint gap theory as an example of function or dysfunction:

I'm going to share with you very simply my philosophy on use injuries.  I have two bones and some connective tissue.

We have increased compression of soft tissue as a result of that changed relationship between bones (joints). We can also have a nerve impingement..."
-Ian King, Ian King's Guide to Strength Training: How to Transfer Strength Training p.26

When you train (and also as you live your life) you produce tension throughout your body.  If this is not countered with an equal amount of time spent relieving tension, the muscles and joints become tighter.  Over time the result is restricted blood flow and restricted nerve function.  The result is a reduction in strength potential and muscle/joint function.  This is atrophy.  It happens as people age naturally.  It is accelerated by unbalanced strength programs over time and a lack of tension reduction over time. 

"You can have a reduction in muscle function due to changes in joint relationships - and you don't necessarily even know it.  This can occur before measurable discomfort occurs.  And joint surface changes can also commence before you experience or acknowledge the pain.  Pain inhibits function."
-Ian King, Ian King's Guide to Strength Training: How to Transfer Strength Training p. 26

The solution:  Spend more time reducing tension than you do training as you age. 

Kids and young people can handle less stretching because their hormone levels allow for better recovery. (among other things).  As you age though, this should be reversed.  Spend the majority of your time stretching and less time weight training.  You will maintain strength (and potentially gain strength) longer AND FEEL AWESOME.

Tom Legath