One of my problems with most advice on working with weights is that it is written by young jocks for young jocks. I am a senior citizen and I don’t want to break or tear any parts of my body. If I tried to emulate some of the recommendations or workouts done by you younger guys and gals I think I would end up in the emergency room.
The principles of exercise change for seniors whether it is cardio or resistance work. I have written about seniors doing endurance sports and also seniors lifting weights.
Dr. Anthony Goodman, in the course I took called Lifelong Health, said that seniors should concentrate on using lower weights, but do higher reps because seniors want to strengthen their ligaments and tendons as well as the muscles. Ligaments and tendons weaken as we age and lead to injuries that can really slow you down. Strengthening ligaments can also protect you from common aging problems like Achilles tendon rupture, rotator cuff tears in the shoulder and hip and knee injuries.
Having said that, I am very pleased to pass on the bottom quarter of a recommendation from Dr. Doug McGuff as reported by Dr. Mercola on his fitness website in January of 2012. Although over a year old, it was news, welcome news, to me. I hope it will be to you, too. Sometimes old news is good news.
Dr. McGuff is explaining super-slow weight lifting. As you will see in his conclusion it is especially helpful for seniors.
Essentially, by aggressively working your muscle to fatigue, you’re stimulating the muscular adaptation that will improve the metabolic capability of the muscle and cause it to grow. McGuff recommends using four or five basic compound movements for your exercise set. These exercises can be done using either free weights or machines. The benefit of using a quality machine is that it will allow you to focus your mind on the effort, as opposed on the movement, because the movement is restricted by the structure of the machine.
Dr. McGuff recommends the following five movements:
1. Pull-down (or alternatively chin-up)
2. Chest press
3. Compound row (A pulling motion in the horizontal plane)
4. Overhead press
5. Leg press
Here’s a summary of how to perform each exercise:
1. Begin by lifting the weight as slowly and gradually as you can. The first inch should take about two seconds. Since you’re depriving yourself of all the momentum of snatching the weight upward, it will be very difficult to complete the full movement in less than 7-10 seconds. (When pushing, stop about 10 to 15 degrees before your limb is fully straightened; smoothly reverse direction)
2. Slowly lower the weight back down. Repeat until exhaustion. (Once you reach exhaustion, don’t try to heave or jerk the weight to get one last repetition in. Instead, just keep trying to produce the movement, even if it’s not ‘going’ anywhere, for another five seconds or so. If you’re using the appropriate amount of weight or resistance, you’ll be able to perform four to eight repetitions) Immediately switch to the next exercise for the next target muscle group, and repeat the first three steps done in this fashion, your workout will take no more than 12 or 15 minutes. While this may sound ridiculously short, once you’ve tried it, you’ll likely realize that it’s really all you can muster. This super-slow movement allows your muscle, at the microscopic level, to access the maximum number of cross-bridges between the protein filaments that produce movement in the muscle.
“It’s sort of like a caterpillar or a centipede that’s crawling along a surface. If you start off moving very, very slowly, you’re going to engage more legs or more movement arms at the microscopic level. What you have in terms of movement is the difference between a centipede and a millipede, and that also produces very gradual movement.
What the slow movement does is it keeps the muscle under a continuous load. It can never escape being under the stress of the weight, so the fatigue accumulates very quickly.
We’ll just have you lift and lower the weight until your fatigue accumulates to the point where you no longer have enough strength to continue to move the weight, at which point we will have you continue to attempt to produce movement even though it is not occurring for several more seconds, which drives your level of fatigue more deeply.”
More Effective AND Safer Too!
This type of super-slow weight training has another benefit that makes it ideal for virtually everyone, regardless of age or fitness level, and that is safety, as it actively prevents you from accidentally harming your joints or suffering repetitive use injury.
“Force is mass times acceleration. If you deprive yourself of the acceleration, you’re delivering almost no punishment to your joints. There’s no repetitive use injury,” Dr. McGuff says. “The forces are extremely low, and as you become more fatigued, you’re becoming much weaker. So you’re actually delivering a smaller and smaller force to your body as you fatigue.”
Dr. Mercola concluded, “I’m very excited about this information and have already begun implementing it into my fitness program. I hope you’ll give it a try too!”
I hope you will, too. I certainly am.
4 responses to “Weight Training Techniques for Seniors”
Great Article! Its not about ‘reps’ and ‘smashing out’ the exercises, but taking time to do them in a controlled manor under load. Core Stability excises with an emphasis on slow control through a full range of movement is a great a base to work from. This form of training also works for those looking to reduce the rate of ‘osteoporosis’ too!
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Thanks for your kind words. You are right on about the benefits in fighting osteoporosis, too. Men are more vulnerable to it after the age of 55.
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HOW ABOUT FIR WOMEN.AGES 55-65? I WANT TO BUILD STRONGER MUSCLE, NOT look like Mr atlas.
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Thanks for your comment. Did you read the post? It all applies to women as well as men. I guarantee you won’t have to worry about looking like Charles Atlas.