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Optimal Approach to Load Progressions during Strength Training in Older Adults

BUSKARD, ANDREW N. L.1; JACOBS, KEVIN A.2; ELTOUKHY, MOATAZ M.1; STRAND, KERI L.1; VILLANUEVA, LAWRENCE2; DESAI, PARTH P.2; SIGNORILE, JOSEPH F.1,3

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 11 - p 2224–2233
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002038
APPLIED SCIENCES
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Progressive resistance training (RT) is one of the most effective interventions for reducing age-related deficits in muscle mass and functional capacity.

Purpose To compare four approaches to load progressions in RT for older adults to determine if an optimal method exists.

Methods Eighty-two healthy community-dwelling older adults (71.8 ± 6.2 yr) performed 11 wk of structured RT (2.5 d·wk−1) in treatment groups differing only by the method used to increase training loads. These included percent one repetition maximum (%1RM): standardized loads based on a percentage of the one repetition maximum (1RM); rating of perceived exertion (RPE): loads increased when perceived difficulty falls below 8/10 on the OMNI-Resistance Exercise Scale perceived exertion scale; repetition maximum (RM): loads increased when a target number of repetitions can be completed with a given load; repetitions in reserve (RiR): identical to RM except subjects must always maintain ≥1 “repetition in reserve,” thus avoiding the possibility of training to temporary muscular failure.

Results Multiple analyses of covariance indicated no significant between-group differences on any strength (chest press 1RM; leg press 1RM) or functional performance outcome (usual walking speed, maximum walking speed, 8-ft timed up-and-go, gallon jug transfer test, 30 s sit-to-stand). The RPE group found the exercise to be significantly more tolerable and enjoyable than subjects in the RiR, RM, and %1RM groups.

Conclusion Given the RM, RPE, %1RM, and RiR methods appear equally effective at improving muscular strength and functional performance in an older population, we conclude that the RPE method is optimal because it is likely to be perceived as the most tolerable and enjoyable, which are two important factors determining older adults’ continued participation in RT.

1Laboratory of Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging, Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL

2Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL

3University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Center on Aging, Miami, FL

Address for correspondence: Joseph F. Signorile, Ph.D., Laboratory of Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging, Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences, University of Miami, 1507 Levante Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33146; E-mail: jsignorile@miami.edu.

Submitted for publication March 2019.

Accepted for publication May 2019.

Online date: May 17, 2019

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine