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Westcott offers strength training tips for older adults

By Wayne L. Westcott, Thomas R. Baechle

Adults over the age of 50 typically experience five to seven pound of muscle loss per decade. Strength training combats the effects of aging by providing improved muscle strength and bone density. Wayne Westcott and Tom Baechle, authors of Strength Training Past 50 demonstrate how to begin a strength training routine that will not only increase strength, but reduce injuries.

When developing a program, Westcott stresses the importance of performing one exercise for each major muscle group and making sure to select exercises for opposing muscle groups. "Many people select certain exercises because they are more popular, more convenient, or more satisfying to perform than others," Westcott says. "However, if you do not give equal attention to opposing muscles, you may develop a strength imbalance that leads to poor posture and a greater susceptibility to joint injuries."

Westcott offers the following tips for strength training:

  • Exercise Order. Larger muscle groups should be trained before smaller muscle groups. A good order to follow is lower-body exercises, followed by upper-body exercises, followed by those for the midsection and neck. Arranging the order of exercises in this manner ensures that you train the larger muscles while you are fresh, enabling you to emphasize their development over smaller groups.
  • Exercise Sets. People starting a strength training program should perform one set of each exercise. One set of an exercise is the minimum required for strength improvement, and single-set strength training is an efficient and effective means of muscle development. As you feel more comfortable, progress to two or three exercise sets if you have time or motivation to do so.
  • Exercise Load. The most important consideration when selecting appropriate exercise resistance is to make sure your beginning weight loads are not too heavy. The weight used is largely determined by the number of repetitions that can be performed in an exercise set. If your exercise range is 8 to 12 repetitions, start with a load that enables you to comfortably perform 8 to 10 repetitions. Continue training with this load until you can complete 12 repetitions using proper technique, then increase the resistance.

Based on these guidelines, Wescott recommends strength training two or three nonconsecutive days a week. "Your rate of muscle development should be about the same whether you do two or three weekly workouts. Although you can gain strength by training only one day a week, your rate of muscle development will be reduced by about 50 percent," Westcott says.

This is adapted from Strength Training Past 50.

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