In You Still Got It, Girl! The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women, I outlined three different resistance training protocols for improving fitness based on goals. If weight loss (including optimal body composition), bone density, or better function (for sport or improved movement) has the highest priority for you, your weight training methods should reflect that.
All women, in other words, shouldn’t have the same weight training routine. Women who most want to focus on weight loss will have a protocol most optimal for reaching that goal. For women who most want to focus on bone density or want to improve balance there are different ideal protocols.
Power applied to strength training exercises has been proven to increase the energy expenditure of an exercise session (during that session), and has a slight edge over bone density improvements compared to traditional heavy weight training. Traditional lifting with a weight you can lift no more than 10 times is associated with optimal bone density. Lifting this load is most often is done lifting in a 1-2 count lift and a 3-4 count lower, in other words, slow and controlled. Lifting a weight 10 times to fatigue correlates to 80% of a 1-repetition maximum. (For safety the repetition ranges are used rather than actually testing 1-rep maximums).
Power involves a speed component. Lift as quickly as possible, and lower with control. You would want to add this power component only after you’ve built a strong foundation of strength and integrity in joints and muscles over a period of weeks or months. You also reduce the weight slightly in order to be able to achieve the actual power. New research gets more specific about what weight range helps reach optimal power.
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research provides even more specific recommendations for using power during your workout. The optimal power produced varied by weight load for 70 subjects in the study (average age 70). Power has been indicated at about 60% of a 1-rep max, or equivalent to a 15-repetition range. You would identify the weight you can lift 15 times but no more. This new study suggests optimal power varies per exercise.
With the chest press and seated row the optimal power was at 50%. With Lat Pull-down, peak power was a 40% and leg press, leg curl, and calf raise peak power were all at the prior recommended 60% of 1-rep maximum.
Use the chart below to give you an idea of how to choose a weight based on repetition range if you are ready to implement power into your resistance training sessions. You would select the weight using slow controlled motion using the following chart. Then apply the power movements as quickly as possible (controlling lowering movements) for 10 repetitions.
The study used machine weights, specifically pneumatic machines, that keep the speed component from increasing injury risk with momentum. Be careful if you choose to implement with other types of machine weights and/or free weights. (Video 2 in the You Still Got It, Girl video series demonstrates safe use of power with free weights).
Given what we know about muscles losses with age, lifting weights with adequate intensity is a given for those of us who wish to age well with the ability to do what we want while we’re here.
Are you lifting weights? I’d like to hear from you about how you select your protocol and if you’re getting results.