How Do I Strength Train with Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis?

Terry asks, is weight training appropriate for those who have osteoporosis and osteoarthritis? 

My answer is yes! It should be mandatory! 

The challenging part is osteoporosis and osteoarthritis have two different protocols. The choice has to be made to avoid pain or injury so the advantages outweigh the risks.

Osteoporosis vs Osteoarthritis Strength

With osteoporosis the best results come from lifting heavy such that you fatigue in 10 or fewer repetitions. With less load the bone doesn’t respond in a positive way.

For osteoarthritis the best results come from strengthening the muscles surrounding joints so there is less pressure and stress on the joint itself. 

The best choice then is to keep the weight light and repetition range higher but not so high that you’re wearing the joint out. General repetition guidelines would be to start in a 15-25 rep range and increase weight slowly to the point you can tolerate. 

Alternative ways to increase load

You can increase the time under tension during a contraction in order to use a lighter weight and continue to reach overload. This is called tempo training. For many right now during COVID while dumbbells are hard to come by, this can be a good solution.

For osteoarthritis you also want to keep mobility and stability in mind as well. Having osteoporosis makes you vulnerable to fractures if you fall. Balance and adequate strength to build stability are important. 

Maintain a diet that allows you to reduce inflammation and enhance muscle maintenance. You’ll need that for both conditions and for longevity. 

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2 thoughts on “How Do I Strength Train with Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis?”

    1. Debra Atkinson

      HI Mary, I’m sure which course you’re in, but in general you want 3 different size weights. A “light”, “medium” and “heavy” pair of dumbbells. You’ll need to do a little trial and error to find the right weight for larger and smaller muscle groups. Try performing a chest press or bent over row with weights you have now (sometimes books in a backpack is a good way to begin finding what weight works – just put it on you bathroom scale and you’ll get an idea of what you need).

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