Power Training… What is It and Why is It So Important as We Age?


Staff member

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We may not want to face it, but our muscles age right along with the rest of our body. It’s easy to understand the importance of strength training to help us maintain muscle mass and keep our bodies strong so that we can continue to do everyday activities without struggle. One aspect of muscle maintenance that is often overlooked, however, is power training. But, before you panic thinking power training equals high impact, let me explain!

While strength training focuses on the amount of weight that our muscles can lift for any given exercise, power training focuses more on the speed at which we can perform a movement. Yes, as we age, we slow down. This slowdown happens because our muscles’ ability to contract quickly and powerfully is reduced. But, why? One of the main contributing factors is the loss of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Starting at around age 50, the amount of fast twitch muscle fibers that we have starts to drop dramatically, and this loss continues as we age. The less muscle power we have, the more difficult daily functional movements like climbing stairs, or getting up from a seated position, can become.

So, you may be saying, “Okay, I get it, but I don’t like to jump anymore and my knees can’t handle high impact. How can I work on speed and power?” The inability to perform the plyometric power moves we once did doesn’t mean that we get a pass on power training. By taking moderate weight and a higher rep approach to certain power movements, such as squats, lunges, or push presses, we can still add power training into our strength training routines and enjoy the benefits that this training method provides. This will give you the benefits of power training while reducing the amount of stress it puts on your joints.

In my new series Lift, Move & Restore: Functional Training for the Actively Aging Lifestyle, we will look at both strength training and power training from the perspective of muscle maintenance, injury prevention, and overall functional ability. Strength training does help to preserve muscle mass, but power training is also key to maintaining a high level of function as we age!

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