February 27th, 2008
Professor Joe Signorile is a man on a mission. Joe wants to change the way we train our older clients. He scored with me. After listening to Joe talk. I realized that training older clients for power was not only a good idea, it was essential. Check out these stats lifted straight from Professor Signorile's presentation at the NSCA Caribbean Clinic in 2003.
Between the ages of 65 and 89, explosive lower-limb extensor power has been reported to decline at 3.5% per year compared to a 1-2% per year decrease in strength (Skelton et al. 1994).
What does this mean? It means that even though we are losing strength, we are losing power almost twice as fast. Interpretation: we're really screwed if we need to move fast.
In elderly males, maximal anaerobic power has been reported to decline 8.3% per decade from age 20 to 70 (Bonnefoy et al. 1998).
Interpretation: It says anaerobic, not aerobic. Is anybody getting this? Loss of power is a huge issue. No one said anything about aerobics.
Power is one of the major performance variables associated with independence (Foldvari et al. 2000), fall prevention (Whipple et al. 1987) and rehabilitation following injury (Lamb et al. 1995).
Implications to Training
Research has confirmed that training is speed specific and therefore increases in power and speed of movement require both strength and contractile speed to be addressed.
Kanehisa & Miyashita, 1983, Coyle et al., 1985, Ciaizzo et al., 1986.
Interpretation: Older clients who train for power will be more independent, fall less often, and getter better faster after an injury. A real trifecta.
The bottom line. We need to forget all the crap about safety and start to figure out how to train all of our clients for power. Does this mean cleans and plyometrics for grandma and grandpa? Probably not.
What it does mean is that we must introduce a velocity component to our training, not just for athletes but for all of our clients. The big question is not if we should, but how can we train adults for power. There is no better way to train for power than to use equipment specifically designed for power development. The Keiser equipment line was created by Dennis Keiser, a genius who was well before his time, to allow training at speed with complete safety. It may have taken those of us in the athletic world to get Dennis the recognition he truly deserves.
The Total Gym and the MVP Shuttle both allow for elements of power training, as does on old staple, the medicine ball. In fact the medicine ball may be the least expensive tool for power training and offers huge bang for the buck.
Just remember. Power is relative. What constitutes a power exercise for an athlete is an exercise in insanity for the average adult. The converse is also true. What might be a power exercise for an older client might be called a dynamic warm-up for the athlete. The important point is that we need to train as fast as our clients are physically capable of going if we want to delay the loss of power so prevalent in the aging process.