“Stop Loading, Start Exploding”

I just returned from the IDEA Personal Training Institute in Alexandria, VA. IDEA is an organization that provides educational opportunities for Personal Trainers. The title of this blog is the title of one of the courses I took, taught by Cody Sipe of the Functional Aging Institute.

The central topic of the course was Power Training. I have blogged about this in the past; once in 2019 and once in 2020, but it is worth reviewing what it is all about. Power=force x velocity. Power training focuses on increasing the rate at which work (ie, lifting weight, pulling a cable, throwing a ball) is performed. Power training has been a part of the fitness world for a long time, but it was thought that this kind of exercise was not appropriate for older adults.

Research shows that as we age muscle strength declines, but power drops even more quickly; the reason is that velocity decreases. Older adults may not be able to move as quickly as they had when they were younger. Why does this matter? As we age, our interest generally changes from having a beach body to have a body that functions the way we need it to; we need to be able to walk, climb stairs, lift and carry objects, etc. Power training–not strength training–is most effective at improving function. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Unless we are participating in a weightlifting competetion, there is a limit as to how strong we need to be; if the heaviest thing we lift is a 50 lb. bag of mulch, do we need to be able to bench press 200 pounds? On the other hand, being able to move quickly and effectively is necessary to prevent falls and other injuries. We need to train our bodies to react without a lag time. This would all indicate that it is preferable to work with lower weights (stop loading) with reps that are performed with greater speed (start exploding).

The conference was valuable, but this course in particular will help me to better train my clients. For years, people have thought that we cannot push older adults to perform resistance exercises (or even cardio) too quickly. Now we know that increasing the speed has tangible benefits.

I look forward to seeing the results as I continue to integrate power training into the work that I do.

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