The Age Impact On Our Muscles

11 Sep

You lose strength and muscle size with age if you do nothing to avoid it. Scientists have a name for age-related loss of lean mass: sarcopenia. Eventually, if nothing is done to forestall the loss of muscle, people can’t take care of them­selves.

A recent study examined the effects of aging in male and female elite weightlifters and power-lifters. Earlier studies used static exercise, with subjects not actually moving muscles but just exerting pressure, such as in isometric exercise. In the new study, though, dynamic forms of exercise, specifically Olympic-style weightlifting and powerlifting, were the focus.

older bodybuilder

The study showed a decline in functional muscular capacity in both men and women, beginning in early middle age, which is younger than in past studies. The rate of decline in perfor­mance proved greater in the weightlifters, due to the need for a greater level of skills, including balance and speed, than in the relatively simple forms of lifting typical of powerlifting.

While prior research showed that lower-body strength dissipated before upper-body strength, this study found no differences. The female ath­letes showed a greater rate of decline in weightlifting than the male athletes, though no sex-related differences occurred in the powerlifting group.

As for what causes the decline even in athletes, one suggestion is a downgrade with age of neuro-muscular function and coordination. In practical terms, that means aging causes a loss of the ability to fully activate muscular structures, leading to a loss of strength. Another explanation, provided by the re­searchers, doesn’t make much sense. They mention that with age comes a loss of type 2 muscle fibers, which are most associated with strength, and a greater ratio of the fast-twitch type 1 fibers, which produce less force. While that pattern occurs in peo­ple who don’t exercise, continued exercise maintains the type 2 fibers. A more likely explanation involves the loss of neuromuscular communication, which could relate to certain hormonal factors.

Fortunately, men and women who continue lifting can maintain much of their functional strength, there­by preventing some of the physical horrors linked to the aging process, such as debilitating loss of bone and muscle.

One Response to “The Age Impact On Our Muscles”

  1. John Reardon June 16, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    I am now 67+ weighing 180lbs height 5’ 10”, I have been lifting weights for general exercise for about the last 15 yrs. What has been interesting is my base weight capability in the weight and strength over the years. Each year when I think I have peaked I continue to add one or two new records for me. What is unusual is that the body seems to meet the base plus extra if I am consistent in my workouts. I have reduced my injuries by shifting certain exercises such as dead lifts, military presses and for a while flat traditional bench presses. By shifting to the machines with free weights for leg presses, self-spotting bench presses, overhead military presses I was able to keep my base weight up and even make new gains over time with substantially reduced injuries. Now slowly I find I can transfer the machine lifting to the open bench presses up to about a 75% level. Just in numbers I work out 3 times per week for about 1 ½ to 2 hrs. Usually early morning though I am stronger in the evening workout when I do them. I rotate between 3 – 4 different exercises doing one set in each and increasing the amount of weight each round until I max out. Then next 3 – 4 same rotating and last 3 – 4 plus I close with 30 minute tread mill. Feels great..numbers Open flat bench press start with 135 Lbs and end with 275- 295 lbs, curls start with 40 lbs and end with 50 – 55 lbs dumbbells, Leg presses start with 135 lbs and end with 500 – 600 Lbs, Preachers bench start with 90 lbs and end with 135 lbs, Self-Spotter Bench Press start with 135 lbs and end with 315 – 345 lbs, Sitting incline Bench Hammer with free weights start with 135 lbs and end with 425 – 435 lbs, back presses up to 220 lbs, crunches 60 per set with 4 – 5 sets, pull downs 4 sets up to 200 lbs, leg extensions up to 150 lbs. So to my surprise aging seems to have its impact but with consistent exercise less so. Here is a YouTube link with just some of my workout filmed by my wife for our grandchildren.

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