When it comes to aging, it is often associated with either getting weaker, slower or in some ways becoming less physically capable. It is true that as we get older, we experience sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss). We also know that with regular exercise, particularly strength training, we can slow down the process of how much strength and muscle we lose. While it is important to maintain our strength as we age, another factor that is often missed is how we also lose muscle power.
It is easy to see muscle power in sports like 100m dash where you have to push out the starting blocks rapidly, or in basketball where you have to be explosive to dunk the ball. However, how does the concept of muscle power relate to seniors? Well, a great example of how seniors need muscle power is when they lose their balance, and they have to move their leg and body fast to recover to avoid falling. In my opinion, people often assume that children lose their balance much less than seniors thus avoiding falling; but when we are younger, we have more power to move quicker and recover which makes a big difference. So how do seniors slow down the process of losing muscle power as they do with strength? Please read my 3 suggestions to train muscle power for seniors.
Use Agility Ladders – If you are unfamiliar with what an agility ladder is, think of a soft ladder that you would lay on the ground and step through quickly. As children, we probably didn’t use agility ladders often because you probably didn’t need to. If you played sports or did things like hopscotch or rope skipping, they would force you to work on your power and quickness. While I would recommend that everyone should do agility ladder drills, an easy and cheap substitute would be to put two 10ft vertical lines of tape on the ground, and connect the lines with 10 lines a foot apart horizontally (see picture below for example). Now, try to step through the ladder as quickly and as safe as possible for at least 3-4 times.
Kettlebells- The one thing that I like about kettlebells is they force you to move a weight quickly to do the exercise properly. As with doing regular strength training, if you find an intensity that challenges you, you can try to do at least 10-20 kettlebells swings every other day. If you don’t have a kettlebell, a dumbbell offers a good substitute.
Practice Losing Your Balance – So I don’t want you to fall, but a good idea to practice your recovery ability would be to do dynamic balance. Dynamic balance is trying to regain your balance when you are less stable. If you already do balance exercises like standing on 1 foot, just waving your arms or swinging the leg that you are not standing on, can make the exercise dynamic. When you do lose your balance in real life, you will be better equipped if you practice dynamic balance.