Dan John in his book “Never Let Go,” uses a “glass” as an analogy to illustrate how strength serves as a foundational modality
comported to others. He suggests that strength should be the glass and all other physical modalities are what go into the glass. For
example, flexibility, power, mobility, balance, speed, cardiovascular, core are all things that support the foundation of
strength. Interestingly enough, when real strength is achieved then all of the other physical aspects occur. Lets look at the Front Squat
or Goblet Squat for strength. If you focused on that one move with real intent to improve strength then you will increase strength in
your core, improve hip mobility, anaerobically, power, speed and balance.
I believe that there is a second glass just as important if not more important than strength when training older adults. Because we
lose Type II muscle fiber at twice the rate as Type I muscle fiber it is imperative that we target Type II muscle fiber in our training.
Stephen Sayers found that with two different groups of older adult strength training groups had different outcomes related to speed of
movement. He used an automobile simulator to test the foot braking speed of two groups. One group, slow-speed strength
training, lifted weights with a traditional 2-3 seconds in both directions, concentric and eccentric at 80% of 1RM. The other
group, high-speed power training, performed an explosive move as quickly as they possibly could on the concentric phase and then a
eccentric phase count of 2-3 seconds with a 40% of 1RM.
High-speed power training and traditional slow-speed strength training both improved peak muscle power after 12 weeks of
training; however, high-speed power training increased velocity compared to traditional strength training. Two interesting findings
were that muscle strength was not comprised in the high-speed power training group, and more importantly, the breaking speed,
foot on accelerator to break, was faster with the high-speed training group.
The improvement of our movement speed becomes critical the older we become. A young person can function just fine with their
speed of movement but because of the rapid decline in our Type II muscle fiber over the years, recapturing our ability to move quickly
is imperative and should be a foundation piece of older adult programming.
FAI’s Functional Aging Specialist Certification teaches trainers how to incorporate power training exercises into the exercise routines of mature clients.
Paul Holbrook, MA, CSCS
FAI Advisory Board Member