Single- Versus Multiset Resistance Exercise in Older Adults

by Byung-Kon Yoon, PhD and Len Kravitz, PhD on Nov 01, 2006

Comparing the two for muscular-fitness and functional-performance benefits.

Advancing age is often associated with a number of physical changes, such as losses in skeletal muscle mass, strength and power, and an increase in fat mass. These factors are related to important clinical outcomes, including mobility impairments, disability, falls and fractures. There is accumulating scientific evidence from studies focused on middle-aged and mature populations that consistent resistance training will improve functional abilities, prevent osteoporosis, slow sarcopenia (age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and function) and help prevent falls, fractures and disabilities (see Table 1).

Despite a number of published guidelines for resistance training of older adults, the mode, frequency, volume and intensity of resistance training required to optimize muscular strength gains are still unclear. In brief, research has been published investigating the effects of resistance training intensities of 50%–100% of 1RM (repetition maximum), performed for 1–3 sets per exercise, at frequencies of 1–3 times per week on machines and free weights, with protocol durations of 8 weeks to 1 year. Nevertheless, there is no clear evidence whether multiple-set protocols are necessary to gain and optimize strength in older populations. If a single-set program is comparatively effective for muscle strength and daily physical performance, it will save time, possibly minimize residual soreness in the initial workout stages and perhaps enhance exercise participation and compliance.

The main goal of this investigation was to compare the muscular-fitness and functional-performance benefits of a single- set resistance training program versus a multiset training scheme in older men and women.

Methods

Thirty-two sedentary men and women, aged 65–78, were randomly assigned either to a single-set or a 3-set exercise group. Four subjects from the single-set group withdrew from the study. Each subject obtained medical clearance and completed an informed-consent agreement and health history questionnaire before participating. Table 2 shows the physical characteristics of subjects at baseline.

All subjects participated in a total of 40 supervised exercise sessions, which were held twice a week for 20 weeks. Make-up sessions were provided for subjects missing a training session owing to travel, illness or personal commitments. Both groups performed chest press, seated row, triceps extension, biceps curl, leg press, leg curl and leg extension exercises on resistance training machines at an intensity of 8RM (the maximal weight that could be lifted eight times). Isotonic, isokinetic and isometric muscle strength and muscle endurance (maximal repetitions in the leg press and chest press at 70% of 1RM) were assessed. On a separate day from the muscle-fitness tests, various tests (chair rise to standing, 6-meter walk, 6-meter backward walk, floor rise to standing, stair climb and 400-meter walk) were completed for functional performance.

Results

Dynamic Muscle Strength

After the 20-week training intervention, both groups showed significant and very meaningful strength improvements in all seven exercises. Improvements were significantly greater for the 3-set group than for the single-set group in the seated row, triceps extension, biceps curl and leg extension exercises (see Table 3).

Isokinetic and Isometric Strength

As shown in Table 3, there was no difference between groups in the isokinetic and isometric tests of the knee extensors. In the isokinetic peak torque test of the knee, both groups improved after training. However, only the 3-set group significantly increased strength in the isometric peak knee extensor torque test.

Muscle Endurance

At the beginning of the study, there was no difference in the maximum number of repetitions the subjects could perform in the chest press and leg press at 70% of 1RM. However, after 20 weeks of training, the groups differed, with only the multiset group showing significant improvements in chest press and leg press endurance.

Physical Performance

Table 4 shows the percent improvement within each group and the difference between groups after 20 weeks of training. There were significant improvements in the chair rise, 6-meter backward walk, 400-meter walk and stair-climbing tests for both groups, while only the 3-set group improved in the 6-meter walk and the floor rise to standing tests. There was no significant difference between groups for any test except the 400-meter walk test. Importantly, the changes within each group were similar.

Discussion

This major peer-reviewed study substantially validates the efficacy of single-set training (performed 2 times a week for 20 weeks) for enhancing functional performance and strength in older men and women. Although the multiset training scheme resulted in greater improvements in some of the strength and muscle fitness parameters, the complete findings indicate that low-volume resistance training elicits similar and very meaningful responses and is an effective strategy for a mature population. This investigation contributes prominently to a broader understanding of the benefits of resistance exercise for functional performance and muscular strength in older adults.

Applications

Given that single-set resistance training economizes on exercise time and may reduce injury risk, dropout rate and muscle soreness, this protocol is an excellent exercise design option for personal trainers and fitness professionals to use with their mature clients. The sidebar, left, provides 10 resistance training tips for mature adults.

This section of the article is still in the process of conversion to the web.

References

Kalapotharakos, V.I., et al. 2005. Effects of a heavy and a moderate resistance training on functional performance in older adults. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19 (3), 652–57.

Lemmer, E.T. et al. 2001. Effect of strength training on resting metabolic rate and physical activity: Age and gender comparisons. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33(4), 532–41.

Layne, J.E., & Nelson, M.E. 1999. The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: A review. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 31 (1), 25–30.

Ross, R., et al. 1996. Influence of diet and exercise on skeletal muscle and visceral adipose tissue in men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 81 (6), 2445–55.

Rubin, M.A., et al. 1998. Acute and chronic resistive exercise increase urinary chromium excretion in men as measured with an enriched chromium stable isotope. Journal of Nutrition, 128 (1), 73–78.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 3, Issue 10

© 2006 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Authors

Byung-Kon Yoon, PhD IDEA Author/Presenter

Byung-Kon Yoon, PhD, earned his doctoral degree in spring 2006 in the exercise science program at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (UNMA). He plans to return to his home country of Korea to t...

Len Kravitz, PhD

Len Kravitz, PhD IDEA Author/Presenter

Len Kravitz, PhD, is the program coordinator of exercise science and a researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he recently won the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. Len w...

1 Comment

Trending Articles

20 IDEA World-Renowned Presenters Share Advice on Success and Happiness

We asked some of this year’s most influential and motivating IDEA World Fitness Convention™ presenters to share the single piece of advice they would give another fitness/health pro to hel...

Smooth Move: Creative Additions to Consider for Smoothies

When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blen...

Mindful Walking

Walking can be more than just moving physically from one location to another. It can be a metaphor for your larger life journey. Things you&...

Nuts and Peanuts Reduce Cardiovascular Risk and Prolong Lifespan

While there have been numerous studies in recent years touting the health benefits of nuts and peanuts, new research published online March ...

Yes, You CAN Develop Better Eating Habits

Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine...

Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s with MIND Diet

Conservative adherence to a new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a paper published o...

7 Ways to Help a Client Boost Adherence

Once a client has decided to make nutritional changes to support weight loss, you can play a key role in developing an action plan that is m...

The Reason Your Clients Don't Acieve Their Goals

Lots of people hire personal trainers or join group fitness classes hoping to lose weight. Yet many fail to meet their goals. New research suggests that “progress bias”—overestimatin...

Low Intensity vs. High Intensity: Which Is Best for Obese Adults?

The debate continues regarding the most effective exercise measures for reducing abdominal obesity and improving glucose measures.

Recipe for Health: Picadillo-Stuffed Peppers

If you don’t believe that authentic Mexican cookery is “whole” and healthy, you need to take a deep dive into Mexico: The Cookbook (Phaidon 2014), the first truly comprehensive bible...

Next