Power Training vs. Strength Training for Older Adults

Which type of training is more functional?

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Aug 20, 2019

For maintaining functional ability—and potentially even for living longer—growing research
supports the benefits of power training, particularly as we age. Power is the ability to move weight with speed and to generate force and velocity with coordinated movement.

To assess the prognostic value of muscular power on mortality, Brazilian researchers measured the muscular power of 3,878 male and female nonathletes ages 41–85, expressing the value as power per kilogram of body weight. During a median 6.5-year follow-up, 10% of men and 6% of women died. Data analysis showed that subjects with maximal power scores above the median had the best survival rates.

“Our study shows for the first time that people with more muscle power tend to live longer,” says study author Claudio Gil Ara├║jo, MD, PhD, director of research and education for CLINIMEX, Rio de Janeiro. “For optimal power training results, you should go beyond typical strength training and add speed to your weight lifts. . . . The good news is that you only need to be above the median for your sex to have the best survival, with no further benefit in becoming even more powerful.”

The findings were presented in April at EuroPresent 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology. Going forward, researchers intend to study the link between muscle power and specific causes of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In a mini-review of studies comparing slow- and fast-velocity resistance training, researchers found that, in untrained adults approximately 60–80 years old, fast-velocity training provides more efficient neuromuscular adaptations than slow training. Greater efficiency in these adaptations means that strength, power, explosive force, muscle mass and functional capacity increase more effectively. The review was published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal (2019; 41 [1], 105–14).

Study authors caution that power training requires more dynamic balance and can increase falling risks; therefore, trainers need to evaluate an individual’s ability before initiating this type of program. Further study is needed to determine optimal recovery time, another training variable that requires individualization. Watch for upcoming research on this topic.

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

2 Comments

  1. Chan Gannaway Chan Gannaway on March 31, 2020 at 12:59 am

    Hi. I’m going to briefly reference this article at IDEA World. My presentation is Intelligent Training for the 40+. Thank you so much for this article.

    • Shirley Archer, JD, MA Shirley Archer, JD, MA on March 31, 2020 at 8:50 am

      Hi Chan, Thank you for your comments. Congrats on your presentation! I’m glad to be of help. This is exactly the reason why we provide this content. Please reference me as author of the article – Shirley Archer. I can be reached at http://www.shirleyarcher.com

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