Optimal Loads for Power Differ by Exercise in Older Adults

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Potiaumpai, M, Gandia, K, Rautray, A, Prendergast, T, and Signorile, JF. Optimal loads for power differ by exercise in older adults. J Strength Cond Res 30(10): 2703–2712, 2016—Power training in older adults has been shown to increase muscle strength, power, and physical function, and decrease the risk of falls and related injuries. Although there are clear indications that optimal loads for power vary due to biomechanical factors, no studies have attempted to determine the optimal loads for specific exercises used to improve muscle power. Using the load that maximizes power output for individual exercises can maximize power gains, improve training efficiency, and augment gains in physical function. Seventy community-dwelling older adults (age = 70.5 ± 5.7 years) participated in strength and power testing during 2 sessions, each lasting for 1.5 hours. Participants were tested on 6 different pneumatic resistance machines to determine their one repetition maximum (1RM) and power. Power testing was performed at loads between 30 and 90% of each participant's 1RM. For the chest press and seated row, the optimal load range was between 40 and 60% 1RM, with peak power at 50% (p < 0.001) for both machines. The LAT pull-down optimal load range was between 30 and 50%, with peak power occurring at 40% (p < 0.001). The leg curl and leg press optimal load range was between 50 and 70%, with peak power occurring at 60% (p < 0.001). Peak power for the calf raise occurred at 60% (p < 0.001). We conclude that different exercise movements require the use of different optimal load ranges to maximize muscle power in older persons.

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