High-Intensity Resistance Training on Untrained Older Men

High Intensity Resistance Training has become without a doubt the most talked about way to train. Most studies that have been done have been on young healthy adults. What about older untrained  men?

Most resistance training studies of older subjects have emphasized low-intensity, short-term training programs that have concentrated on strength measurements.

The following  study was, in addition to the determination of strength, to assess intramuscular and transport factors that may be associated with strength increments.

Eighteen untrained men ages 60–75 years volunteered for the study; 9 were randomly placed in the resistance-training group (RT), and the other half served as untrained (UT) or control subjects. RT subjects performed a 16-week high-intensity (85-90% 1 repetition maximum (RT]) resistance training program (2 ×/wk) consisting of 3 sets each to failure (6–8 repetitions based on 1 RM of 3 exercises): leg press (LP), half squat (HS), and leg extension (LE) with 1–2 minutes rest between sets.

Pre- and post- training strength was measured for the 3 training exercises using a 1 RM protocol. Body fat was calculated using a 3-site skin fold method. Biopsies from the vastus lateralis m. were obtained for fiber type composition, cross-sectional area, and capillarization measurements.

Exercise metabolism, electrocardiography, and arterial blood pressure were observed continuously during a progressive treadmill test, and resting echocardiographic data were recorded for all subjects. Pre- and post-training venous blood samples were analyzed for serum lipids.

Resistance training caused significant changes in the following comparisons:

  • % fat decreased in the RT group by almost 3%,
  • Strength improved for all exercises: Formula= +Formula= +Formula= +Formula%,
  • Type IIB fibers decreased and IIA fibers increased,
  • Cross-sectional areas of all fiber types (I, IIA, IIB) increased significantly,
  • Capillary to fiber ratio increased but not significantly.
  • No differences were noted for ECG and echocardiographic data.
  • The RT group significantly improved treadmill performance and V.O2max.
  • Pre- and post-training serum lipids improved but not significantly.
  • No significant changes occurred in any pre- to post-tests for the UT group.

The results show that skeletal muscle in older, untrained men will respond with significant strength gains accompanied by considerable increases in fiber size and capillary density. Maximal working capacity, V.O2max, and serum lipid profiles also benefited from high-intensity resistance training, but no changes were observed for HR max, or maximal responses of arterial blood pressure.- Fredrick C. Hagerman, Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Final Words

Older men may not only tolerate very high intensity work loads but will exhibit intramuscular, cardiovascular, and metabolic changes similar to younger subjects.

Even though the above study had a positive outcome, you should still consult your doctor or a professional trainer before trying any High Intensity training. And remember, if you are just starting a training program, take it slow and easy. You will get there:)

Be smart and train smart.



4 comments on “High-Intensity Resistance Training on Untrained Older Men

  1. This is a great report supporting High Intensity Resistance Training(HIRT) on Untrained “Old Guys”. As a Physical Therapist treating and training “Old Guys” the greatest limitation to using a HIRT approach is the joint and soft tissue changes that this population is predisposed to, such as, rotator cuff tears, degenerative spine changes, joint osteoarthritis, amongst others. It is important to consider these as potential limits to starting “Old Guys”, or any Body for that matter, on a stepped-up training program. There must be attention given to fitness status and medical history and complaints prior to initiating, or progressing a training program. Foundation work to soft tissue changes, such as the rotator cuff, requires increased volume with lower intensity. This is just one example without getting too carried away. It’s just, I have seen an increase of “Old Guys” in my practice (http://bauerpt.com) performing CrossFit training and getting Hurt from HIRT.
    Thanks for the thought stimulating post. I will continue to follow. It is recommended that you reference the study with a clickable link to abstract or pdf.
    Take Care,
    Randy Bauer PT, ATC

    • Hi Randy,

      Thanks for your comment to which I agree with 100%. I have found that due to financial restraints a lot of older guys are taking it upon themselves to self train without the proper coaching or medical advice. Obviously this can and will pose a health risk especially when trying such high intensity training.

      Thanks for your professional input regarding the above post, I really appreciate it. I am always keen to learn more about our ever evolving health and fitness industry:)

      Btw, thanks for the tip about a clickable link to the study. I am still fairly new at this blogging scene:)



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