There is no doubt that a stronger athlete is a better athlete. Nobody has ever said, “I’d like to be weaker”. Here at SUF, we emphasize both specific strength training on the bike and general strength training off the bike. It’s all about recruiting more muscle fiber to increase performance and improve health status. Beginning around the age of 30, we start losing muscle mass at the rate of 3-8% per decade. Strength training then becomes paramount in lessening the effects of aging and resulting muscle loss. This article is focused on the “mature” athlete, 50 and over, but can apply to anyone.
There are many health and performance benefits that come with consistent strength training. These include:
- Stronger bones, increased bone density reducing the risk of fractures
- Increased muscle mass reversing the trend of age related muscle mass loss
- Increased joint flexibility and reducing the symptoms of arthritis
- Decreased risk of injury
- Maintained or increased ratio of lean mass:body fat
- Increased strength, better body mechanics, balance and posture
- Better chronic disease management, such as better glucose control in type II diabetes
- Increased energy levels
- Released endorphins
- Better sleep
- Reduced cardiovascular risk factors
- Improved cognitive function
- Improved athletic performance by being able to recruit more muscle fiber
These benefits can be realized at any time but are especially important as we age. In order to maintain, increase or slow any decreases in performance, strength training becomes a “must do” to both improve health and performance.
There are some important things to consider when starting your program including: experience level, equipment available, fitting it into your life and your training schedule, limitations due to injury or medical conditions and whether or not to engage a professional trainer or coach. Given all these considerations, here are some key elements will insure a successful program:
Realize there is an adaptation phase at the beginning and ease into your program.
There is not a perfect “system” for everyone, do what works for you and don’t be afraid to try proven methods/exercises. You are your own n=1
Always, always warm up: mobility exercises, stretching, foam rolling, light cardio, etc
Focus on form and go at your own pace.
Modify exercises where range of motion is limited by prior injury, arthritis or just the barnacles of life.
Get professional instruction/advice
Perform 2 sessions/week and periodize to sync with your training plan
Pair your strength training sessions with short neuromuscular drill work or a recovery ride if you decide to ride either before or after your strength session
Take at least one complete day off in which no strength or cycling workouts
Educate yourself on information from studies and articles/podcasts from our excellent SUF Sport Science team
Some of you in the over 50 group (or even over 30) have been getting by without strength training with good genetics or just good luck. Others have had the injuries that come with not having a balanced program. Now is the time to start or get back to strength training to achieve all that is possible with a strong and healthy body. It’s never too late. Don’t be intimidated if you are new to strength training, SUF Strength is a great way to get started. Please share your strength training questions/experiences.