News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Intensity builds muscle power

Exercise has a distinct effect depending on how it’s applied. Effects are specific and pronounced. No body adapts the same to the same exercise. However, exercise can be modified toward the desired outcomes. This is the law of specificity referred to in exercise science.

If such a law were to be thoughtfully applied to someone who is undergoing the muscular deterioration of age, there are some ways one might be able to circumnavigate and improve. If you are undertaking long periods of low-key exercise, your body adapts to this. If you don’t apply force and speed to an aspect of your training, you will not maintain these attributes

Researchers applied this principle and a hypothesis that in eight weeks they might be able to measurably improve an elder’s muscular power. The training method they used was maximal power intervals on a stationary bike — commonly thought of as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or “sprinting.”

They tested a few metrics, including thigh musculature, maximal oxygen uptake, and functional tests like how fast the subject could do the sit-to-stand test and incline walk at 15-percent slope. They trained with bouts of four-second, all-out sprints with 30 seconds of recovery between. These sessions were only 15 minutes in length. The period lasted for eight weeks.

It’s reported that they increased their thigh thickness by 12 percent. Improvements to max power and O2 uptake were also revealed. The research proved that muscular power training is effective for any age.

Think about the typical cyclist. They train at an endurance jaunt for hours. They get very efficient, but hardly ever actually push into a higher level of power. This cyclist (or any recreational exerciser) is missing out on these key benefits. They would stand to make large improvements if they were to adopt some sprints into their training.

What does this look like? It’s not just pushing a little harder for a few seconds. It’s standing up, leaning in, and letting it fly. You have to push and power as hard as you can. Try doing several reps during a run or ride, and take plenty of rest between the segments. Five seconds, by one minute would be a great way to start.

Try going for a normal bike ride, run, or gym session and add in a small bout of sprinting, powering, or higher-intensity efforts to keep muscles powerful. Check with a health professional before making significant changes to your exercise regimen.


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