Old-fashioned resistance training like lifting heavy weights repeatedly until you can’t is the best way for men to slow or even reverse age-related muscle loss.
The medical term for muscle loss, sarcopenia can boost the risk for falls, frailty, and independence. Resistance training (also called weight training) can be a huge help. It consists of doing upper and lower body exercises using free weights, machines, resistance bands, or even body weight.
It can be a challenge; the main one is finding the sweet spot between doing too little and too much.
Ultimately, the goal is to stress your muscles enough to feel a difference but not overdo it where you risk getting hurt. You also want to train with the goal of continuous improvement, not plateau.
So, how do you get into that sweet spot? The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published some evidence-based guidelines to follow.
Type: One-to-two multi-joint exercises per major muscle group were identified as being most beneficial. There are six main muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and calves.
Multi-joint exercises are movements that engage more than one joint, like the elbow and shoulder, knee and ankle, etc. They differ from single-joint movements, like a bicep curl. Multi-joint movements allow you to move heavier weight to increase muscle faster.
Weight: It’s recommended that older adults aim to exercise within 70 to 85 percent of their one-rep max. Because learning your one-rep max can be difficult and very dangerous, pick weights where you can do ten reps with good form. You want to be struggling for the final rep or two and leave no more than a rep or two in reserve.
Reps (repetitions): Guidelines have found that anywhere from six to 12 reps per exercise were beneficial. Start with doing ten reps because it is easy to remember, and as you progress, aim for heavier weights at 6-8 reps.
Frequency: Aiming for 2-3 workouts per week produces the most muscle size and strength. Start with two workouts per week, spread out by a few days, then add another as you progress.
It can take some time to start noticing the changes. If you’re not seeing more muscle or feeling stronger after eight weeks, you are not exercising hard enough and need to mix up your routine by adding weight, sets, or the number of exercises.