Through a mutual friend i recently had the opportunity to speak with David Joyce, the Injury and Performance Consultant at Galatasaray Football Club, based in Turkey. I always love talking to other coaches and trainers as they are often the most valuable sources of current information and discussing different opinions on things can open the mind to new training possibilities.
During our discussion on all things performance related, David got to mentioning a news piece he had seen in the British press which i too had read with great interest. It was all about the incredible story of young Charles Eugster. 91 years young to be precise, and a bodybuilder to boot. In a bodybuilding championship last year Charles performed 57 dips, 61 chin ups, 50 push ups and 48 sit ups, and each in less than 45 seconds. Yes, you read that right. As if that wasn’t enough, these numbers become all the more astonishing when you learn that he didn’t even take up bodybuilding until the ripe old age of 85!
Whilst Charles’ story is obviously far from the norm it does show us that it’s never too late to get into some resistance training, something especially important for those of us involved in running, swimming and/or cycling where core strength is so vital to maintain posture, efficiency and performance as well as avoiding injury. For quite a long time it was believed that strength improvements beyond the age of 35 were down purely to neuromuscular improvements in efficiency, as opposed to repetitive stress and muscular hypertrophy, but it has now been proven far and away that the body has the impressive ability to continue muscular development throughout life when approached correctly. Like everything in life however there is an equal and opposite reaction when we stop training and stressing the muscles, they also have the ability to atrophy too. Testing has shown us that heavy strength and power training can benefit all adults, irrespective of age, and the correct specific strength training programmes can improve strength in untrained adults over the age of 60 by up to 200%. Impressive indeed.
Assuming that we are fit and healthy adults without any general health concerns, this can be taken as a clear indicator that we should all be maintaining some form of resistance training throughout life. Obviously as athletes the intensity and duration of any training programmes should be varied throughout the year depending on how close you are to the racing season, but it is clearly beneficial to maintain some form of resistance training. Whatever age you are at, the same principles to programming these workouts should be maintained – beginning with the general, then concentrate on technique, before moving on to progressive overload, all whilst keeping in mind exactly what it is that we are training for. If it’s strength, we should be lifting heavy loads with small reps, whereas for endurance it should be lighter loads with higher reps.
As David said, “the excuse of “i’m too old” simply doesn’t hold water anymore”, and quite right he is. So if you’re not already incorporating some form of resistance training in your weekly training schedule i’d suggest you look up Charles Eugster and see exactly what difference it could make. Who knows, it just might be the difference between achieving that P.B you’ve been chasing and not.