This article originally appeared in Alternative Medicine, August 4, 2022.
An aging mother he dearly loved was the motivation that sent scientist, inventor, and author Dr. John Jaquish on his deep dive into exercise and fitness. His research revealed that muscle growth can take place for individuals of any age, including those over 60, using the correct strength training regimen and the right nutritional program. His research into optimal muscle-building further showed that the most productive strength training is accomplished by using variable resistance bands and not free weights. For seniors and others seeking the ultimate solution for effectively maximizing muscle and minimizing body fat, Dr. Jaquish details his complete resistance band protocol along with supporting science in his controversial Wall Street Journal bestselling book Weightlifting is a Waste of Time, So is Cardio.
The “2020 Profile of Older Americans” by the ACL (The Administration for Community Living) reports the number of Americans aged 60 and over is 74.6 million. As this population gets older their hormones change and protein is processed less efficiently. They also tend to move less, which leads to muscular atrophy. When strength is lost, gait and balance change — which can increase the risk for falls and subsequent injury.
“Contrary to what is widely believed, seniors don’t have to lose muscle as they age; they can still build muscle with strength training,” says Dr. Jaquish. ” Primarily, muscle declines with age because of changes to lifestyle, not biology. Remaining physically active, good nutrition, and the proper strength training program will protect against muscle loss.”
“Strength training is the best preventative and corrective method for age-related muscle loss. No matter your age, you can build and maintain muscle, and to optimally do so requires resistance training,” says Dr. Jaquish. “Unfortunately, resistance training methods typically recommended involve lifting free weights such as dumbbells and barbells, medicine balls, or using weight machines. These methods are not effective, nor are they safe for seniors or bodybuilders of any age.”
In his book, Dr. Jaquish explains how lifting weights puts pressure on joints and increases the risk of injury. Even for professional powerlifters, this risk increases significantly after the age of 40. For anyone with reduced balance and mobility, past joint injuries, arthritis, and loss of bone density, strength training by lifting heavy free weights is not recommended.
Dr. Jaquish says as a solution to these issues, trainers typically program lighter weights, less frequent workouts, or the use of strength training machines. However, these so-called solutions are counterproductive. Building muscle with resistance training requires heavy lifting, and perhaps even more so in a senior population.
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“Training with variable resistance and resistance bands is the superior way. Variable resistance with the right bands and equipment has built-in protective qualities that make strength training for seniors less risky. By allowing seniors to safely lift heavy weight, variable resistance also addresses the hormonal environment that can prevent older adults from building muscle,” says Dr. Jaquish.
In his book, Dr. Jaquish explains that after approximately 40 years of age, serum levels of the hormones responsible for muscle growth begin to decline. By using variable resistance training, one is able to maintain a constant tension and recruit more muscle fiber during lifts, cueing the body to open receptors for the hormones that stimulate muscle growth.
“Variable resistance bands offer a sufficiently challenging level of resistance necessary for triggering the perfect hormonal environment, so seniors get the most out of each training session. This not only makes each lift safer but more effective,” says Dr. Jaquish.
It’s not a given that seniors lose muscle with age. By continuing to strength train, eating a high protein diet, and ensuring a steady intake of all essential amino acids, even older adults can experience a “youthful” anabolic response and grow muscle.
For more information about Dr. Jaquish and to order the book Weightlifting is a Waste of Time – So is Cardio, visit doctorj.com
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