Effects of different strength training frequencies on maximum strength, body composition and functional capacity in healthy older individuals
School of Medical and Health Sciences
There is controversy in the literature regarding the dose-response relationship of strength training in healthy older participants. The present study determined training frequency effects on maximum strength, muscle mass and functional capacity over 6 months following an initial 3-month preparatory strength training period. One-hundred and six 64–75 year old volunteers were randomly assigned to one of four groups; performing strength training one (EX1), two (EX2), or three (EX3) times per week and a non-training control (CON) group. Whole-body strength training was performed using 2–5 sets and 4–12 repetitions per exercise and 7–9 exercises per session. Before and after the intervention, maximum dynamic leg press (1-RM) and isometric knee extensor and plantarflexor strength, body composition and quadriceps cross-sectional area, as well as functional capacity (maximum 7.5 m forward and backward walking speed, timed-up-and-go test, loaded 10-stair climb test) were measured. All experimental groups increased leg press 1-RM more than CON (EX1: 3 ± 8%, EX2: 6 ± 6%, EX3: 10 ± 8%, CON: − 3 ± 6%, P < 0.05) and EX3 improved more than EX1 (P = 0.007) at month 9. Compared to CON, EX3 improved in backward walk (P = 0.047) and EX1 in timed-up-and-go (P = 0.029) tests. No significant changes occurred in body composition. The present study found no evidence that higher training frequency would induce greater benefit to maximum walking speed (i.e. functional capacity) despite a clear dose-response in dynamic 1-RM strength, at least when predominantly using machine weight-training. It appears that beneficial functional capacity improvements can be achieved through low frequency training (i.e. 1–2 times per week) in previously untrained healthy older participants.