Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medical and Health Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Guy Gregory Haff

Second Advisor

Professor Robert U. Newton


Sarcopenia describes the slow and inevitable age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and consequent function. Fortunately, a continually growing body of research highlights the robust adaptability of the aging neuromuscular system in response to resistance training (RT). Yet, despite an abundance of research studies describing the benefits of RT in the elderly, there is a large variation in the type of training programs employed. Therefore, within the extensive range of beneficial RT stimuli, it is vital to confirm what organizational structure of acute program variables is most effective (i.e. the appropriate dose). The process of organizing a training program considering all of these factors is referred to as periodization.

Despite the well-recognized value of periodization in younger populations, the application of periodized RT has received little attention among the aged. Also, despite a great deal of focus on the application of the session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE) in the management of training stressors, this tool remains to be explored in older adults. Together, a greater understanding of periodized RT and training load in this setting, would ultimately aid in optimizing RT guidelines for maintaining the structure, QOL and health of the aging population. Therefore, this thesis is a presentation of a comprehensive investigation of the efficacy of periodized RT strategies, specifically block periodization (BP) and daily undulating periodization (DUP) on key neuromuscular, physiological and health-related outcomes in older adults, in comparison to a non-periodized (NP) training program. Secondary aims included the examination of training load indices, perceived enjoyment and tolerance, and the application of sRPE across the different RT models.

In conclusion, NP, BP and DUP RT models are equally effective for promoting significant improvements in key physical function, physiological, and neuromuscular adaptations among apparently healthy untrained older adults. Consequently, periodization strategies are not critical during the initial stages of RT among the elderly. Additionally, periodized RT does not appear to impact an elder’s perceived tolerance or enjoyment of RT, yet may be important for the better management of training load, potentially reducing the risk of illness and injury beyond the initial stages of training. Finally, sRPE and related measures are not valid tools for RT monitoring purposes when compared to established methods.

The examination of periodization strategies among previously trained older iii adults is warranted, with alternate training models such as weekly undulating periodization (WUP) proposed for consideration. Finally, the use of true repetition maximum (RM) sets to momentary concentric muscular failure is not advised over chronic training periods, with other means of resistance load prescription such as % one-repetition maximum (1RM) proposed. Yet, above all else, practitioners should focus on engaging older adults in RT, via feasible and efficacious interventions targeting long-term adherence in minimally supervised settings.

Available for download on Wednesday, December 01, 2021