Optimal Approach to Load Progressions during Strength Training in Older Adults

Andrew N.L. Buskard, Kevin A. Jacobs, Moataz M. Eltoukhy, Keri L. Strand, Lawrence Villanueva, Parth P. Desai, Joseph F. Signorile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Progressive resistance training (RT) is one of the most effective interventions for reducing age-related deficits in muscle mass and functional capacity. PURPOSE: To compare four approaches to load progressions in RT for older adults to determine if an optimal method exists. METHODS: Eighty-two healthy community-dwelling older adults (71.8 ± 6.2 yr) performed 11 wk of structured RT (2.5 d·wk) in treatment groups differing only by the method used to increase training loads. These included percent one repetition maximum (%1RM): standardized loads based on a percentage of the one repetition maximum (1RM); rating of perceived exertion (RPE): loads increased when perceived difficulty falls below 8/10 on the OMNI-Resistance Exercise Scale perceived exertion scale; repetition maximum (RM): loads increased when a target number of repetitions can be completed with a given load; repetitions in reserve (RiR): identical to RM except subjects must always maintain ≥1 "repetition in reserve," thus avoiding the possibility of training to temporary muscular failure. RESULTS: Multiple analyses of covariance indicated no significant between-group differences on any strength (chest press 1RM; leg press 1RM) or functional performance outcome (usual walking speed, maximum walking speed, 8-ft timed up-and-go, gallon jug transfer test, 30 s sit-to-stand). The RPE group found the exercise to be significantly more tolerable and enjoyable than subjects in the RiR, RM, and %1RM groups. CONCLUSION: Given the RM, RPE, %1RM, and RiR methods appear equally effective at improving muscular strength and functional performance in an older population, we conclude that the RPE method is optimal because it is likely to be perceived as the most tolerable and enjoyable, which are two important factors determining older adults' continued participation in RT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2224-2233
Number of pages10
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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