The intensity and effects of strength training in the elderly

Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2011 May;108(21):359-64. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2011.0359. Epub 2011 May 27.


Background: The elderly need strength training more and more as they grow older to stay mobile for their everyday activities. The goal of training is to reduce the loss of muscle mass and the resulting loss of motor function. The dose-response relationship of training intensity to training effect has not yet been fully elucidated.

Methods: PubMed was selectively searched for articles that appeared in the past 5 years about the effects and dose-response relationship of strength training in the elderly.

Results: Strength training in the elderly (>60 years) increases muscle strength by increasing muscle mass, and by improving the recruitment of motor units, and increasing their firing rate. Muscle mass can be increased through training at an intensity corresponding to 60% to 85% of the individual maximum voluntary strength. Improving the rate of force development requires training at a higher intensity (above 85%), in the elderly just as in younger persons. It is now recommended that healthy old people should train 3 or 4 times weekly for the best results; persons with poor performance at the outset can achieve improvement even with less frequent training. Side effects are rare.

Conclusion: Progressive strength training in the elderly is efficient, even with higher intensities, to reduce sarcopenia, and to retain motor function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Muscle Strength* / physiology
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / rehabilitation*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Recruitment, Neurophysiological / physiology
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Sarcopenia / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome