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04.11.2009


Muscles built up from a lot of reps last longer when training stops

If you do strength training with heavy weights, you build up more muscle than if you work out with middle-heavy weights. But if you stop doing weight training, your body breaks down the muscle you built up with heavy weights more quickly. Sports scientists at Democritus University of Thrace in Greece discovered this when they did experiments with twenty elderly people with an average age of 65.

Muscles built up from a lot of reps last longer when training stops
Ageing and muscle decline go hand in hand. Weight training helps, but elderly people are more often ill than young people, and therefore train less than younger people. So older people do well with a training schedule that means as little decline as possible during periods when they are unable to train.

The researchers were curious as to whether the number of reps makes a difference.

Ten elderly subjects trained for twelve weeks at 80 percent of their 1RM [HI]. Another ten trained during the same period at 60 percent of their 1RM [MI]. Imagine that on the bench press you can manage just one rep at one hundred kilograms. That's your 1RM. Eighty percent of that is eighty kilograms; sixty percent is sixty kilograms, and so on.

After the training period the subjects then did nothing for twelve weeks. In technical terms, sports scientists call this detraining. Then the researchers looked at the amount of muscle strength and muscle mass the test subjects managed to retain.

The figure below shows that the HI group showed more progress during the training period, but that they lost more strength during the detraining period. The figure shows the development of the 1RM on the leg extension machine.


Muscles built up from a lot of reps last longer when training stops


Nevertheless, the researchers think that elderly people are best off training with heavier weights. Granted, the muscle you build up, you lose faster during detraining. But because they built up so much more muscle mass with heavier weights, after twelve weeks of detraining, the elderly in their study still retained more muscle mass and therefore more strength. The table below confirms this, in the column Retention of gains.


Muscles built up from a lot of reps last longer when training stops


Source:
Clin Physiol Funct Imaging (2009) 29 31619.