Latest Issue

Understanding Sarcopenia and Strength – Part 2

This article is for educational and entertainment purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for individual medical and fitness advice. Any use of the information contained in this article is at the discretion of the reader. David Bellomo and Webb Weekly disclaim any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any information contained in this article.

In Part 1 of this article, I stated that, in my opinion, one of the most important aspects of aging well is maintaining a minimal level of strength that allows for mobility and command over one’s environment. In other words, you need to be strong enough to do the things you enjoy, e.g., climb stairs, lift boxes, go for a walk, play with your grandkids, etc. The second statement I made was that to achieve this basic level of strength, most of us need to participate in a formal strength and conditioning program. That is to say — we do not get enough exercise in our normal activities of daily living.

In this installment, I will outline some basic principles and key points that you should keep in mind when creating a strength program or participating in a program that has been designed by someone else.

Talk to your doctor. Before you begin any kind of exercise program, you should always speak to your primary care physician. Tell them of your plans and concerns and get a general checkup to see if there are any health barriers that need to be addressed before starting a strength training regimen.

If you are inexperienced, talk to a professional trainer. The fitness industry has come a long way in the last few decades. Most professional trainers these days have a bachelor’s degree in health or exercise science. Some even have graduate degrees. The best fitness instructors/personal trainers have a combination of formal schooling and years of practical experience. It’s worth a few bucks to hire a pro. They can help you come up with a program and show you the proper technique so as to avoid injury and help you reach your goals.

SAID Principle. Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. Your body adapts specifically to the stresses you impose upon it. In other words, make sure that your workout will produce the type of results you want.

Overload. Our bodies are constantly under stress and adapting to it. A good example of this is gravity. When astronauts go to space, the lack of gravity causes their bone mass to deplete at a rapid rate, and they need to perform strengthening exercises to take the place of gravity. You need to push yourself to a point where your body perceives a stress. This stress might be in the form of slightly more weight, more repetitions, shorter rest breaks, more exercises, new exercises, etc. over time. If you don’t push yourself, your body has no reason to adapt or become stronger. That being said, the stress should be only slightly more than that to which you are accustomed. Do not make big changes in weight or volume all at once. Small changes over time add up to big results!

Rest. Your body needs rest to make improvements. The gains we make come after an exercise session, not during it, and are our body’s way of adapting to the stress we placed upon it during exercise. Exercise, rest, repeat. Start by strength training 2-3, non-consecutive days per week for intense workouts. Programs can get more complicated involving back-to-back workouts, but these are for more advanced exercisers.

Curls won’t cut it. Pick 8-12 exercises, and be sure to work all of your major muscle groups. Exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows are the foundation of any good program.

Build muscle at any age. Most people should use a moderate weight. Perform 8-12 repetitions per exercise for general strength and muscle development. If you can achieve 12 repetitions of an exercise, with good form, increase the weight next time. If you cannot, increase the repetitions next time.

* A repetition is one complete movement of a weight or machine. A set is a group of repetitions.

Quality over quantity. Perform 1-3 sets per exercise. The majority of the benefit comes from your first exposure to a perceived stress. There is benefit to performing multiple sets, but there is also a sharply diminishing return.

Go slow. For the sake of technique and safety, each repetition should be performed slowly, with control, and should take 4-6 seconds each. Your goal is to get tired enough that you cannot perform another repetition with good form.

Breath! Every repetition gets one breath.

Keep your program simple. While strength training can be extremely complex, for the average person, it doesn’t have to be. The more streamlined your program, the less likely you will overtrain or become injured. Perform a handful of large muscle group exercises that are challenging and within the outlined parameters, 2-3 days per week, with rest between sessions.

If something hurts (sharp injury pain), stop. You can always find another exercise that works for you.

Virtually anyone has the ability to grow stronger with a little effort and some knowledge. While the methods we choose to gain strength may vary to some degree, I have outlined a handful of principles that have served me well over the years, and I am confident they will help you as much as they have helped me. One last note would be to have fun as you are much more likely to stick with an activity if it is enjoyable. Workout with a friend, listen to music or take an exercise class. Do whatever you need to do, make strength training a regular part of your life. Good luck and good lifting!

Dave Bellomo welcomes your comments and can be reached at

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *