Fast After 40: Master Your Strength Training

Improve your strength, speed and explosiveness as you get older with these nine exercises.

Masters runners often feel as if the hills they’ve been running for years have suddenly gotten steeper, the tracks have gotten longer and that an increase in gravity has made climbing stairs that much more difficult. Fortunately, the reality is simpler than a complete unraveling of the laws of physics. The reality is that we Masters runners have gotten weaker—not as the inevitable consequence of aging (although there’s certainly an aspect of that), but as the predictable consequence of limiting the strength training element of our fitness routines.

It’s as simple as: Use it or lose it.

A 2009 study from the University of Jyväskylä found that “to maximize the training effects on fast fibers, rapid strength, and speed performance [for aging runners], the optimal training regimen requires a strength training component.” And another 2009 study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, determined that dwindling speed and power in older runners is due to a reduction in the “magnitude of contact forces that the runners are capable of producing in the short contact phase.” In other words, stronger legs result in a more powerful foot-strike, which leads to a quicker rebound off the ground (less contact time), a longer stride and a quicker stride rate.

RELATED: 12 Exercises To Build Your Running Body

The best part of strength training is that you reap benefits almost immediately—you don’t have to wait for your muscles themselves to get bigger and stronger. That’s because nervous system adaptations are responsible for most early strength gains. In fact, research suggests that it takes between four and twenty weeks before muscle growth overtakes neural adaptations as the primary contributor to increased power.

With that in mind, several of the following exercises (e.g., quick hops, suicides, Burpees) target your nervous system to ensure rapid strength gains. The other bodyweight exercises will simultaneously spur muscular development.

Incorporate these nine exercises into your training once or twice per week and you’ll soon reverse any perceived increase in gravity that has accompanied aging, leaving you stronger, faster and able to tackle tall hills in fewer bounds.

Photos: Diana Hernandez

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About The Author: 

Pete Magill is the fastest-ever American age 50+ at 5K (15:01) and 10K (31:11), the 2013 USA Masters Cross Country Runner of the Year, and the author of Build Your Running Body (The Experiment, 2014). Learn more about Pete at his website, PeteMagill.com.

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