16 Jun 2021

80 weeks of resistance training in older adults

Dr. James L. Nuzzo
Head of Exercise Science Research at Vitruvian
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

One limitation of exercise research is that study durations are usually not very long, often lasting only a few weeks to a couple of months. This is why results from an 80-week resistance training study published earlier this year in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy are worthy of mention.

Forty-three men and women participated in the study. They were 55 to 75 years old and had not been participating in resistance training prior to the study. They were separated into four groups. Each group completed a different resistance training program.

Group 1 completed high-load training (80% of max), 2 days per week, 3 sets of 8 repetitions per exercise.

Group 2 completed high-load training (80% of max), 3 days per week, 3 sets of 8 repetitions per exercise. 

Group 3 completed low-load training (40% of max), 2 days per week, 3 sets of 16 repetitions per exercise.

Group 4 completed low-load training (40% of max), 3 days per week, 3 sets of 16 repetitions per exercise.

All groups completed 40 weeks of supervised training, followed by a 2-month break, and then another 40 weeks of supervised training. Muscle size and strength were measured at the start of the study, then 20, 40, 60, and 80 weeks later.  

The four training programs led to roughly equal improvements in upper- and lower-body muscle strength. When the data from all participants were combined into one large study group, the researchers concluded upper-body strength improves by ~43% and lower-body strength improves by ~63% after 80 weeks of resistance training in older adults. Increases in quadriceps muscle cross-sectional area were also roughly equal after the four different training programs. After 80 weeks of training, muscle cross-sectional increased 43%-52%. 

Overall, results from the study illustrate that resistance training programs with different training loads (40% or 80% maximum) and different training frequencies (2 or 3 days) lead to similar improvements in muscle size and strength in adults aged 55 to 75. Thus, individuals in this age group can choose the training program they prefer to increase the size and strength of their muscles. 


Participants in the study completed various upper- and lower-body exercises. One of the exercises was the overhead press. To complete the overhead press on the V-Form Trainer:

  1. attach the handles
  2. select the “overhead press” exercise
  3. select “focused” mode
  4. select the desired resistance and number of reps for your set (8 or 16 reps were used in the study) 
  5. set movement range of motion for the exercise with the first 3 calibration reps
  6. once the exercise begins, pause at the top of the movement to load the eccentric phase
  7. control the load slowly down to the bottom of the movement range then quickly push the handles back up toward the ceiling to keep the resistance loaded on the machine
  8. repeat the movement until the desired number of repetitions have been completed
  9. complete 2 more sets, as 3 sets of each exercise were completed in the study


Miller RM, et al. Skeletal muscle adaptations following 80 weeks of resistance exercise in older adults. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 2021. DOI: 10.1519/JPT.0000000000000302.

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