01 Jul 2021

Older men increase muscle mass with resistance training

Dr. James L. Nuzzo
Head of Exercise Science Research at Vitruvian
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Share this article:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Muscle size and strength decrease with age which then impacts the ability to perform activities of daily living. Resistance training can combat these age-related declines in muscle health and physical function. 

Researchers in France recently conducted a study in which 27 men, approximately 70 years of age, completed 12 weeks of resistance training for the calf and quadriceps muscles. Training was completed 3 times per week. Thirteen of the men lifted moderate loads during training (55% of max). Fourteen of the men lifted heavier loads (80% of max). The two training programs were equated for exercise volume. Anatomical cross-sectional areas of the quadriceps and calf muscles were measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before and after the 12 weeks of training. A group of 11 younger men were also included in the study. They completed a moderate-load training program.

For men who performed resistance training with moderate loads, quadriceps cross-sectional area increased by 6.7%. Calf muscle cross-sectional area increased by 7.5%. For men who performed training with heavier loads, quadriceps cross-sectional area increased by 4.2%. Calf muscle cross-sectional area increased by 4.3%. For the group of younger men, their gains in quadriceps cross-sectional area (4.3%) and calf cross-sectional area (2.8%) were no greater than those experienced by the older men.

The findings from the study reveal that in older men 12 weeks of moderate- or heavy-load resistance training increases calf and quadriceps muscle mass. These increases likely correspond to improvements in physical function, although the researchers did not measure functional outcomes. The findings also suggest older men can select their preferred exercise loads (i.e., moderate or heavy), and so long as they work hard in each set, they are likely to increase the size of their muscles. 


  1. select an exercise for the quadriceps muscles such as “squats” or “suitcase lunges”
  2. attach the handles or bar to your V-Form or Trainer+
  3. select “focused” mode 
  4. select the desired resistance (a moderate or high resistance depending on personal strength) 
  5. select 8-12 repetitions for moderate resistances or 4-8 repetitions for high resistance
  6. set the movement range of motion for the exercise with the first 3 calibration repetitions
  7. perform 3 sets of the exercise 
  8. select an exercise for the calf muscles such as the “calf raise,” “seated calf raise” or “squat to calf raise” and repeat the steps above


Letocart A, et al. Muscle adaptation to aging and training: architectural changes – a randomised trial. BMC Geriatrics, 2021. DOI: 10.1186/s12877-020-02000-0.

More articles