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Best Practices in Weight Training for Healthy Older Adults

What the ACSM Says About Weight Training for Older Adults


Updated August 28, 2009

This article, one in a series, takes a look at the position stand of the American College of Sports Medicine titled Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults, 2009. This is a summary of the evidence from a well-qualified group of experts for the effectiveness of various procedures and practices in resistance and weight training programs.

The ACSM Position Stand on Weight Training and Resistance Training - Older Healthy Adults

This article summarizes ACSM guidelines for training characteristics focusing on training for hypertrophy or muscle building, with companion articles available for strength, power, and strength endurance.

Note that in this version of the ACSM stand, the authors have graded the quality of the evidence as follows:

  1. A - Best class of evidence (randomized controlled trials (RCT))
  2. B - Second level of evidence (fewer RCT)
  3. C - Third level (observational only, not RCT)
  4. D - Least quality of evidence (panel consensus judgment, clinical experience)

RT stands for "resistance training" in the following discussion.

Progressive Training for Older Healthy Adults

Weight and resistance training for healthy older adults is a function of carefully considered progressive resistance training. Beyond that, caution should be observed with in those with hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or any other debilitating condition that limits physical function.

Evidence category A. "For improvements in strength and hypertrophy in older adults, the use of free-weight and machine multiple- and single-joint exercises with slow to moderate lifting velocity for 1 to 3 sets per exercise with 60-80% of 1 RM for 8-12 repetitions with 1-3 min of rest in between sets for 2-3 d is recommended."
Evidence category B. "Increasing power in healthy older adults include 1) training to improve muscular strength and 2) the performance of both single- and multiple-joint exercises for one to 3 sets per exercise using light to moderate loading (30-60% of 1 RM) for 6-10 repetitions with high repetition velocity."

For a review of weight and resistance training fundamentals, you can read the beginner documentation.


Nicholas Ratamess, Brent Alvar, Tammy K. Evetoch Terry J. Housh, W. Ben Kibler, William J. Kraemer, N. Travis Triplett. Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2009, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 687-708.

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