Strength training is essential in old age, and it doesn’t have to be just weight training – 08/30/2021

The idea that, in order to train and define muscles, you need to spend hours inside a gym pulling iron is somewhat outdated. Yes, traditional weight training, with dumbbells, weight plates and machines, is still one of the most common and recommended ways to exercise your muscles, but it is not the only one.

In addition to weight training, several methods, inside or outside the gym, with or without weights, are capable of providing muscle gain, definition, endurance and strength.

Many of these practices, in addition to working strength and muscle definition, exert an integrated work of mobility and flexibility.

“Muscles do not identify means, but respond to stimuli. In this way, if we manage to stimulate the muscles through the available means, adaptations will occur”, explains Cauê La Scala, physical education professional, master and doctor in science and creator of FunLink.

“Traditional bodybuilding is a means, but not the only one. The calisthenic and functional exercises, with accessories such as kettlebell, medball, TRX, among others, can take the turn of bodybuilding with efficiency already proven in several scientific researches.”

Far beyond aesthetics

“Flexibility and mobility are key pieces in capacity physics at all ages. In the elderly, it is even more important, because, with advancing age, the aging of muscles, tendons and joints, makes the body more hard, locked, which may favor falls, pain and joint problems. So, maintaining flexibility and stretching is essential,” says Fabrício Buzatto, sports doctor and physiatrist.

Buzatto recommends that, at all ages, regular stretching activities or exercises such as Pilates be done. Cauê adds: “Acutely, dynamic stretching exercises (stretching with movement) are among the best options. During the strength exercises of calisthenics or functional training, performing the movements in the maximum possible amplitude generates enough stimuli to improve the flexibility of chronic form.”

Healthy and autonomous aging depends on how you work throughout your life and general physical abilities, including painless squatting, moving around, being flexible and breathing. Those who lead a sedentary life may suffer in old age with sarcopenia, a condition that leads to a process of muscle wasting.

“Strength training for combating sarcopenia it’s fundamental. Many of the incapacities and chronic pain in the elderly are caused by the loss of muscle mass”, concludes Fabrício.

Discover activities that go beyond weight training to work on muscle strength and endurance:


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Calisthenics is a method that can be used in different places: at the gym, at home or in parks. Your workouts consist of using your body weight, not requiring equipment, dumbbells and weight plates. Exercises can be complex, using bars and rings, or simple, such as push-ups, squats, and abdominal planks.

“Obviously, everything will depend on the level of development you are looking for, but we can, yes, train with calisthenics/body weight and acquire muscle volume and symmetry in the upper region (trunk and arms), since most of the movements are hanging from the bar (pulling) and in the inverted position (pushing)”, says Gabriel Máximo, personal trainer.

To assess the results of calisthenics, Brazilian researchers submitted volunteers to calisthenic training sessions, studying jumping ability, agility, isometric strength and intermittent resistance.

In the experimental group, differences in body composition were observed and the analysis of anthropometric variables showed a significant increase in lean mass, in addition to a significant decrease in the percentage of body fat.


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Crossfit is a dynamic practice that combines a series of exercises that work aerobic, strength and muscular endurance capabilities. As a rule, classes have three parts: warm-up, technical exercises and WOD or Workout Of The Day.

Crossfit is a practice with many variations and similar to functional training. “Functional training is broader, its main objective is to work the functions of the body always thinking about movements. Unlike traditional weight training that isolates muscle groups and works only strength, in functional/crossfit training we work on physical conditioning”, explains Máximo.

Functional training

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In practice, functional training and crossfit are similar. But the first is an old concept that appears within physiotherapy, whose movements are associated with the improvement of the body’s functionality, comprising the entire set of tasks possible to be performed by a human body.

“The joint improvement of all physical abilities is fundamental and this forms the conceptual basis of functional training. Cross training (crossfit) is based on the same concept, but it advocates the performance of high intensity stimuli, aiming at adaptations of greater magnitude. In In short, functional training is an ‘umbrella’ concept and cross training is one of the pillars of this concept,” teaches Scala.


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Parkour is a training method whose objective is to overcome obstacles with agility using only the skills of the body. It also uses calisthenics, since there are no devices or dumbbells, and the exercise is performed only with body strength and obstacles common in urban environments, such as walls, handrails, trees and bars.

The modality is influenced by practices such as gymnastics and requires strength and endurance. The workouts are intense and work legs, torso and arms.

“If you see a person doing a plyometric exercise (jumping) or jumping in parkour, the potency is being stimulated and will be improved regardless of the medium used. Likewise, if you see a person making an effort to support or lift a load, whether in the weight room or pole dance, strength will be stimulated and improved regardless of the medium used,” explains Scala.


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Pilates is an exercise technique that improves cardiovascular, lung and muscle capacity, helping to tone and define the body. The training favors muscle strengthening and flexibility, with resistance and isometric (static) movements. Also uses specific accessories such as bands, elastics and balls.

“Generally what we see in the gym, studios and crossfit box are practitioners who avoid stretching / mobility, but this physical ability is important not only to avoid injuries and joint pain, but also a stretched muscle produces more strength. Many injuries do not exist. for the practice of the movements, but, yes, for the lack of flexibility and for the students to ‘skip’ these parts in the training. Therefore, these mentioned methods, like Pilates, are also great”, says Máximo.

pole dance

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The fixed vertical bar is the main accessory of pole dance, which combines dance and flexibility movements with strength and calisthenics techniques, being a complete exercise for those looking to obtain results in a fun way.

Practices such as pole dancing, pilates and parkour help tone muscles and improve flexibility and mobility. However, those who expect hypertrophy may have more benefits in crossfit, calisthenics and functional.

“Modes such as pilates and pole dance have been growing a lot, but thinking about muscle hypertrophy is more difficult, as they will help to tone the muscles, but will not serve for a large increase in muscle mass”, emphasizes the personal trainer.

exercise is medicine

This report is part of the campaign of Live well Exercise É Remédio, which aims to emphasize the importance of physical activity for health and give tips and ideas to combat sedentary lifestyles.

The contents address the importance of physical activity to prevent and treat diseases, the signs your body gives when you don’t move enough, tips to make exercise a habit, and find out which one suits you best, essential care to get started to move, including in old age and inspiring reports from people who have treated serious health issues with physical activity. But there’s so much more. Check out all the campaign content here.

This is the third campaign in a series of Live well which has brought thematic content to help fight the problems that many people face in their daily lives and contribute to your health and well-being.

The first was Overcome Postpartum Depression, held in March; and the second was “Have a Healthy Mouth” in June.