Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Tag: Neuromuscular

Explosive training is also the fountain of youth...

This title may look familiar since I just recently wrote about how resistance training is the fountain of youth. Although I certainly am not here to discredit my recent blog, I am certainly here to elaborate on it a bit further based on a recent study.

When you hear about "explosive training," your mind probably leans towards young athletes and how fast and powerful they seem. You almost certainly never think about grandma and her slower pace. Well, according to the above study, explosive training is not only tolerated by individuals well into their 80's, but is highly recommended for healthy aging as well.

Resistance (strength) training is still extremely important. Using maximal, or even sub maximal loads to increase the strength and durability of muscles, bones, connective tissues, etc. is regarded as one of the most effective ways of aging gracefully.

Explosive or power training involves moving less weight, but moving said weight quicker. A really simple example would be either pushing or throwing a ball. Throwing is an explosive action. The above study found that training older individuals with explosive actions helped to improve their reflexive actions.

Strength training involves learning how to activate more muscle in order to move a desired load. Your muscles are made up of many muscle fibers. Although all muscle fibers shorten at once when a muscle contracts, only a certain percentage of them does the work at any given time. Strength training can then be considered a skill by learning how to activate more muscle fibers and therefore generate more force.

Power or explosive training is all about increasing the reaction time between your brain and muscles. The faster your brain can not only get a signal to the muscle fibers, but to also have them contract at a faster rate, the more explosive they can be.

As the study points out, many age-related problems occur due to the risk of falling. Falling happens for a number of reasons, but most often occur due to a slow reaction time. Your brain is usually pretty efficient and effective at recognizing the signs that balance is off, but the time it takes to react to being off balance and therefore correcting the balance can deteriorate over time. Explosive training helps to keep that quickness needed.

This doesn't necessarily mean that grandma needs to do plyometrics, but instead, learn to safely and effectively lift lighter weights safely and quickly.

Resistance Training is the Fountain of Youth

I have been a strong advocate for resistance training for all ages for quite some time now. General activity or even leisure exercise is simply not enough to stave off age-related illness. A recent study decided to examine and compare the health benefits between recreational activities and resistance training.

Lifelong strength training mitigates the age-related decline in efferent drive.


Recently we documented age-related attenuation of efferent drive to contracting skeletal muscle. It remains elusive if this indication of reduced muscle strength is present with lifelong strength training. For this purpose, we examined evoked potentials in the calf muscles of 11 (71±4years) strength trained master athletes (MA) contrasted to 10 (71±4years) sedentary (SO) and 11 (73±6years) recreationally active (AO) old subjects, as well as 9 (22±2years) young controls. As expected, MA had higher leg press maximal strength (MA: 185±32kg; AO: 128±15kg; SO: 106±11kg; young: 147±22kg, p<0.01) and rate of force development (MA: 5588±2488N∙s-1; AO: 2156±1100N∙s-1; SO: 2011±825N∙s-1; young: 3663±1140N∙s-1, p<0.05) than the other groups. MA also exhibited higher m.soleus normalized V-waves during MVC (Vsup/Msup: 0.28±0.15) than AO (0.13±0.06, p<0.01) and SO (0.11±0.05, p<0.01), yet lower than young (0.45±0.12, p<0.01). No differences were apparent between the old groups in H-reflex recorded at rest or during MVC (Hmax/Mmax; Hsup/Msup), and all were lower (p<0.01) than young. MA (34.4±2.1ms) had shorter (p<0.05) H-reflex latency compared to AO (36.4±3.7ms) and SO (37.3±3.2ms), but longer (p<0.01) than young (30.7±2.0ms). Using interpolated twitch analysis MA (89±7%) had similar plantar flexion voluntary activation as young (90±6%), and this was higher (p<0.05), or tended to be higher (p=0.06-0.09) than SO (83±10%) and AO (84±5%). These observations suggest that lifelong strength training has a protective effect against age-related attenuation of efferent drive. In contrast, no beneficial effect seems to derive from habitual recreational activity, indicating that strength training may be particularly beneficial for counteracting age-related loss of neuromuscular function.

When speaking to my clients, colleagues, friends, and family, I always discuss what I would consider to be the 4 pillars of health and fitness:

  1. Cardiovascular Health
  2. Strength
  3. Balance and Coordination
  4. Flexibility and Mobility

To be honest, most of us that are lucky enough to make it to our life expectancy or beyond tend to either decline in all 4 of these categories, or most of them. Sure, staying "active" through leisure activity and recreational exercise is great, and can improve the overall quality of life, it is simply not enough to maximize the overall quality of life as you age. As the above study points out, resistance training is superior to just staying active by maintaining neuromuscular function.

Not only that but in my opinion, it is not only possible, but expected to improve in all 4 of those main pillars using resistance training. Externally loading resistance on our bodies can not only improve strength, but can activate the neurons needed to maintain balance and coordination - sometimes referred to as the "stabilizing muscles."

Also, a properly structured and practiced resistance training program can also take your muscles and joints through their proper, full range of motion improving flexibility and mobility.

Finally, anyone who has lifted weights in a circuit-style complex or used weights as a form of metabolic conditioning will know that resistance training can most certainly improve cardiovascular health.

In short, resistance training is crucial for not only life longevity, but for quality of life as well.