How Training for Power Could Lengthen Your Life

A recent study has revealed that muscle power, not to be confused with muscle strength, could be the key to a longer life.

Professor Claduio Gil Araújo, director of research and education at the Exercise Medicine Clinic in Rio de Janeiro said: “Rising from a chair in old age and kicking a ball depend more on muscle power than muscle strength, yet most weight bearing exercise focuses on the latter.”

Those with the lowest muscle power were found to be at around 13 times higher risk of death compared to their more powerful counterparts.

In the study, a sample of 3,878 subjects aged between 41-85 took part. Each subject underwent a maximal power test where they had to perform a standing upright row as fast as they could. Results were recorded between 2001 and 2016.

During a 6.5-year follow-up test, they found that 247 men (10%) and 75 women (6%) had died. Their maximal power values were considered low, and it was found that those with values in the upper quartiles had the best chances of survival.

What’s the difference between power and strength?

You may be thinking the two are pretty much the same, but not quite.

Strength is how heavy you lift. For example, you might train to just lift a heavier and heavier weight every time you go to the gym.

In previous studies, life longevity has been assessed by strength. This was tested using the grip test [2], however this new study appears to disprove traditional thought.

Power, on the other hand, is the practice of lifting weights, quickly over a short period of time. So, you won’t be lifting as heavy as you would for strength, but you’ll be trying to move these loads at a much quicker rate.

Your body requires power more often than you might think. For example, running back up the stairs to grab your keys is an example of when power is required in day-to-day life.

Professor Araújo, who is also the Director of Research and Education, said: “Power training is carried out by finding the best combination of speed and weight being lifted or moved. For strength training at the gym most people just think about the amount of weight being lifted and the number of repetitions without paying attention to the speed of execution. But for optimal power training results, you should go beyond typical strength training and add speed to your weight lifts.”

How to train for power

With this in mind, you may want to add more power training to your lifestyle. To begin with, you need to know how to train in a specific way to encourage the right kind of muscle training.

The overall concept is to lift weights faster, over a shorter period of time. By using compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and other functional movements, you can recruit more muscle and develop more dynamic power [3].

Follow these steps to increase your power:

  • Pick an exercise
  • Choose a moderate weight. Don’t go too heavy, as the aim is to move fast
  • Perform 8 repetitions as fast as you can with good form
  • Rest for at least a minute to allow your body time to refuel your energy stores
  • Repeat the repetitions and rest until you’ve performed three sets

Be sure to choose enough exercises that you can work your full body throughout the week.

You should always aim to increase the intensity of your workouts, otherwise you’re likely to plateau and you progress will come to a grinding halt.

You can heighten intensity in the following ways:

  • Add more repetitions to your set, with an upper limit of 10
  • Add another set, with an upper limit of 5
  • Increase the weight you’re lifting and go back to the starting number of reps


A power focussed workout

Once you know the basics, you can start to create a more powerful, life-prolonging workout. Following the guidelines we’ve created above, try this workout using a pair of dumbbells. If the weight is easy, aim to up it slightly, but make sure you can still use fast movements – that’s the key to building power.

Perform three sets of each movement before moving on to the next.

  • 8 x Dumbbell shoulder press – Begin with the weights at shoulder level with your wrists straight and your elbows down. Push directly upwards until your arms are straight. Return to the start position.
  • 8 x Dumbbell curls each arm – Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down by your sides and your elbows tucked in. Keeping your elbows in the same place, curl one dumbbell up to your shoulder, then return to the start position. Alternate arms.
  • 8 x Weighted sit ups – Lie on the floor with your feet flat and your knees bent. Hold a dumbbell in both hands on your upper chest. Sit up until you’re full upright. Return to the floor.
  • 8 x Dumbbell squats – Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang by your sides. Begin to bend at the hip by moving your bum back and down. Keep your chest upright and your back flat. Stop when your hips are about level with your knees. Stand up again.
  • 8 x Dumbbell lunges each leg – With dumbbell in each hand, stand in a neutral position with your feet at hips width apart. Step out with one foot, about one and a half strides. Drop your back knee by bending the front. Ensure your front knee isn’t going over your toes and your front foot is completely flat. Bring your back foot up to meet the front, pushing through the glutes. Step out with the other foot for the next rep.

This type of training should help to increase muscle power, but with the right nutrition, it could even help to burn fat, which comes with its own host of health benefits. Look at for different types of supplements

With this new information about the importance of muscle power for life expectancy, knowing how to train to enjoy the benefits of a longer, healthier life is essential. Try the workout to see how you can improve your health.

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