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Quad Strength Plummets in 80

Hip-Belt Squat Solution

Carol and I have subscribed to Nutrition Action Health Letter for decades, but have never found it timelier than the July/August 2020 issue featuring “UNEXPECTED” findings. One of the five surprises involves our age groups. (She's younger.)

A study in PLOS ONE (February 13, 2020) reported a 10-fold increase in loss of quad (thigh) strength in the seven years after reaching 80—seven percent loss in the seven years before turning 80 and 70% in the seven years after hitting 80.

“The fact that normal aging men experience such a significant decline in strength over time is quite important,” says Alexander Lucas of Virginia Commonwealth University, who led the study.

Another shocking finding involved men with prostate cancer. The study looked at 117 men with prostate cancer and 468 similar men free of prostate cancer. “We expected to see a greater decline in strength in the men with prostate cancer, because of the various treatments they receive,” Lucas stated. But, cancer or no cancer, they had the same decline.

“The men were enrolled in the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study, which selected people who were free of disabilities at the start of the study, so we could see how things changed as they aged,” Lucas explained.

Nutrition Action asked Lucas what could explain the dramatic loss of strength at 80.

(Sedentary lifestyle is, of course, a major factor.)

“With aging, people start to put on body fat and lose lean tissue, and some of the fat is deposited between the muscle fibers,” Lucas explained. “The fat affects how well the muscle is able to contract.”

The nerves that make muscles contract may also be a factor.

“Each muscle group is innervated by motor neurons,” Lucas continued. “If you’re not active, you may lose the ability to effectively activate motor neurons.”

Would strength training slow the loss of strength? “Absolutely,” Lucas declared.

“The more muscle you have by age 80,” says Lucas, “the better off you are, because if you already have deficits in your 70s, they can curb your independence and quality of life from that point on.”

“In conclusion,” Lucas and his team wrote, “our findings reinforce the importance of health status at diagnosis. Furthermore, as part of multidisciplinary care, all aging men should undergo assessments of strength and physical function to identify those with deficits. Routine assessments will provide a basis for the prescription of exercise programs and for assessing the risk of disablement and mortality as these men age. Older patients with prostate cancer should be prescribed resistance exercise training to promote the maintenance of muscular strength.”

You can read the entire study online: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0228773

*  *  *

For more about staying strong as the years pile up, see Bending the Aging Curve: https://www.cbass.com/BendingTheAgingCurve.htm 

My Take

While I’ve noticed little if any loss of quad strength in the last three years, the stenosis in my lower back has become more of a problem.

Ten or 15 years back, I stopped doing squats and deadlifts to minimize pressure on the nerves in my lumbar spine.

I substituted the leg press, with less weight and higher reps than before, which worked well for a long time. Unfortunately, the leg press has started aggravating my lower back and causing tingling and discomfort in my legs.

I tried doing free weight hip-belt squats, but found it more trouble than it’s worth.

I also tried the Zane Leg Blaster, holding on with my hands to stabilize my spine. Loved the leg response, but my back didn’t like it. I also tried doing the leg blaster with weight around my waist, but I couldn’t use enough weight to really challenge my quads.

I finally decided to buy a Keiser leg extension machine to work my quads in our home gym. (Back and glute-ham raises with weight plates helped to keep my glutes, lower back, and hamstrings strong.)

I learned about Keiser compressor machines—push buttons to increase or lower resistance—from Arnie Jensen, the doctor who introduced me to the Cooper Clinic. We bought three Keiser upper body machines after seeing Arnie using them in his barn gym. They have served us well for going on 15 years.

A key advantage is that the Kaiser machines work well for both Carol and I.

We called Keiser to inquire about their leg extension machine. While waiting for a call back from the representative for our part of the country, we perused their website and were surprised to find that they offer a Belt Squat machine.

I couldn't find a live a demonstration of the Keiser Belt Squat online, but I did find a good one minute demo of the basic movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4JFPcd8xy8

You'll see that it works the lower body without compressing the lower back. Far better than the leg extension alone. And an excellent replacement for the leg press.

By the time the Keiser rep called we had decided that their belt squat machine was our best option.

About three weeks later, the FedEx Freight driver was moving our Kaiser Belt Squat machine into the space we’d cleared for it in our garage.

We are still learning how to use it properly, but we can tell you here and now that it really works the quads. (It doesn't counts reps unless you hit parallel.)

 

A lot has happened since I was squatting 485 in my Olympic lifting days, but I have never stopped training my lower body.

Photo by Pat Berrett

September 1, 2020

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Ripped Enterprises, P.O. Box 51236, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87181-1236
 or street address: 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108,
 Phone  (505) 266-5858 , e-mail: cncbass@aol.com ,
 Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time

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Ripped Enterprises, P.O. Box 51236, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87181-1236
 or street address: 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108,
 Phone  (505) 266-5858 , e-mail: cncbass@aol.com ,
 Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time

Home | Products Index | Ripped Bks | Lean Adv. Bks | Lean For Life | Recommended Bks | |ConsultationsPosing Suits | Tapes | To Order | Feedback]

Copyright © 2020 Clarence and Carol Bass. All rights reserved.