A minimal dose approach to resistance training for the older adult; the prophylactic for aging

James P. Fisher, James Steele, Paulo Gentil, Jürgen Giessing, Wayne L. Westcott


A plethora of research has supported the numerous health benefits of resistance training as we age, including positive relationships between muscular strength, muscle mass and reduced all-cause mortality. As such, resistance training has been referred to as medicine. However, participation and adherence remains low, with time constraints and perceived difficulty often cited as barriers to resistance training. With this in mind, we aimed to summarise the benefits which might be obtained as a product of a minimal dose approach. In this sense, participation in resistance training might serve as a prophylactic to delay or prevent the onset of biological aging. A short review of studies reporting considerable health benefits resulting from low volume resistance training participation is presented, specifically considering the training time, frequency, intensity of effort, and exercises performed. Research supports the considerable physiological and psychological health benefits from resistance training and suggests that these can be obtained using a minimal dose approach (e.g. ≤60 min, 2 d-wk− 1), using uncomplicated equipment/methods (e.g. weight stack machines). Our hope is that discussion of these specific recommendations, and provision of an example minimal dose workout, will promote resistance training parti- cipation by persons who might otherwise have not engaged. We also encourage medical professionals to use this information to prescribe resistance exercise like a drug whilst having an awareness of the health benefits and uncomplicated methods.


Int J Sports Med. 1988 Oct;9(5):316-9.
Effect of reduced training frequency on muscular strength.
Graves JE1, Pollock ML, Leggett SH, Braith RW, Carpenter DM, Bishop LE.

Author information



Twenty-four men and 26 women (25 +/- 5 years) participating in 10 weeks (n = 27) and 18 weeks (n = 23) of variable resistance strength training programs were recruited to complete 12 weeks of reduced training. Training consisted of
one set of 7-10 bilateral knee extensions performed to volitional failure. Prior to the reduced training phase of the project, the subjects were training either 2 days.week-1 (n = 23) or 3 days.week-1 (n = 18). The subjects who trained 3 days.week-1 reduced training frequency to 2 days.week-1 (n = 9), 1 day.week-1 (n = 7), or 0 days.week-1 (n = 2). The subjects who trained 2 days.week-1 reduced training frequency to 1 day.week-1 (n = 12) or 0 days.week-1 (n = 11). Nine subjects served as controls and did not train. Isometric knee extension strength was assessed at 9, 20, 35, 50, 65, 80, 95, and 110 degrees of knee flexion on two separate occasions prior to and immediately post-training and following reduced training. After training, mean relative increases in peak isometric knee extension strength and dynamic training weight were 21.4% +/- 17.5% (P less than or equal to 0.01) and 49.5% +/- 14.7% (P less than or equal to 0.01), respectively. The subjects who stopped training (0 days.week-1) lost 68% (P less than or equal to 0.01) of the isometric strength gained during training.



James Fisher1(A,E,F), James Steele1(E,F), Stewart Bruce-Low1(E,F), Dave Smith2(A,E,F)
1Southampton Solent University, UK 2Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Resistance training produces an array of health benefits, as well as the potential to promote muscular adaptations of strength, size, power and endurance. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) regularly publish a position stand making recommendations for optimal achievement of the desired training goals. However, the most recent position stand (as well as previous ones) has come under heavy criticism for misrepresentation of research, lack of evidence and author bias. Therefore this paper proposes a set of scientifically rigorous resistance training guidelines, reviewing and summarising the relevant research for the purpose of proposing more logical, evidence-based training advice.
We recommend that appreciably the same muscular strength and endurance adaptations can be attained by perform- ing a single set of ~8-12 repetitions to momentary muscular failure, at a repetition duration that maintains muscular tension throughout the entire range of motion, for most major muscle groups once or twice each week. All resistance types (e.g. free-weights, resistance machines, bodyweight, etc.) show potential for increases in strength, with no significant difference between them, although resistance machines appear to pose a lower risk of injury.
There is a lack of evidence to suggest that balance from free weights or use of unstable surfaces shows any transfer- ence to sporting improvement, and explosive movements are also not recommended as they present a high injury risk and no greater benefit than slow, controlled weight training. Finally, we consider genetic factors in relation to body type and growth potential.
Key words: muscular strength, bodybuilding, intensity, genetic

The effect of progressive resistance training in rheumatoid arthritis. Increased strength without changes in energy balance or body composition


Laura C. Rall PhD, RD 

Simin Nikbin Meydani DVM, PhD   Joseph J. Kehayias PhD   Bess Dawson‐Hughes MD Ronenn Roubenoff MD, MHS

First published: March 1996

Cited by: 89




Objective. To demonstrate the feasibility of high‐intensity progressive resistance training in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients compared with healthy control subjects.

Methods. Eight subjects with RA, 8 healthy young subjects, and 8 healthy elderly subjects underwent 12 weeks of high‐intensity progressive resistance training, while 6 elderly subjects performed warm‐up exercises only. Fitness, body composition, energy expenditure, function, disease activity, pain, and fatigue were measured at baseline and followup.

Results. All 3 training groups demonstrated similar improvements in strength compared with the change among control subjects (RA group 57% [P < 0.0005], young exercise group 44% [P < 0.01], elderly exercise group 36% [P < 0.05]). Subjects with RA had no change in the number of painful or swollen joints but had significant reductions in self‐reported pain score (21% [P < 0.05]) and fatigue score (38% [P = 0.06]), improved 50‐foot walking times (mean ± SD 10.4 ± 2.2 seconds versus 8.3 ± 1.5 seconds [P < 0.005]), and improved balance and gait scores (48.9 ± 3.8 versus 50.4 ± 2.0 [P = 0.07]).

Conclusion. High‐intensity strength training is feasible and safe in selected patients with well‐controlled RA and leads to significant improvements in strength, pain, and fatigue without exacerbating disease activity or joint pain.

Resistance Exercise Reverses Aging in Human Skeletal Muscle

Simon Melov, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, [...], and Alan Hubbard



Human aging is associated with skeletal muscle atrophy and functional impairment (sarcopenia). Multiple lines of evidence suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction is a major contributor to sarcopenia. We evaluated whether healthy aging was associated with a transcriptional profile reflecting mitochondrial impairment and whether resistance exercise could reverse this signature to that approximating a younger physiological age. Skeletal muscle biopsies from healthy older (N = 25) and younger (N = 26) adult men and women were compared using gene expression profiling, and a subset of these were related to measurements of muscle strength. 14 of the older adults had muscle samples taken before and after a six-month resistance exercise-training program. Before exercise training, older adults were 59% weaker than younger, but after six months of training in older adults, strength improved significantly (P<0.001) such that they were only 38% lower than young adults. As a consequence of age, we found 596 genes differentially expressed using a false discovery rate cut-off of 5%. Prior to the exercise training, the transcriptome profile showed a dramatic enrichment of genes associated with mitochondrial function with age. However, following exercise training the transcriptional signature of aging was markedly reversed back to that of younger levels for most genes that were affected by both age and exercise. We conclude that healthy older adults show evidence of mitochondrial impairment and muscle weakness, but that this can be partially reversed at the phenotypic level, and substantially reversed at the transcriptome level, following six months of resistance exercise training.

 2001 Jan;60(1):21-6.

Strength training induced adaptations in neuromuscular function of premenopausal women with fibromyalgia: comparison with healthy women.

Author information

  • 1
  • Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Central Finland Health Care District, Jyväskylä, Finland.



To investigate the effects of 21 weeks' progressive strength training on neuromuscular function and subjectively perceived symptoms in premenopausal women with fibromyalgia (FM).


Twenty one women with FM were randomly assigned to experimental (FM(T)) or control (FM(C)) groups. Twelve healthy women served as training controls (H(T)). The FM(T) and H(T) groups carried out progressive strength training twice a week for 21 weeks. The major outcome measures were muscle strength and electromyographic (EMG) recordings. Secondary outcome measures were pain, sleep, fatigue, physical function capacity (Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire), and mood (short version of Beck's depression index).


Female FM(T) subjects increased their maximal and explosive strength and EMG activity to the same extent as the H(T) group. Moreover, the progressive strength training showed immediate benefits on subjectively perceived fatigue, depression, and neck pain of training patients with FM.


The strength training data indicate comparable trainability of the neuromuscular system of women with FM and healthy women. Progressive strength training can safely be used in the treatment of FM to decrease the impact of the syndrome on the neuromuscular system, perceived symptoms, and functional capacity. These results confirm the opinion that FM syndrome has a central rather than a peripheral or muscular basis.

If you have any queries or wish to make an appointment, please contact:




or go to the CONTACT tab and use the form provided.