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What you don't use atrophies, they say. But the joke is not funny when it comes to muscles. In the past, we were strong as a result of our natural environment. Game was loaded for miles, climbed, dug, the family had to be protected from predators... Today, in our affluent lives, where we take the elevator home, spend more than nine hours sitting in an office, and drive around, we are at increased risk of muscle loss. Not only because we are getting older and but because of chronic disuse.

When muscle is lost, 8% of the mass from the age of 40 with each decade, accelerating more from the age of 60, there is an increased risk of suffering from sarcopenia, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and back pain.

The good news is that there is an antidote. It's called strength training. And there's plenty of research to back it up. One study examined nearly 600 genes in older adults. After six months of weight training, the genes returned to a younger state. In conclusion, the researchers suggested that strength-endurance training may protect against disease and reverse age-related cellular damage.

In another study, subjects were followed for 44 years and found that being physically active and maintaining strength was one of the best predictors of longevity, along with not smoking and avoiding chronic disease.

And a third evaluated athletes between the ages of 40 and 81 who trained four times a week, comparing their muscle mass. The researchers detected no significant differences by age, concluding that muscle and strength are also degraded by lifestyle and not just by aging.


To stay healthy, cardio training is just as necessary as strength training. As we have already discussed in ZEN, the ideal would be a good combination of both alternating with some HIIT. However, strength training really could be the fountain of youth and one of the best ways to get a good quality of life in old age.

"Muscle loss is a silent disease. It happens because we lose fibre due to the lack of protein as our body ages," explains Dani Martínez, coach of David Lloyd Club Turó. The main problem with losing muscle tissue is that we lose mobility, he continues, and drop more load on the skeleton. "Sarcopenia makes us vulnerable to injury and brings problems at the skeletal level."

In the case of women, moreover, the degradation of muscle mass is compounded more quickly than in men by the loss of bone density, i.e. osteoporosis. "The endocrine system changes a lot with menopause, there is a much more accentuated hormonal work and, for that reason, the problem is greater for them."

That's why "the sooner we start working on strength, the better," warns this expert. Although research suggests that you can still build muscle and strength in your 80s and 90s, which means it's never too late to start.

"It's better to do something than to do nothing," especially in terms of health. But, if it's so beneficial, why does strength training have so much mythology? "The fear of weightlifting is usually because they have a stereotype that they can only be done by very strong people and a certain type of athlete. Think that only seven out of 10 people play sports," says Martínez.


From the age of 40, muscle mass degrades by an average of 8% in each decade. Shutterstock

People tend to think of strength training as handling a barbell with huge discs on either side. But, in reality, it involves muscular efforts that cannot be sustained beyond a few minutes of rest. And that involves bodyweight exercises, such as squats, push-ups, or pull-ups. Although we can then add external elements such as dumbbells or kettlebells.

"We have the image of a muscular man doing biceps and pectorals, but that's misinformation," warns the coach. In his opinion, you need to understand why and how to exercise. "When you lose muscle, I totally agree with the research that you're more at risk for disease. I have evidence in blood pressure, osteoporosis and arthritis, I don't have diabetes and cholesterol under control. But I'm sure that's the case, because it stands to reason that the fewer muscle chains we have, the weaker the immune system will be."


He also has experience with chronic back pain cases. "There is a very direct relationship with the loss of muscle mass, since all the weight remains in the bone structure. And if you add rheumatoid arthritis or bone deterioration, the pain is accentuated." Can it be prevented through training? "Yes, but we also have genetic components. Some people lose more muscle mass than others. We shouldn't wait for the health problems to come." He always recommends trying to lead a healthy life, eat well and work on strength. "They're very fashionable now. A very simple routine would be the push-and-pull routine," he advises.

  • In the strip part, exercises that try to bring things closer to us: "We would work the dorsal and biceps. For example, for the bib we could do a row, a pull-up, pull-ups or any type of pull over. For biceps, biceps curls with machine, dumbbell and rubber bands to work different types of intensity. Three or four sets for each of the exercises, and about 14 repetitions of each." For older people we would see if they had reduced mobility to adapt the exercises.
  • In the push part, pectoralis and triceps. "For the chest, a chest press, an opening machine, and push-ups with knees on the floor. And in the triceps part with triceps extensions and some closed push-ups or dips. As long as the person doesn't have any injuries and is trained for this."
  • It is also very important to maintain a strong core, the center of the body, athletic legs through deadlifts and squats and a worked gluteus. Resistance bands are interesting in this section. Gym machines allow you to work more safely, but barbells with external weights and dumbbells also involve flexibility and balance. In short, what is really important is to exert tension on our muscles regularly, regardless of the technique you choose, and always guided by a good professional like Martínez, who can adapt the strategy to your needs.
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