It’s estimated that between the ages of 20 and 80 we lose 30% of muscle mass.For athletes, the muscle groups that take the highest loss are the plantarflexors (calf musculature), incurring a loss of 30% between 20 and 60 years of age. The good news, though, is that the losses can be somewhat mitigated or offset through strength and conditioning exercises.
It’s a little known fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends two resistance training sessions alongside the well-understood 150mins of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise per week. Triathletes benefit most from resistance training performed in a gym setting, where the loads applied can be great enough to help elicit strength gains to offset the age-related muscle mass loss. Strength training can also assist with offsetting the loss of neural drive to musculature, known as dynapenia.
Key muscle groups to target are the soleus, gastrocnemius, quadriceps, hamstrings and hip abductors. For best results, triathletes should perform lower reps with heavier resistance, i.e. 3-4 sets of 6-8reps. Performing high reps with low resistance is not beneficial and is a common mistake.
Brad Beer is the founder of POGO Physio, author of You Can Run Pain Free! and the physio for Super League Triathlon.