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29. 6. 2012.

Resistance training for special populations

Until the 1970s, resistance training was widely regarded as appropriate only for young, healthy, male athletes. This narrow concept led many people to overlook the benefits of resistance training when planning their own activities. First sex and age differences will be considered, and then this form of training for the athletes, regardless of sex, age, or sport.

Sex and age differences

In recent years, considerable interest has focused on training for women, children, and people who are elderly. As mentioned earlier, the widespread use of resistance training by women, either for sport or for health-related benefits, is rather recent. Substantial knowledge has developed since the early 1970s revealing that women and men have the same ability to develop strength but that, on average, women may not be able to achieve peak values as high as those attained by men. This difference in strength is attributable primarily to muscle size differences related to sex differencies in anabolic hormones. Resistance training techniques developed for and applied to men’s training seem equally appropriate for women’s training.
The wisdom of resistance training for children and adolescents has long been debated. The potential for injury, particularly growth plate injuries from the use of free weights, has caused much concern. Many people once believed that children would not benefit from resistance training, based on the assumption that the hormonal changes associated with puberty are necessary for gaining muscle strength and mass. We now know that children and adolescents can train safely with minimal risk of injury if appropriate safeguards are followed. Furthermore, they can indeed gain both muscular strength and muscle mass.
Interest in resistance training procedures for elderly people has also increased. A substantial loss of fat-free body mass accompanies aging. This loss of reflects mainly the loss of muscle mass, largely because most people become less active as they age. When a muscle isn’t used regularly, it loses function, with predictable atrophy and loss of strength.  
Can resistance training in elderly people reverse this process? People who are elderly can indeed gain strength and muscle mass in response to resistance training. This fact has important implications for both their health and the quality of their lives. With maintained or improved strength, they are less likely to fall. This is a significant benefit because falls are a major source of injury and debilitation for elderly people and often lead to death.

Resistance training for sport

Gaining strength, power, or muscular endurance simply for the sake of being stronger, being more powerful, or having greater muscular endurance is of relatively little importance to athletes unless it also improves their athletic performance. Resistance training by field-event athletes and competitive weightlifters makes intuitive sense. The need for resistance training by the gymnast, distance runner, baseball player, high jumper, or ballet dancer is less obvious.
We do not have extensive research to document the specific benefits of resistance training for every sport of for every event within a sport. But clearly each has basic strength, power, and muscular endurance requirements that must be met to achieve optimal performance. Training beyond these requirements may be unnecessary.
Training is costly in terms of time, and athletes can’t afford to waste time on activities that won’t result in better athletic performances. Thus, some performance measurement is imperative to evaluate any resistance training program’s efficacy. To resistance train solely to become stronger, with no associated improvement in performance, is of questionable value. However, it should also be recognized that resistance training can reduce the risk of injury for most sports, because fatiqued individuals are at an increased risk of injury.

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