While reading and researching for the other posts in the Osteoporosis category, http://www.west4thphysio.com/category/osteoporosis/ , I came across an interesting article outlining the results of a strength training program from the University of Arizona. I am often asked in my clinical work exactly which exercises are able to reliably build bone mass. The difficulty for researchers, in pinning down exactly which exercises are best at building bone density, has been a variability in results. Multiple studies have shown that aerobics, weight bearing, and resistance exercises can all maintain or increase BMD in postmenopausal women and the same principles will benefit men with diminished bone density. But which exercises to do?
The U of A BEST (Bone Estrogen Strength Training) project helpfully identified 6 well known weight training exercises that they found gave the largest improvements in bone mass density. They were:
- standing squat
- military press
- lat pulldown
- leg press
- back extension
- seated row
I was pleased to see that these are all exercises commonly done in any gym environment. Any competent trainer will be able to demonstrate good form for each exercise and give you on site pointers for both the specific equipment, which varies from gym to gym, and to avoid injury.
To follow the project guidelines, exercises are done three times a week with 2 sets of each exercise done at each session. The key to successfully build bone mass was to work at the right intensity. A moderate load set of 6-8 reps is done at 70% of a one rep maximum. This is alternated with a heavy set of 4-6 reps at 80% of a one rep maximum.
A trainer at your local gym or community centre can help you establish your one rep maximum and then it’s a simple matter of doing the math for your percentages. Be sure to retest your maximum every few weeks as it will increase with training (and naturally diminish with slacking off) so to keep your training accurate and effective, keep an eye on that baseline number. Remember also that as you strength train, you have the additional bonus of helping brain function. http://www.west4thphysio.com/osteoporosis/strength-training-can-make-you-smarter/ So good results on every level with this type of training. Together with the additional benefits of improvements in balance, gait, and a reduction in risk of falls it seems something to be encouraged with all older men and women.