The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring that is believed to restore the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. Professional athletes, especially NFL veterans, continue to search for this solution, sometimes in the form of pharmaceuticals, sometimes training.
Regardless of the passage or the sport you play, the goal is the same; to feel young again. But what does feeling young again really mean? Power.
The Problem Defined
First, let’s define old. Unfortunately, strength, defined as the ability to produce force, peaks at age 25 and it is not biased to the sport you play. So we’ll just consider any athlete older than 25 years as aging. A February 2013 study out of the University of Central Florida, broke 1200 professional baseball players into 7 age groups.
Results of this study indicate that vertical jump performance, and the power produced within this movement, is only maintained until the ages of 29–31 years old. However, speed, agility, and grip strength are maintained past the age of 35. These results can be explained because speed and agility are more skill based (see Sparta Point
In another January 2013 study, these same authors also found that vertical jump was the single best predictor for all players’ defensive performances.
Why the loss of power?
So just like fatigue, the effects of aging can be quickly summarized as a reduction in the ability to produce force, directly reflected in your movement signatureTM
. But why
1. Fast twitch muscles become slow twitch (see Sparta Point
A reduction in individual muscle fiber size is mainly confined to fast type II fibers. This process occurs due to a change in the expression of myosin heavy chain isoforms (MHC) in favor of slow MHC. These proteins are the main determinant of whether a muscle is fast or slow twitch
2. A decreased shortening velocity (see Sparta Point
Of the remaining muscle fibers, there is also a decrease in the fiber’s ability to shorten, delaying contraction time, and ultimately prolonging your ability to develop force quickly, shown by a drop in LOADin your movement signatureTM
How to prevent?
There is no precise timeline for the changes above. Yet, these inevitable changes set in sooner with a more sedentary lifestyle. So the key with aging is train explosively to delay those muscle fiber changes and maintain your movement signatureTM
. However, aging is like fatigue or high altitude, your regeneration efforts just need to be better.
Strength – The goal of any lift is weight; stay focused as your endurance is not at risk with age.
Skills – Focus on acceleration skills (sprint, slideboard, Olympic lifts), as these movements take care of the speed stimulus.
Regen – Flexibility is critical to move more weight and run faster. The most efficient mobility movement we use is the band press shown to the right.
So regardless if you are a football or baseball player, focus on regeneration as you age, but also NEVER STOP JUMPING to avoid the loss of power.
Mangine GT, Hoffman JR, Fragala MS, Vazquez J, Krause MC, Gillett J, Pichardo N. Effect of age on anthropometric and physical performance measures in professional baseball players. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Feb;27(2):375-81.