gms | German Medical Science

Physical activity and successful aging
10th International EGREPA Conference

European Group for Research into Elderly and Physical Activity

14.09. - 16.09.2006 in Köln

Strength training for the elderly - as how strenuous are two strength training methods perceived?

Meeting Abstract

  • corresponding author A. Stephan - Kieser Training AG, Germany
  • J. Rußkowski - German Sport University Cologne, Germany
  • H. Mechling - German Sport University Cologne, Germany
  • J. Mester - German Sport University Cologne, Germany

Physical activity and successful aging. Xth International EGREPA Conference. Cologne, 14.-16.09.2006. Düsseldorf, Köln: German Medical Science; 2006. Doc06pasa027

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Veröffentlicht: 18. Dezember 2006

© 2006 Stephan et al.
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The most common training methods recommended for beginners in strength training are single-set-training and multiple-set-training (with 3 sets). But how strenuous are those two training methods, especially for the elderly? Do they, in spite of identical immediate goals (local fatigue), lead to a different sense of stress on the body?


Single-set-training (SST) and multiple-set-training with 3 sets with 8-12 repetitions (MST) was researched in terms of the subjective sense of strain (Rating of Perceived Exertion, RPE) of the participants (n=106, 60-86 years old). The RPE-analysis was carried out through the BORG-scale. The study involved an 8-week-training (+ 3 introductory sessions) on 6 exercise machines that covered different body parts. The SST works the muscles to fatigue during the first and only set, the MST by the end of the third set at the latest. Three minutes after the last exercise perceived exertion was rated by the participants. By that time the local fatigue sensation may have subsided and had become a general body fatigue. Because of the submaximal starting weights, the RPE was introduced in the last two training weeks under higher training intensity.


For the four training sessions the RPE was between 13.8 and 14.0 (MST) and between 12.4 and 13.0 (SST; in each case arithmetic mean). The medians are continuously at 14 (MST) and 13 (SST). The difference between both groups is significant in all four training sessions (p<0.05). The mean per group over all four training sessions is 14.0±1.8 for the MST and 12.7±2.0 for the SST. The level of effect amounts to d=0.68 (pooled spread, mean effect).


It seems that after training the elderly find the single-set-training to be less strenuous than the multiple-sets. This is particularly interesting bearing in mind that both training methods aim for local fatigue in order to activate muscle hypertrophy. The reduced RPE after single-set training was a consistent finding in men and women and should be reassessed by using additional parameters and assessment during and after the exercise (e.g. cardiovascular, biomechanical, motivational).