Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

Explosive Strength Training for Improving Function of Older Adults


Regular resistance training (RT), which involves lifting and lowering weights is commonly recommended for older adults to help maintain strength/power. Regular RT has been shown to decrease fall risk and improve the performance of daily activities (e.g. climbing stairs, walking speed) in older adults. Current RT guidelines focus on maintaining/improving muscle strength, through lifting relatively heavy weights with slow controlled movements (e.g. 2 seconds to lift and then 2 seconds to lower the weight). However, muscle power appears to be more important for the physical function and health of older adults. Therefore, it would seem important to know how older adults can best improve muscle power. 

RT with light weights, but moved as quickly as possible, called explosive power training, seems to be the best way to develop muscle power in young adults. However, the responses and possible benefits of explosive power training for older adults remains unexplored. Therefore, the ideal way of doing explosive power training in older adults needs to be researched, such as the optimal weight, use of speed feedback etc. as well as how older adults experience this type of exercise e.g. do they enjoy it does it make them feel tired etc.   

Aims and Objectives:


  1. How does the load lifted and the intended speed of movement (rapid or slow) effect muscle power production?
  2. How does a prior lowering phase effect muscle power production during a subsequent lift?  
  3. Does information on movement speed help older adults to achieve faster lifts and greater muscle power production?  
  4. Do older adults find explosive power training more enjoyable and tolerable than traditional slow, heavy strength training?


  • Balshaw, TG, Massey, GJ, Maden-Wilkinson, TM, Lanza, MB and Folland, JP.  Neural adaptations after 4 years vs 12 weeks of resistance training vs untrained. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 1st November 2018. Doi: 10.1111/sms.13331
  • Balshaw T, Maden-Wilkinson T, Massey G, Folland J. The Human Muscle Size and Strength Relationship. Effects of Architecture, Muscle Force, and Measurement Location. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. April 2021. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002691
  • Balshaw T.G, Massey G.J, Maden-Wilkinson T.M, Lanza M.B, Folland J.P. Effect of long-term maximum strength training on explosive strength, neural and contractile properties. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 3 January 2022.
  • Casolo A, Vecchio A.D, Balshaw T.G, Maeo S, Lanza M.B, Felici F, Folland J.P, Farina D. Behaviour of Motor Units during Submaximal Isometric Contractions in Chronically Strength-Trained individuals. Journal of Applied Physiology 7 October 2021.
  • Folland J.P and Balshaw T.G. Muscle Growth Does Contribute to the Increases in Strength that Occur after Resistance Training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2021 - Volume 53 - Issue 9 - p 2006-2010. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002732
  • Lanza, MB, Balshaw, TG and Folland JP. Explosive strength: effect of knee joint angle on functional, neural, and intrinsic contractile properties. European Journal of Applied Physiology (2019) 119:1735–1746
  • Maden-Wilkinson, TM, Balshaw, TG, Massey, G and Folland, JP. What makes long-term resistance-trained individuals so strong? A comparison of skeletal muscle morphology, architecture, and joint mechanics. Journal of Applied Physiology. doi.10.1152/japplphysiol.00224.2019
  • Massey, Gj, Balshaw, TG, Maden-Wilkinson, TM, Tillin, NA and Folland, JP. Tendinous tissue adaptaion to explosive – vs sustained-contraction strength training. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.01170
  • Massey GJ, Balshaw TG, Maden-Wilkinson TM, Folland JP. Tendinous tissue properties after short- and long-term functional overload: Differences between controls, 12 weeks and 4 years of resistance training. Acta Physiol 2018 ;222(4):e13019. doi: 10.1111/apha.13019
  • McDermott E.J, Balshaw T.G, Brooke-Wavell K, Maden-Wilkinson T.M & Folland J.P. Fast and ballistic contractions involve greater neuromuscular power production in older adults during resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology 16 April 2022.  Doi 10.1007/s00421-022-04947-x
  • Škarabot J, Balshaw T.G, Maeo S, Massey G.J, Lanza M.B, Maden-Wilkinson T.M, and Folland J.P. Neural adaptations to long-term resistance training: evidence for the confounding effect of muscle size on the interpretation of surface electromyography. Journal of Applied Physiology. June 2021.
Work Package Stratified Care and Personalised Medicine: Care
Objective   2.1
Lead Elisa Marques and Emmet McDermott (PhD)
Investigators Jonathan Folland, Katherine Brooke-Wavell, Thomas Balshaw
Institution Loughborough University


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