Pritchard: Combating loss of muscle mass after aging starts (column) |

Pritchard: Combating loss of muscle mass after aging starts (column)

Jimmy Pritchard
Better Version of You
Jimmy Pritchard A Better Version of You

As we age, we are bombarded with a host of physiological challenges. Among the most common are sarcopenia and dynapenia. Both of these clinical issues carry implications that can be disastrous if not addressed properly. Fortunately, resistance training and adherence to proper nutrition can combat these conditions.


Sarcopenia is a term referring to the loss of muscle mass associated with aging. Studies show it occurring at an annual rate of approximately 1 percent to 2 percent after age 50. Dynapenia (not to be confused with sarcopenia), is the decline in muscle strength rather than wasting, although they do coincide with one another. Dyanpenia appears to occur at an alarming rate of 1.5 percent per year after age 50, and up to 3 percent or more after age 60. Losing muscle mass and strength as we age carries consequences. Not only does muscle largely contribute to metabolic function, it aids in the prevention of chronic disease. Less cross-sectional muscle area will likely lead to decreased strength as mentioned previously. Losing foundational strength can be disastrous in that activities of everyday living will be compromised. Cooking, cleaning, lifting objects, opening heavy doors and avoiding falls become exponentially more difficult as strength is lost. Strength provides resiliency, and as author and coach Dan John said, “Strength makes you harder to kill. Train so that you can live a longer, happier life.”

What to do?

Although both Sarcopenia and Dynapenia occur naturally, affecting most individuals to some extent, they can be dramatically slowed and even reversed in certain situations. The first line of defense and treatment to these conditions is none other than resistance training. Incorporating compound, progressively overloaded, resisted movements is the number one way to combat these conditions. Programming does not have to be complicated and doing as little as 6-8 working sets of exercise per a muscle group weekly can assist. Aim to do pressing movements that incorporate the chest, shoulders and triceps. Do pulling movements that use the latissimus dorsi, biceps and rhomboids. Also incorporate hinging and squatting/lower leg pressing movements that engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves and spinal erectors. Anything that you feel is “missed” can easily be targeted with some accessory movements. A final piece that must be addressed in the combative effort against these conditions is nutrition. Without getting too specific, the aim should be to consume adequate calories and protein to support a positive nitrogen balance, ultimately aiding in muscle protein synthesis. Consumption of complete amino acids, especially around workouts, will aid in reversing the catabolic effects often associated with intense exercise. No matter what diet you adhere to, adequate fueling and proper nitrogen balance are the key to muscle mass and strength maintenance.

I hope you found this article informative and helpful in assisting you with staying healthy as you age. Take action before it’s too late. Thanks for reading as always and have a great week.

Jimmy Pritchard has a bachelor’s in exercise science from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the director of strength and conditioning at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or

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