SilverSneakers – Young Trainers Teaching Old Timers Bad Lifting Form

The gym I go to has a lot of older adults because they participate in the SilverSneakers program. The program connects those over 65 years old to a gym and it works with their health insurance. It is an excellent idea for older adults to build strength and general preventive health. It would be perfect except for one thing. Young 20-year-old trainers are teaching fast lifting forms. 1 second up, 1 second down.

It is one thing to see some 25-year-old male hopped up on Mountain Dew Extreme performing ballistic movements, but it is almost criminal to see the same nonsense taught to older lifters. The young punk has far greater recoverability potential and can afford to make and recover from those mistakes.


Photo by Diane Cordell 

Fast lifting is exactly what I see with all but one older lady in my gym do. More on her later. They push the weight on the machine quickly. The weight now has momentum as it passes over the area where the muscles should have been targeted. The weight reaches the end where it is held. Zero tension is now on the muscle. Now they control gravity and let the weight fall back to the start where they repeat the process until a certain number of reps and sets are completed. The majority of the set is spent with the muscles not under load. 

Arthur Jones, the brilliant inventor of Nautilus, used the term “throwing weights” to describe this.

When personal trainers teach people to use speeds for machines that are used in Olympic lifting they make the exercise less effective. When you lift with machines: Lower the weight and slow the movement. You will gain greater strength and reduce the risk of injury.

The one older lady I mentioned that lifts slowly and with control retired from a career in physical therapy. She understands what causes injury and how the muscles work a lot more than the young trainers do with their certifications.

If you are a SilverSneakers member or know someone who does, keep using the machines, but slow down the lift. Try to take 3-4 seconds in each direction. Never lock out or pause at the top or bottom of the movement. That will mean you will need to reduce the reps, sets, or both. That is fine. You’ve increased the intensity. Your muscles are working harder. Your joints will thank you.  

I haven’t confronted any of the trainers in my gym with these thoughts. I doubt they would be receptive. But I want to get the word out to older lifters that might be enrolled or thinking about enrolling in the SilverSneakers program. Maybe they will find this post and find it helpful.


Add yours

  1. Stephan Raczak

    Apr 2, 2014 — 1:41 pm

    In Europe, there is a gym chain called KIESER TRAINING. I used to be there for 1 year myself. They only have MedX machines exclusively, no free weights or barbells. They have 115 facilities Germany-wide and they are mainly geared toward the 50+ population. I have personally gone through the mandatory 3 introductory sessions and their expertise and guidance is nothing like in a comercial gym. They usually preach 5 sec positive, 5 sec negative on the repc cadence.

    A great example of training an elderly population on a large scale. They also have an English website – worth checking out. Australian version:

  2. @Stephan – I like 5/5, as well as 10/10 and even Darden’s 30/30/30, but some people find slow lifting boring. Getting them from 1 second to 3-4 is a huge step in the right direction.

  3. Good tips. Especially Mountain Dew Extreme – I had no idea it was that ergogenic! 😉

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