Background. Muscle power diminishes with increasing age and inactivity. The capacity for older adults to increase muscle power with resistance exercise has not been examined; therefore, we examined the influence of progressive resistance training (PRT) on muscle power output in 17 men and women aged 56–66 years, and compared their responses to 15 men and women aged 21–30 years.

Methods. All subjects performed 12 weeks of PRT at a workload equivalent to 80% of the one repetition maximum (1RM). All training and assessments of 1RM and power were made on Keiser pneumatic resistance machines. Subjects performed five exercises, three sets per exercise, twice weekly. Muscle power was measured (isotonically) at resistances equivalent to 40, 60, and 80% of the 1RM, on the knee extension and arm pull machines.

Results. All subjects increased arm pull power similarly at 40 and 60% of 1RM, independent of age or sex. There was not a significant increase in arm pull power at 80% of 1RM. Older and younger subjects also had similar absolute increases in leg extensor power at 40 and 60% of 1RM, but men responded with greater absolute gains than women at these percentages (p < .05). The increase in leg extensor power at 80% of 1RM was similar in all groups. Older and younger subjects increased strength similarly in all exercises except the left knee extension. Independent of age, men increased strength more than women in all exercises except the double leg press.

Conclusions. These data demonstrate that individuals in their sixth decade can still improve muscle power (and strength); however, men may realize greater absolute gains than women.