Muscle strength declines ~3% per year after the age of 70, leading to functional impairments and the loss of independence. Resistance training guidelines for older adults are typically based on free-weight and machine exercises, which may be inaccessible and lack carryover to activities of daily living. The present study tested the hypothesis that resistance training adaptations are task specific in older adults. Thirty older adults (8 males, 22 females; mean age = 71 years) were randomly assigned to participate in 6 weeks of supervised, high-intensity resistance training (twice per week) utilizing free-weight and machine exercises (traditional) versus functional activities that were overloaded with a weighted vest (functional). Participants were thoroughly familiarized with the exercises and testing prior to beginning the study. Major outcome measures included assessments of functional performance, five-repetition maximum strength, isometric knee extensor force, and quadriceps muscle mass and muscle quality. Physical activity and nutrition were monitored. The study results demonstrate that the magnitude of improvement within a given outcome was largely dependent on group assignment, with greater improvements in gait speed and the timed-up-and-go in the functional group, but 2-3x greater five-repetition maximum strength improvements for the trap bar deadlift, leg press, and leg extension exercises following traditional resistance training. Both groups showed improvements in isometric knee extensor force and muscle size, suggesting that some aspects of the observed adaptations were generic, rather than specific. Importantly, accelerometer data revealed an increase of time spent in moderate-to-vigorous activities outside of the laboratory. Overall, these novel findings suggest that, among older adults, 1) resistance training adaptations exhibit a high degree of task specificity and 2) significant improvements in functional outcomes can be achieved with the simple use of a weighted vest.


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Graduation Date





Stock, Matt


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Health Professions and Sciences


Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences

Degree Program



CFE0009766; DP0027874





Release Date

August 2028

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)

Restricted to the UCF community until August 2028; it will then be open access.