Strengthen your bones and prevent fractures by doing heavy weight
training and playing “power sports” that involve jumping. Bone needs to
be built at a young age and then maintained into old age to avoid
fractures. Even though osteoporosis is much more prevalent in women,
fracture rates are very similar between the sexes.
Research shows there are a few very effective ways to build bone:
plyometrics, doing loaded jumps, and lifting heavy weights will
significantly increase bone mineral density. Using walking or running
for your primary mode of exercise is discouraged because, although they
are weight bearing, they have little affect on bone development and both
lead to muscle loss over the long-term. Non-weight bearing activities
like swimming and cycling should absolutely be avoided by older people
and anyone interested in building bone since they are linked to fairly
significant bone loss.
Two recent studies show how to train for bone strength. First,
researchers tested ground reaction forces (GRF) and rate of force
development (RFD), which indicate osteogenic or “bone building
potential” for the following exercises: A back squat with a load of 88
percent of the 1 RM, a jump squat with a 30 percent of the 1RM load, a
depth jump, running, and walking.
Results showed that the depth jump, squat, and jump squat all produced
significant GRF and RFD, making them superior exercises for
strengthening bones. The GRF indicates the strain magnitude and RFD
indicate the magnitude of loading, both of which have been found to
correlate with bone development. Jogging and walking had minimal GRF and
RFD, and researchers write they are not “likely to be effective
A second study by the same research group tested GRF with three loads in
a half squat. The loads tested were 80 percent, 100 percent, and 120
percent of the 1RM for the parallel squat—naturally, participants could
squat more than their maximal amount when they only did a partial squat.
Bone building may be the one and only time for which partial squats are
favored over deep squats!
Results showed that the supramaximal load of 120 percent of the 1RM
produced a 13 percent greater GRF and RFD than the 80 percent load, and a
9 percent greater GRF than the 100 percent load. Researchers conclude
that best bone building results will come from doing a periodized
training program with full-range of motion lifts for strength and
hypertrophy, and to include wave-like cycles of supramaximal lifting
with partials. In order to be able to lift super heavy loads, base
levels of strength and muscle development are necessary, as is
impeccable exercise technique.
Avoid non-weight bearing activities in favor of weight bearing ones.
Also, favor activities and sports that load the body with weight
(strength training, wearing a weight vest) and involve jumping. For
individuals with arthritis or joint pain, weight training should be the
primary exercise mode with the goal being to eventually include heavier
load training cycles.