The secret to a longer life isn’t strength—it’s power

Yesterday’s discussion was a good reminder that doing something is better than doing nothing at all where your heart health is concerned. (And by a pretty significant margin, too.)

But today, I’d like to follow that up with an important piece of advice: If you can do more, you should. Why? Because powerful people live longer. And I’m not referring to executives in corner offices.

New research presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s EuroPrevent 2019 showed that muscle power—the kind that helps you get up out of a chair or climb a flight of stairs—may literally save your life.

A crucial difference

A typical gym routine focuses on strength—on how much weight you’re lifting, and on how many repetitions you’re performing. Power, on the other hand, refers to the speed, force, and efficiency with which you’re completing these exercises.

This distinction is a crucial one. And as the results of this latest study show, it could even mean the difference between life and death.

This study featured close to 4,000 non-athletes between 41 and 85 years old. (The average age was 59.) Researchers measured their maximal muscle power using an upright row test—an action that closest mimics day-to-day activities like lifting groceries or grandchildren.

After more than six years of follow-up, subjects whose maximal muscle power was above the average for their gender (in this case, 2.5 watts/kg for men, and 1.4 watts/kg for women) also enjoyed the highest rates of survival.

Subjects in the lower two muscle power quartiles, on the other hand, were 13 times more likely to die during the study period.

This is the first study to look at the association between muscle power and longevity. (Previous research has always looked at muscle strength instead.) And while it didn’t explore specific causes of death, the message is still pretty clear.

Muscle power starts its steep decline after the age of 40. And if you don’t take action, it might end up killing you.

Power training at a glance

As I mentioned earlier, power training brings speed into your exercise routine. So instead of simply focusing on weights and repetitions, you’ll want to focus on completing your exercise as quickly as possible. (Without sacrificing form or safety, of course.)

Here’s what that looks like:

  • Do a number of different exercises for both your upper and lower body. Common upper body exercises include bench pressing, dumbbell biceps curls, or pull ups. Common lower body exercises include squats, calf raises, and lunges.
  • Choose the heaviest weight you can lift while still maintaining proper form.
  • Perform six to eight repetitions of each exercise, lifting your weights as fast as possible during muscle contractions. (Your speed should be natural when you return to your starting ) Repeat three times for each exercise.
  • Give yourself a 20-second rest in between each set.

Once the exercises start to get easier, it’s time to increase your reps. And once that becomes easier, you’ll want to increase your weight, starting with fewer reps again.

But the key here is to pay attention to your form. If it’s sloppy, that’s a good sign that you need to return to lighter weights and fewer reps so you don’t injure yourself. There are numerous tips and videos online if you’re struggling with understanding the proper form for each of your chosen exercises.


“Ability to lift weights quickly can mean a longer life: Not all weight lifting produces the same benefit.” Science Daily, 12 April 2019. (