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Effect of resistance training on skeletal muscle-specific force in elderly humans

Reeves, Neil D. and Narici, Marco V. and Maganaris, Constantinos N. (2004) Effect of resistance training on skeletal muscle-specific force in elderly humans. Journal of applied physiology, 96 (3). pp. 885-92. ISSN 8750-7587

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Abstract

This study assessed muscle-specific force in vivo following strength training in old age. Subjects were assigned to training (n = 9, age 74.3 +/- 3.5 yr; mean +/- SD) and control (n = 9, age 67.1 +/- 2 yr) groups. Leg-extension and leg-press exercises (2 sets of 10 repetitions at 80% of the 5 repetition maximum) were performed three times/wk for 14 wk. Vastus lateralis (VL) muscle fascicle force was calculated from maximal isometric voluntary knee extensor torque with superimposed stimuli, accounting for the patella tendon moment arm length, ultrasound-based measurements of muscle architecture, and antagonist cocontraction estimated from electromyographic activity. Physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) was calculated from the ratio of muscle volume to fascicle length. Specific force was calculated by dividing fascicle force by PCSA. Fascicle force increased by 11%, from 847.9 +/- 365.3 N before to 939.3 +/- 347.8 N after training (P < 0.05). Due to a relatively greater increase in fascicle length (11%) than muscle volume (6%), PCSA remained unchanged (pretraining: 30.4 +/- 8.9 cm(2); posttraining: 29.1 +/- 8.4 cm(2); P > 0.05). Activation capacity and VL muscle root mean square electromyographic activity increased by 5 and 40%, respectively, after training (P < 0.05), indicating increased agonist neural drive, whereas antagonist cocontraction remained unchanged (P > 0.05). The VL muscle-specific force increased by 19%, from 27 +/- 6.3 N/cm(2) before to 32.1 +/- 7.4 N/cm(2) after training (P < 0.01), highlighting the effectiveness of strength training for increasing the intrinsic force-producing capacity of skeletal muscle in old age.

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