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Gastrocnemius specific force is increased in elderly males following a 12-month physical training programme

Morse, Christopher I. and Thom, Jeanette M. and Mian, Omar S. and Birch, Karen M. and Narici, Marco V. (2006) Gastrocnemius specific force is increased in elderly males following a 12-month physical training programme. European journal of applied physiology, 100 (5). pp. 563-570. ISSN 14396319,14396327

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Abstract

The aim of the present investigation was to determine whether muscle force per physiological cross sectional area (PCSA) of the lateral gastrocnemius (GL) of elderly males increased following a 12-month physical training programme. Eleven elderly males were assigned to a 12-month training programme (TRN mean age 72.7 ± 3.3 years, mean ± SD) and eight elderly males were allocated to a control group (CTRL, 73.9 ± 4.0 years) who maintained their habitual physical activity levels. In vivo measurements of muscle architecture, muscle volume (VOL), achilles tendon moment arm length and plantarflexor torque were used to estimate GL PCSA (VOL/fascicle length) and specific force (GL fascicle force/GL PCSA). Maximal GL fascicle force was calculated accounting for agonist muscle activation and antagonist co-activation. Following training GL fascicle force increased by 31% (P < 0.01), which was not entirely accounted for by a 17% increase in PCSA (from 27.2 ± 5.9 to 31.8 ± 6.2 cm2, P < 0.05). Specific force increased significantly from 8.9 ± 1.9 to 11.2 ± 3.0 N cm−2 (P < 0.05). Pennation angle, but not fascicle length, increased by 12% with training (P < 0.05). The CTRL group showed no change in muscle size, strength or architecture over the 12-month period. In conclusion, with the level of agonist and antagonist muscle activity accounted for a 12-month strength training programme resulted in an increase in both PCSA and specific force in elderly males.

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