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Acta Physiol Scand. 1999 Sep;167(1):57-68.

Maximal strength and power characteristics in isometric and dynamic actions of the upper and lower extremities in middle-aged and older men.

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Centro de Investigación y Medicina del Deporte. Gobierno de Navarra, Navarra, Spain.


Muscle cross-sectional area of the quadriceps femoris (CSAQF), maximal isometric strength (handgrip test and unilateral knee extension/flexion), the shape of isometric force-time curves, and power-load curves during concentric and stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) actions with loads ranging from 15 to 70% of one repetition maximum half-squat (1RMHS) and bench-press (1RMBP) were examined in 26 middle-aged men in the 40-year-old (M40) (mean age 42, range 35-46) and 21 elderly men in the 65-year-old age group (M65) (mean age 65, range 60-74). Maximal bilateral concentric (1RMHS and 1RMBP), unilateral knee extension (isometric; MIFKE and concentric; 1RMKE) strength and muscle CSA in M65 were lower (P < 0.001) than in M40. The individual values of the CSAQF correlated with the individual values of maximal concentric 1RMHS, 1RMKE and MIFKE in M65, while the corresponding correlations were lower in M40. The maximal MIFKE value per CSA of 4.54 +/- 0.7 N m cm-2 in M40 was greater (P < 0. 05-0.01) than that of 4.02 +/- 0.7 N m cm-2 recorded in M65. The maximal rate of force development of the knee extensors and flexors in M65 was lower (P < 0.01-0.001) and the heights in squat and counter-movement jumps as much as 27-29% lower (P < 0.001) than those recorded in M40. M65 showed lower (P < 0.001) concentric power values for both upper and lower extremity performances than those recorded for M40. Maximal power output was maximized at the 30-45% loads for the upper extremity and at the 60-70% loads for the lower extremity extensors in both age groups. Muscle activation of the antagonists was significantly higher (P < 0.01-0.001) during the isometric and dynamic knee extension actions in M65 than in M40. The present results support a general concept that parallel declines in muscle mass and maximal strength take place with increasing age, although loss of strength may vary in both lower and upper extremity muscles in relation to the type of action and that ageing may also lead to a decrease in voluntary neural drive to the muscles. Explosive strength and power seem to decrease with increasing age even more than maximal isometric strength in both actions but power was maximized at the 30-45% loads for the upper and at the 60-70% loads for the lower extremity action in both age groups. High antagonist muscle activity may limit the full movement efficiency depending on the type of muscle action, testing conditions and the velocity and/or the time duration of the action, especially in the elderly.

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