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Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Aug;34(4):609-15. doi: 10.1139/H09-020.

Child-adult differences in muscle strength and activation pattern during isometric elbow flexion and extension.

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Department of Physical Education and Kinesiology, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1, Canada.


Muscle strength and activation were compared in boys and men during maximal voluntary elbow flexion and extension contractions. Peak torque, peak rate of torque development (d/dmax), rate of muscle activation, and electromechanical delay (EMD) were measured in 15 boys (aged 9.7 +/- 1.6 years) and 16 men (aged 22.1 +/- 2.8 years). During flexion, peak torque was significantly lower in boys than in men (19.5 +/- 5.8 vs. 68.5 +/- 11.0 Nm, respectively; p < 0.05), even when controlling for upper-arm cross-sectional area (CSA), and peak electromyography activity. Boys also exhibited a lower normalized d/dmax (7.2 +/- 1.7 vs. 9.5 +/- 1.6 (Nm.s-1).(Nm-1), respectively; p < 0.05) and a significantly longer EMD (75.5 +/- 28.4 vs. 47.6 +/- 17.5 ms, respectively). The pattern was similar for extension, except that group differences in peak torque were no longer significant when normalized for CSA. These results suggest that children may be less able to recruit or fully utilize their higher-threshold motor units, resulting in lower dimensionally normalized maximal torque and rate of torque development.

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