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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Apr;113(4):911-21. doi: 10.1007/s00421-012-2500-z. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Influence of muscle strength to weight ratio on functional task performance.

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  • 1Universities Space Research Association, Houston, TX 77058, USA.


Existing models of muscle deconditioning such as bed rest are expensive and time-consuming. We propose a new model utilizing a weighted suit to manipulate muscle strength, power, or endurance relative to body weight. The aims of the study were to determine as to which muscle measures best predict functional task performance and to determine muscle performance thresholds below which task performance is impaired. Twenty subjects performed seven occupational astronaut tasks (supine and upright seat egress and walk, rise from fall, hatch opening, ladder climb, object carry, and construction board activity), while wearing a suit weighted with 0-120 % of body weight. Models of the relationship between muscle function/body weight and task completion time were developed using fractional polynomial regression and verified with pre- and post-flight astronaut performance data. Spline regression was used to identify muscle function thresholds for each task. Upright seat egress and walk was the most difficult task according to the spline regression analysis thresholds. Thresholds normalized to body weight were 17.8 N/kg for leg press isometric force, 17.6 W/kg for leg press power, 78.8 J/kg for leg press work, 5.9 N/kg isometric knee extension and 1.9 Nm/kg isokinetic knee extension torque. Leg press maximal isometric force/body weight was the most reliable measure for modeling performance of ambulatory tasks. Laboratory-based manipulation of relative strength has promise as an analog for spaceflight-induced loss of muscle function. Muscle performance values normalized to body weight can be used to predict occupational task performance and to establish relevant strength thresholds.

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