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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1998 Jan;84(1):284-91.

Older adults can maximally activate the biceps brachii muscle by voluntary command.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.


Because some of the decline in strength with age may be explained by an impairment of muscle activation, the purpose of this study was to determine the activation level achieved in biceps brachii by older adults during a maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). This capability was assessed with two superimposition techniques: one calculated the activation level that was achieved during an MVC, and the other provided an estimate of the expected MVC force based on extrapolation with submaximal forces. The activation level in biceps brachii was incomplete (< 100%) for the young (n = 16) and elderly (n = 16) subjects, with the elderly subjects exhibiting the greater deficit. In contrast, there was no difference between the measured and expected MVC forces for either group of subjects, whether the extrapolation involved a third-order polynomial or linearization of the data. Because of the lower signal-to-noise ratio associated with the measurement of activation level and the greater number of measurements that contributed to the estimate of the expected MVC force, we conclude that the older adults were able to achieve complete activation of the biceps brachii muscle during an MVC.

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