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Generality versus specificity: a comparison of dynamic and isometric measures of strength and speed-strength


Considerable debate exists as to whether the qualities of muscle function exist as general or specific physiological capacities. If there is a generality of muscle function then strong relationships would exist between various measures of function for the same muscle(s), independent of the test contraction, mode or velocity. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between isometric and dynamic measures of muscle function to determine the existence of generality or specificity. A group of 22 men, experienced in weight training, were tested for lower and upper body dynamic and isometric measures of strength and speed-strength. The changes in these measures consequent to a resistance training programme were also investigated. The results of this study indicated that whilst isometric and dynamic measures of strength did significantly correlate (r=0.57-0.61), the relationship was below that required to denote statistical generality. More important, the changes in isometric and dynamic strength consequent to a dynamic heavy resistance training programme were unrelated (r=0.12-0.15). Thus the mechanisms that contribute to enhanced dynamic strength appearred unrelated to the mechanisms that contribute to enhanced isometric strength. Measures of dynamic and isometric speed-strength were unrelated, as were the changes in these measures resulting from training. The results of this study demonstrated that a generality of muscle function did not exist and that modality specific results were observed. Consequently this study calls into question the validity of isometric tests to monitor dynamically induced training adaptations.

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Correspondence to Daniel Baker.

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Baker, D., Wilson, G. & Carlyon, B. Generality versus specificity: a comparison of dynamic and isometric measures of strength and speed-strength. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 68, 350–355 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00571456

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Key words

  • Muscle testing modalities
  • Strength training
  • Performance assessment
  • Rate of force development