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Effects of isometric strength training on quadriceps muscle properties in over 55 year olds


Changes in strength, speed and size of the quadriceps muscle have been investigated in elderly men and women after 6 months of isometric strength training. We have also indirectly investigated the role of metabolites as a stimulus for muscle hypertrophy by studying two training protocols. One thigh was trained using short, intermittent contractions (IC), while the other trained using long, continuous contractions (CC). This meant that there should be a greater metabolite change in the muscle performing CC, as the blood flow is occluded for longer. Nine subjects [eight women, mean (SE) age, 71.8 (2.9) years] were measured for contractile properties and strength before and after training, and compared to nine age-matched controls [71.5 (2.1) years]. The training group increased quadriceps strength by 48.7 (9.1)% (P < 0.005) and 53.1 (11.3) % (P < 0.005) following the IC and CC protocols, respectively. There was no change in muscle strength in the controls. Both muscles showed significant slowing after training as measured by the relaxation times and the force-frequency ratio. There were non-significant decreases in muscle fatigability after training. The control group also showed some significant decreases in fatigability and muscle speed. The training group showed significant increases in muscle (and bone) cross-sectional area of 4.0 (1.7)% and 4.9 (1.3)% following the CC and IC protocols, respectively. These increases were significantly different from the decrease observed in the control group. These findings suggest that people over the age of 55 still have the capacity to increase muscle strength and size, and that the training causes slowing of the muscle. Muscle hypertrophy does not seem to be strongly influenced by metabolite changes in this age group, as there were no differences in measurements observed between protocols.

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Correspondence to L. Welsh.

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Welsh, L., Rutherford, O.M. Effects of isometric strength training on quadriceps muscle properties in over 55 year olds. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 72, 219–223 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00838642

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Key words

  • Ageing
  • Muscle
  • Strength training
  • Contractile properties