European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 115, Issue 5, pp 863–877 | Cite as

Neuromuscular mechanics and hopping training in elderly

  • Merja Hoffrén-MikkolaEmail author
  • Masaki Ishikawa
  • Timo Rantalainen
  • Janne Avela
  • Paavo V. Komi
Original Article



The present study examined the effects of repetitive hopping training on muscle activation profiles and fascicle–tendon interaction in the elderly.


20 physically active elderly men were randomly assigned for training (TG) and control groups (CG). TG performed supervised bilateral short contact hopping training with progressively increasing training volume. Measurements were performed before the training period (BEF) as well as after 2 weeks (2 W) and 11 weeks (11 W) of training. During measurements, the gastrocnemius medialis–muscle (GaM) fascicle and its outer Achilles tendon length changes during hopping were examined by ultrasonography together with electromyographic (EMG) activities of calf muscles, kinematics, and kinetics.


At 2 W, the ankle joint stiffness was increased by 21.0 ± 19.3 % and contact time decreased by 9.4 ± 7.8 % in TG. Thereafter, from 2–11 W the jumping height increased 56.2 ± 18.1 % in TG. Simultaneously, tendon forces increased 24.3 ± 19.0 % but tendon stiffness did not change. GaM fascicles shifted to shorter operating lengths after training without any changes in their length modifications during the contact phase of hopping. Normalized EMG amplitudes during hopping did not change with training.


The present study shows that 11 W of hopping training improves the performance of physically active elderly men. This improvement is achieved with shorter GaM operating lengths and, therefore, increased fascicle stiffness and improved tendon utilization after training. Based on these results, hopping training could be recommended for healthy fit elderly to retain and improve rapid force production capacity.


Stretch–shortening cycle Aging Ultrasound Electromyography Tendon Gastrocnemius medialis 



Ankle joint stiffness


Achilles tendon force


Baseline (first) measurement session before training


Control group




Vertical component of the ground reaction force


Gastrocnemius lateralis muscle


Gastrocnemius medialis muscle


Ground reaction force


Knee joint stiffness


Muscle–tendon unit


Muscle–tendon junction


Maximal voluntary contraction


Root mean square


Reactive strength index


Soleus muscle


Tibialis anterior muscle


Training group

2 W

Second measurement session after 2 weeks of training

11 W

Third and last measurement session after 11 weeks of training



The authors acknowledge the valuable contribution of Ms. P. Puttonen and Mr Masanobu Akiyama for help with the data analysis. This study was supported by Grant #123757 from the Academy of Finland, by Finnish Cultural Foundation´s South Ostrobothnia Regional Fund´s personal grant for Merja Hoffrén-Mikkola and by the research exchange grant of Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences. Dr Rantalainen was supported by an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from Deakin University during the preparation of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Merja Hoffrén-Mikkola
    • 1
    Email author
  • Masaki Ishikawa
    • 2
  • Timo Rantalainen
    • 3
  • Janne Avela
    • 1
  • Paavo V. Komi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology of Physical Activity, Neuromuscular Research CenterUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland
  2. 2.Osaka University of Health and Sport SciencesOsakaJapan
  3. 3.Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition SciencesDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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