Age-related changes in rapid muscle activation and force characteristics
Declines in muscle size and strength are commonly reported as a consequence of aging; however, few studies have investigated the influence of aging on the rate of muscle activation and rapid force characteristics across the lifespan. This study aims to investigate the effects of aging on the rate of muscle activation and rapid force characteristics of the plantar flexors. Plantar flexion peak force (PF), absolute (peak, 50, and 100–200 ms), and relative (10 %, 30 %, and 50 %) rate of force development (RFD), the rapid to maximal force ratio (RFD/PF), and the rate of electromyography rise (RER) were examined during an isometric maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) in young (age = 22 ± 2 years), middle-aged (43 ± 2 years), and old (69 ± 5 years) men. The old men exhibited lower PF (30.7 % and 27.6 % lower, respectively) and absolute (24.4–55.1 %) and relative (16.4–28.9 %) RFD values compared to the young and middle-aged men (P ≤ 0.03). RER values were similar between the young and old men (P ≥ 0.30); however, RER values were greater for the middle-aged men when compared to the young and old men for the soleus (P < 0.01) and the old men for the medial gastrocnemius (P ≤ 0.02). Likewise, RFD/PF ratios were similar between young and old men (P ≥ 0.26); however, these ratios were greater for the middle-aged men at early (P ≤ 0.03), but not later (P ≥ 0.10), time intervals. The lower PF and absolute and relative RFD values for the old men may contribute to the increased functional limitations often observed in older adults. Interestingly, higher rates of muscle activation and greater early RFD/PF ratios in middle-aged men may be a reflection of physiological alterations in the neuromuscular system occurring in the fifth decade.
Thompson, B.J., Ryan, E.D., Herda, T.J., Costa, P.B., Herda, A.A., and Cramer, J.T. (2014). Age-related changes in rapid muscle activation and force characteristics. AGE, 36: 839-849.