Effect of strength training on human patella tendon mechanical properties of older individuals

Authors


Corresponding author N. Reeves: Centre for Biophysical and Clinical Research into Human Movement, Manchester Metropolitan University, Alsager Campus, Hassall Road, Alsager, Cheshire ST7 2HL, UK. Email: n.reeves@mmu.ac.uk

Abstract

This study investigated the effect of strength training on the mechanical properties of the human patella tendon of older individuals. Subjects were assigned to training (n= 9; age 74.3 ± 3.5 years, body mass 69.7 ± 14.8 kg and height 163.4 ± 9.1 cm, mean ±s.d.) and control (n= 9; age 67.1 ± 2 years, body mass 73.5 ± 14.9 kg and height 168.3 ± 11.5 cm) groups. Strength training (two series of 10 repetitions at 80 % of five-repetition maximum) was performed three times per week for 14 weeks using leg extension and leg press exercises. Measurements of tendon elongation during a ramp isometric knee extension were performed before and after training and control periods in vivo using ultrasonography. Training caused a decreased tendon elongation and strain at all levels of force and stress (P < 0.01). Baseline tendon elongation and strain at maximal tendon load were 4.7 ± 1.1 mm and 9.9 ± 2.2 %, respectively (maximum force: 3346 ± 1168 N; maximum stress: 40 ± 11 MPa). After training, these values decreased to 2.9 ± 1.2 mm and 5.9 ± 2.4 % (P < 0.01), respectively (maximum force: 3555 ± 1257 N; maximum stress: 42 ± 11 MPa). Tendon stiffness increased by 65 % (2187 ± 713 to 3609 ± 1220 N mm−1; P < 0.05) and Young's modulus increased by 69 % (1.3 ± 0.3 to 2.2 ± 0.8 GPa; P < 0.01). As a result of these changes, the rate of torque development increased by 27 % (482.8 ± 302.5 to 612.6 ± 401 N m s−1; P < 0.01) following training. No significant changes occurred in any measured variables in the control group (P > 0.05). This study shows for the first time that strength training in old age increases the stiffness and Young's modulus of human tendons. This may reduce the risk of tendon injury in old age and has implications for contractile force production and the rapid execution of motor tasks.

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