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Keywords:

  • ageing;
  • electromyography;
  • knee extensors;
  • muscle growth;
  • maximal voluntary contraction;
  • neural adaptation;
  • strength training;
  • twitch Interpolation

Summary

We compared the effect of a 10-week resistance training program on peak isometric torque, muscle hypertrophy, voluntary activation and electromyogram signal amplitude (EMG) of the knee extensors between young and elderly women. Nine young women (YW; range 20–30 years) and eight elderly women (EW; 64–78 years) performed three sets of ten repetitions at 75% 1 repetition maximum for the bilateral leg extension and bilateral leg curl 3 days per week for 10 weeks. Peak isometric torque, EMG and voluntary activation were assessed before, during, and after the training period, while knee extensor lean muscle cross-sectional area (LCSA) and lean muscle volume (LMV) were assessed before and after the training period only. Similar increases in peak isometric torque (16% and 18%), LCSA (13% and 12%), LMV (10% and 9%) and EMG (19% and 21%) were observed between YW and EW, respectively, at the completion of training (P<0·05), while the increase in voluntary activation in YW (1·9%) and EW (2·1%) was not significant (P>0·05). These findings provide evidence to indicate that participation in regular resistance exercise can have significant neuromuscular benefits in women independent of age. The lack of change in voluntary activation following resistance training in both age groups despite the increase in EMG may be related to differences between measurements in their ability to detect resistance training-induced changes in motor unit activity. However, it is possible that neural adaptation did not occur and that the increase in EMG was due to peripheral adaptations.