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Power Training–induced Increases in Muscle Activation during Gait in Old Adults


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 11 - p 2198–2025
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001345
Applied Sciences

Introduction/Purpose Aging modifies neuromuscular activation of agonist and antagonist muscles during walking. Power training can evoke adaptations in neuromuscular activation that underlie gains in muscle strength and power but it is unknown if these adaptations transfer to dynamic tasks such as walking. We examined the effects of lower-extremity power training on neuromuscular activation during level gait in old adults.

Methods Twelve community-dwelling old adults (age ≥ 65 yr) completed a 10-wk lower-extremity power training program and 13 old adults completed a 10-wk control period. Before and after the interventions, we measured maximal isometric muscle strength and electromyographic (EMG) activation of the right knee flexor, knee extensor, and plantarflexor muscles on a dynamometer and we measured EMG amplitudes, activation onsets and offsets, and activation duration of the knee flexors, knee extensors, and plantarflexors during gait at habitual, fast, and standardized (1.25 ± 0.6 m·s−1) speeds.

Results Power training-induced increases in EMG amplitude (~41%; 0.47 ≤ d ≤ 1.47; P ≤ 0.05) explained 33% (P = 0.049) of increases in isometric muscle strength (~43%; 0.34 ≤ d ≤ 0.80; P ≤ 0.05). Power training-induced gains in plantarflexor activation during push-off (+11%; d = 0.38; P = 0.045) explained 57% (P = 0.004) of the gains in fast gait velocity (+4%; d = 0.31; P = 0.059). Furthermore, power training increased knee extensor activation (~18%; 0.26 ≤ d ≤ 0.29; P ≤ 0.05) and knee extensor coactivation during the main knee flexor burst (~24%, 0.26 ≤ d ≤ 0.44; P ≤ 0.05) at habitual and fast speed but these adaptations did not correlate with changes in gait velocity.

Conclusions Power training increased neuromuscular activation during isometric contractions and level gait in old adults. The power training–induced neuromuscular adaptations were associated with increases in isometric muscle strength and partly with increases in fast gait velocity.

1Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, THE NETHERLANDS; 2Division of Training and Movement Sciences, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, GERMANY; and 3Department of Kinesiology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Address for correspondence: Chantal Beijersbergen, Ph.D., University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Center for Human Movement Sciences, A. Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen, The Netherlands; E-mail:

Submitted for publication January 2017.

Accepted for publication June 2017.

© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine