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Muscle Size Not Density Predicts Variance in Muscle Strength and Neuromuscular Performance in Healthy Adult Men and Women

Weeks, Benjamin K.; Gerrits, Tom A.J.; Horan, Sean A.; Beck, Belinda R.

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: June 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 6 - p 1577–1584
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001241
Original Research

Weeks, BK, Gerrits, TAJ, Horan, SA, and Beck, BR. Muscle size not density predicts variance in muscle strength and neuromuscular performance in healthy adult men and women. J Strength Cond Res 30(6): 1577–1584, 2016—The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships between peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT)–derived measures of muscle area and density and markers of muscle strength and performance in men and women. Fifty-two apparently healthy adults (26 men, 26 women; age 33.8 ± 12.0 years) volunteered to participate. Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (XR-800; Norland Medical Systems, Inc., Trumbull, CT, USA) was used to determine whole body and regional lean and fat tissue mass, whereas pQCT (XCT-3000; Stratec, Pforzheim, Germany) was used to determine muscle cross-sectional area (MCSA) and muscle density of the leg, thigh, and forearm. Ankle plantar flexor and knee extensor strengths were examined using isokinetic dynamometry, and grip strength was examined with dynamometry. Impulse generated during a maximal vertical jump was used as an index of neuromuscular performance. Thigh, forearm, and leg MCSA strongly predicted variance in knee extensor (R 2 = 0.77, p < 0.001) and grip strength (R 2 = 0.77, p < 0.001) and weakly predicted variance in ankle plantar flexor strength (R 2 = 0.20, p < 0.001), respectively, whereas muscle density was only a weak predictor of variance in knee extensor strength (R 2 = 0.18, p < 0.001). Thigh and leg MCSA accounted for 79 and 69% of the variance in impulse generated from a maximal vertical jump (p < 0.001), whereas thigh muscle density predicted only 18% of the variance (p < 0.002). In conclusion, we found that pQCT-derived muscle area is more strongly related to strength and neuromuscular performance than muscle density in adult men and women.

1Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Gold Coast, Australia;

2School of Allied Health Sciences, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia; and

3Radboud University, Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Address correspondence to Dr. Benjamin K. Weeks,

Copyright © 2016 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.