Reliability of maximal strength testing in older adults

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2004 Feb;85(2):329-34. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2003.05.010.


Objectives: To determine (1) the reliability of a maximal strength test (1 repetition maximum) [1-RM] in older adults and (2) the impact of differing periods of familiarization.

Design: Within-subject, repeated trials of maximal strength.

Setting: Community-based senior center.

Participants: Forty-seven independently living men (n=16) and women (n=31), with a mean age of 75.4+/-4.7 years.

Interventions: None.

Main outcome measures: Systematic error (shift in mean) and random error (% coefficient of variation [%CV]) was assessed between consecutive pairs of 1-RM trials.

Results: For the bench press, systematic error was virtually eliminated for men between trials 2 and 3 (0.7%; 95% confidence interval [CI], -2.7% to 4.3%). The CV was stable (4.7%-7.3%) across all trials in both genders. For the leg press, a significant but clinically small systematic error (3.6%, P<.05; 95% CI, 0.8-6.6) was evident for women between trials 2 to 3. The CV was reduced across trial pairs by 3.3% for men and 0.9% for women. Three versus 6 or more sessions of familiarization produced small clinical differences in systematic error (< or =4.1%) and CV (< or =0.2%) between trials 2 and 3 for both lifts.

Conclusions: Reliability is an indispensable requirement for valid test outcomes. Our results show that, in this group of older adults, 3 familiarization sessions and 2 to 3 test trials produced highly reliable 1-RM measures. Additional periods of familiarization added little to test reliability. Effective reliability testing for 1-RM is a practical and attainable goal for outcomes based practitioners.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arm / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*