Age-related changes in neuromuscular function and performance following a high-intensity intermittent task in endurance-trained men

Gerontology. 2010;56(1):66-72. doi: 10.1159/000262286. Epub 2009 Nov 25.


Background: Much attention has been focused on the need to design strategies to increase functional capacities in older populations. This has raised several questions regarding the ability of regular endurance training to preserve functional capacity with age.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the age-associated changes in neuromuscular function in endurance-trained men before and after a high-intensity, intermittent fatiguing task.

Method: Twenty-six healthy endurance-trained male subjects: 16 older (59-79 years) and 10 young (20-34 years) men performed a high-intensity, intermittent fatiguing exercise corresponding to 10 sets of 10 repetitions on a horizontal leg press at 70% of the individual one-repetition maximum. Maximal voluntary contractions and evoked contractions of the knee extensor muscles were performed before and after the exercise.

Results: Decreases in maximum voluntary contractions (older: -9.7%; young: -14.3%) and electromyographic activity were not different between groups. Peak twitch torque was reduced only for the older men and no changes in voluntary activation and M-wave properties were recorded in either group.

Conclusion: The present study indicates that in endurance-trained men aged 59-79 years, muscle functional capacities are maintained despite losses in strength and contractile function related to the age.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Athletes*
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Torque
  • Young Adult