The utility of isokinetic dynamometry in the assessment of human muscle function

Sports Med. 1996 Jan;21(1):18-34. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199621010-00003.


Isokinetic dynamometry has become a favoured method for the assessment of dynamic muscle function in both clinical research and sports environments. Several indices, such as peak torque, are used in the literature to characterise individual, group or larger population performance via these sophisticated data acquisition systems. Research suggests that there are several competing demands on the design of the measurement protocol which may affect the measurement of isokinetic strength and subsequent suitability of data for meaningful evaluation and interpretation. There is a need to increase measurement rigour, reliability and sensitivity to a level which is commensurate with the intended application, via more elaborate multiple-trial protocols. However, this may be confounded by logistical and financial constraints or reduced individual compliance. The net effect of the interaction of such demands may be considered to be the utility of the isokinetic dynamometry protocol. Of the factors which impinge on utility, those which relate to reliability afford the most control by the test administrator. Research data suggest that in many measurement applications, the reliability and sensitivity associated with all frequently-used indices of isokinetic leg strength which are estimated via single-trial protocols, are not sufficient to differentiate either performance change within the same individual or between individuals within a homogeneous group. While such limitation may be addressed by the use of protocols based on 3 to 4 inter-day trials for the index of peak torque, other indices which demonstrate reduced reliability, for example the composite index of the ratio of knee flexion to extension peak torque, may require many more replicates to achieve the same level of sensitivity. Here, the measurement utility of the index may not be sufficient to justify its proper deployment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ergometry* / instrumentation
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity