Physical quickness is less in older adults with implications for fall prevention, movement initiation, and activities of daily living. The purpose was to compare control of rapid contractions in young and older adults within two diverse muscle groups: powerful elbow extensors (EE) and dexterous index finger abductors (IFA). Most-rapid force pulses to a variety of levels were recorded and peak force and rate of force development (RFD) were analyzed with linear regression. The resulting slope represents the dependent variable of interest, the RFD-scaling factor (RFD-SF). RFD-SF of EE and IFA strongly correlated both overall (r = .87, p < .01) and separately in young (r = .60, p < .05) and older (r = .77, p < .01) adults. RFD-SF values were different between muscle groups (F1,28 = 19.1, p < .001) and also less in elderly (F1,28 = 32.6, p < .001). We conclude that RFD-SF provides a sensitive assessment of muscle quickness that can be used to evaluate neuromuscular function in aging humans.
The authors are with the Dept. of Kinesiology & Applied Physiology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.