Children develop lower levels of muscle force, and at slower rates, than adults. Although strength training in children is expected to reduce this differential, a synchronous adaptation in the tendon must be achieved to ensure forces continue to be transmitted to the skeleton with efficiency while minimizing the risk of strain- related tendon injury. We hypothesized that resistance training (RT) would alter tendon mechanical properties in children concomitantly with changes in force production characteristics. Twenty prepubertal children (age 8.9 ± 0.3 yr) were equally divided into control (nontraining) and experimental (training) groups. The training group completed a l0-week RT intervention consisting of 2–3 sets of 8–15 plantar flexion contractions performed twice weekly on a recumbent calf-raise machine. Achilles tendon properties (cross-sectional area, elongation, stress, strain, stiffness, and Young’s modulus), electromechanical delay (EMD; time between the onset of muscle activity and force), rate of force development (RFD; slope of the force-time curve), and rate of electromyographic (EMG) increase (REI; slope of the EMG time curve) were measured before and after RT. Tendon stiffness and Young’s modulus increased significantly after RT in the experimental group only (~29% and ~25%, respectively); all other tendon properties were not significantly altered, although there were mean decreases in both peak tendon strain and strain at a given force level (14% and 24%, respectively; not significant) which may have implications for tendon injury risk and muscle fiber mechanics. A decrease of ~13% in EMD was found after RT for the experimental group, which paralleled the increase in tendon stiffness (r = −0.59); however, RFD and REI were unchanged. The present data show that the Achilles tendon adapts to RT in prepubertal children and is paralleled by a change in EMD, although the magnitude of this change did not appear to be sufficient to influence RFD. These findings are of importance within the context of the efficiency and execution of movement.
The author is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Brock University, Ontario, Canada.