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Muscle & Nerve

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DOI: 10.1002/mus.20325


Young adults exhibit a longer time to task failure when performing a submaximal isometric contraction by pushing against a force transducer (force task) than when supporting an equivalent inertial load (position task). The purpose of this study was to compare the time to failure for old adults when they performed a force task and a position task with the elbow flexor muscles. Eighteen old adults (72 ± 4 years) performed the force and position tasks at 20% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) force until task failure. The time to task failure was briefer for the position task (10.6 ± 6.1 min) than the force task (22.8 ± 9.1 min, P < 0.05). The rate of increase in electromyographic (EMG) bursting activity, ratings of perceived exertion, mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and fluctuations in motor output during the fatiguing contraction were greater for the position task. However, the increase in averaged EMG for the elbow flexor muscles was greater at termination of the force task. The difference in time to failure for the two tasks was due to a higher level of central neural activity during the position task and was similar to that observed for young adults. These findings indicate that the type of load supported influences the mechanisms and time to task failure for sustained contractions in old adults, and have implications for the design of tasks for rehabilitation and for tasks that minimize fatigue. Muscle Nerve, 2005


Accepted version. Muscle & Nerve, Vol. 31, No. 6 (June 2005): 730-740. DOI. © 2005 Wiley. Used with permission.

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