Age-related enhancement of fatigue resistance is evident in men during both isometric and dynamic tasks

Ian R. Lanza, David W. Russ, Jane A. Kent-Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that the effects of old age on the ability to resist fatigue may be task dependent. To test one aspect of this hypothesis, we compared the neuromuscular responses of nine young (26 ± 4 yr, mean ± SD) and nine older (72 ± 4 yr) healthy, relatively sedentary men to intermittent isometric (3 min, 5 s contract/5 s rest) and dynamic (90 at 90°/s) maximum voluntary contractions (MVC) of the ankle dorsiflexor muscles. To assess the mechanisms of fatigue (defined as the ratio of postexercise MVC to preexercise MVC), we also measured isometric central activation ratios (CAR), tetanic torque, contractile properties, and compound muscle action potentials before and immediately after exercise. Because dynamic contractions are more neurally complex and metabolically demanding than isometric contractions, we expected an age-related fatigue resistance observed during isometric exercise to be absent during dynamic exercise. In contrast, older men (O) fatigued less than young (Y) during both isometric (O = 0.77 ± 0.07, Y = 0.66 ± 0.02, mean ± SE; P < 0.01) and dynamic (O = 0.45 ± 0.07, Y = 0.27 ± 0.02; P = 0.04) contractions (ratio of postexercise to preexercise MVC), with no evidence of peripheral activation failure in either group. We observed no obvious limitations in central activation in either group, as assessed using isometric CAR methods, after both isometric and dynamic contractions. Preexercise half-time of tetanic torque relaxation, which was longer in O compared with Y, was linearly associated with fatigue resistance during both protocols (r = 0.62 and 0.66, P ≤ 0.004, n = 18). These results suggest that relative fatigue resistance is enhanced in older adults during both isometric and isokinetic contractions and that age-related changes in fatigue may be due largely to differences within the muscle itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)967-975
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Ankle dorsiflexors
  • Central activation
  • Compound muscle action potential
  • Contractile properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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