Adaptations in maximal motor unit discharge rate to strength training in young and older adults

Carolynn Patten, Gary Kamen, Daniel M. Rowland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Six young (mean = 23 years) and 6 older (mean = 76 years) adults participated in isometric resistance training 5 days/week for 6 weeks. The task involved isometric fifth finger abduction. Maximal motor unit discharge rates (MUDRs) were obtained from the abductor digiti minimi of each hand at 0, 2, 14, and 42 days of training using a quadrifilar needle electrode and automatic spike recognition software. In agreement with previous findings, maximal MUDR at baseline was significantly lower in older adults (P < 0.001), averaging 51.5 (±17.13) Hz in young and 43.3 (±14.88) Hz in older adults. In response to resistance training, maximal voluntary force increased 25% in young and 33% in older subjects (P < 0.001). Maximal MUDR increased significantly (11% young, 23% older) on day 2 [F(3,36) = 2.58, P < 0.05], but in older subjects returned to baseline levels thereafter. These adaptations in abductor digiti minimi MUDR suggest a two-part response to strengthening fifth finger abduction: early disinhibition followed by altered MU activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-550
Number of pages9
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 10 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Motor unit
  • Neural adaptation
  • Strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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