Since musculoskeletal impairment increases with age, it is important to determine if exercise changes age-related muscle weakness. This study compared the training effects of electrical stimulation and voluntary isometric contraction, the traditional exercise, on the quadriceps femoris in males 65 years and older. Eighteen informed, nondisabled males, 72 ± 4 years of age, participated in 12 training sessions over 4 weeks. Maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) torque was measured with a Cybex II dynamometer prior to and following training. An interclass correlation coefficient (3,1) of 0.982 demonstrated repeated reliable torque measurement. The electrical stimulation group trained at an average of 36% of pretest MVIC; the traditional exercise group trained at an average of 42% MVIC. Average (F = 14.06, p = 0.004) and peak (F = 14.32, p = 0.004) torque values were increased with both modes of training. Both methods of training using a low training load were effective in increasing torque in this older male sample. Electrical stimulation has the same potential as traditional exercise to provide improved strength for aged males. Future research should examine electrical stimulation in older persons with compromised ability to exercise using traditional methods.
J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1994;20(1):22-28.
Key Words: electrical stimulation, geriatric, training