Contractile properties of human skeletal muscle in childhood and adolescence
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Using a combination of single maximal stimuli and maximum voluntary contractions, a comparison has been made of muscle properties in pre- and post-pubertal male subjects. In the dorsiflexor and plantarflexor muscles of the ankle, the twitch and maximum voluntary torques were approximately twice as large in the older subjects; the mean height and mean weight increased by factors of 1.20 and 1.86 respectively. The only other muscle parameter that changed, as a function of age, was the contraction time of the ankle dorsiflexors; the mean value was significantly longer in the older subjects. In the younger subjects, there were already clear differences between the dorsiflexor and plantarflexor muscles, the former developing smaller torques and having shorter contraction and half-relaxation times, greater post-activation potentiation and more susceptibility to fatigue. Even in the youngest subject, motor unit activation was complete in the ankle dorsiflexors; although this was not always true of the plantarflexors, the difference between the two subject groups was not significant.
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