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Muscular Strength/Endurance and Flexibility

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KINS – 152  Exercise Physiology

Muscular Strength/Endurance and Flexibility


Muscular strength and endurance are measures of muscular fitness. Muscular strength is the maximal force generated by a specific muscle or muscle group at a specified velocity.  Muscular endurance is the ability to maintain a submaximal force (i.e pushup tests).  Muscular strength tests can be divided into 2 basic types.  Dynamic strength the force generated by concentric, eccentric, or isokinetic contraction (i.e. 1 repetition maximum).  The speed of movement is often not controlled in these measurements.  Static strength measures the force generated by muscles during an isometric contraction.  During an isometric contraction there is no shortening of the muscle and no joint movement.   Muscular fitness testing is plagued by problems of standardization techniques to quantify muscular fitness due to types of muscle contraction (concentric vs eccentric), changes in force with respect to joint angle, and speed of contraction.  The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have tried to address these problems by standardizing muscular strength tests.  However, the present normative and standard data relating to muscular fitness are invalid, unreliable and/or outdated.  

A new approach to assess muscular fitness and endurance is isokinetic testing.

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Athletes with higher percentage of type II fibers are able to generate more force at higher velocities (power) versus those with slower type I fibers.  Also the fatigue rate during repetitive contractions at certain velocities can be used to indirectly determine fiber type distribution.  Humans with a greater percentage of type II fibers (fatigue prone) will have a greater fatigue rate than type I fibers (fatigue resistant).  It also appears that muscle can be trained (specificity of training) to generate more power at higher velocities.  In most team sports, power is the most crucial variable in terms of explosive athletic performance but is often ignored by coaches and athletes.        

Another important component of physical fitness testing is flexibility.  Flexibility is the maximum ability to move a joint through a range of motion.  Flexibility is dependent on a number of factors including muscle temperature, muscle blood flow and prior exercise.  It is also dependent on physical activity and age.   Physical activity appears to be the most important determinant of flexibility.  Physical inactivity results in the shortening of connective tissue and results in the loss of ROM about a joint.  Age also plays a factor due to loss of elastic properties of the connective tissue and decrease in physical activity.

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The maximum reach as measured by the ruler is the score.  Repeat test 3 times.  The best trial is used to assess the individual flexibilityMake sure to instruct the patient to not hold breath or not to stretch to where it is causing undue pain.Refer to table for normative data.

Data Analysis

  1. Make a table of all your results and compare them to norms.  
  2. When appropriate interpret absolute and relative norms
  3. Graph the peak torque versus speed for the isokinetic test

Discussion (Please read Ch 7 & 8 , pages 150, 399-402)

1)  Which test measures muscular fitness the best?  Are the values for each muscular test

consistent?  Why?  Can muscular fitness be assessed by one test?

2)  Based on your graph, at what velocity do you develop the most force?  At this velocity do

you also reach peak power?  Why?

3)  How would you use this knowledge to train an athlete competing in a team sport?  You can

choose any team sport to answer this question.

  1. How much potential does a sprinter have who can run the 100 yd dash in 17.0 secs?  Why?  

What sport might this individual excel at?  Why?

  1. Is the sit and reach test a valid measure of your flexibility?  Why is stretching an important component of an exercise program?  Are there other ways to improve your flexibility without stretching?

...read more.

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