Evaluation of the strength-size relationship in vivo using various muscle size indices

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Abstract

Purpose

It is well accepted that maximum strength is related to muscle size. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether anthropometric or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) estimates of muscle size were valid predictors of plantar flexor maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) strength and could be used in lieu of more sophisticated techniques (e.g., magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)). Additionally, we compared the relationship among MVC and three MRI-determined muscle size measures; anatomical (ACSA) and physiological (PCSA) cross-sectional areas; and muscle volume (VOLm).

Methods

We measured plantar flexor MVC at 1.83 rad and various indices of muscle size: 1) body weight, 2) total body lean mass (LM) (DEXA), 3) lower leg LM (DEXA), 4) lower leg circumference, 5) estimated muscle+bone cross-sectional area (CSA) from circumference and calf skin-fold, 6) triceps surae ACSA, 7) triceps surae PCSA, and (8) triceps surae volume (VOLm), in 39 premenopausal women (mean ± SD: 36 ± 8 yr, 165 ± 6 cm, and 65 ± 9 kg).

Results

Zero-order correlations showed significant (P < 0.05) associations between MVC and total body LM (r = 0.365), lower leg LM (r = 0.381), circumference (r = 0.584), estimated muscle+bone CSA (r = 0.447), ACSA (r = 0.733), PCSA (r = 0.715), and VOLm (r = 0.649). By using the Fisher Z-transformation, ACSA and PCSA correlated significantly higher with MVC (P < 0.05) than anthropometric and DEXA indices. Further, only ACSA and PCSA regressed to the origin, indicating the ability to predict MVC was greatest with these two measures.

Conclusions

The MRI-determined muscle size indices, which were specific to the triceps surae, correlated with strength better than whole limb anthropometric and DEXA indices. In this group of women, both ACSA and PCSA appeared superior to VOLm for predicting strength. PCSA was not found to be more precise than ACSA. ACSA appears to provide adequate precision for estimating plantar flexor specific tension in vivo.

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