This study aims at examining the effects of progressive strength and sprint training on regulation of muscle contraction at the whole-muscle and single-fibre levels in older sprint-trained athletes.
Eleven men (52-78 years) were randomized to a training (EX, n = 7) or control (CTRL, n = 4) group. EX participated in a 20-week programme that combined sprint training with heavy and explosive strength exercises, while CTRL maintained their usual run-based training schedules.
EX improved maximal isometric and dynamic leg strength, explosive jump performance and force production in running. Specific tension and maximum shortening velocity of single fibres from the vastus lateralis were not altered in EX or CTRL. Fibre type and myosin heavy chain isoform distributions remained unchanged in the two groups. There was a general increase in fibre areas in EX, but this was significant only in IIa fibres. The 10% increase in squat jump in EX was accompanied by a 9% increase in the integrated EMG (iEMG) of the leg extensors but the 21-40% increases in isometric and dynamic strength were not paralleled by changes in iEMG.
Adding strength training stimulus to the training programme improved maximal, explosive and sport-specific force production in elite master sprinters. These improvements were primarily related to hypertrophic muscular adaptations.