Is handgrip force the best simple measure of muscular strength in elderly women?
Background: The measurement of handgrip force is a frequent component in field assessments of physical fitness, but the relationship of handgrip data to overall strength is unclear. Purpose: Our objective was to assess how far dynamometer measurements of handgrip force reflect the overall muscularity of healthy elderly women, comparing handgrip predictions of lean body mass with those obtained from potential alternative 1RM maximum measures of muscle strength. Methods: Subjects were 39 healthy females aged 65-75 yr. Lean body mass was assessed from body mass and bio-impedance measurements of body fat. Maximal grip force for the right hand was determined by dynamometer, and one-repetition maximum data were collected for the seated chest press, latissimus pull-down, seated row, knee extension, and leg press tests. Data were analyzed by univariate and multivariate regression and by principal component analysis with varimax rotation. Results: Strength data showed little variation with age across our sample. All strength measurements showed modest correlations with lean body mass, the largest (handgrip force, r = 0.54) predicting lean mass with a SEE of 11.5%. The first component of the principal component analysis accounted for 55.1% of the total variance in our data. Vectors from lean body mass, handgrip force and the five 1RM measurements all loaded on this factor, which appears to reflect overall muscularity. In multivariate analyses, handgrip predictions of lean body mass could not be improved significantly by incorporating the 1RM measures of muscle strength. Conclusions: Maximal handgrip force offers the simplest estimate of overall muscularity in healthy older women, although the precision of predictions is limited.
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