BACKGROUND: Despite substantial evidence that resistance training (RT) is effective at mitigating age-related losses in muscle mass and function, few older adults participate in RT due to perceived difficulty, risk of pain or injury, or financial cost. Elastic band training is an accessible, low-cost option for RT that improves muscle strength and functional capacity. Though effective, RT programs that more directly target neural adaptations may enhance strength gains given the neuromuscular deficits in older adults. Preliminary research indicates that increased mental effort (ME), the effort associated with intended motor action, stimulates strength gains regardless of training intensity. However, very few studies have examined the implementation of maximal ME during practical RT on muscle function. The aim of this study will be to determine if maximal ME during elastic band training enhances strength and neuromuscular adaptions compared to elastic band training alone in older women. METHODS: We plan to recruit 45 healthy, community-dwelling women aged 65-79 yrs to participate in this randomized control trial. Subjects will be randomly assigned into one of three groups: elastic band training (EBT), elastic band training with maximal ME (EBT+MME), or control (CON). Both training groups will participate in 6 weeks of virtual-supervised, moderate intensity whole-body elastic band training, but EBT+MME will mentally urge their muscle to contract maximally during each contraction. Specifically, both training groups will perform the same exercises at the same intensity but subjects in EBT+MME will be instructed to “imagine maximally contracting the muscle” during the concentric portion of each repetition. Before and after the 6-week protocol, muscle strength and size, and functional capacity (30-s and 5-time chair rise) will be measured. Changes in dynamic and isometric strength will be assessed for the quadriceps and biceps brachii. Voluntary activation, the central nervous system’s ability to activate skeletal muscle, of the biceps brachii will be estimated using the twitch interpolation technique with percutaneous muscle stimulation. Two-way (group × time) and three-way (group × muscle × time) repeated measures ANOVAs will be used to analyze changes between groups. ANTICIPATED RESULTS: It is hypothesized that EBT+MME will produce greater increases in strength and voluntary activation than EBT.

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