The effects of strength training on finger strength and hand dexterity in healthy elderly individuals

Halla B. Olafsdottir, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Mark L. Latash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


We investigated the effect of 6 wk of strength training on maximal pressing (MVC) force, indexes of finger individuation (enslaving), and performance in accurate force production tests and in functional hand tests in healthy, physically fit, elderly individuals. Twelve participants (average age 76 yr) exercised with both hands. One of the hands exercised by pressing with the proximal phalanges (targeting mainly intrinsic hand muscles), whereas the other hand exercised by pressing with the finger tips (targeting mainly extrinsic hand muscles). Training led to higher MVC forces, higher enslaving indexes, and improved performance on the pegboard grooved test. Changes in an index of multi-finger force stabilizing synergy showed a significant correlation with changes in the index of force variability in the accurate force production test. Strong transfer effects were seen to the site that did not perform strength training exercise within each hand. Effects of exercise at the proximal site were somewhat stronger compared with those of exercise at the finger tips, although the differences did not reach significance level. Control tests showed that repetitive testing by itself did not significantly change the maximal finger force and enslaving. The results suggest that strength training is an effective way to improve finger strength. It can also lead to changes in finger interaction and in performance of accurate force production tasks. Adaptations at a neural level are likely to mediate the observed effects. Overall, the data suggest that strength training can also improve the hand function of less healthy elderly subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1166-1178
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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