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Residual effects of muscle strength and muscle power training and detraining on physical function in community-dwelling prefrail older adults: a randomized controlled trial

Astrid Zech1*, Michael Drey2, Ellen Freiberger3, Christian Hentschke3, Juergen M Bauer4, Cornel C Sieber2 and Klaus Pfeifer3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Movement Science, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

2 Institute for Biomedicine of Aging, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Nuremberg, Germany

3 Institute of Sport Science and Sport, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany

4 Geriatric Center Oldenburg, Klinikum Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany

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BMC Geriatrics 2012, 12:68  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-12-68

Published: 7 November 2012



Although resistance exercise interventions have been shown to be beneficial in prefrail or frail older adults it remains unclear whether there are residual effects when the training is followed by a period of detraining. The aim of this study was to establish the sustainability of a muscle power or muscle strength training effect in prefrail older adults following training and detraining.


69 prefrail community-dwelling older adults, aged 65–94 years were randomly assigned into three groups: muscle strength training (ST), muscle power training (PT) or controls. The exercise interventions were performed for 60 minutes, twice a week over 12 weeks. Physical function (Short Physical Performance Battery=SPPB), muscle power (sit-to-stand transfer=STS), self-reported function (SF-LLFDI) and appendicular lean mass (aLM) were measured at baseline and at 12, 24 and 36 weeks after the start of the intervention.


For the SPPB, significant intervention effects were found at 12 weeks in both exercise groups (ST: p = 0.0047; PT: p = 0.0043). There were no statistically significant effects at 24 and 36 weeks. In the ST group, the SPPB declined continuously after stop of exercising whereas the PT group and controls remained unchanged. No effects were found for muscle power, SF-LLFDI and aLM.


The results showed that both intervention types are equally effective at 12 weeks but did not result in statistically significant residual effects when the training is followed by a period of detraining. The unchanged SPPB score at 24 and 36 weeks in the PT group indicates that muscle power training might be more beneficial than muscle strength training. However, more research is needed on the residual effects of both interventions. Taken the drop-out rates (PT: 33%, ST: 21%) into account, muscle power training should also be used more carefully in prefrail older adults.

Trial registration

This trial has been registered with (NCT00783159)

Prefrailty; Exercise; Mobility; Residual effects; Detraining