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"How to Maintain Fast-Twitch Muscle Fiber Strength as You Age? A Simple Test on the Leg Extension Machine"

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Mastering Leg Strength in Your 40s and Beyond: The Leg Extension Test

We lose strengths as we age, but how badly are we losing the strength and muscle fibers? The leg extension test is an easy test to check your leg strength.


As we age, maintaining muscle strength becomes a pivotal aspect of healthy aging, particularly when it comes to fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are crucial for quick, powerful movements, but unfortunately, they're also the first to decline as we get older, with an estimated acceleration speed of loss at about 10% per decade after the age of 50. One practical way to gauge and combat this decline is through a leg strength test using a leg extension machine. Let's delve into the significance of this test, the implications of muscle loss, and strategies for aging stronger.


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The Leg Extension Test: A Measure of Muscle Strength


The leg extension machine offers a straightforward method to assess the strength of your quadriceps, the muscle group at the front of your thigh crucial for day-to-day activities like walking, climbing stairs, and standing up from a seated position. For individuals over 40, being able to perform leg extensions with your own body weight is a good indicator of maintaining adequate leg strength and, by extension, the health of your fast-twitch muscle fibers.


How to Perform the Leg Extension Test


1. Adjust the Machine: Ensure the machine is set to match your height, with the pad resting against your lower shins, just above your feet.

2. Position Yourself: Sit back in the machine with your back flat against the backrest. Grip the hand bars beside you.

3. Perform the Extension: Extend your legs until they are straight, without locking your knees. Pause briefly at the top before lowering the weight back to the starting position in a controlled manner.


Understanding Muscle Loss with Age


Muscle loss, or sarcopenia, particularly affects fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are essential for generating quick, forceful movements. This decline not only impacts our physical capabilities but also poses risks for falls, decreased metabolism, and reduced quality of life. Recognizing and addressing this loss early can significantly alter the aging trajectory, allowing for a more active, independent lifestyle.


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Strategies for Aging Stronger


Resistance Training


Incorporate resistance training into your routine at least twice a week, focusing on major muscle groups. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, and leg presses, in addition to leg extensions, can help maintain and build muscle mass and strength.


Plyometric Exercises


Plyometric training involves jump and speed workouts that improve the efficiency and function of the nervous system, enhancing the performance of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Simple plyometric exercises include jump squats and box jumps.


Proper Nutrition


A diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals supports muscle repair and growth. Consider incorporating a variety of protein sources, such as lean meats, dairy, and legumes, into your diet to aid in muscle recovery and strength maintenance. RDA recommends only 0.48g of protein per pound of body weight to prevent malnutrition. If you are willing to sustain healthy and stronger muscles, consider consuming 1.0 g of protein per pound of your body weight.


Adequate Recovery


Rest and recovery are just as important as the exercise itself. Ensure you're getting enough sleep and allowing your muscles time to recover between workouts to prevent overtraining and injury. When you lift heavy or workout very hard, schedule an active resting workout the following day to loosen up the tight muscles and to remove lactic acids.


Regular Assessments


Periodic strength assessments, like the leg extension test, can help you monitor your progress and adjust your training regimen accordingly. Keeping track of improvements or identifying areas of decline can guide your exercise choices and intensity.




The leg extension test is more than a fitness challenge; it's a benchmark for assessing the health of your muscles as you age. By understanding the importance of maintaining leg strength and implementing strategies to combat muscle loss, aging stronger becomes an achievable goal. Remember, it's never too late to start. Whether you're in your 40s, 50s, or beyond, taking steps to preserve your muscle strength will pay dividends in your overall health and ability to enjoy an active, fulfilling life.

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