Testing Muscle Strength

Practical Considerations for Clinicians Working with Older Adults

Contact Hours: 5

Seminar Description:

Have you ever walked away feeling like you didn’t get enough information about your patient to be as effective as you could be in your treatment? Have you ever noticed that your patient is improving but the measures you’re using don’t show the progress you’re making? Then this is the course for you. Using a real patient, Richard Bohannon, the world’s leading expert in strength testing, will demonstrate why, how, and when to use a variety of clinically proven strength testing methods.

The ability to use muscles to bring force to bear on the environment is essential for everyday function. As adults age, their maximum force they can bring to bear on the environment (their strength) decreases. Clinicians, therefore, need to be able to quantify the muscle strength of older adults.

This course will begin by clarifying what we can actually measure and why we should bother to do so. Considerations relevant to all strength testing will be reviewed. Guidance and an opportunity to practice will be provided for four practical approaches to measuring the muscle strength of older adults in almost any environment. Specifically, manual muscle action testing, hand-grip dynamometry, hand-held dynamometry and field tests will be addressed. Finally, use of muscle strength testing in the context of the physical therapist’s overall management of an older adult patient will be demonstrated.

Course Objectives

  1. Explain why the measurement of muscle strength is important in the physical therapy management of the older adult.
  2. Identify mechanical variables that must be controlled if reliable measures of muscle strength are to be obtained.
  3. Using the grading schemes recommended by Bohannon, assign appropriate manual muscle test grades based on observation and handling of older adult patients.
  4. Demonstrate measurement of grip strength as recommended by the American Society of Hand Therapists.
  5. Perform skilled application of hand held dynamometry for measuring limb muscle forces.
  6. Interpret dynamometer and field test measurements for a patient from whom they have been obtained.

Course Outline

  • Introduction & pre-test (19 min)
  • Introduction to strength testing (19 min)
  • Rationale for strength testing (33 min)
  • Practical Options (40 min)
  • Hand-held dynamometry (16 min)
  • Field Tests (23 min)
  • Hand-held dynamometry demonstration (33 min)
  • Case study demonstration (51 min)
  • Case study debrief (46 min)
  • Conclusion, post-test + course eval (20 min)


Richard W. Bohannon


Carole B. Lewis


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