Original Article

European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 103, Issue 4, pp 411-419

First online:

Fatigue in repeated-sprint exercise is related to muscle power factors and reduced neuromuscular activity

  • Alberto Mendez-VillanuevaAffiliated withSchool of Human Movement and Exercise Science, The University of Western AustraliaPerformance Enhancement and Talent Identification Section, ASPIRE, Academy of Sports Excellence Email author 
  • , Peter HamerAffiliated withSchool of Human Movement and Exercise Science, The University of Western AustraliaSchool of Health Science, The University of Notre Dame (Australia)
  • , David BishopAffiliated withSchool of Human Movement and Exercise Science, The University of Western AustraliaTeam Sport Research Group, Facoltà di Scienze Motorie, Università degli Studi di Verona

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The purpose of this study was (1) to determine the relationship between each individual’s anaerobic power reserve (APR) [i.e., the difference between the maximum anaerobic (P ana) and aerobic power (P aer)] and fatigability during repeated-sprint exercise and (2) to examine the acute effects of repeated sprints on neuromuscular activity, as evidenced by changes in the surface electromyogram (EMG) signals. Eight healthy males carried out tests to determine P ana (defined as the highest power output attained during a 6-s cycling sprint), P aer (defined as the highest power output achieved during a progressive, discontinuous cycling test to failure) and a repeated cycling sprint test (10 × 6-s max sprints with 30 s rest). Peak power output (PPO) and mean power output (MPO) were calculated for each maximal 6-s cycling bout. Root mean square (RMS) was utilized to quantify EMG activity from the vastus lateralis (VL) muscle of the right leg. Over the ten sprints, PPO and MPO decreased by 24.6 and 28.3% from the maximal value (i.e., sprint 1), respectively. Fatigue index during repeated sprints was significantly correlated with APR (R = 0.87; P < 0.05). RMS values decreased over the ten sprints by 14.6% (±6.3%). There was a strong linear relationship (R 2 = 0.97; P < 0.05) between the changes in MPO and EMG RMS from the vastus lateralis muscle during the ten sprints. The individual advantage in fatigue-resistance when performing a repeated sprint task was related with a lower anaerobic power reserve. Additionally, a suboptimal net motor unit activity might also impair the ability to repeatedly generate maximum power outputs.


Repeated sprints Muscle fatigue Anaerobic power reserve EMG