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Neuromuscular performance of lower limbs during voluntary and reflex activity in power- and endurance-trained athletes

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Neural, mechanical and muscle factors influence muscle force production. This study was, therefore, designed to compare possible differences in the function of the neuromuscular system among differently adapted subjects. A group of 11 power-trained athletes and 10 endurance-trained athletes volunteered as subjects for this study. Maximal voluntary isometric force and the rate of force production of the knee extensor and the plantar flexor muscles were measured. In addition, basic reflex function was measured in the two experimental conditions. The power athletes produced higher voluntary forces (P<0.01-0.001) with higher rates for force production (P<0.001) by both muscle groups measured. Unexpectedly, however, no differences were noticed in the electromyogram time curves between the groups. During reflex activity, the endurance group demonstrated higher sensitivity to the mechanical stimuli, i.e. the higher reflex amplitude caused a higher rate of reflex force development, and the reflex amplitude correlated with the averaged angular velocity. The differences in the isometric conditions could be explained by obviously different muscle fibre distribution, by different amounts of muscle mass, by possible differences in the force transmission from individual myofibrils to the skeletal muscle and by specificity of training. In addition, differences in nervous system structure and muscle spindle properties could explain the observed differences in reflex activity between the two groups.

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Correspondence to Heikki Kyröläinen.

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Kyröläinen, H., Komi, P.V. Neuromuscular performance of lower limbs during voluntary and reflex activity in power- and endurance-trained athletes. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 69, 233–239 (1994).

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Key words

  • Muscle strength
  • Force-time curve
  • Stretch reflex
  • Electromyography