European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 117, Issue 12, pp 2479–2492 | Cite as

The corticospinal responses of metronome-paced, but not self-paced strength training are similar to motor skill training

  • Michael Leung
  • Timo Rantalainen
  • Wei-Peng Teo
  • Dawson KidgellEmail author
Original Article



The corticospinal responses to skill training may be different to strength training, depending on how the strength training is performed. It was hypothesised that the corticospinal responses would not be different following skill training and metronome-paced strength training (MPST), but would differ when compared with self-paced strength training (SPST).


Corticospinal excitability, short-interval intra-cortical inhibition (SICI) and strength and tracking error were measured at baseline and 2 and 4 weeks. Participants (n = 44) were randomly allocated to visuomotor tracking, MPST, SPST or a control group.


MPST increased strength by 7 and 18%, whilst SPST increased strength by 12 and 26% following 2 and 4 weeks of strength training. There were no changes in strength following skill training. Skill training reduced tracking error by 47 and 58% at 2 and 4 weeks. There were no changes in tracking error following SPST; however, tracking error reduced by 24% following 4 weeks of MPST. Corticospinal excitability increased by 40% following MPST and by 29% following skill training. There was no change in corticospinal excitability following 4 weeks of SPST. Importantly, the magnitude of change between skill training and MPST was not different. SICI decreased by 41 and 61% following 2 and 4 weeks of MPST, whilst SICI decreased by 41 and 33% following 2 and 4 weeks of skill training. Again, SPST had no effect on SICI at 2 and 4 weeks. There was no difference in the magnitude of SICI reduction between skill training and MPST.


This study adds new knowledge regarding the corticospinal responses to skill and MPST, showing they are similar but different when compared with SPST.


Corticospinal excitability Intra-cortical inhibition Primary motor cortex Strength training Skill straining Voluntary strength 



One-repetition maximum


Area under the recruitment curve


Active motor threshold


Central nervous system




γ-Aminobutyric acid


First dorsal interosseous


Maximum compound wave


Motor-evoked potentials


Metronome-paced strength training


Maximal voluntary isometric contraction


Primary motor cortex


Root-mean square electromyography


Self-paced strength training


Short-interval cortical inhibition


Transcranial magnetic stimulation



This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have potential conflicts of interest to be disclosed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Leung
    • 1
  • Timo Rantalainen
    • 1
  • Wei-Peng Teo
    • 1
  • Dawson Kidgell
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Exercise and Nutrition SciencesDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, School of Primary and Allied Health CareMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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