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The effect of exercise hypertrophy and disuse atrophy on muscle contractile properties: a mechanomyographic analysis

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To determine whether mechanomyographic (MMG) determined contractile properties of the biceps brachii change during exercise-induced hypertrophy and subsequent disuse atrophy.


Healthy subjects (mean ± SD, 23.7 ± 2.6 years, BMI 21.8 ± 2.4, n = 19) performed unilateral biceps curls (9 sets × 12 repetitions, 5 sessions per week) for 8 weeks (hypertrophic phase) before ceasing exercise (atrophic phase) for the following 8 weeks (non-dominant limb; treatment, dominant limb; control). MMG measures of muscle contractile properties (contraction time; T c, maximum displacement; D max, contraction velocity; V c), electromyographic (EMG) measures of muscle fatigue (median power frequency; MPF), strength measures (maximum voluntary contraction; MVC) and measures of muscle thickness (ultrasound) were obtained.


Two-way repeated measures ANOVA showed significant differences (P < 0.05) between treatment and control limbs. During the hypertrophic phase treatment MVC initially declined (weeks 1–3), due to fatigue (decline in MPF), followed by improvement against control during weeks 6–8. Between weeks 5 and 8 treatment, muscle thickness was greater than control, reflecting gross hypertrophy. MMG variables Dmax (weeks 2, 7) and Vc (weeks 7, 8) declined. During the atrophic phase, MVC (weeks 9–12) and muscle thickness (weeks 9, 10) initially remained high before declining to control levels, reflecting gross atrophy. MMG variables D max (weeks 9, 14) and V c (weeks 9, 14, 15) also declined during the atrophic phase. No change in T c was found throughout the hypertrophic or atrophic phases.


MMG detects changes in contractile properties during stages of exercise-induced hypertrophy and disuse atrophy suggesting its applicability as a clinical tool in musculoskeletal rehabilitation.

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Analysis of variance


Body mass index


Cross-sectional area

D max :

Maximal muscle belly displacement


Delayed onset of muscle soreness




Effect size




Median power frequency


Maximum voluntary contraction


Percutaneous neuromuscular stimulation


Standard deviation


Standard error mean

T c :

Contraction time

V c :

Contraction velocity


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The authors wish to thank The University of Queensland for their postgraduate support and each of the participants for their commitment to completing this study. The authors would also like to thank Ms. Gail Durbridge from the Centre of Advanced Imaging, located at the St. Lucia campus of the University of Queensland, for performing the CSA ultrasound scans. The authors also acknowledge Dr. Carl Stephan for the supply of ultrasound gel used for thickness scans.

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Correspondence to Christian Than.

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Communicated by William J. Kraemer.

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Than, C., Tosovic, D., Seidl, L. et al. The effect of exercise hypertrophy and disuse atrophy on muscle contractile properties: a mechanomyographic analysis. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 2155–2165 (2016).

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