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The time course of cross-education during short-term isometric strength training



This study examined the time course of contralateral adaptations in maximal isometric strength (MVC), rate of force development (RFD), and rate of electromyographic (EMG) rise (RER) during 4 weeks of unilateral isometric strength training with the non-dominant elbow flexors.


Twenty participants were allocated to strength training (n = 10, three female, two left hand dominant) or control (n = 10, three female, two left hand dominant) groups. Both groups completed testing at baseline and following each week of training to evaluate MVC strength, EMG amplitude, RFD and RER at early (RFD50, RER50) and late (RFD200, RER200) contraction phases for the dominant ‘untrained’ elbow flexors. The training group completed 11 unilateral isometric training sessions across 4 weeks.


The contralateral improvements for MVC strength (P < 0.01) and RFD200 (P = 0.017) were evidenced after 2 weeks, whereas RFD50 (P < 0.01) and RER50 (P = 0.02) showed significant improvements after 3 weeks. Each of the dependent variables was significantly (P < 0.05) greater than baseline values at the end of the training intervention for the trained arm. No changes in any of the variables were observed for the control group (P > 0.10).


Unilateral isometric strength training for 2–3 weeks can produce substantial increases in isometric muscle strength and RFD for both the trained and untrained arms. These data have implications for rehabilitative exercise design and prescription.

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Maximal voluntary contraction


Rate of EMG rise


Rate of force development


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Author contributions

JC and XY conceived and designed the study. JD wrote the software for data analysis and created the figures. JC conducted experiments, analyzed data, and drafted the first version of the manuscript. XY, MS, MB, and JD critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joshua C. Carr.

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Carr, J.C., Ye, X., Stock, M.S. et al. The time course of cross-education during short-term isometric strength training. Eur J Appl Physiol 119, 1395–1407 (2019).

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  • Contralateral adaptations
  • Unilateral strength training
  • Rate of force development
  • Rate of activation