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Neuromuscular and perceptual responses during repeated cycling sprints—usefulness of a “hypoxic to normoxic” recovery approach



We investigated the consequence of varying hypoxia severity during an initial set of repeated cycling sprints on performance, neuromuscular fatigability, and exercise-related sensations during a subsequent set of repeated sprints in normoxia.


Nine active males performed ten 4-s sprints (recovery = 30 s) at sea level (SL; FiO2 ~ 0.21), moderate (MH; FiO2 ~ 0.17) or severe normobaric hypoxia (SH; FiO2 ~ 0.13). This was followed, after 8 min of passive recovery, by five 4-s sprints (recovery = 30 s) in normoxia.


Mean power decrement during Sprint 10 was exacerbated in SH compared to SL and MH (− 34 ± 12%, − 22 ± 13%, − 25 ± 14%, respectively, p < 0.05). Sprint performance during Sprint 11 recovered to that of Sprint 1 in all conditions (p = 0.267). All exercise-related sensations at Sprint 11 recovered significantly compared to Sprint 1, with no difference for Set 2 (p > 0.05). Ratings of overall perceived discomfort, difficulty breathing, and limb discomfort were exacerbated during Set 1 in SH versus SL (p < 0.05). Compared to SL, the averaged MPO value for Set 2 was 5.5 ± 3.0% (p = 0.003) lower in SH. Maximal voluntary force and twitch torque decreased similarly in all conditions immediately after Set 1 (p < 0.05), without further alterations after Set 2. Peripheral and cortical voluntary activation values did not change (p > 0.05).


Exercise-related sensations, rather than neuromuscular function integrity, may play a pivotal role in influencing performance of repeated sprints and its recovery.

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FiO2 :

Fraction of inspired oxygen


Moderate hypoxia


Mean power output


Maximal voluntary contraction


Peripheral motor nerve


Root mean square


Repeated-sprint ability


Sea level


Severe hypoxia

SpO2 :

Arterial oxygen saturation


Transcranial magnetic stimulation


Voluntary activation


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The authors thank all the subjects for their participation in this study.

Author information




OG, RC, DB and FB conceived and designed research. RC and OG conducted experiments. JS and OG analysed the data. JS and OG wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Olivier Girard.

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The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose.

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Communicated by Guido Ferretti.

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Soo, J., Billaut, F., Bishop, D.J. et al. Neuromuscular and perceptual responses during repeated cycling sprints—usefulness of a “hypoxic to normoxic” recovery approach. Eur J Appl Physiol 120, 883–896 (2020).

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  • Repeated-sprint ability
  • Exercise-related sensations
  • Hypoxia
  • Neuromuscular fatigue
  • Recovery