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Fatigability of the knee extensors following high- and low-load resistance exercise sessions in trained men

Abstract

Purpose

Fatigability after gym-based resistance exercises with high and low loads has not been well described, thus limiting the translation of exhaustive low-weight prescription into athletic practice. We compared the fatigability and recovery of the knee extensor muscles for up to 1H after sessions that involved either high- or low-load resistance exercises.

Methods

16 trained men performed two resistance exercise sessions between 5 and 7 days apart. The LIGHT session involved five sets to task failure at 50% of maximal knee-extension strength, whereas the HEAVY session accrued repetitions across seven sets at intensities ≥ 80% maximal knee-extension strength. Measures of quadriceps maximal torque and rate of torque development were measured before, after, and 1H after each exercise session. Muscle activation (electromyography and voluntary activation) and contractility were measured from doublet stimulation of the femoral nerve during and after maximal contractions, respectively.

Results

Greater declines in maximal rate of torque development were observed after the LIGHT compared with the HEAVY session (p < 0.001), with full recovery after 1H. Voluntary activation (100-Hz doublet stimulation) and surface electromyograms were reduced immediately after the HEAVY session only (p < 0.05), with greater declines in quadriceps twitch amplitudes after the LIGHT session (p < 0.01). Voluntary activation (100-Hz doublet stimulation) was reduced at 1H after both the HEAVY and LIGHT sessions (p < 0.05).

Conclusions

Despite differences in the decreases in muscle activation and contractility after high- and low-load resistance-exercise sessions, recovery of neuromuscular function was essentially complete after 1H of rest for both sessions.

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Fig. 1

Abbreviations

1H:

1-Hour measurement time-point

½ RT:

Half relaxation time

ANOVA:

Analysis of variance

BW:

Bodyweight

M-wave:

Muscle compound action potential

MVC:

Maximal voluntary contraction

MVT:

Maximal voluntary torque

PRE:

Measurement before exercise

POST:

Measurement after exercise

Q.pot.tw:

Quadriceps potentiated twitch

1-RM:

One repetition-maximum

RMS:

Root-mean-square

RTD:

Rate of voluntary torque development

sEMG:

Surface electromyogram

SD:

Standard deviation

TPT:

Time to peak twitch

VA:

Voluntary activation

VL:

Vastus lateralis

VM:

Vastus medialis

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Acknowledgements

No funding was received by any author to support this project.

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Authors

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PM conceived and designed the research, TF and PM conducted the experiments. PM, TF, and RE processed and analysed the data. All authors contributed to the final editing and revision of the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Paul W. Marshall.

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Marshall, P.W., Forward, T. & Enoka, R.M. Fatigability of the knee extensors following high- and low-load resistance exercise sessions in trained men. Eur J Appl Physiol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-021-04832-z

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Keywords

  • Fatigability
  • Electromyography
  • Voluntary activation
  • Femoral nerve
  • Resistance exercise