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Resistance exercise training and the motor unit

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Abstract

Resistance exercise training (RET) is a key modality to enhance sports performance, injury prevention and rehabilitation, and improving overall health via increases in muscular strength. Yet, the contribution of neural mechanisms to increases in muscular strength are highly debated. This is particularly true for the involvement of the motor unit, which is the link between neural (activation) and mechanical (muscle fiber twitch forces) mechanisms. A plethora of literature that examines the effects of RET on skeletal muscle speculate the role of motor units, such as increases in firing rates partially explains muscular strength gains. Results, however, are mixed regarding changes in firing rates in studies that utilize single motor unit recordings. The lack of clarity could be related to vast or subtle differences in RET programs, methods to record motor units, muscles tested, types of contractions and intensities used to record motor units, etc. Yet to be discussed, mixed findings could be the result of non-uniform MU behavior that is not typically accounted for in RET research. The purpose of this narration is to discuss the effects of acute resistance exercise training studies on MU behavior and to provide guidance for future research.

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Abbreviations

CON:

Control

EMG:

Electromyography

FDI:

First dorsal interosseous

ISI:

Interspike interval

ITT:

Interoperated twitch technique

RET:

Resistance exercise training

MVC:

Maximal voluntary contraction

MAX:

Maximum

MU:

Motor unit

PIC:

Persistent inward currents

pps:

Pulses per second

SD:

Standard deviation

TA:

Tibias anterior

VL:

Vastus lateralis

VMO:

Vastus medialis obliquus

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Acknowledgements

Drs. Eric Ryan and Ashley Herda for their helpful comments on drafts of this paper.

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TJH developed the manuscript and created tables and figures.

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Correspondence to Trent J. Herda.

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The author has no financial or non-financial interests that are directly or indirectly related to the work. There was no funding for this paper.

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Communicated by Michael I Lindinger.

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Herda, T.J. Resistance exercise training and the motor unit. Eur J Appl Physiol 122, 2019–2035 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-022-04983-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-022-04983-7

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