Plantar flexion torque as a function of time of day

M Guette, J Gondin, A Martin, C Pérot, J Van Hoecke
International Journal of Sports Medicine 2006, 27 (3): 171-7
The possible peripheral and/or central origin in the mechanisms responsible for day-time fluctuation in maximal torque of the triceps surae muscle were investigated with a special emphasis on antagonist muscle coactivation. Eleven healthy male subjects (physical education students) took part in this investigation. The electromechanical properties of the plantar flexor muscles were recorded at two different times of day: between 06:00 h and 08:00 h in the morning and between 17:00 h and 19:00 h in the evening. To investigate peripheral mechanisms, the posterior tibial nerve was stimulated at rest, using percutaneous electrical stimuli, to evoke single twitch, double twitch, and maximal tetanic contraction (100 Hz). Maximal voluntary contraction of the plantar flexors was also assessed by means of the relative electromyographic activity of respective agonist and antagonist muscles (soleus, gastrocnemius medialis, gastrocnemius lateralis, and tibialis anterior). A double twitch was delivered during maximal voluntary plantar flexion to record muscle activation (i.e., interpolated twitch technique). The coactivation level of the tibialis anterior muscle during plantar flexion was calculated. The results indicated a significant decrease in maximal voluntary muscle torque of triceps surae in the evening as compared with the morning (-7.0 %; p < 0.05). Concerning the central command, when extrapolated by the twitch interpolation technique, the decrease in mean activation level of -6.8 % was consistent with the fluctuation in torque (-7.0 %). Soleus muscle electromyographic activity (normalized to the M-wave) showed a significant decline (21.6 %; p < 0.001). Moreover, individual changes in MVC percentage were significantly related to those of normalized electromyographic activity of the soleus muscle (r = 0.688; p < 0.01). Thus, it indicated that the subject's capacity to activate the soleus muscle was affected by the time of day. The coactivation level in the tibialis anterior muscle during plantar flexion did not change significantly in the evening. Concerning peripheral mechanisms, we observed a decrease in maximal M-wave amplitude for soleus and gastrocnemii, associated with unchanged single twitch and tetanus torque. To conclude, impairment in soleus muscle central command seemed to be the mechanism in the origin of torque failure. Such information would be of importance in the investigation of day-time fluctuations in complex motor task performances implicating the triceps surae muscle.

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