The effects of fatigue of the plantar flexors on peak torque and voluntary activation in untrained and resistance-trained men

Michael J Hartman, Eric D Ryan, Joel T Cramer, Michael G Bemben
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2011, 25 (2): 527-32
The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of fatigue of the plantar flexors on peak torque and voluntary activation in untrained (UT) and resistance-trained (RT) men. Six men with no previous resistance training experience and 8 men with similar histories of chronic resistance training (9.8 ± 5.9 years, 3.8 ± 0.7 days/week) volunteered for this study. Subjects performed isometric maximal voluntary contractions (MVCs) before and immediately after unilateral dynamic isotonic contractions performed at 40% of MVC until volitional exhaustion. Voluntary activation of the plantar flexors was assessed using the interpolated twitch method (ITT) and central activation ratio (CAR). Surface electromyographic (EMG) amplitude of the soleus and medial gastrocnemius (MG) was measured during the MVC. There were significant reductions in MVC torque in both UT and RT groups after the fatiguing exercise (-10.7 ± 6.8%, p < 0.02; -9.1 ± 8.7%, p < 0.02, respectively), with no difference in the number of repetitions performed between groups. The UT and RT men experienced a significant decrease in ITT after the fatiguing exercise bout (-14.2 ± 11.8%, p = 0.03; -7.8 ± 9.3%, p = 0.045, respectively). The UT group experienced a significant decrease in CAR (99.5 ± 0.8% to 91.4 ± 6.4%, p = 0.025) with no change (p > 0.05) in the RT group. There was also a fatigue-induced decrease in normalized EMG amplitude for the soleus and MG muscles in both groups (p < 0.05). However, no differences were determined between groups for ITT, CAR, or EMG. Despite similar reductions in MVC torque postexercise, the UT men had a significant decrease in CAR and experienced nearly twice the decline in ITT than the RT men. These results indicate that the neural adaptations associated with chronic resistance training may lead to less susceptibility to central fatigue as measured by ITT and CAR.

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