Fatiguing handgrip exercise alters maximal force-generating capacity of plantar-flexors

Ashleigh Kennedy, François Hug, Heidi Sveistrup, Arnaud Guével
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2013, 113 (3): 559-66
Exercise-induced fatigue causes changes within the central nervous system that decrease force production capacity in fatigued muscles. The impact on unrelated, non-exercised muscle performance is still unclear. The primary aim of this study was to examine the impact of a bilateral forearm muscle contraction on the motor function of the distal and unrelated ankle plantar-flexor muscles. The secondary aim was to compare the impact of maximal and submaximal forearm contractions on the non-fatigued ankle plantar-flexor muscles. Maximal voluntary contractions (MVC) of the forearm and ankle plantar-flexor muscles as well as voluntary activation (VA) and twitch torque of the ankle plantar-flexor muscles were assessed pre-fatigue and throughout a 10-min recovery period. Maximal (100 % MVC) and submaximal (30 % MVC) sustained isometric handgrip contractions caused a decreased handgrip MVC (to 49.3 ± 15.4 and 45.4 ± 11.4 % of the initial MVC for maximal and submaximal contraction, respectively) that remained throughout the 10-min recovery period. The fatigue protocols also caused a decreased ankle plantar-flexor MVC (to 77 ± 8.3 and 92.4 ± 6.2 % of pre-fatigue MVC for maximal and submaximal contraction, respectively) and VA (to 84.3 ± 15.7 and 97.7 ± 16.1 % of pre-fatigue VA for maximal and submaximal contraction, respectively). These results suggest central fatigue created by the fatiguing handgrip contraction translated to the performance of the non-exercised ankle muscles. Our results also show that the maximal fatigue protocol affected ankle plantar-flexor MVC and VA more severely than the submaximal protocol, highlighting the task-specificity of neuromuscular fatigue.

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