Effects of isolated locomotor muscle fatigue on pacing and time trial performance

Helma M de Morree, Samuele M Marcora
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2013, 113 (9): 2371-80

PURPOSE: Locomotor muscle fatigue impairs exercise performance during time to exhaustion tests. However, its effect on self-regulation of power output (pacing) is unknown. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the effects of locomotor muscle fatigue on pacing and time trial performance.

METHODS: Ten healthy recreationally active men completed a 15-min time trial on a cycle ergometer 30 min after undergoing an eccentric fatiguing protocol designed to induce a substantial strength loss in the knee extensor muscles without inducing significant metabolic stress. This fatigue condition was compared with a control condition, using a randomly counterbalanced AB/BA crossover design.

RESULTS: Total work completed during the 15-min cycling time trial was significantly reduced by 4.8 % in the fatigue condition compared with the control condition. This was caused by a significant reduction in power output. Rating of perceived exertion was significantly higher in the fatigue condition compared with the control condition only during the first 3 min of the time trial. Heart rate and vastus lateralis integrated electromyogram were not significantly different between the two conditions.

CONCLUSION: The results show that participants with fatigued locomotor muscles reduce their pace but do not change their pacing strategy. As a result, there was a significant reduction in time trial performance. As predicted by the psychobiological model of exercise performance, a slower pace may be a behavioral response to compensate for the significant increase in perception of effort induced by locomotor muscle fatigue.

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