The role of active muscle mass in determining the magnitude of peripheral fatigue during dynamic exercise

Matthew J Rossman, Ryan S Garten, Massimo Venturelli, Markus Amann, Russell S Richardson
American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 2014 June 15, 306 (12): R934-40
Greater peripheral quadriceps fatigue at the voluntary termination of single-leg knee-extensor exercise (KE), compared with whole-body cycling, has been attributed to confining group III and IV skeletal muscle afferent feedback to a small muscle mass, enabling the central nervous system (CNS) to tolerate greater peripheral fatigue. However, as task specificity and vastly differing systemic challenges may have complicated this interpretation, eight males were studied during constant workload trials to exhaustion at 85% of peak workload during single-leg and double-leg KE. It was hypothesized that because of the smaller muscle mass engaged during single-leg KE, a greater magnitude of peripheral quadriceps fatigue would be present at exhaustion. Vastus lateralis integrated electromyogram (iEMG) signal relative to the first minute of exercise, preexercise to postexercise maximal voluntary contractions (MVCs) of the quadriceps, and twitch-force evoked by supramaximal magnetic femoral nerve stimulation (Qtw,pot) quantified peripheral quadriceps fatigue. Trials performed with single-leg KE (8.1 ± 1.2 min; 45 ± 4 W) resulted in significantly greater peripheral quadriceps fatigue than double-leg KE (10 ± 1.3 min; 83 ± 7 W), as documented by changes in the iEMG signal (147 ± 24 vs. 85 ± 13%), MVC (-25 ± 3 vs. -12 ± 3%), and Qtw,pot (-44 ± 6 vs. -33 ± 7%), for single-leg and double-leg KE, respectively. Therefore, avoiding concerns over task specificity and cardiorespiratory limitations, this study reveals that a reduction in muscle mass permits the development of greater peripheral muscle fatigue and supports the concept that the CNS tolerates a greater magnitude of peripheral fatigue when the source of group III/IV afferent feedback is limited to a small muscle mass.

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