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Motor-Respiratory Coupling Improves Endurance Performance during Rhythmic Isometric Handgrip Exercise.

PURPOSE: This study aimed to evaluate whether motor-respiratory coupling (MRC) exists in rhythmic isometric handgrip exercises and its effect on endurance performance. Additionally, the mechanism underlying observed effects was to be investigated if higher MRC rate could enhance endurance performance.

METHODS: Eleven subjects completed three rhythmic isometric handgrip trials to task failure in a randomized manner. After one pre-training session to determine personal grip frequency, one trial was performed without respiration requirement (CON), and two trials were performed with inspiration-motor coupling (IMC) or expiration-motor coupling (EMC). Changes in maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and electromyography (EMG) were used to measure neuromuscular fatigue. Force data during test was used to assess exercise intensity. Another ten subjects completed electrical stimulation induced finger flexion and extension during normal inspiration (NIN), normal expiration (NEX), fast inspiration (FIN), fast expiration (FEX) and breath holding (HOLD). Force changes of different breathing conditions were compared.

RESULTS: Normalized exercise time to exhaustion was significantly longer in IMC (1.27 ± 0.23) compared with EMC (0.82 ± 0.18) and CON (0.91 ± 0.18, P < 0.001). ΔMVC, grip frequency, force, and EMG indices were not different among conditions (all P > 0.05). Electrical stimulation induced finger extensor force was significant higher during fast inspiration (1.11 ± 0.09) than normal respiration (1.00 ± 0.05) and fast expiration (0.94 ± 0.08, P < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Inspiration-motor coupling is an effective way to improve endurance performance of rhythmic handgrip exercise. This is likely due to a reduction in the energy consumption of motion control, as evidenced by similar peripheral fatigue in different conditions and modulation of corticospinal excitability by respiration.

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