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Are performance and perceived fatigability dependent on the anchor scheme of fatiguing isometric tasks in men?

BACKGROUND: Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) can be used to regulate exercise intensity. This study examined the effect of anchor scheme on performance fatigability and neuromuscular responses following fatiguing forearm flexion tasks.

METHODS: Twelve men (age 20.9±2.2 years; height 179.8±5.3 cm; body mass 80.2±9.9 kg) performed sustained, isometric forearm flexion tasks to failure anchored to RPE=6 (RPEFT) and the torque (TRQFT) that corresponded to RPE=6. Pre-test and post-test maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVIC) were performed to quantify changes in the amplitude (AMP) and mean power frequency (MPF) of the electromyographic (EMG) and mechanomyographic (MMG) signals. Neuromuscular efficiency (NME) was calculated by dividing normalized torque by normalized EMG AMP. A dependent t-test was used to assess the mean difference for time to task failure (TTF). Repeated measures ANOVAs were used to compare mean differences for performance fatigability and normalized neuromuscular parameters.

RESULTS: The RPEFT had a greater TTF than the TRQFT (P<0.001). MVIC and NME decreased from pre-test to post-test following the RPEFT and TRQFT (P<0.05) with no differences between anchor schemes. Following the TRQFT, normalized EMG MPF decreased from pre-test to post-test (P=0.004). Following the RPEFT, normalized MMG MPF increased from pre-test to post-test (P=0.021). There were no changes in normalized EMG AMP or MMG AMP (P>0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicated anchor scheme-specific neuromuscular responses and TTF, despite no difference in performance fatigability. Furthermore, performance fatigability was likely due to peripheral fatigue (based on normalized EMG MPF and NME) following the TRQFT, but peripheral and central fatigue (based on normalized MMG MPF and NME) following the RPEFT.

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