Muscle force potentiation and motor unit firing patterns during fatigue : effects of muscular endurance training




Mettler, Joni Ann

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Muscular fatigue limits athletic performance as well as activities of daily living that require repetitive or sustained contractile activity. The decrease in force output or inability to maintain a given force level during fatigue occurs as the result of neural and muscle physiological factors. In contrast to muscle fatigue, potentiation is an increase in muscle force following voluntary muscle activity. The simultaneously occurring processes of potentiation and fatigue influence force output. The aims of this research were to investigate parameters used to potentiate muscle via electrical stimulation and voluntary contraction, and to better understand how muscle force is sustained, we studied single motor unit firing patterns and force potentiation following muscular endurance training. In study 1, electrical stimulation trains matched for pulse number of various frequencies and of increasing pulse number at a given frequency were administered to determine the effects of these stimulation parameters and of the force-time integral (FTI) produced during the train on potentiation magnitude. No difference in potentiation magnitude was found across trains of matched pulse number for frequencies of 15, 25, 30 and 50 Hz. Potentiation increased as pulse number increased and there was a positive correlation between potentiation and the FTI. In study 2, we measured maximal potentiation following conditioning contractions (CC) of 25%, 50% and 100% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and during a 25% MVC fatigue task, pre-post 8 weeks of muscular endurance training. Results showed significant potentiation for all CC intensities. Potentiation increased as CC intensity increased and CC duration required to achieve maximal potentiation decreased as CC intensity increased. Muscular endurance training resulted in increased maximal potentiation, and potentiation was greater during the fatigue task after training. Potentiation was also correlated to endurance time. In study 3, the effects of muscular endurance training on motor unit firing rates were investigated. There was a small increase in mean motor unit firing rates during the course of the fatigue task after training. This research contributes to our understanding of muscular force production and muscular endurance. The findings suggest that motor unit firing frequency and force potentiation may contribute to enhanced muscular endurance.



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