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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Jan;94(1):193-8. Epub 2002 Sep 20.

Mechanisms contributing to knee extensor strength loss after prolonged running exercise.

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  • 1INSERM/ERIT-M 0207 Motricité-Plasticité, Faculté des Sciences du Sport, Université de Bourgogne, 21078 Dijon Cedex, France. gmillet@u-bourgogne.fr


The aim of this study was to identify the mechanisms that contribute to the decline in knee extensor (KE) muscles strength after a prolonged running exercise. During the 2 days preceding a 30-km running race [duration 188.7 +/- 27.0 (SD) min] and immediately after the race, maximal percutaneous electrical stimulations (single twitch, 0.5-s tetanus at 20 and 80 Hz) were applied to the femoral nerve of 12 trained runners. Superimposed twitches were also delivered during isometric maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) to determine the level of voluntary activation (%VA). The vastus lateralis electromyogram was recorded. KE MVC decreased from pre- to postexercise (from 188.1 +/- 25.2 to 142.7 +/- 29.7 N x m; P < 0.001) as did %VA (from 98.8 +/- 1.8 to 91.3 +/- 10.7%; P < 0.05). The changes from pre- to postexercise in these two variables were highly correlated (R = 0.88; P < 0.001). The modifications in the mechanical response after the 80-Hz stimulation and M-wave peak-to-peak amplitude were also significant (P < 0.001 and P < 0.05, respectively). It can be concluded that 1) central fatigue, neuromuscular propagation, and muscular factors are involved in the 23.5 +/- 14.9% reduction in MVC after a prolonged running bout at racing pace and 2) runners with the greatest KE strength loss experience large activation deficit.

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