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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2002 Aug;93(2):469-78.

Factors in fatigue during intermittent electrical stimulation of human skeletal muscle.

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  • 1Department of Exercise Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachussetts 01003, USA.


During an electrically elicited isometric contraction, the metabolic cost of attaining is greater than of maintaining force. Thus fatigue produced during such stimulation may not simply be a function of the force-time integral (FTI), as previously suggested. The goal of the present study was to evaluate fatigue produced in human medial gastrocnemius by intermittent, isometric electrical stimulation with trains of different frequencies (20, 40, or 80 Hz) and durations (300, 600, or 1,200 ms) that produced different peak forces and FTIs. Each subject (n = 10) participated in a total of six sessions. During each session, subjects received a pre- and postfatigue testing protocol and a different, 150-train fatiguing protocol. Each fatiguing protocol used only a single frequency and duration. The fatigue produced by the different protocols was correlated to the initial peak force of the fatiguing protocols (r2= 0.74-0.85) but not to the initial or total FTI. All of the protocols tested produced a proportionately greater impairment of force in response to low- vs. high-frequency stimulation (i.e., low-frequency fatigue). There was no effect of protocol on low-frequency fatigue, suggesting that all the protocols produced comparable levels of impairment in excitation-contraction coupling. These results suggest that, for brief stimulated contractions, peak force is a better predictor of fatigue than FTI, possibly because of the different metabolic demands of attaining and maintaining force.

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