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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2004 Nov;287(5):R1124-31. Epub 2004 May 13.

Single muscle fiber contractile properties during a competitive season in male runners.

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Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306, USA


The purpose of this investigation was to examine the contractile properties of individual myofibers in response to periodized training periods throughout a collegiate cross-country season in male runners. Muscle biopsies of the gastrocnemius were taken after a summer base training phase (T1), an 8-wk intense training period (T2), and a 4-wk taper phase (T3). Five runners (n = 5; age = 20 +/- 1 yr; wt = 65 +/- 4 kg; ht = 178 +/- 3 cm) completed all three time points. A total of 328 individual muscle fibers [myosin heavy chain (MHC) I = 66%; MHC IIa = 33%; hybrids = 1%] were isolated and studied at 15 degrees C for their contractile properties. Diameter of MHC I fibers was 3% smaller (P < 0.05) at T2 compared with T1 and an additional 4% smaller (P < 0.05) after the taper. Cell size was unaltered in the MHC IIa fibers. MHC I and IIa fiber strength increased 18 and 11% (P < 0.05), respectively, from T1 to T2. MHC I fibers produced 9% less force (P < 0.05) after the taper, whereas MHC IIa fibers were 9% stronger (P < 0.05). Specific tension increased 38 and 26% (P < 0.05) for MHC I and IIa fibers, respectively, from T1 to T2 and was unchanged with the taper. Maximal shortening velocity (Vo) of the MHC I fibers decreased 23% (P < 0.05) from T1 to T2 and 17% (P < 0.05) from T2 to T3, whereas MHC IIa Vo was unchanged. MHC I peak power decreased 20% (P < 0.05) from T1 to T2 and 25% (P < 0.05) from T2 to T3, whereas MHC IIa peak power was unchanged. Power corrected for cell size decreased 15% (P < 0.05) from T2 to T3 and was 24% (P < 0.05) lower at T3 compared with T1 for the MHC I fibers only. These data suggest that changes in run training alter myocellular physiology via decreases in fiber size, Vo, and power of MHC I fibers and through increases in force per cross-sectional area of slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers.

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