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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Mar;105(3):1225-35. doi: 10.1152/jn.00854.2010. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Adaptations in biceps brachii motor unit activity after repeated bouts of eccentric exercise in elbow flexor muscles.

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Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia.


The purpose of this study was to examine changes in motor unit activity in the biceps brachii muscle after an initial (Bout 1) and repeated (Bout 2) session of eccentric exercise separated by 1 wk. Eight subjects (aged 22 ± 2 yr) participated in experimental assessments of neuromuscular function obtained before, immediately after, 24 h after, and 7 days after each exercise bout. Each experimental session involved assessments of elbow-flexor force and biceps and triceps brachii electromyography during maximum voluntary isometric contractions (MVCs) and constant-force isometric contractions at five contraction intensities (5-50% MVC), along with indicators of muscle damage (muscle pain and passive tension). In addition, motor unit recordings were obtained before exercise, 7 days after Bout 1, and 24 h after Bout 2 to assess motor unit synchronization and recruitment thresholds. Following a single eccentric exercise session that elicited significant indicators of muscle damage, we found a 57% increase in motor unit synchronization 7 days later compared with before exercise, despite the recovery of maximal strength, soreness, and relaxed elbow-joint angle at this time. Furthermore, a second bout of the same eccentric exercise resulted in reduced indicators of muscle damage and a decline in the strength of motor unit synchronization (24 h after Bout 2) toward levels observed before both exercise sessions. In contrast, no changes in motor unit recruitment thresholds were observed 7 days after Bout 1 or 24 h after Bout 2 compared with before exercise. The increased motor unit synchronization 7 days after a single eccentric exercise session provides new evidence of changes in motor unit activity during the putative repair and regeneration phase following eccentric muscle damage.

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