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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Nov 1;125(5):1594-1608. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00390.2017. Epub 2018 Sep 6.

Time course of interlimb strength transfer after unilateral handgrip training.

Barss TS1,2,3, Klarner T1,2,3,4, Pearcey GEP1,2,3, Sun Y1,2,3, Zehr EP1,2,3,5.

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Rehabilitation Neuroscience Laboratory, University of Victoria , Victoria, British Columbia , Canada.
Human Discovery Science, International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries , Vancouver, British Columbia , Canada.
Centre for Biomedical Research, University of Victoria , Victoria, British Columbia , Canada.
School of Kinesiology, Lakehead University , Thunder Bay, Ontario , Canada.
Division of Medical Sciences, University of Victoria , Victoria, British Columbia , Canada.


"Cross-education" is the increase in strength or functional performance of an untrained limb after unilateral training. A major limitation for clinical translation from unilateral injury includes knowledge on the minimum time for the emergence of crossed effects. Therefore, the primary purpose was to characterize the time course of bilateral strength changes during both "traditional" ( n = 11) and "daily" ( n = 8) unilateral handgrip training in neurologically intact participants. Traditional training included five sets of five maximal voluntary handgrip contractions 3 times/wk for 6 wk whereas daily training included the same number of sessions and contractions but over 18 consecutive days. Three pre- and one posttest session evaluated strength, muscle activation, and reflex excitability bilaterally. Time course information was assessed by recording handgrip force for every contraction in the trained limb and from a single contraction on every third training session in the untrained limb. Six weeks of traditional training increased handgrip strength in the trained limb after the 9th session whereas the untrained limb was stronger after the 12th session. This was accompanied by increased peak muscle activation and bilateral alterations in Hoffmann reflex excitability. Daily training revealed a similar number of sessions (15) were required to induce significant strength gains in the untrained limb (7.8% compared with 12.5%) in approximately half the duration of traditional training. Therefore, minimizing rest days may improve the efficiency of unilateral training when the trained limb is not the focus. Establishing a "dose" for the time course of adaptation to strength training is paramount for effective translation to rehabilitative interventions. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Unilateral handgrip training using a "traditional" protocol (3 times/wk; 6 wk) increased strength bilaterally after 9 (trained arm) and 12 (untrained arm) sessions. "Daily" training (18 consecutive days) increased strength in the untrained limb in a similar number of training sessions, which was accomplished in approximately half the time. Within clinical populations when the focus is on the untrained limb, reducing rest days may optimize the recovery of strength.


H-reflex; M-wave; afferent; conditioning; cross-education; electromyography; neuroplasticity; rehabilitation; resistance training; strength training; time course

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