Strength training increases conduction velocity of high-threshold motor units

Andrea Casolo, Dario Farina, Deborah Falla, Ilenia Bazzucchi, Francesco Felici, Alessandro Del Vecchio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
224 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Motor unit conduction velocity (MUCV) represents the propagation velocity of action potentials along the muscle fibres innervated by individual motor neurons and indirectly reflects the electrophysiological properties of the sarcolemma. In this study, we investigated the effect of a 4-week strength training intervention on the peripheral properties (MUCV and motor unit action potential amplitude, RMSMU) of populations of longitudinally tracked motor units (MUs).

Methods: The adjustments exhibited by 12 individuals who participated in the training (INT) were compared with 12 controls (CON). Strength training involved ballistic (4x10) and sustained (3x10) isometric ankle dorsi flexions. Measurement sessions involved the recordings of maximal voluntary isometric force (MViF) and submaximal isometric ramp contractions, while high-density surface EMG (HDsEMG) was recorded from the tibialis anterior. HDsEMG signals were decomposed into individual MU discharge timings and MUs were tracked across the intervention.

Results: MViF (+14.1%, P=0.003) and average MUCV (+3.00%, P=0.028) increased in the INT group, while normalized MUs recruitment threshold (RT) decreased (-14.9%, P=0.001). The slope (rate of change) of the regression between MUCV and MUs RT increased only in the INT group (+32.6%, P=0.028), indicating a progressive greater increase in MUCV for higher-threshold MUs. The intercept (initial value) of MUCV did not change following the intervention (P=0.568). The association between RMSMU and MUs RT was not altered by the training.

Conclusion: The increase in the rate of change in MUCV as a function of MU recruitment threshold, but not the initial value of MUCV, suggests that short-term strength training elicits specific adaptations in the electrophysiological properties of the muscle fibre membrane in high-threshold motor units.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-967
Number of pages13
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number4
Early online date1 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Resistance training
  • amplitude
  • conduction velocity
  • emg decomposition
  • motor unit
  • peripheral properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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