Motor unit behavior during submaximal contractions following six weeks of either endurance or strength training

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  • Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction


The study investigated changes in motor output and motor unit behavior following 6 wk of either strength or endurance training programs commonly used in conditioning and rehabilitation. Twenty-seven sedentary healthy men (age, 26.1 ± 3.9 yr; mean ± SD) were randomly assigned to strength training (ST; n = 9), endurance training (ET; n = 10), or a control group (CT; n = 8). Maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), time to task failure (isometric contraction at 30% MVC), and rate of force development (RFD) of the quadriceps were measured before (week 0), during (week 3), and after a training program of 6 wk. In each experimental session, surface and intramuscular EMG signals were recorded from the vastus medialis obliquus and vastus lateralis muscles during isometric knee extension at 10 and 30% MVC. After 6 wk of training, MVC and RFD increased in the ST group (17.5 ± 7.5 and 33.3 ± 15.9%, respectively; P < 0.05), whereas time to task failure was prolonged in the ET group (29.7 ± 13.4%; P < 0.05). The surface EMG amplitude at 30% MVC force increased with training in both groups, but the training-induced changes in motor unit discharge rates differed between groups. After endurance training, the motor unit discharge rate at 30% MVC decreased from 11.3 ± 1.3 to 10.1 ± 1.1 pulses per second (pps; P < 0.05) in the vasti muscles, whereas after strength training it increased from 11.4 ± 1.2 to 12.7 ± 1.3 pps (P < 0.05). Finally, motor unit conduction velocity during the contractions at 30% MVC increased for both the ST and ET groups, but only after 6 wk of training (P < 0.05). In conclusion, these strength and endurance training programs elicit opposite adjustments in motor unit discharge rates but similar changes in muscle fiber conduction velocity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1455-66
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • Action Potentials, Adaptation, Physiological, Adult, Electromyography, Humans, Isometric Contraction, Male, Motor Neurons, Muscle Fatigue, Muscle Strength, Neural Conduction, Physical Endurance, Quadriceps Muscle, Resistance Training, Sedentary Lifestyle, Time Factors, Young Adult, Comparative Study, Journal Article, Randomized Controlled Trial, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't