Neuromuscular adaptations associated with knee joint angle-specific force change
Lippincott Williams and Wilkins
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Exercise and Health Sciences
PURPOSE: Neuromuscular adaptations to joint angle-specific force increases after isometric training have not yet been fully elucidated. This study examined angle-specific neuromuscular adaptations in response to isometric knee extension training at short (SL, joint angle 38.1° ± 3.7°) versus long (LL, 87.5° ± 6.0°) muscle lengths. METHODS: Sixteen men trained three times a week for 6 wk either at SL (n = 8) or LL (n = 8). Voluntary maximal isometric knee extensor (MVC) force, doublet twitch force, EMG amplitudes (EMG/Mmax), and voluntary activation during MVC force (VA%) were measured at eight knee joint angles (30°-100°) at weeks 0, 3, and 6. Muscle volume and cross-sectional area (CSA) were measured from magnetic resonance imaging scans, and fascicle length (Lf) was assessed using ultrasonography before and after training. RESULTS: Clear joint angle specificity of force increase was seen in SL but not in LL. The 13.4% ± 9.7% (P = 0.01) force increase around the training angle in SL was related to changes in vastus lateralis and vastus medialis EMG/Mmax around the training angle (r = 0.84-0.88, P < 0.05), without changes in the doublet twitch force-angle relation or muscle size. In LL, muscle volume and CSA increased and the changes in CSA at specific muscle regions were correlated with changes in MVC force. A 5.4% ± 4.9% (P = 0.001) increase in Lf found in both groups was not associated with angle-specific force changes. There were no angle-specific changes in VA%. CONCLUSION: The EMG/Mmax, although not VA%, results suggest that neural adaptations underpinned training-related changes at short quadriceps lengths, but hypertrophic changes predominated after training at long lengths. The findings of this study should contribute to the development of more effective and evidence-based rehabilitation and strength training protocols.