Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise





First Page


Last Page


PubMed ID



American College of Sports Medicine


School of Medical and Health Sciences


This is a non-final version of an article published in final form in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise:

Finn, H. T., Kennedy, D. S., Green, S., & Taylor, J. L. (2020). Fatigue-related feedback from calf muscles impairs knee extensor voluntary activation. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 52(10), 2136-2144.


INTRODUCTION: Fatigue-related group III/IV muscle afferent firing from agonist, antagonist or distal muscles impairs the ability to drive the elbow flexors maximally, that is, reduces voluntary activation. In the lower limb, the effect of feedback from distal muscles on the proximal knee extensors is unknown. Here, we test whether maintained group III/IV afferent feedback from the plantarflexor muscles reduces voluntary activation of the knee extensors.

METHODS: On 2 d, voluntary activation of the knee extensors during maximal voluntary contractions (MVCs) was assessed in 12 participants before and after a 3-min fatiguing task of the plantarflexors. On 1 d, an inflatable cuff around the calf occluded blood flow for 2 min immediately postexercise (cuff day). The other day had no occlusion (no-cuff day). Supramaximal stimulation of the femoral nerve elicited superimposed twitches during MVC of the knee extensors and resting twitches 2 to 3 s after relaxation. Pain (0-10 point scale) was reported throughout.

RESULTS: In the 2 min after the 3-min fatiguing plantarflexor task, voluntary activation was 5.3% (SD, 7%) lower on the cuff day than on the no-cuff day (P = 0.045), and MVC force was reduced by 13% (SD, 16%) (P = 0.021). The resting twitch was similar on both days (P = 0.98). Pain rated 4.9 points higher with the cuff inflated (P = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Maintained group III/IV afferent feedback from the fatigued plantarflexor muscles reduced maximal force and voluntary activation of the unfatigued knee extensors, suggesting that afferents from the calf act centrally to inhibit the ability to drive the motoneurones of the knee extensors.



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