Evaluation of pulse height control for rapid isometric contractions in college sprinters

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The ability of rapid force development is one of the important factors for improving physical performance. It has been known that rapid isometric force is controlled by a central motor program to maintain the rise time relatively constant independent of force amplitude (pulse height control). The advantage of using pulse height control is that it increases the rate of force with force amplitude. However, this strategy is believed to be applicable up to about 50–60% of maximal voluntary contractions (MVC). When the force level increases further, individuals often switch to pulse width control to increase the time to peak force. The aim of this study was to determine the force level (turning point) at which participants switch from pulse height control to pulse width control. This turning point was defined as the maximum force produced by pulse height control. We then attempted to examine whether this turning point is different among participants (control and sprinter groups). Therefore, participants were asked to perform isometric plantar flexions as fast as possible over a wide range of force levels (10–90%MVC). Our results showed that a turning point (%MVC) between two strategies was detected in all participants and the mean values were significantly higher in the sprinter group than that in the control group. Our results suggest that each participant has different limits of force level produced by pulse height control. The sprinter and control groups may use different control strategies for rapid force production at a higher force level.

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