Leg stiffness modulation during exhaustive stretch-shortening cycle exercise

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The present study examined the effects of muscle activity modulation on leg stiffness during an exhaustive stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) exercise in eight male subjects. Reaction force, electromyography (EMG) of the soleus (Sol), gastrocnemius (Ga) and vastus lateralis (VL) muscles and sledge seat position were recorded during the SSC exercise, consisting of 100 maximal intermittent drop jumps followed by a continuous submaximal jumping until exhaustion, on a sledge apparatus. Metabolic loading was determined by measuring blood lactate (La). No change was found in leg stiffness during the maximal jumps, whereas the subsequent submaximal jumping induced a significant reduction by 27±12% (P<0.05). Leg stiffness was closely related to the EMG ratio between the braking and push-off phases in Sol (r=0.81, P<0.05) and particularly in Ga (r=0.98, P<0.001) (but not in VL, r=0.64, NS) at the end of the submaximal jumping. Furthermore, the post-exercise La was significantly associated with the EMG ratio at the end of the submaximal jumping in Sol (r=−0.88, P<0.01) and Ga (r=−0.98, P<0.001). These results indicate that activity modulation between the braking and push-off phases in the triceps surae muscle, particularly in Ga, plays an important role in leg stiffness adjustments during fatiguing SSC exercise. It is suggested that efficient activity modulation (i.e. high EMG ratio) of the triceps surae muscle during an intensive fatiguing SSC exercise may postpone the exhaustion and development of metabolic fatigue.

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