Purpose: We examined the effect of 4 (WK4) and 8 wk (WK8) of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) training on both endurance time and mechanisms contributing to task failure.
Methods: Ten males performed a fatiguing isometric contraction with the knee extensor muscles at 20% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) until exhaustion before (B), at WK4, and at WK8 of NMES training. The electromyographic (EMG) activity and muscle activation obtained under MVC were recorded before and after the fatiguing task to assess central fatigue. Torque and EMG responses obtained under electrically evoked contractions were examined before and after the fatiguing task to analyze peripheral fatigue.
Results: Knee extensor MVC torque increased significantly between B and WK4 (+16%), between WK4 and WK8 (+ 10%), and between B and WK8 (+26%), which meant that the average target torque sustained during the fatiguing contraction increased between the testing sessions. Endurance time decreased significantly over the three sessions (493 ± 101 s at B, 408 ± 159 s at WK4, and 338 ± 126 s at WK8) despite a similar reduction in knee extensor MVC (~25%). Negative correlations were found between endurance time absolute changes and target torque absolute gains. Average EMG activity of the knee extensor muscles was lower after training, but the mean rate of increase was similar over the three sessions. Single-twitch contractile properties were not affected by the task.
Conclusion: We conclude that the endurance time was shorter after 4 and 8 wk of NMES training, and this was associated with higher absolute contraction intensity. Despite endurance time reduction, NMES training did not affect the amount of fatigue at exhaustion nor the central and peripheral contributions to fatigue.