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Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181be9c7e
Applied Sciences

Neuromuscular Performance of Explosive Power Athletes versus Untrained Individuals

TILLIN, NEALE A.1; JIMENEZ-REYES, PEDRO2; PAIN, MATTHEW T. G.1; FOLLAND, JONATHAN P.1

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Abstract

Purpose: Electromechanical delay (EMD) and rate of force development (RFD) are determinants of explosive neuromuscular performance. We may expect a contrast in EMD and RFD between explosive power athletes, who have a demonstrable ability for explosive contractions, and untrained individuals. However, comparison and the neuromuscular mechanisms for any differences have not been studied.

Methods: The neuromuscular performance of explosive power athletes (n = 9) and untrained controls (n = 10) was assessed during a series of twitch, tetanic, explosive, and maximum voluntary isometric knee extensions. Knee extension force and EMG of the superficial quadriceps were measured in three 50-ms time windows from their onset and were normalized to strength and maximal M-wave (Mmax), respectively. Involuntary and voluntary EMD were determined from twitch and explosive voluntary contractions, respectively, and were similar for both groups.

Results: The athletes were 28% stronger, and their absolute RFD in the first 50 ms was twofold that of controls. Athletes had greater normalized RFD (4.86 ± 1.46 vs 2.81 ± 1.20 MVC·s−1) and neural activation (mean quadriceps, 0.26 ± 0.07 vs 0.15 ± 0.06 Mmax) during the first 50 ms of explosive voluntary contractions. Surprisingly, the controls had a greater normalized RFD in the second 50 ms (6.68 ± 0.92 vs 7.93 ± 1.11 MVC·s−1) and a greater change in EMG preceding this period. However, there were no differences in the twitch response or normalized tetanic RFD between groups.

Conclusions: The differences in voluntary normalized RFD between athletes and controls were explained by agonist muscle neural activation and not by the similar intrinsic contractile properties of the groups.

©2010The American College of Sports Medicine

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