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Fatigue during Maximal Sprint Cycling: Unique Role of Cumulative Contraction Cycles


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 7 - p 1364-1369
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181cae2ce
Applied Sciences

Abstract: Maximal cycling power has been reported to decrease more rapidly when performed with increased pedaling rates. Increasing pedaling rate imposes two constraints on the neuromuscular system: 1) decreased time for muscle excitation and relaxation and 2) increased muscle shortening velocity. Using two crank lengths allows the effects of time and shortening velocity to be evaluated separately.

Purposes: We conducted this investigation to determine whether the time available for excitation and relaxation or the muscle shortening velocity was mainly responsible for the increased rate of fatigue previously observed with increased pedaling rates and to evaluate the influence of other possible fatiguing constraints.

Methods: Seven trained cyclists performed 30-s maximal isokinetic cycling trials using two crank lengths: 120 and 220 mm. Pedaling rate was optimized for maximum power for each crank length: 135 rpm for the 120-mm cranks (1.7 m·s−1 pedal speed) and 109 rpm for the 220-mm cranks (2.5 m·s−1 pedal speed). Power was recorded with an SRM power meter.

Results: Crank length did not affect peak power: 999 ± 276 W for the 120-mm crank versus 1001 ± 289 W for the 220-mm crank. Fatigue index was greater (58.6% ± 3.7% vs 52.4% ± 4.8%, P < 0.01), and total work was less (20.0 ± 1.8 vs 21.4 ± 2.0 kJ, P < 0.01) with the higher pedaling rate-shorter crank condition. Regression analyses indicated that the power for the two conditions was most highly related to cumulative work (r 2 = 0.94) and to cumulative cycles (r 2 = 0.99).

Conclusions: These results support previous findings and confirm that pedaling rate, rather than pedal speed, was the main factor influencing fatigue. Our novel result was that power decreased by a similar increment with each crank revolution for the two conditions, indicating that each maximal muscular contraction induced a similar amount of fatigue.

1Department of Exercise and Sport Science, the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT; and 2Sport and Exercise Science, Chelsea School, University of Brighton, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: James C. Martin, Ph.D., Department of Exercise and Sport Science, the University of Utah, 250 S 1850 E Room241, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0920; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2009.

Accepted for publication November 2009.

©2010The American College of Sports Medicine