Neural activation is generally lower during maximal voluntary lengthening compared with shortening and isometric muscle actions, but the mechanisms underlying these differences are unclear. In maximal voluntary isometric actions, reduced Ia-afferent input induced by prolonged tendon vibration has been shown to impair neural activation and strength.
Purpose: This study aimed to investigate whether reducing Ia-afferent input influences neural activation in maximal voluntary dynamic muscle actions and, if so, whether it affects shortening and lengthening muscle actions differently.
Methods: Eight women participated in three familiarization sessions and two randomly ordered experiments. In one experiment, 30-min vibration at 100 Hz was applied to the Achilles tendon to decrease Ia-afferent input as measured by the H-reflex. In the control experiment, rest substituted the vibration. Root mean square EMG from plantar and dorsiflexor muscles and plantar flexor strength were measured during maximal voluntary plantar flexor shortening and lengthening actions (20°·s−1) before and after vibration and rest, respectively. Soleus H-reflexes and M-waves were elicited before each set of strength tests.
Results: The vibration caused a decrease in H-reflex amplitude by, on the average, 33%, but root mean square EMG and plantar flexor strength remained largely unaffected in both action types.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that Ia-afferent input may not substantially contribute to maximal voluntary dynamic muscle strength of the plantar flexor muscles, as tested here, and thus, the results do not support the notion that Ia-afferent excitation would contribute differently to neural activation in maximal voluntary lengthening and shortening muscle actions.