• Neural adaptations to long-term resistance training: evidence for the confounding effect of muscle size on the interpretation of surface electromyography

      Škarabot, Jakob; Balshaw, Thomas Grant; Maeo, Sumiaki; Massey, Garry J; Lanza, Marcel Bahia; Maden-Wilkinson, Thomas M; Folland, Jonathan P (American Physiological Society, 2021-06-24)
      This study compared elbow flexor (EF; Experiment 1) and knee extensor (KE; Experiment 2) maximal compound action potential (Mmax) amplitude between long-term resistance trained (LTRT; n=15 and n=14, 6±3 and 4±1 years of training) and untrained (UT; n=14 and n=49) men; and examined the effect of normalising electromyography (EMG) during maximal voluntary torque (MVT) production to Mmax amplitude on differences between LTRT and UT. EMG was recorded from multiple sites and muscles of EF and KE, Mmax was evoked with percutaneous nerve stimulation, and muscle size was assessed with ultrasonography (thickness, EF) and magnetic resonance imaging (cross-sectional area, KE). Muscle-electrode distance (MED) was measured to account for the effect of adipose tissue on EMG and Mmax. LTRT displayed greater MVT (+66-71%, p<0.001), muscle size (+54-56%, p<0.001), and Mmax amplitudes (+29-60%, p≤0.010) even when corrected for MED (p≤0.045). Mmax was associated with the size of both muscle groups (r≥0.466, p≤0.011). Compared to UT, LTRT had higher absolute voluntary EMG amplitude for the KE (p<0.001), but not the EF (p=0.195), and these differences/similarities were maintained after correction for MED; however, Mmax normalisation resulted in no differences between LTRT and UT for any muscle and/or muscle group (p≥0.652). The positive association between Mmax and muscle size, and no differences when accounting for peripheral electrophysiological properties (EMG/Mmax), indicates the greater absolute voluntary EMG amplitude of LTRT might be confounded by muscle morphology, rather than provide a discrete measure of central neural activity. This study therefore suggests limited agonist neural adaptation after LTRT.