Differences in aerobic function and muscle size between ‘preferred’ and ‘non-preferred’ limbs and in healthy young males

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It is often assumed that maximum aerobic function and muscle size is the same in right and left limbs in healthy subjects. This research paper by Anthony J Sargeant shows that this is not the case and significant differences exist between the preferred and non-preferred limbs. These are quite small in normal subjects but in subjects with a prior history of injury, even dating back many years, the differences can be large and persistent.
Subjects with such a history were excluded from this study.
Annals of Human Biology. 1977 Jan;4(1):49-55

Anthropometric data are presented for the preferred and non-preferred limbs of normal subjects together with measurements of one-limb maximum aerobic power output (V O2 max). The habitually preferred arms and legs were significantly larger in total volume (LV) when compared with the contralateral limbs (5 per cent, P less than 0-01; and 2 per cent, P less than 0-01 respectively). These differences were mainly attributable to variation in the size of the muscle component.

Expressed in absolute terms, V O2 max achieved in exercise with the preferred legs was significantly larger than the non-preferred legs (2-84 cf. 2-74 l/min; P less than 0-01) and a similar but non-significant difference was found between the arms (1-10 cf. 1-05 l/min). If, however, V O2 max is standardized for the size of the active muscle mass (LV, muscle plus bone) these differences between the preferred and non-preferred limbs disappear. The implications of these observations are discussed.

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