Fatigue of human muscle

As part of her PhD research the very talented and conscientious Anita Beelen collected this data under the direction of Professor Anthony J Sargeant. It was one of the first studies indicating how human muscle fatigue could be due to the selective fatigue of a relatively small population of muscle fibres.
Journal of Applied Physiology
J Appl Physiol. 1991 Dec;71(6):2332-7

The effect of fatigue as a result of a standard submaximal dynamic exercise on maximal short-term power output generated at different contraction velocities was studied in humans. Six subjects performed 25-s maximal efforts on an isokinetic cycle ergometer at five different pedaling rates (60, 75, 90, 105, and 120 rpm). Measurements of maximal power output were made under control conditions [after 6 min of cycling at 30% maximal O2 uptake (VO2max)] and after fatiguing exercise that consisted of 6 min of cycling at 90% VO2max with a pedaling rate of 90 rpm.

Compared with control values, maximal peak power measured after fatiguing exercise was significantly reduced by 23 +/- 19, 28 +/- 11, and 25 +/- 11% at pedaling rates of 90, 105, and 120 rpm, respectively. Reductions in maximum peak power of 11 +/- 8 and 14 +/- 8% at 60 and 75 rpm, respectively, were not significant. The rate of decline in peak power during the 25-s control measurement was least at 60 rpm (5.1 +/- 2.3 W/s) and greatest at 120 rpm (26.3 +/- 13.9 W/s). After fatiguing exercise, the rate of decline in peak power at pedaling rates of 105 and 120 rpm decreased significantly from 21.5 +/- 9.0 and 26.3 +/- 13.9 W/s to 10.0 +/- 7.3 and 13.3 +/- 6.9 W/s, respectively. These experiments indicate that fatigue induced by submaximal dynamic exercise results in a velocity-dependent effect on muscle power. It is suggested that the reduced maximal power at the higher velocities was due to a selective effect of fatigue on the faster fatigue-sensitive fibers of the active muscle mass.


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