Maximum force of fresh and fatigued human muscle

As head of department Anthony Sargeant had spent many years encouraging his junior colleagues to adapt a technique used to measure muscle force in a rat muscle preparation to measure electrically elicited force in human hand muscles. Finally collaborating with Professor David A Jones (a friend and colleague with a lot of experience in electrical stimulation of human muscle) Tony finally got colleagues to develop the technique reported in this research paper. David Jones and Anthony Sargeant both acted as subjects and provided critical input in the experiments for the development and application of these techniques.
European Journal of Applied Physiology
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1999 Sep;80(4):386-93

The purpose of the study was to obtain force/velocity relationships for electrically stimulated (80 Hz) human adductor pollicis muscle (n = 6) and to quantify the effects of fatigue. There are two major problems of studying human muscle in situ; the first is the contribution of the series elastic component, and the second is a loss of force consequent upon the extent of loaded shortening. These problems were tackled in two ways.

Records obtained from isokinetic releases from maximal isometric tetani showed a late linear phase of force decline, and this was extrapolated back to the time of release to obtain measures of instantaneous force. This method gave usable data up to velocities of shortening equivalent to approximately one-third of maximal velocity. An alternative procedure (short activation, SA) allowed the muscle to begin shortening when isometric force reached a value that could be sustained during shortening (essentially an isotonic protocol). At low velocities both protocols gave very similar data (r2 = 0.96), but for high velocities only the SA procedure could be used. Results obtained using the SA protocol in fresh muscle were compared to those for muscle that had been fatigued by 25 s of ischaemic isometric contractions, induced by electrical stimulation at the ulnar nerve. Fatigue resulted in a decrease of isometric force [to 69 (3)%], an increase in half-relaxation time [to 431 (10)%], and decreases in maximal shortening velocity [to 77 (8)%] and power [to 42 (5)%]. These are the first data for human skeletal muscle to show convincingly that during acute fatigue, power is reduced as a consequence of both the loss of force and slowing of the contractile speed.


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