Electromyographic adjustments during continuous and intermittent incremental fatiguing cycling

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Martinez-Valdes E, Guzman-Venegas RA, Silvestre RA, Macdonald JH, Falla D, Araneda OF, Haichelis D.
Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Oct 23

We studied the sensitivity of electromyographic (EMG) variables to load and muscle fatigue during continuous and intermittent incremental cycling. Fifteen men attended three laboratory sessions. Visit 1: lactate threshold, peak power output, and VO2max . Visits 2 and 3: Continuous (more fatiguing) and intermittent (less fatiguing) incremental cycling protocols [20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100% of peak power output (PPO)]. During both protocols, multichannel EMG signals were recorded from vastus lateralis: muscle fiber conduction velocity (MFCV), instantaneous mean frequency (iMNF), and absolute and normalized root mean square (RMS) were analyzed. MFCV differed between protocols (P < 0.001), and only increased consistently with power output during intermittent cycling. RMS parameters were similar between protocols, and increased linearly with power output. However, only normalized RMS was higher during the more fatiguing 100% PPO stage of the continuous protocol [continuous-intermittent mean difference (95% CI): 45.1 (8.5% to 81.7%)]. On the contrary, iMNF was insensitive to load changes and muscle fatigue (P = 0.14). Despite similar power outputs, continuous and intermittent cycling influenced MFCV and normalized RMS differently. Only normalized RMS was sensitive to both increases in power output (in both protocols) and muscle fatigue, and thus is the most suitable EMG parameter to monitor changes in muscle activation during cycling.