Purpose: To investigate the effects of environmental temperature and the diurnal increase in body temperature on muscle contractile processes, 11 male subjects performed maximal and submaximal isometric contractions of the knee extensors with recording of the electromyographic activity in four different conditions (morning/neutral, morning/moderately warm and humid, afternoon/neutral, and afternoon/moderately warm and humid).
Methods: The morning experiments were conducted between 0700 and 1900 h, and the afternoon experiments were conducted between 0500 and 0700 h. The mean laboratory temperatures and humidity were 20.5 (+/-1) degrees C + 67 (+/-4)% and 29.5 (+/-0.8) degrees C + 74 (+/-10)% for the neutral and moderately warm and humid conditions, respectively.
Results: Results showed a significant diurnal increase in both rectal and skin temperatures whatever the environmental conditions, and an increase in the skin temperature after a 60-min moderately warm exposure. The major finding of this study was an interaction effect of time of day and environmental conditions on the force/electromyographic activity ratio. That suggests that skeletal muscle contractility was differently increased by the passive warm-up effect of a moderately warm exposure, depending on the diurnal variation in body temperature. This conclusion is supported by an increase in force in the morning only after a 60-min warm exposure (+19%) and in a neutral environment only with the diurnal increase in body temperature (+12%).
Conclusion: In summary, our data showed that both the warm exposure and the diurnal increase in body temperature influence muscle contractility and consequently muscle strength. However, the improvement in muscle contractility after these two passive warm-ups cannot be combined in order to improve force to a greater level.