Time-of-day effect on the torque and neuromuscular properties of dominant and non-dominant quadriceps femoris

Chronobiol Int. 2005;22(3):541-58. doi: 10.1081/CBI-200062407.


The study was conducted first, to determine the possibility of a dichotomy between circadian rhythm of maximal torque production of the knee extensors of the dominant and non-dominant legs, and second, to determine whether the possible dichotomy could be linked to a change in the downward drive of the central nervous system and/or to phenomena prevailing at the muscular level. The dominant leg was defined as the one with which subjects spontaneously kick a football. Tests were performed at 06:00, 10:00, 14:00, 18:00, and 22:00 h. To distinguish the neural and muscular mechanisms that influence muscle strength, the electromyographic and mechanical muscle responses associated with electrically evoked and/or voluntary contractions of the human quadriceps and semi-tendinosus muscles for each leg were recorded and compared. The main finding was an absence of interaction between time-of-day and dominance effects on the torque associated with maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of both quadriceps. A significant time-of-day effect on MVC torque of the knee extensors was observed for the dominant and non-dominant legs when the data were collapsed, with highest values occurring at 18:00 h (p < 0.01). From cosinor analysis, a circadian rhythm was documented (p < 0.001) with the peak (acrophase) estimated at 18:18 +/- 00:12 h and amplitude (one-half the peak-to-trough variation) of 3.3 +/- 1.1%. Independent of the leg tested, peripheral mechanisms demonstrated a significant time-of-day effect (p < 0.05) on the peak-torque of the single and doublet stimulations, with maximal levels attained at 18:00 h. The central activation of the quadriceps muscle of each leg remained unchanged during the day. The present results confirmed previous observations that muscle torque changes in a predictable manner during the 24 h period, and that the changes are linked to modifications prevailing at the muscular, rather than the neural, level. The similar rhythmicity observed in this study between the dominant and non-dominant legs provides evidence that it is not essential to test both legs when simple motor tasks are investigated as a function of the time of day.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Thigh / anatomy & histology*
  • Time Factors
  • Torque